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The advantages of fear | Culture

Fear often gets a bad rap, but it actually serves a purpose. Our ancestors survived by instinctively avoiding dangerous situations, like snakes and lions. Fear acts as a defense mechanism, helping us assess threats and determine a response. According to Enric Soler, a relational psychologist and university professor, fear allows us to evaluate perceived threats and take appropriate action. In fact, “parents often use scary stories to prepare children for real-life dangers,” said philosopher Stephen Asma, the author of On Monsters (2011) and co-host of the Chinwag podcast with actor Paul Giamatti. In other words, we use stories to cope with uncertainty.

If we examine our fears, we soon realize that they are not new or unique. Times change and so do our monsters, which have evolved from mythology and religion into space exploration and scientific advancements. Despite the diversity of human fears, Asma says that “beneath the surface, certain universal fears persist — like snakes, spiders and the dark.”

Are novels and movies featuring rebellious AIs like Terminator and Ex Machina essentially modern retellings of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Such stories shed light on overlooked dangers, much like the thought-provoking Black Mirror Netflix series. They also offer an alternative perspective. In Shelley’s novel, the creature is not the true villain, despite its monstrous appearance. Instead, Frankenstein’s monster is a sensitive and intelligent character who feels betrayed and abandoned by its creator. This highlights a big risk of artificial intelligence — namely, the potential consequences when ethics are neglected during development. Like Elon Musk’s controversial acquisition of Twitter.

This assumes someone actually creates a superintelligence, because our imaginations often outpace technology. We’re still waiting for an evil doctor to bring a corpse back to life or for a company that makes human clones as organ banks for the super-rich. And where are all the job-stealing robots? More importantly, does anyone know if they’ll be here by Monday?

The purpose of fear is not to turn us into fortune-tellers, but rather to assist us in perceiving potential dangers so that we can face them head-on — whether the danger is a malicious algorithm or the apocalypse.

The end-of-the-world fear is nothing new. The first chapter of the Bible starts with a worldwide flood and the last chapter ends with an apocalypse. These are supernatural sources of fear, of course. But chaos can also arise from more earthly sources, such as the economic collapse in Lionel Shriver’s novel The Mandibles (2016); the climatic crisis in J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World; and pandemics like in the video game and TV series, The Last of Us. One cannot dismiss these dangers as fanciful fiction, says Enric Soler, who reminds us that the war in Ukraine has stoked Cold War fears of a nuclear holocaust in Europe.

These stories reveal the terrifying reality of things beyond our control — we can lose everything, even for something as trivial as forgetting to take a reusable shopping bag to the supermarket. The brave heroes in these stories often aim to regain control by caring for a child who embodies hope, the future and the fate of humanity. But these big concepts often fail to captivate us. We might find characters such as Will Forte in The Last Man on Earth more relatable. Pure luck saves him from the pandemic and he ends up looting abandoned liquor stores.

Everything in moderation, say those annoying people. We fear anarchy, but we also dread the extreme regulation depicted in dystopian novels like George Orwell’s 1984. However, fear today doesn’t stem from an all-powerful dictator like Big Brother, akin to Hitler or Stalin. Instead, it arises from chaotic disruptors like Donald Trump, Javier Milei, and the populist character played by Emma Thompson in the Years and Years miniseries.

Some movies from the eighties and nineties presented a milder version of the apocalypse, what critic B.K. Grant dubbed yuppie horror films. In these films, middle class nobodies are threatened by babysitters (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle), mentally unstable lovers (Fatal Attraction), friends who spike drinks (Bad Influence), and terrifying tenants (Pacific Heights). It’s a tradition of middle-class horror that has extended to the German and Canadian made-for-television movies that my mother likes to watch on Saturday night.

Fear has shifted from haunted houses to mortgages. The horror of economic collapse still lingers, but takes on a different shape. In his book on philosophy and terror, Enrique Lynch discusses a new monster that emerged after the 2008 global financial crisis: the precarious nature of modern life. It’s a monster that enables us to appreciate movies like The Menu, where posh and pretentious plutocrats become the victims.

Another modern fear that has emerged is the belief in curses, although they are no longer associated with the devil but with genetics. Our families are not cursed for stealing a witch’s amulet, but rather because we have two copies of the APOE4 gene, increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Curses are also used to describe mental health and trauma, as seen in Mike Flanagan’s series, The Haunting of Hill House.

In reality, we lost our fear of the fantastic long ago. In the 1960s, shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family showed us that vampires and werewolves can be funny, while the really disturbing elements are family dynamics and teenage angst (as seen in The Exorcist). Similarly, in the comedy What We Do in the Shadows, the conversations about energy vampires are more unsettling than the blood-sucking ones.

In pandemic horror movies, zombies and infected people are often portrayed as the bad guys. In his book Monster Show, David J. Skal’s writes that these stories initially symbolized the threat of communist propaganda infecting honest citizens. However, this began to shift in 1978 with George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (the sequel to Night of the Living Dead). In Romero’s movie, zombies don’t represent the enemy — they are us. The movie’s setting — a shopping center — depicts how we can become mindless beings (walking corpses?) when we blindly chase materialistic desires.

New York Times cultural critic Chuck Klosterman’s tenth book (aka Chuck Klosterman X) presents another take on zombies. We all are zombie hunters and the zombies are the tasks that we do over and over again but can never finish. Tasks that never die, like zombies. There’s always a report to finish, another meeting to attend, or an email to answer. When you cross something off your to-do list, it’s like plunging a knife into a zombie’s skull — there’s always another one (or a whole herd) right behind it.

The stories we tell ourselves help us comprehend our fears, but they also make us vulnerable to manipulation. As Bernat Castany Prado explains in A Philosophy of Fear, certain politicians thrive on fear. That’s why they vilify, divide, stoke distrust and provoke aggression, all while presenting these behaviors as pragmatic and patriotic. These politicians exploit fear to instill paranoia and xenophobia. Take our stories about aliens from outer space. Skal writes that during the Cold War, the extraterrestrials in Invaders from Mars infiltrated the United States, just like Soviet spies.

Some stories explore this clash of cultures differently. For instance, they view it as an effort to communicate with other civilizations. Sometimes these attempts failed, like in Stanislaw Lem’s Fiasco. Others are more successful, like in Ted Chiang’s Story of Your Life, the basis of the film Arrival (2016). Then there are stories that use satire to address racism and apartheid, like District 9.

Foreigners should not be seen as threats. Political polarization often labels those with different ideas as evil or unintelligent. We view others as outsiders endangering our way of life, assuming the only solution is for them to go home. The lack of another planet to go to is a technical detail we can address later.

In her book Fear: A Cultural History, historian Joanna Bourke shows us how fear prompts us to recognize our lack of control. It can be risky if we avoid critical thought and refuse to take action, opting instead to hide our heads in the sand or spout meaningless slogans. Being afraid is not the same as cowardice. True cowardice lies in failing to confront our fears, in failing to find ways of responding without succumbing to paralysis and division.

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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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— By Darren Wilson, Team VoiceOfEU.com

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