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The Upsides of Uncertainty – Part II

As we continue to grapple with a fast-evolving virus, extreme fall-out from climate change, and the resulting social divisions, uncertainty remains in the news and on people’s minds. And our scorn, fear, and dread of this deeply human mindset is clear. I hear laments from friends and see almost-daily headlines riddled with fear of the unknown. Being uncertain is tantamount to weakness in an era that worships knowing at a click.

That’s why I’m writing a book that offers a full portrait of this state of mind, its upsides, workings, nature and many expressions. When we at last understand this critical mindset, we can become better leaders, students, citizens, and social beings. For how we approach uncertainty is a telling barometer of how we approach change, complexity, and one another.

Along with the anxiety, fear, and scorn that uncertainty invokes, however, there is curiosity about this inescapable facet of the human condition. I gained a glimpse of this hunger to understand uncertainty when I wrote a long essay on its upsides in the Boston Globe‘s Ideas section earlier this year. I was happily shocked at the global reception to the piece.

Here are just a few of the ways in which the article, as the Globe said, “struck a chord with readers.” A most-emailed article for most of Inauguration week, the piece was shared widely on social media and inspired an NPR segment and an interview on BBC’s Spanish-language service. It was reprinted in French and Dutch news magazines, named a “Best of the Foreign Press 2021” by Le Monde group’s Courrier International, and featured in Nature’s daily briefing of top science news. The article is now being used in courses, including a class on preventing violence for incarcerated men. This is heartening. By skillfully seeking the unknown we become more curious, open-minded, nuanced thinkers. No aspect of human cognition could be more important today.

Please share this post, and stay tuned for more writings on uncertainty in the coming year!

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