YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?"
What Is Your Dangerous Idea
by John Brockman
Introduction by Steven Pinker
Afterword by Richard Dawkins
The great world-wide
scholars talk about their 'dangerous ideas'.
of the contributors appear to have interpreted "dangerous" as
meaning something like "subversive," challenging
to one or another received orthodoxy.
gefährlichste Idee. Seit nunmehr neun Jahren startet
die Stiftung Edge mit einer Umfrage zu einem großen
generellen Thema ins neue Jahr.
Bárbaras Ciencia racista, atractiva pero muy
Into the minds of the believers. With the aim of
gathering ideas from the world's leading thinkers
on intellectual, philosophical, artistic and literary
issues, US writer John Brockman established The Edge
Foundation in 1988.
Society president Martin Rees said the most dangerous
idea was public concern that science and technology
were running out of control.
Knowledge. What is a dangerous idea? One not assumed
to be false, but possibly true?What do you believe
is true even though you cannot prove it?"
power of a hazardous idea. The responses to Brockman's
question do not directly engage with each other, but
they do worry away at a core set of themes.
see gene cloning perils, untamed global warming and
personality-changing drugs as presenting the gravest
dangers for the future of civiliztion
ideas; What do scientists currently regard as the most
Afraid. Edge.org canvassed scientists for their "most
dangerous idea." David Buss, a psychologist at the
University of Texas, chose "The Evolution of Evil."
most dangerous idea. Brockman's challenge is noteworthy
because his buddies include many of the world's greatest
scientists: Freeman Dyson, David Gelertner, J. Craig
Venter, Jared Diamond, Brian Greene.
Ideas About Modern Life. Free will does not exist.
We are not always created equal. Science will never
be able to address our deepest concerns.
sequencing pioneer Craig Venter suggests greater understanding
of how genes influence characteristics such as personality,
intelligence and athletic capability could lead to
conflict in society.
wilder shores of creativity. He asked his roster of
thinkers [...] to nominate an idea, not necessarily
their own, they consider dangerous not because it is
false, but because it might be true.
Fom cloning to predetermination of sex: the answers of
invesitgators and philosophers to a question on the
online salon Edge.
controls humans? God? The genes? Or nevertheless the
computer? The on-line forum Edge asked its yearly question — and
the answers raised more questions.
pregunta de l’any. La web Edge.org penjarà l’1
de gener la pregunta de l’any. La del 2005 va
ser resposta per 120 ments de l’anomenada ‘tercera
cultura’, que van reflexionar sobre l’enunciat “Què creus
que és veritat tot i no poder-ho demostrar?”
THE HANKYOREH (Seoul)
respondents include Richard Dawkins, Freeman Dyson,
Daniel Dennett, Jared Diamond -- and that's just the
D's! As you might expect, the submissions are brilliant
and very controversial.
discoveries highlight dangers facing society. Mankind's
increasing understanding of the way genes influence
behaviour and the issue's potential to cause ethical
and moral dilemmas is one of the biggest dangers facing
society, according to leading scientists.
it can be a very smart move to start life with a Jewish
momma: There is one dangerous idea that still trumps
them all: the notion that, as Steven Pinker describes
it, "groups of people may differ genetically in
their average talents and temperaments". For "groups
of people", read "races."
Earth can cope with global warming, schools should
be banned and we should learn to love bacteria. These
are among the dangerous ideas revealed by a poll of
can be a risky game, as Galileo learned to his cost.
Now John Brockman asks over a hundred thinkers, “What
is your most dangerous idea?”
brains are constantly subjected to the demands of multi-tasking
and a seemingly endless cacophony of information from
diverse sources. "
complex systems — whether organisms, brains,
the biosphere, or the universe itself — were
not constructed by design; all have evolved. There
is a new set of metaphors to describe ourselves, our
minds, the universe, and all of the things we know
Brockman Blogs Edge's Annual Question on Huff
What We Believe but
Cannot Prove: Today's
Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty
Edited by John Brockman
Introduction by Ian McEwan
natural gift of consciousness should be treasured all the more
for its transience.
answers...exert an un- questionable morbid fascination — those
are the very ideas that scientists cannot confess in their
largo alle «beautiful minds» di Roberto
terza cultura di John Brockman" di Armando Massarenti
(or Not), Physics and, of Course, Love: Scientists Take a
Leap: Fourteen scientists ponder everything from string theory
to true love.
Without Time, Time Without Rest: John Brockman's Question
for the Republic of Wisdom—It
can be more thrilling to start the New Year with a good question
than with a good intention. That's what John Brockman is
doing for the eight time in a row.
do you believe to be true, even though you can't prove
it? John Brockman asked over a hundred scientists
and intellectuals... more» ... Edge
what online magazine The Edge - the World Question Center
asked over 120 scientists, futurists, and other interesting
minds. Their answers are sometimes short and to the point
Scourge of Believers Declares His Faith in Darwin...
inchiesta in usa di un sito internet. Ha chiesto ai signori
della ricerca di svelare i loro "atti di fede".
Sono arrivate le risposte piu' imprevedibili i fantasmi dello
scienziato: non ho prove ma ci credo.
celebrate the new year, online magazine Edge asked
some leading thinkers a simple question: What do you
believe but cannot prove? Here is a selection of their
dream too - imagine that
you start, you can't stop thinking about that question. It's
like the crack cocaine of the thinking world." — BBC
increasingly, have become our public intellectuals, to whom
we look for explanations and solutions. These may be partial
and imperfect, but they are more satisfactory than the alternatives.
cynic and the optimist, the agnostic and the believer,
the rationalist and the obscurantist, the scientist and
the speculative philosopher, the realist and the idealist-all
converge on a critical point in their thought process where
reasoning loses its power.
Sole 24 Ore-Domenica Segnalate le vostre cuioosita,
chiederemo riposta alle persone piu autorevoli
now, into the breach comes John Brockman, the literary agent
and gadfly, whose online scientific salon, Edge.org, has become
one of the most interesting stopping places on the Web. He begins
every year by posing a question to his distinguished roster of
authors and invited guests. Last year he asked what sort of counsel
each would offer George W. Bush as the nation's top science adviser.
This time the question is "What's your law?"
Brockman, a New York literary agent, writer and impresario of
the online salon Edge, figures it is time for more scientists
to get in on the whole naming thing...As a New Year's exercise,
he asked scores of leading thinkers in the natural and social
sciences for "some bit of wisdom, some rule of nature, some
law-like pattern, either grand or small, that you've noticed
in the universe that might as well be named after you."
Brockman has posted an intriguing question on his Edge website.
Brockman advises his would-be legislators to stick to the scientific
answers to the rule of law. Nature. Science. Society. All of
it obeys a set of codes...It's the thinker's challenge to put
words to these unwritten rules. Do so, and he or she may go down
in history. Like a Newton or, more recently, a Gordon Moore,
who in 1965 coined the most cited theory of the technological
age, an observation on how computers grow exponentially cheaper
and more powerful... Recently, John Brockman went looking for
thinkers of the 'Third Culture,' whether
they, like Dawkins, study evolutionary
biology at Oxford or, like Alan Alda, portray
scientists on Broadway, know no taboos.
Everything is permitted, and nothing is
excluded from this intellectual game."
responses are generally written in an
engaging, casual style (perhaps encouraged
by the medium of e-mail), and are often
fascinating and thought - provoking....
These are all wonderful, intelligent
are interested in thinking smart,'" declares Brockman
on the site, "we are not interested in the anesthesiology
ARENA: Edge has been bringing together the world's foremost
scientific thinkers since 1998, and the response to September
11 was measured and uplifting."
to this year's question are deliciously creative... the variety
astonishes. Edge continues to launch intellectual skyrockets
of stunning brilliance. Nobody in the world is doing what Edge is
a year, John Brockman of New York, a writer and literary
agent who represents many scientists, poses a question in
his online journal, The Edge, and invites the thousand or
so people on his mailing list to answer it."
assume for a second that Ted Koppel, Charlie Rose and the
editorial high command at the New York Times have
a handle on all the pressing issues of the day.... a lengthy
list of profound, esoteric and outright entertaining responses.
The Geatest Inventions
of the Past 2,000 Years
by John Brockman
"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."
— Ian McEwan, Author of Saturday
unprecedented roster of brilliant minds, the sum
of which is nothing short of visionary
stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the
thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop
thinking about that question."
"One of the most interesting
stopping places on the Web"
"Brilliant! Stimulating reading."
"Today's visions of science
"Fascinating and thought-provoking
"Edge.org...a Web site devoted
to dis- cussions of cutting edge science."
"Awesome indie newsletter with
"Everything is permitted, and
nothing is excluded from this intellectual game."
"Websites of the year...Inspired
Arena...the world's foremost scientific thinkers."
"High concept all the way...the
brightest scientists and thinkers ... heady ...
deep and refreshing."
" Deliciously crea-tive...the variety
astonishes...intel-lectual skyrockets of stunning brill-iance.
Nobody in the world is doing what Edge is
"A marvellous showcase for
the Internet, it comes very highly recom-mended."
"Profound, esoteric and outright
"A terrific, thought provoking
"...Thoughtful and often surprising
...reminds me of how wondrous our world is." —
"One of the Net's most prestigious,
invitation-only free trade zones for the exchange
of potent ideas."
"An enjoyable read."
"A-list: Dorothy Parker's Vicious
Circle without the food and alcohol ... a brilliant
"Big, deep and ambitous questions...
breathtaking in scope."
"Has raised electronic discourse
on the Web to a whole new level."
"Lively, sometimes obscure
and almost always ambitious."
Edge began the last week in December, 1996 as an email to about fifty
people. In 2006, Edge, which celebrates "the third culture",
had more than five million individual user sessions.
To celebrate our 10th anniversary we are pleased to present the 2007 Edge Annual Question, as well as "Nine Flowers", a new exhibition by Katinka Matson, Edge's resident artist and its co-founder.
to all of you in the extended Edge community for your
continued interest and support.
Publisher & Editor
deep and ambitious questions....breathtaking in scope.
Keep watching The World Question Center."
The Edge Annual
Question — 2007
ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? WHY?
an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally
optimistic. Science figures out how things work and
thus can make them work better. Much of the news is
either good news or news that can be made good, thanks
to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient
and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its
frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever
are you optimistic about? Why? Surprise us!
stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking
world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about
BBC Radio 4 (2005)
THE WORLD'S LEADING THINKERS
SEE GOOD NEWS AHEAD
conventional wisdom tells us that things are bad and getting
worse, scientists and the science-minded among us see good
news in the coming years. That's the bottom line of an outburst
of high-powered optimism gathered from the world-class scientists
and thinkers who frequent the pages of Edge, in an
ongoing conversation among third culture thinkers (i.e., those
scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through
their work and expository writing, are taking the place of
the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper
meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are.)
am pleased to present the 2007 Edge Question:
Are You Optimistic About? Why?
The 160 responses to this year's Edge Question span
topics such as string theory, intelligence, population growth,
cancer, climate and much much more. Contributing their optimistic
visions are a who's who of interesting and important world-class
optimism? Welcome to the conversation!
Publisher & Editor
January 1, 2007
Contributors; 110,000 words] Robert
Trivers, Nathan Myrhvold, George
Smoot, Marvin Minsky, John
McCarthy, Nancy Etcoff, Stuart Kauffman, Oliver
Morton, Bart Kosko, David
Buss, Brian Greene, Francesco
De Pretis, Corey Powell, Roger
Bingham, Alison Gopnik, Robert
Sapolsky, Paul Steinhard, Beatrice
Golomb, Vittorio Bo, Marcel
Kinsbourne, Martin Rees, Ian
Wilmut, Barry Smith, Larry
Sanger, Steven Strogatz, Mark
Pagel, Joichi Ito, Jill
Neimark, Leon Lederman, David
Deutsch, Frank Wilczek, Cory
Doctorow, David Bodanis, Alex
(Sandy) Pentland, Marcelo
Gleiser, Brian Eno, Philip
Zimbardo, Colin Blakemore, W.
Daniel Hillis, Garniss Curtis, Mahzarin
Banaji, Joel Garreau, Leonard
Susskind, Esther Dyson, Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi, Stewart Brand, Andy
Clark, Steve Grand, Jason
Calacanis, Jaron Lanier, Richard
Dawkins, Nicholas Humphrey, Chris
Anderson, Karl Sabbagh, David
Berreby, Stephen Schneider, Tmothy
Taylor, Gergory Benford, Roger
Highfield, Rudy Rucker, David
Dalrymple, Paul Davies, Scott
Sampson, Sherry Turkle, Gary
Marcus, Xeni Jardin, Thomas
Metzinger, Helen Fisher, Dan
Sperber, Paul Saffo, