The power of contrarian thinking

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Profiles in Leadership

In 1962, editors at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists judged that the world was perilously close to a nuclear holocaust.

It was at this moment that physicist Freeman Dyson, a visionary in math to medicine, weighed in on bomb shelters.

At the time, the subject of civil defense was top of mind, from deep bunkers to temporary shelters that could protect citizens from nuclear blasts and fallout.

Dyson suggested that shelters could, in fact, become too effective, arguing that people who felt secure against nuclear attack might become reckless in their dealings with enemies—or at least less cautious than they should be. A nation that felt too self-assured that felt it could prevail in a nuclear exchange, might feel emboldened to cross the line into thermonuclear war.

His argument worked, and the name Dyson, already attached to three new protocols in physics, now was used to weigh doomsday scenarios.

— Adapted from Maverick Genius: The Pioneering Odyssey of Freeman Dyson, Philip Schewe, St. Martin’s Press.

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