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What generates us more anxiety, intelligent robots or the destruction of the planet?

Since 2019, people have begun to talk about eco-anxiety, a concept that was first applied to that negative feeling generated by the destruction and contamination of the planet and by climate change (whatever its cause) and that was later expanded to include all kinds of of anxiety related to the future, including the arrival of intelligent robots.

This brief and superficial column is not the appropriate place to analyze, much less solve, challenges and problems of global scope. And we must emphasize that we do not seek to diagnose any type of mental or emotional situation, be it on a personal or social level.

However, it becomes clear that something is going on. We are facing deep, irreversible, unconsulted and transforming changes. And many of us don't really know what is happening or what will happen to us, to our families and our community, and ultimately to humanity and the planet.

As Dr. Otto Scharmer (Presencing Institute) recently expressed, we don't like what we see and we want to be part of another story, another narrative, another reality, but we don't know how. And that gap (seemingly impossible to bridge) between what is and what we would like it to be is, and always has been, one of the main causes of anxiety.

But it is no longer about me, or you, or a friend or family member feeling anxiety about a specific situation. Perhaps because of starting a new job, or because a new baby has arrived in the family. Or for facing a highly negative financial or health situation. Or for having won the lottery. Now we are all anxious, often sharing different levels of anxiety in silence.

For example, a study carried out in 10 countries by experts from the University of Bath, United Kingdom (published in The Lancet in December 2021) reveals that 75% of the young people surveyed feel “terrified” of the future and 50% described their feeling like “sadness, anxiety, anger, helplessness and guilt.”

For its part, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines eco-anxiety as “the chronic fear of suffering an environmental cataclysm and the associated concern for the future of oneself and future generations”. But why is it anxiety? Because, according to APA, what we are facing is "a diffuse threat" which generates “worry, depression and apathy.”

But it's not just about the environment. A recent report released by the technology consultancy Wipro reveals that, due to the advent of generative artificial intelligence, "anxiety about the displacement (of humans) of jobs in the global economy has increased."And that anxiety, "has good foundations." After all, it will be hard to have a super-intelligent humanoid as a co-worker, even if that humanoid presents himself as our ally.

How do we overcome that situation? It is impossible to offer an adequate answer here. Therefore, we will only mention the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who said that, in the face of anguish and anxiety, we should make authentic decisions, instead of seeking refuge in pre-established belief systems.


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