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Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on April 26, 2024

For years, we’ve been making predictions. The objective isn’t only to be right more than we’re wrong, but to catalyze a productive dialog that might shape better outcomes. If you get most/all your predictions right, you’re not predicting … you’re stating the obvious. Also, predicting societal ills, or worse, can highlight a threat and inspire action to cauterize it. Your neuroses serve a purpose: to keep you out of harm’s way, because sometimes there’s a lion behind those reeds. In sum, the best way to predict the future is to make it, but there’s a corollary: The best way to prevent the future is to predict it.

Last year, after Silicon Valley Bank collapsed, we started getting texts and calls from people urging us to write about another threat — the impending meltdown in commercial real estate. Office buildings, in particular, are declining in value at historical rates, thanks to a storm of reduced demand (WFH) and rising interest rates. As a result, billions in debt is based on book values that are grossly out of step with market conditions. The prediction? When those loans come due, debtors will default and creditors will be crushed, triggering a crisis 10 times worse than the SVB mess. That math was right when the prediction was made, but predictions make their own math. The Fed and FDIC were also predicting a crisis, so it now appears we may avert one: This week the Wall Street Journal reports that “Banks Believe They Are Well-Prepared for Commercial Real Estate Fallout.

Anxiety Brain

The human brain has extensive circuitry devoted to imagining, and worrying about, the future. The seat of memory, the hippocampus, extrapolates possible futures from our experience of the past. Our default-mode network — the components of the brain most active when we’re not focused on a specific task — includes the brain regions concerned with the past and the future. Whenever we aren’t asking our brains to do something specific, they default to contemplating the future. And worrying about it. An overactive default-mode network is associated with anxiety and depression, but a healthy measure of anxiety is one of humanity’s most valuable adaptations, comparable to language and the opposable thumb. NYU neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux says anxiety is “the price we pay for the ability to imagine the future.”

Having kids is a lifelong lesson in imagining the future. And anxiety. Several years ago, when my family was on a safari, my oldest son contracted salmonella. An hour into a game drive, he needed to go to the bathroom, urgently. He immediately began jogging away from the jeep in search of privacy. I ran after him — my hippocampus has seen too many TikToks that involve adorable animals seeking midafternoon refreshment from a lake in the savannah only to be taken for a swim by a large semiaquatic reptile.

What I remember most distinctly is how compelled I was, how visceral and present the fear of predators felt. Nature has bred me to worry, because eventually, there will be a lion. It’s good to be worried, but the problem is modulating — did I turn the stove off? I (no joke) worry about this, despite not knowing how to actually turn the stove on.


A million years of evolution and an overly dramatic media have sensitized us to imaginary plane crashes (the average American is 2,200 times more likely to die in a car accident than in a plane crash) and unlikely child abductions (28% of parents are “very worried” about a risk that is “effectively zero”). We are well armored against an array of vanishingly unlikely but cinematically potent threats. NASA recently spent $325 million to nudge an asteroid off course, as part of an ongoing effort to protect us from the one-in-a-million chance of a catastrophic asteroid strike on our home planet. I wrote about Daniel Kahneman a few weeks ago — his work illuminated many of the cognitive biases that sometimes misdirect our healthy sense of anxiety toward the wrong risks.

Since anxiety leads to preparedness, it’s usually the things you don’t worry about that get you. In early 2020 I was worried about a lot of things, from the occupant in the White House to preparing for a talk at SXSW. I dismissed the first reports of the coronavirus as hysteria. But the world was unprepared, lacking the equipment and training for a pandemic. The exceptions? A few nations with recent experience battling SARS, notably Singapore, were more anxious, and thus more prepared.


Nature programmed us to be anxious; it’s key to how we got here. But we shouldn’t let our instincts control every choice we make around what to worry about and how to respond. Our anxiety is a powerful tool, weakly tethered to an unreliable targeting system. Uncorrected by rational thought, we tend to worry too much about cinematic but unlikely risks (asteroids, sentient robots) and not enough about problems that are hard to visualize (viruses, blackouts). A good rule of thumb is that if Hollywood has made more than one movie about a threat, it’s probably not something we need to be scared of.

