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The first three talks this morning have been optimistic. We've heard about the promise of big data, we've heard about advances in emotions, and we've just heard from Fiery, who very cleverly managed to find a way to leave before I gave my remarks about how we're understanding something deep about human nature. There's a risk that my remarks are going to be understood as pessimistic but they're really not. My optimism is embodied in the notion that what we're doing here is important and we can do it better.
I really wanted to take this opportunity to have a chance to speak to the people here about what's been going on in some corners of psychology, mostly in areas like social psychology and decision-making. In fact, Danny Kahneman has chimed in on this discussion, which is really what some people thought about as a crisis in certain parts of psychology, which is that insofar as replication is a hallmark of what science is about, there's not a lot of it and what there is shows that things we thought were true maybe aren't; that's really bad. This is a great setting in which to talk about these things, and I want to talk about it in part from my experience in this because I started to come into contact with this in a way that I'll describe right now. [click here for transcript]
Robert Kurzban is an Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania specializing in evolutionary psychology: Author, Why Everyone (Else) Is A Hypocrite.
Next: Nicholas Christakis: Monday, Dec 9, 2013 - "The Science of Social Connections"
Part V of the conversation from HeadCon '13: WHAT'S NEW IN SOCIAL SCIENCE?
I want to tell you about a problem that I have because it highlights a deep problem for the field of psychology. The problem is that every time I sit down to try to write a manuscript I end up eating Ben and Jerry's instead. I sit down and I really try to focus on what I'm doing and then a voice comes into my head and it says, "How about Ben and Jerry's? You deserve it. You've been working hard for almost ten minutes now." Before I know it, I'm on the way out the door.
This is a problem for psychology not, regrettably, because I was writing anything terribly important, but rather because it highlights a deep tension in a dual process theory of the mind. From one perspective my desire for Ben and Jerry's is the product of automatic or intuitive responses—literally gut feelings in this case—and then it's a controlled, effortful, deliberative process that tries to focus on the paper and put thoughts of Ben and Jerry's out of mind. On the other hand, it would truly be bizarre to say that when I went to Ben and Jerry's it was an automatic response. I mean, I have to go through a process of goal-oriented planning. I've got my shoes on, I've got to get out the door. There's a mismatch between the willpower perspective and the goal orientation perspective.
Fiery Cushman is Assistant Professor, Cognitive, Linguistic, Social Science, Brown University.
What I'm really interested in is the science of human emotion. In particular, what's captivated my field and my interest the most is trying to understand positive emotions. Not only the ways in which perhaps we think they're beneficial for us or confer some sort of adaptive value, but actually the ways in which they may signal dysfunction and may not actually, in all circumstances and in all intensities, be good for us.
Novelist Ian McEwan and theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed met at the Science Museum in London to mark the opening of the Large Hadron Collider exhibition. This is an edited extract of their conversation.
Nima Arkani-Hamed, Martha Kearney and Ian McEwan at London's Science Museum Photograph: Jennie Hills/Science Museum
DO THE TWO CULTURES STILL EXIST?
IAN McEWAN: That old, two-culture matter is still with us, ever since [CP] Snow promulgated it back in the 50s. It still is possible to be a flourishing, public intellectual with absolutely no reference to science but it's happening less and less. And I think it's less a change of any decision in the culture at large, just a social reality pressing in on us. And it's true that climate change forces us to at least get a smattering of some idea of what it is to predict systems that have more than two or three variables and whether this is even possible. The internet has created sites like John Brockman's wonderful edge.org, where it's possible for laymen to sit in on conversations between scientists. And when scientists have to address each other out of their specialisms they have to speak plain English, they have to abandon their jargons, and we're the beneficiaries of that.
NIMA ARKANI-HAMED: It's an asymmetry that doesn't really need to exist. Certainly many scientists are very appreciative of the arts. The essential gulf is one of language and especially in theoretical physics, the basic difficulty is that most people don't understand our language of mathematics which we use to describe everything we know about the universe. And so while I'm capable of listening to and intensely enjoying a Beethoven sonata or an Ian McEwan novel it can be more difficult for people in the arts to have some appreciation for what we do. But at a deeper level there's a commonality between certain parts of the arts and certain parts of the sciences. ... MORE
I'm going to talk to you today about a project that I've started in the last year or two. This type of thinking, this type of work, is going to be one of the challenges social science faces in the coming three, four, five, ten years. It's work exclusively with Jon Kleinberg. For those of you who don't know him, Jon is a computer scientist, one of the preeminent computer scientists. He's probably the smart one of the two of us, but I'm the pretty one so it's better that I'm being taped.
