"Dahlia" by Katinka Matson |  Click to Expand www.katinkamatson.com

"Another year, and some of the most important thinkers and scientists of the world have accepted the intellectual challenge." —El Mundo, 2015

"Deliciously creative, the variety astonishes. Intellectual skyrockets of stunning brilliance. Nobody in the world is doing what Edge is doing...the greatest virtual research university in the world. —Denis Dutton, Founding Editor, Arts & Letters Daily

Dedicated to the memory of Frank Schirrmacher (1959-2014).

In recent years, the 1980s-era philosophical discussions about artificial intelligence (AI)—whether computers can "really" think, refer, be conscious, and so on—have led to new conversations about how we should deal with the forms that many argue actually are implemented. These "AIs", if they achieve "Superintelligence" (Nick Bostrom), could pose "existential risks" that lead to "Our Final Hour" (Martin Rees). And Stephen Hawking recently made international headlines when he noted "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."   


But wait! Should we also ask what machines that think, or, "AIs", might be thinking about? Do they want, do they expect civil rights? Do they have feelings? What kind of government (for us) would an AI choose? What kind of society would they want to structure for themselves? Or is "their" society "our" society? Will we, and the AIs, include each other within our respective circles of empathy?

Numerous Edgies have been at the forefront of the science behind the various flavors of AI, either in their research or writings. AI was front and center in conversations between charter members Pamela McCorduck (Machines Who Think) and Isaac Asimov (Machines That Think) at our initial meetings in 1980. And the conversation has continued unabated, as is evident in the recent Edge feature "The Myth of AI", a conversation with Jaron Lanier, that evoked rich and provocative commentaries.

Is AI becoming increasingly real? Are we now in a new era of the "AIs"? To consider this issue, it's time to grow up. Enough already with the science fiction and the movies, Star MakerBlade Runner2001HerThe Matrix, "The Borg".  Also, 80 years after Turing's invention of his Universal Machine, it's time to honor Turing, and other AI pioneers, by giving them a well-deserved rest. We know the history. (See George Dyson's 2004 Edge feature "Turing's Cathedral".) So, once again, this time with rigor, the Edge Question—2015:


John Brockman
Publisher & Editor, Edge



 "Contributors": links to a printable/shareable page of 186 individual responses
"View All": link  to printable/shareable 131,500 words manuscript of all responses 

[186 Responses:] Pamela McCorduckGeorge Church, James J. O'Donnell, Carlo Rovelli, Nick Bostrom, Daniel C. Dennett, Donald Hoffman, Roger Schank, Mark Pagel, Frank Wilczek, Robert Provine, Susan Blackmore, Haim Harari, Andy Clark, William Poundstone, Peter Norvig, Rodney Brooks, Jonathan Gottschall, Arnold Trehub, Giulio Boccaletti, Michael Shermer, Chris DiBona, Aubrey De Grey, Juan Enriquez, Satyajit Das, Quentin Hardy, Clifford Pickover, Nicholas Humphrey, Ross Anderson, Paul Saffo, Eric J. Topol, M.D., Dylan Evans, Roger Highfield, Gordon Kane, Melanie Swan, Richard Nisbett, Lee Smolin, Scott Atran, Stanislas Dehaene, Stephen Kosslyn, Emanuel Derman, Richard Thaler, Alison Gopnik, Ernst Pöppel, Luca De Biase, Maraget Levi, Terrence Sejnowski, Thomas Metzinger, D.A. Wallach, Leo Chalupa, Bruce Sterling, Kevin Kelly, Martin Seligman, Keith Devlin, S. Abbas Raza, Neil Gershenfeld, Daniel Everett, Douglas Coupland, Joshua Bongard, Ziyad Marar, Thomas Bass, Frank Tipler, Mario Livio, Marti Hearst, Randolph Nesse, Alex (Sandy) Pentland, Samuel Arbesman, Gerald Smallberg, John Mather, Ursula Martin, Kurt Gray, Gerd Gigerenzer, Kevin Slavin, Nicholas Carr, Timo Hannay, Kai Krause, Alun Anderson, Seth Lloyd, Mary Catherine Bateson, Steve Fuller, Virginia Heffernan, Barbara Strauch, Sean Carroll, Sheizaf Rafaeli, Edward Slingerland, Nicholas Christakis, Joichi Ito, David Christian, George Dyson, Paul Davies, Douglas Rushkoff, Tim O'Reilly, Irene Pepperberg, Helen Fisher, Stuart A. Kauffman, Stuart Russell, Tomaso Poggio, Robert Sapolsky, Maria Popova, Martin Rees, Lawrence M. Krauss, Jessica Tracy & Kristin Laurin, Roy Baumeister, Paul Dolan, Kate Jefferey, June Gruber & Raul Saucedo, Bruce Schneier, Rebecca MacKinnon, Antony Garrett Lisi, Thomas Dietterich, John Markoff, Matthew Lieberman, Dimitar Sasselov, Michael Vassar, Gregory Paul, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Andrian Kreye, Andrés Roemer, N.J. Enfield, Rolf Dobelli, Nina Jablonski, Marcelo Gleiser, Gary Klein, Tor Nørretranders, David Gelernter, Cesar Hidalgo, Gary Marcus, Sam Harris, Molly Crockett, Abigail Marsh, Alexander Wissner-Gross, Koo Jeong-A, Sarah Demers, Richard Foreman, Julia Clarke, Georg Diez, Jaan Tallinn, Michael McCullough, Hans Halvorson, Kevin Hand, Christine Finn, Tom Griffiths, Dirk Helbing, Brian Knutson, John Tooby, Maximilian Schich, Athena Vouloumanos, Brian Christian, Timothy Taylor, Bruce Parker, Benjamin Bergen, Laurence Smith, Ian Bogost, W. Tecumseh Fitch, Michael Norton, Scott Draves, Gregory Benford, Chris Anderson, Matthew Ritchie, Raphael Bousso, Christopher Chabris, James Croak, Beatrice Golomb, Moshe Hoffman, John Naughton, Matt Ridley, Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran, Eldar Shafir, Maria Spiropulu, Noga Arikha, Rory Sutherland, Tania Lombrozo, Bart Kosko, Joscha Bach, Esther Dyson, Anthony Aguirre, Steve Omohundro, Murray Shanahan, Eliezer Yudkowsky, Steven Pinker, Max Tegmark, Jon Kleinberg & Senhil Mullainathan, Freeman Dyson, Brian Eno, W. Daniel Hillis, Demis Hassabis & Shane Legg & Mustafa Suleyman, Katinka Matson