Following are some places we believe we may have over/underprepared:

Overprepared: In anticipation of the commercial real estate crisis, banks have been padding their loan reserves for months, sacrificing earnings for stability. The banks aren’t going into this correction blind, but their anxiety is ring-fencing the damage to some of the wealthiest people on the planet: commercial real estate owners. Some upheaval in the market is good — it creates churn and gives new entrants opportunities. We need more churn and disruption, as we’ve had a 15-year-long bull market after the largest bailout in history artificially elevated prices. There’s a decent chance, if the drawdown was a shock, office owners might claim this was a black swan event that warranted a bailout. However, the public can’t ignore the $7 trillion in debt we issued during the last bailout.

Underprepared: Whatever they’re worth, those office buildings aren’t much use to anyone without electricity, and one of the looming threats to our economy that doesn’t get enough attention is the state of our electrical grid. The average transformer is 40 years old; moreover, our grid was built for a more stable climate and a world run on fossil fuels. The massive Texas blackouts in 2021 cost the state $90 billion and killed 240 people. Since then, the state has mainly built additional natural gas backup generators, doubling down on the system that didn’t work in 2021. Nationally, Biden’s infrastructure bill included some funding for grid improvements, but likely not enough.

Overprepared: Fortress America is well defended against … whom exactly? Our trillion-dollar military ensures that no adversary can descend on the homeland. Our globe-spanning navy, air superiority, and premier fighting force (2.9 million strong) is insurmountable for a rival kinetic force. Experts say 100 nuclear weapons is the most a nation could have any feasible use for. We’ve got over 5,000, maintained at a cost of $40 billion per year.

Underprepared: The U.S. hasn’t been attacked by another nation since German U-boats landed saboteurs in Florida and New York in 1942, and it’s been nearly a quarter-century since the terror attacks of 9/11. But while we continue to build defenses against foreign invaders, there were 231 incidents of domestic terrorism between  2010 and 2021. Synagogue shooters, cop killers, and election deniers are daily threats we fight with patchwork programs and the deadweight of denial and appeasement. Politicians are held captive by the gun lobby and unwilling to pursue criminals who might vote for them. There are few more discouraging signals about the state of our nation than the emergence of insurrectionists, and other agents of chaos, as a voting block that warrants representation in government.

The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI don’t properly track white supremacist and anti-government violence and threats, leaving Congress unable to assess the effectiveness of counterterrorism agencies and to see whether they are making any discernible progress in combating domestic terrorism.

Overprepared: James Cameron said it would happen in 1997 (specifically, at 2:14 a.m. Eastern Time, on August 29), and he’s not the last to overestimate the risk of sentient AI. ChatGPT is impressive, and there are real economic benefits flowing from LLMs, but the notion that a technology that only recently mastered creating images of hands is going to start thinking for itself and orchestrate societal collapse is science fiction … with an emphasis on fiction. The loudest AI doomsayers created these models. It is techno-narcissism: I have created the singular “thing” that will create/save humanity, and now’s the time to convince regulators that I care … really care. Skynet was taken out by a single mom (twice!). I think we got this.

Underprepared: AI doesn’t have to be sentient to pose a threat — sentient actors are the threat. The 2024 election is going to be the World Cup of online disinformation, as AI supercharges these tactics. Social media bots sound like real people and can engage one-on-one in real time with millions. Deepfake audio and video clips show candidates saying hateful or foolish things. India offers a preview: A skilled AI content creator says hundreds of politicians have asked him for fake material. Some even want badly produced fakes of themselves they can release to discredit any bad press, even legitimate press. China used fake AI content to attempt to sway an election in Taiwan and is using the same tactics in the U.S. Congress is considering legal barriers, but nothing will come of it before the election. The people running the platforms that will deliver these threats to our screens are predictably claiming “it’s too complex” and “this is government’s problem” and “free speech” — all of which is bullshit. However, the liability shield of Section 230 will be enough to keep them unaccountable for another cycle.