This is work that starts with the following observation that lots of people have had, so it will be trite to start with but we just have to live with that. The observation is that data sets are getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger in a fundamental way. As the size of data grows, what does this imply for social science? For how we conduct the business of science?
In July, Edge invited a group of social scientists to participate in an experimental project, a dry run for a possible annual Edge event focusing on the state of the art of what the social sciences have to tell us about human nature. For want of something more serious, I called it "The Head Conference" or "HeadCon". This is not a subject that's new to me ...
Out-take from the trailer I made for the 1968 movie "Head" (Columbia Pictures; Directed by Bob Rafelson; Written by Jack Nicholson)
I asked the participants the following:
"What's new in your field of social science in the last year or two, and why should I care? Why do I want or need to know about it? How does it change my view of human nature?"
I asked them to focus broadly and address the major developments in their field (including but not limited to their own research agenda). My goal was to get new, fresh, and original up-to-date field reports on different areas of social science.
HeadCon '13, is the beginning of an experiment in online video designed to capture the dynamic of an Edge event, focusing on the interaction of ideas, and of people. We recruited Film Director Jason Wishnow, Director of Film and Video at TED from 2006- 20012 (co-creator of TED Talks) to help us develop this new iteration of EdgeVideo. Wishnow filmed the ten sessions in split-screen with five cameras, presenting each speaker and the surrounding participants from multiple simultaneous camera perspectives.
We are rolling out the project, consisting of nearly six hours of EdgeVideo and a 58,000-word transcript, one talk at a time, on consecutive Mondays (with a holiday break), beginning Monday, November 11th.
November 11th Sendhil Mullainathan: "What Big Data Means For Social Science"
November 18th June Gruber: "The Scientific Study of Positive Emotion"
November 25th Fiery Cushman: "The Paradox of Automatic Planning"
December 2nd Rob Kurzban: "P-Hacking and the Replication Crisis"
December 9th Nicholas Christakis: "The Science of Social Connections"
January 20th Joshua Greene: "The Role of Brain Imaging In Social Science"
January 27th Laurie Santos: "What Makes Humans Unique"
February 3rd Joshua Knobe: "Experimental Philosophy and the Notion of the Self"
February 10th David Pizarro: "The Failure of Social and Moral Intuitions"
February 17th Daniel C. Dennett: "The De-Darwinizing of Cultural Change"
The great biologist Ernst Mayr (the "Darwin of the 20th Century") once said to me: "Edge is a conversation." And like any conversation, it is evolving. And what a conversation it is!
Interesting news this week from Nature Climate Change which published a study by Jennifer Jacquet (Edge's Roving Editor!) and her colleagues at two Max Planck Institutes, Kristin Hagel, Christoph Hauert, Jochem Marotzke, Torsten Röhl and Manfred Milinski. The study, designed by Jacquet, who is Clinical Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at NYU sparked global press coverage which included articles in Time, Der Spiegel, and a 5-minute segment on Fareed Zakaria's GPS national news program on CNN on "Why in the world can't the world get consensus on climate change?" Harvard psycholgist Steven Pinker noted that the paper is "an insightful analysis of why it's so hard to come to grips with climate change." Special thanks to Rory Hawlett, Chief Editor of Nature Climate Change for opening the paywall for one month—until the end of November—to allow public access to the paper. And a tip of the hat to Nature Editor-in-Chief and Edge contributor, Philip Campbell for his continued interest and support.
JENNIFER JACQUET is Clinical Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU, researching shame, cooperation and the tragedy of the commons. She is also Edge's Roving Editor (see interviews with Adam Alter and Joseph Heinrich).
THE REALITY CLUB: Freeman Dyson, Lee Smolin
DELAYED GRATIFICATION HURTS CLIMATE CHANGE COOPERATION
[JENNIFER JACQUET:] My colleagues from UBC, the Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Biology, and the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology, and I published a study this week in Nature Climate Change where we show that when the rewards of cooperation are delayed, cooperation significantly declines. We used a 6-player collective risk game—a variant on the threshold public-goods experiment, which requires a minimal investment into the common pool (in our case 120 Euros) for the public good to be provided (in our case, an additional 45 Euros each). No single player is capable of ensuring the group's success, and a majority of players who donate nothing guarantees that the target cannot be met. As an environmental scientist interested in large-scale social dilemmas, like overfishing and climate change, this set-up is perfect to explore some of the nuances of cooperation.