Read About The 2015 Edge Question

UVM robotics expert contributes essay to world-famous Edge conversation

What Do You Think About Machines That Think?

By Joshua E. Brown 1-28-2015

John Brockman's Edge Question is a major event in the intellectual calendar each year — its roots go back to talks he had with Isaac Asimov and others in 1980. This year's question, "What do you think about machines that think?" drew essays from Daniel C. Dennett, Nicholas Carr, Steven Pinker, Freeman Dyson, George Church and nearly two hundred other luminaries and Nobel Prize winners.

UVM computer scientist and robotics expert Joshua Bongard was asked to weigh in, too. ...

...[R]ead the whole essay. It’s online now and will appear in a printed book as each of the Edge questions — like “What will change everything?” (2009) and “What is your dangerous idea?” (2006) — has for the last decade.

"Naches" from our Machines

By Samuel Arbesman 1.29.15

This year’s Edge question is “What do you think about machines that think?” Myresponse is less about their likelihood and more about how we should respond, as a society, if this ever comes to pass. Specifically, it involves naches, the Yiddish term for pride and joy...

Read the rest here.

Tania Lombrozo

Thinking machines are consistently in the news these days, and often a topic of discussion here at 13.7. Last week, Alva Noë came out as a singularity skeptic, and three of us contributed to Edge.org's annual question for 2015: What do you think about machines that think?

In response to the Edge.org question, I argued that we shouldn't be chauvinists when it comes to defining thinking — that is, we should resist the temptation to restrict what counts as thinking to "thinking like adult humans" or "thinking like contemporary computers." Marcelo Gleiser suggested that we're already living as transhumans, enhanced by our technogadgets and medical improvements. And Stuart Kauffman considered Turing machines, the quantum and human choice.

In addressing the relationship between humans and thinking machines, all three of our responses — and those by many others — raised questions about what (if anything) makes us uniquely human. Part of what's fascinating about the idea of thinking machines, after all, is that they seem to approach and encroach on a uniquely human niche, homo sapiens — the wise.

Domingo 25, de enero do 2015 | lanacion.com (Buenos Aires)

What do you think about machines think?

More than 180 scientists, philosophers, writers and technicians responded to the annual call Edge.org website with original reflections on the scope, risks and possibilities of artificial intelligence, a field-edge science that is already bringing the future to present

Artificial intelligence, is one of the most promising developments of modern science, or risk to humanity? Between these two poles, with irony, optimism and caution, the 186 scientists, writers and thinkers convened this year by Edge.org-a website associated with a publisher that promotes thinking and discussion of the art in science, arts and moved literature- to meet its annual question. The collaborators wrote brief essays available on the web ( www.edge.org ) and, like every year, will soon have its publication on paper. Here a selection of their responses.

Pamela McCorduck, Steven Pinker, Irene Pepperberg, Thomas A. Bass, Paul Davies, Nicholas G. Carr.