Worthy of Worry

Steve Jobs said having kids is like having your heart run around outside of your body. Life is worry, and the most rewarding things in life are consequently sources of real worry. Just as grief is love’s receipts, anxiety is a recognition you are not in control.  And having others in your life you care about is a loss of control. I’ve been so anxious, my whole life, about a lack of relevance or economic security. I am overprepared for this. The risk is that we allocate too much energy to shaping the views of people who will not be with us at “the end.” And, when it comes to the people who will be, we don’t worry enough. Yes, it’s important you are comfortable. However, it’s profound that you have peace with who will be in the room to comfort you. Put another way, are you worried about the right things?

Life is so rich,

P.S. Every Wednesday on The Prof G Pod, I answer our listeners’ questions about business trends, entrepreneurship, career pivots, and more. If you have a burning question, send a voice memo to

P.P.S. Section’s new Build an AI Product bootcamp is open for enrollment. Early bird pricing closes in 24 hours, so get 40% off when you enroll now.



  1. Michael Sullivan says:

    I see election deniers in there with cop killers. There’s a difference between trying to regain election integrity in this country and murdering police officers. You should be more circumspect in your comparisons.

  2. T Brewer says:

    Underprepared: microplastics.

  3. Renée LeBlanc says:

    Your newsletters have helped me a lot over the past few years. The other day I heard you indicate on Pivot that you are considering not eating beef. I went strict vegetarian FINALLY, at the age of 49. I don’t preach but if I hear an opening, I push the door a little – not carrying around the conflict of knowing something horrific has happened for you to eat beef will feel SO good. Do for the animals. Cows have beset friends. If they can, they hide their babies from farmers so they are not taken from them. Even knowing this, it can be hard. I’m a good coach if you need one. Not as a creepy weirdo but…to know there will be a little less suffering. Go for it 🙂

  4. Lili says:

    Hi Prof G,
    good points. But I’m wondering if I’m not the only one who thinks that the biggest threat regarding AI will be job losses and not enough new ones created.
    I’m sure some sectors like health and age care will blossom, but aren’t we as humans getting the leftovers of what AI can’t do?
    I also believe we need an AI tax to balance things out.
    Always a pleasure reading your newsletter, as you see it starts wonderful trains of thought.

  5. bartb says:

    After watching the ongoing events at our “finest” universities for the last 2 weeks and then reading “white supremacist” and FBI tracking “We don’t monitor protests – Christopher Wray” I can’t stop laughing. I do agree with a lot of your past insights but today was just too funny …

  6. Margaret Heffernan says:

    What a wonderful article; so beautifully and succinctly written. Are you worrying about the right things goes into my little book of great questions.

  7. Julie Stampler says:

    Oh Scott, I was with you until the sentence “Skynet was taken out by a single mom, twice!” I suspect I won’t be the only single mom taking umbrage with the underlying sentiment (wow a single mom can be good at computers), and I surely know that’s not how you meant it (I hope). However, there it is, that unconscious misogyny that shows itself when least expected and even accidentally. Does ChatGPT have a scan function for internalized patriarchal biases? Life IS so rich. Thank you for your perspective. Mostly. 🙂

  8. George Wilson says:

    Don’t know that Jobs has much to say about parenthood, Given that he refused to pay for Lisa Brennan’s college and denied paternity. But that’s OK i guess. He made a cool phone didn’t he?

  9. margie stern says:

    Hi Scott,
    My husband reads your posts and I was curious, so I read this last one.
    While I appreciated much of what you wrote, the part about Skynet being taken down by a « single Mom » – twice – jumped out at me – and also the question « Does he think a single Mom would be the least likely person to do this? And why? ” Growing up with “A Single Mom” myself – I understand how fiercely creative and able they can be. I hope you will realize this as well and give women’s brains and places in society as much credence as you believe you have.