Every year, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman summons some of our eras greatest thinkers and unleashes them on one provocative question, whether its the single most elegant theory of how the world works or the best way to enhance our cognitive toolkit. This year, he sets out on the most ambitious quest yet, a meta-exploration of thought itself: Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction (public library) collects short essays and lecture adaptations from such celebrated and wide-ranging (though not in gender) minds as Daniel Dennett, Jonathan Haidt, Dan Gilbert, andTimothy Wilson, covering subjects as diverse as morality, essentialism, and the adolescent brain.
Thinking is excellent and mind-expanding in its entirety. Complement it with Brockman's This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking, one of the best psychology books of 2012.
"For ... readers interested in keeping up with what serious thinkers are thinking about thinking, this book offers nourishing food for thought". —Kirkus Reviews
Contributors: Daniel C. Dennett, Philip Tetlock, Gerd Gigerenzer, Daniel Gilbert, Vilayanur Ramacahndran. Timothy D. Wilson, Sarah-Jane Blakemore, Bruce Hood, Simon Baron-Cohen, Gary Klein, Simon Schnall, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Alva Noë, Daniel L. Everett, Jonathan Haidt, Joshua Greene, Sam Harris, Roy Baumeister, Paul Bloo, Daivd Pizarro, Joshua Knobe, Daniel Kahneman
Each year the website Edge.org, considered by many one of the publications of higher intellectual quality in the world, brings together hundreds of artists, scientists and the most renowned thinkers in the world and asks them a question, creating a kind of itinerant think thank that seeks dialogue and anticipates major issues facing humanity, or sometimes simply celebrates knowledge. This year the question was: "What Should We Be Worried About?", under the argument that "we are concerned because we are able to anticipate the future. Nothing can be done that we no longer worry about, but science can teach us how better care, and when stop worrying."
Some of the answers compiled by Edge.org, are remarkable essays on the most pressing problems of the modern civilization modern; others are simply ironic (of course, predominantly about rational thought and science oriented). Worth taking a tour of this panorma today.
The enticing collections roll in with impressive frequency, bearing such titles as This Will Change Everything(2009), Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? (2011), This Will Make You Smarter (2012), Thinking (2013), and the latest (review adjacent), What Should We Be Worried About? Each anthology features stellar contributors from diverse fields, and all are edited by John Brockman, the founder and CEO of Brockman Inc., a literary agency for science writers, and founder of a nonprofit foundation that supports Edge.org, a world-renowned online science salon with the credo: "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves." ...
...Brockman, who is also an author, finds that books are still the best place for scientists to present their work. "Increasing complexity is leading to an entirely new way of doing science, one in which all kinds of disciplines come together in various endeavors, and scientists have to be able to talk each other's language. Their trade books reflect this; they have to write in a way that's understandable to their intelligent colleagues. That's the hallmark of these new books. They are not popular science. This is science being presented by the scientist for people outside his or her field but still within the scientific community." Just the same, any curious reader can benefit from and be enthralled by Brockman's stimulating, jargon-free Edge books.
Jonathan Derbyshire on the collapse of the distinction between public and private
What is at work is a powerful vision of a world without inwardness, one in which the external record of a life is the same as our experience of it. He quotes something the science writer John Brockman said about the "collective externalised mind" promised by the internet. For Brockman, that's not dystopia, it's utopia. Yet, as Cohen points out, there's another name for it: "totalitarianism"–the slogan of the Khmer Rouge, for example, was "Destroy the garden of the individual".
Cohen suggests that cognitive behavioural therapy, which has grown dramatically in popularity in recent years, nourishes a similar fantasy of total liberation from the burden of the inner life. What many people find so threatening about psychoanalysis, by contrast, is its insistence that the self is never whole. It tells us that our best hope, as Cohen writes at the end of this unsettling book, lies in accepting that part of us will forever remain in the dark.
[ED. NOTE: The phrase "collective externalised mind"(above) is from the Introduction to DIgerati: Encounters with the Cyber Elite, 1996.]
Earlier this month, Noah Pred released his latest LP, the Exclaim!-approved Third Culture. ... The resulting 13-track album was named Third Culture, a reference to a 1995 John Brockman book, The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution...
Speaking of the book's influence, Pred says, "It's a collection of essays and articles... about the future of human culture based on a synthesis of science and art. I find it really interesting that electronic music is an art form that couldn't exist without science."