Is Your Computer About To Become The Enemy?

By Sheizaf Rafaeli 22:01:15, 07:14

180 intellectuals responded to this Edge annual question - "What do you think about computers that think?" Soon this question may become an issue for all of us

"What do you think about computers that think?" The question for 2015 on the prestigious Edge.org site. Each year the site gives the same question to more than 180 intellectuals and publishes their answers in one sequence, later published as a thick book. Respondents ranged from columnists in The New York Times, Nobel Prize winners, best-selling authors, and heroes of the technology world, many of them close friends of the site's colorful editor, literary agent John Brockman. Previously published questions: "What scientific concept has to retire?", "What tools will improve everyone's thinking?" and "What should we be worried about? ". This year, as mentioned, Brockman called 180 intellectuals to express an opinion on the question Hawking has been talking about. And Disclosure: I was delighted to receive an invitation to participate this year in most of this dialogue, and my response, ordered to be short - even short of this column - for the annual anthology published. 

Several respondents, including the writer Pamela McCorduck, Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli, Professor Margaret Levi of Stanford University and the Israel Prize laureate and former president of the Weizmann Institute Haim Harari, refer to machines that think as inevitable, and in large measure daily. Interest in human responsibility and proper management like any other field, and material nightmares. More than the machines thinking like people, I am concerned about people who think like machines, writes Harari.

Others relate to the very dismissive forecast: Vice President for Research of the George Washington University, Neurobiologist, Leo Chalupa doubts machines will be capable of abstract thought. Science fiction writer Bruce Sterling writes that computers may be major players in the future, but the script will never write people. They further emphasize emotion and will remain forever confined to human beings.

What a Child Can Teach a Smart Computer

By Alison Gopnik Jan. 22, 2015 10:58 a.m.

Every January the intellectual impresario and literary agent John Brockman (who represents me, I should disclose) asks a large group of thinkers a single question on his website, edge.org. This year it is: “What do you think about machines that think?” There are lots of interesting answers, ranging from the skeptical to the apocalyptic.

I’m not sure that asking whether machines can think is the right question, though. As someone once said, it’s like asking whether submarines can swim. But we can ask whether machines can learn, and especially, whether they can learn as well as 3-year-olds. ...

Very big thinkers ponder: "What do you think about machines that think?"

By David Pescovitz at 6:40 am Wed, Jan 21, 2015

Over at BB pal John Brockman's Edge.org, nearly 200 very smart people, like Daniel C. Dennett, Brian Eno, Alison Gopnik, Nina Jablonski, Peter Norvig, and Rodney Brooks, ponder the EDGE Annual Question of 2015: What do you think about machines that think?  

This week's Nova magazine features contributions from
Frank Tipler, Paul Saffo, Tomaso Poggio,  Nicholas Carr, Kevin Kelly
Juan Enriquez, Peter Norvig, Jochi Ito, Julio Boccaletti, Carlo Rovelli,
Douglas Coupland, and Haim Harari

"Another year, and some of the most important thinkers and scientists of the world have accepted the intellectual challenge." —El Mundo



"What do you think about machines think?" This is the annual question that the digital magazine Edge launches every year around this time, and which it presents to some of the brightest minds on the planet. Just over a month ago, in early December, Stephen Hawking warned of the potentially apocalyptic consequences of artificial intelligence, which in his opinion could eventually lead to "the end of the human species". But really, should we fear the danger of a future army of humanoids out of control? Or rather we should celebrate the extraordinary opportunities that could give us the development of thinking machines, and even sentient beings? Do such beings along with ourselves pose new ethical dilemmas? Would they be part of our "society"? Should we grant them civil rights? Would we feel empathy for them? Another year, and some of the most important thinkers and scientists of the world have accepted the intellectual challenge posed by the editor of Edge, John Brockman. This is just a selection of some of the most interesting responses.

Nick Bostrom, Daniel C. Dennett, Frank Wilczek, Steven Pinker



Was denken Sie über Maschinen, die denken?
Nr. 12, Freitag 16, Januar 16  

Once a year, the literary agent John Brockman presents a question to scientists on the website edge.org.. This year it's about artificial intelligence. Here is a selection of responses [three parts on Süddeutsche.de online): 

Responses by David Gelernter, Peter Norvig and Douglas Coupland, Alison Gopnik, Brian Eno and Daniel L. Everett, Seth Lloyd, Thomas Metsinger, Susan Blackmore

Part I: David Gelernter, Peter Norvig and Douglas Coupland Jan 16
Part II: Alison Gopnik, Brian Eno and Daniel L. Everett Jan 17
Part III: Seth Lloyd, Thomas Metzinger, Susan Blackmore Jan 18


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