    • Carl says:

      If you read a few more of his posts, you’ll see that Scott was raised by a single mom himself, and he often talks about how strong and important she was. So probably he was making that point here, single moms are heroes.

    • Gibby says:

      Also fairly sure Scott was taking a humorous shot at those who think single moms aren’t all that.

  10. K. Martyn says:

    Hi, love your honest and terse manner on Real Time. Am a 65-yr-old Cdn who was a single mom, worked hard, bought a small duplex w big yard. Both sons have univ degrees (educ savings progs from birth); was frugal but boys still played hockey, had vacations, etc. Worked 40 yr + 5 yr at-home mom & get less than $1k/mo pensions with some retire’t savings. Re your comment on how senior citizens have/get all the money. Had some retire’t savings, but due to some inheritance money late in the game, I now do have a few hundred thou invested and am, temporarily, enjoying watching it earning interest. Ten years ago I thought that matching each of my sons $10k for a home down-payment was reasonable for a home in this area. Now sickened at the insane home prices and have already now planned to give them $200k each for down payment (promissory notes!) when they’re ready to buy… still insignificant as they’ll still have ridiculous mortgage payments on an e.g $800k+ “average” single family home. This also leaves me on a fine line as far as leftover retirement savings as I could live another 20 years. The new future is probably going to involve multi-generational living.

  11. K. Martyn says:

    Hi, love your honest and terse manner on Real Time. Am a 65-yr-old Cdn who was a single mom, worked hard, bought a small duplex w big yard. Both sons have univ degrees (educ savings progs from birth); was frugal but boys still played hockey, had vacations, etc. Worked 40 yr + 5 yr at-home mom & get less than $1k/mo pensions with some retire’t savings. Re your comment on how senior citizens have/get all the money. Had some retire’t savings, but due to some inheritance money late in the game, I now do have a few hundred thou invested and am, temporarily, enjoying watching it earning interest. Ten years ago I thought that matching each of my sons $10k for a home down-payment was reasonable for a home in this area. Now sickened at the insane home prices and have already now planned to give them $200k each for down payment (promissory notes!) when they’re ready to buy… still insignificant as they’ll still have ridiculous mortgage payments on an e.g $800k+ “average” single family home. This also leaves me on a fine line as far as leftover retirement savings as I could live another 20 years. The new future is probably going to involve multi-generational living. Get those in-law suites installed, get your “rich” parents to sell their too-big homes, and then try to make it work. I believe Cda already has a reno credit for doing this.

  12. H, H says:

    You don’t know how to turn a stove on.
    You safari w your young kids.
    You are WAY outside the range of normal representative Americans.
    I do not believe you are honestly concerned about white supremacists but rather just stoking the fire as a political hack.

    Why do I or any other layman ( non- rich at young age , non- urbanites even read your musings?

    Well you are a talented writer. Insightful as well. But the inserted liberal mutterings always make me want to unsubscribe.

    • Lili says:

      But wouldn’t it be much worse if he pretended he was something else than a white rich man?! (you actually don’t have to be rich to not know how to turn the stove on).

  13. Bob says:

    Worthy of worry “…have peace with who will be in the room to comfort you.” My wife has dementia.
    So having peace is not the issue. Will she know if I am in the room to comfort her?

  14. Janet Hanson says:

    This one is a keeper. And I absolutely loved your podcast with Rich Roll. So thoughtful and impactful on both sides of the exchange. Thank you.

  15. Jaxbird says:

    Scott! I’ve become obsessed with you since hearing you on Dan Senor. As someone with life long high functioning anxiety, your words above make so much sense. I spend a lot of time worrying about “what-if” and it’s exhausting. Having kids only exacerbated this for me. I like the over/under prepared narrative. It’s a good way to engage in life and I have spent a lot of time and money to better control this for myself. Just so nice to have you spell it out like this.

  16. Peter says:

    Thank you for your many insights, as always. I see that love of your children, and maybe love more generally, is a theme that runs through your meditations from week to week. Not a bad thing to think about, at all.

  17. Judith Law says:

    Thanks Scott for underscoring that anxiety is normal and protective. I’ll add that it can also be extremely debilitating when untreated. Anxiety disorders and mood disorders are a global problem that has economic and social impacts.


    Extremely interesting, educational, and evocative.

    • Nick says:

      Your article made me stop and pause. I never thought of thinking about the future in terms of being “overprepared” or “underprepared.” I’ve always looked at it as ‘a deal with it when it happens’ sort of way. Of course, trying to be prepared for what comes next can leave you in an anxious state. The future is all about perspective, I suppose. Are we worried about the right things? Good question to ponder.
      This was an interesting read, Scott.
      I’m looking forward to the next one.

  19. Chris says:

    Very-good post Scott (I also bought your book!).

    I would add to your thoughts:
    Underprepared: With religion in decline in the U.S. (for some obvious reasons), how can we find a new moral compass, whereby we can work together to ensure we build positive communities, without descending into tribalism and living as selfish clods thinking the world owes us something.

    Underprepared: Increased wealth gaps and further segmentation of a social hierarchy leading to the country being led by only a few. Maybe only 20-30 years away??

    • Janett Höllmüller says:

      great feedback. in the US you have Goleman with his great thoughts about emotional intelligence, Dr. & Dr. Eckman with their research on emotions and their triggers,… seems like even the army is giving mindfulness trainings to strengthen resilience… health insurers started paying for mindfulness trainings, seeing the impacts it has on stress reduction and subsequent health improvements… (see for example the swiss MBSR with an excellent reputation – or if you need a first glimpse on the mindfulness topic, start with Oprah Winfrey´s interview with whom I would easily call the father of our time´s mindfulness debate, “Thich Nhath Hanh” (died 2023) whose successors offer great retreats in California and other places around US & Europe)
      So it looks like there are awesome and empirically proven concepts for implementing ethics to the benefit of the individual, organizations and society at the same time. Great win wins, that are already spreading and could well help to adress your point to push prosocial/ ethical behavior, if spread more in schools, companies, universities and the public.
      Very much worth thinking about and even more engaging in these practices oneself. Keep working on it myself. They do improve life, personal relations, problem solving, health …
      Well, I guess more than half of Scotts subscribers already do meditate and engage in some kind of practices that help being kind and social beings 🙂 … right?

  20. Paul says:

    Pretty lame that an article about preparedness didn’t mention our complete lack of preparation for the inevitable consequences of climate change. We are in no way ready for the large-scale depopulation of Florida, the depopulation of the desert Southwest, or the influx of climate refugees to the Great Lakes. Our economy shows no signs of being able to function at all without fossil fuels – key sectors such as shipping, aviation, and manufacturing are essentially impossible to decarbonize at scale. What are we going to do when a large city like Miami has to be abandoned because it can no longer deliver fresh water to its inhabitants? How do we grow food when weather patterns across the midwest become incompatible with corn and wheat? How will anyone get a mortgage when the banks realize their loans to people in disaster-hit areas are never getting repaid? This one (climate) is different from the others you list in the article – it’s in its own category of “we can’t figure out how to get prepared, so let’s do nothing.”

    • Janett Höllmüller says:

      Agree – one if not the biggest challenge and threat we have. Insurances and especially the big reinsurer are doing the math about changing climate conditions, refugee streams and their impacts on the insurance business since more than a decade at least…

  21. John Tyson says:

    Scott – another thoughtful post. I just purchased your book and I’m anxious to finish it.

  22. Otis Ryder says:

    Wonderful depth, full of wisdom. He seems to have skipped the benefits of AI, but I understand its aa big tangent from the Anxiety, Me and my nerd friends are using ChatGPT and other AI every day in our work and its a total mind duck how much its changed our lives.

  23. Craig says:

    I thought the TARP bailout of mortgage banks was funded under George W at $700B not “$7 Trillion” dollars. It actually spent some $443B all said, but YES taxpayers should not forget this. Likely they already have…

  24. D P says:

    Reading posts from you keeps me at peace.

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