The world's smartest website is which? You might say that this issue is too funny, clever is not wise site also divided. Yes, it really has a web site is known as the world's smartest website. It is the Edge, Wuyishan teacher be translated as "cutting-edge network." Edge is positioned as "a true thinker forum" occasional interview it the world's most renowned scientists, philosophers, writers, artists, etc., so that they express humanity's most important issues facing the thinking.
From 1998 onwards, Edge editor John Brockman the end of each year will raise a question, a leader invited to express their views and, of course, including many Edge 's author. Edge of concern are: human beings have had a lot of knowledge, and are often able to finally find a solution to many problems, so for ideological and science, it is important not now the questions and answers, but whether they can raise new questions , or forward-looking and futuristic; most insightful if we can bring together ideas and causes more discussion makes sense. ...
NOTE: "Currently, Web of Science magazine subscribers nearly thirty million people, mainly from domestic universities and research institutes, as well as nearly 50,000 overseas Chinese scientists."
If you're not hip to Edge.org, it's legendary book agent John Brockman's hub for really smart scientists and other big thinkers to share ideas with each other and the public. At the site, you'll find hundreds of conversations and essays from the likes of Steven Pinker, Jared Diamond, Daniel Kahneman, Rebecca Saxe, Douglas Rushkoff, Ryan Phelan, and many other very, verybright people. Recently, Edge hosted a small conference, HeadCon '13: What's New In Social Science, and they're now rolling out a series of videos documenting the provocative talks from the event. With this series, they took a rather nontraditional approach to the videos.
Every year, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman summons some of our greatest thinkers and unleashes them on one provocative question, whether its the single most elegant theory of how the world works or the best way to enhance our cognitive toolkit. This year, he sets out on the most ambitious quest yet, a meta-exploration of thought itself: Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction (public library) collects short essays and lecture adaptations from such celebrated and wide-ranging (though not in gender) minds as Daniel Dennett, Jonathan Haidt, Dan Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson, covering subjects as diverse as morality, essentialism, and the adolescent brain.
Thinking is excellent and mind-expanding in its entirety. Complement it with Brockman's This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking, one of the best psychology books of 2012.
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
In the excellent collection This Explains Everything, edited by John Brockman, two of the contributors provide an explanation for why this is easier said than done. David M Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, writes of "overlapping solutions", where the brain is not made up of separate parts that deal with different activities – ie. one area for language, another for face recognition etc. Instead, he says: "The deep and beautiful trick of the brain is more interesting. It provides multiple, overlapping ways of dealing with the world."
This is echoed by the psychology researcher Judith Rich Harris, who explains that this is the root reason for a good deal of the drama in our lives and our literature, movies, plays and soap operas. It is what leads one part of us to do something that another part of us knows is wrong.
What ideas have changes in the Netherlands, or will in the future? Around 100 thinkers give their views in the recently published 'The Netherlands in Ideas'. Sprout presents a few contributions.
Netherlands in ideas http://www.mavenpublishing.nl/boeken/nederland-in-ideeen/ is the first book of a series that Maven Publishing will publish each year with around 100 leading Dutch thinkers asking for short and sweet answer to one central question about the interface between science and society. The compilers, virologist Mark G and geneticist Tim van Opijnen, have copied a bit of the art of Edge.org http://www.edge.org , because it was high time for a Dutch counterpart. The question for the first edition: 'What idea, insight or innovation in the Netherlands has changed-or will so in the future?
The question has been answered by scientists, politicians, writers, journalists, and entrepreneurs.
THE THIRD CULTURE
...Science and science fiction work on different principles. You could not have the science to say Hey, I found this an important thing about the functioning of neurons in the brain that made me really sad! That would defeat the validity of the findings. Science is objective and devoid of emotion, and art relies on emotion. I respect science and scientists, as well as scientific discourse, and I could hardly say that the same person who writes a short story about landing on the moon also can build a machine that can really do that. But doesn't fiction sometime provide you with an idea that science later follows, such as in the case of a landing on the moon, first described in the novels of Jules Verne?
---Yes, it happens sometimes. Some things actually enter into the public discourse, even the scientific conversation, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which today has become a common noun and is used in all areas of life. There is also the other side, like a web page on the Third Culture (Third Culture), led by John Brockman, where scientists put their findings into a social context, represent them through their writings, talk about the possible positive and negative impacts, the moral implications. ...