"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."
Edge Is a Conversation
Edge is different from the Algonquin Roundtable or Bloomsbury Group, but it offers the same quality of intellectual adventure. Closer resemblances are the early seventeenth-century Invisible College, a precursor to the Royal Society. Its members consisted of scientists such as Robert Boyle, John Wallis, and Robert Hooke. The Society's common theme was to acquire knowledge through experimental investigation. Another inspiration is The Lunar Society of Birmingham, an informal club of the leading cultural figures of the new industrial age — James Watt, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood, Joseph Priestley, and Benjamin Franklin.
The online salon at Edge.org is a living document of millions of words charting the Edge conversation over the past fifteen years wherever it has gone. It is available, gratis, to the general public.
Edge.org was launched in 1996 as the online version of "The Reality Club," an informal gathering of intellectuals that met from 1981-1996 in Chinese restaurants, artist lofts, the Board Rooms of Rockefeller University, the New York Academy of Sciences, and investment banking firms, ballrooms, museums, living rooms, and elsewhere. Though the venue is now in cyberspace, the spirit of the Reality Club lives on in the lively back-and-forth discussions on the hot-button ideas driving the discussion today.
In the words of the novelist Ian McEwan, Edge.org offers "open-minded, free ranging, intellectually playful ... an unadorned pleasure in curiosity, a collective expression of wonder at the living and inanimate world ... an ongoing and thrilling colloquium."
As the late artist James Lee Byars and I once wrote: "To accomplish the extraordinary, you must seek extraordinary people." At the center of every Edge publication and event are remarkable people and remarkable minds. Edge, at its core, consists of the scientists, artists, philosophers, technologists, and entrepreneurs who are at the center of today's intellectual, technological, and scientific landscape.
Through the years, Edge.org has had a simple criterion for choosing contributors. We look for people whose creative work has expanded our notion of who and what we are. A few are bestselling authors or are famous in the mass culture. Most are not. Rather, we encourage work on the cutting edge of the culture, and the investigation of ideas that have not been generally exposed. We are interested in "thinking smart;" we are not interested in the anesthesiology of received "wisdom." The motto is "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." In communications theory information is not defined as data or input but rather as "a difference that makes a difference.'' It is this level we hope our contributors will achieve.
Edge.org encourages people who can take the materials of the culture in the arts, literature, and science and put them together in their own way. We live in a mass-produced culture where many people, even many established cultural arbiters limit themselves to secondhand ideas, thoughts, and opinions. Edge.org consists of individuals who create their own reality and do not accept an ersatz, appropriated reality. The Edge community consists of people who are out there doing it rather than talking about and analyzing the people who are doing it.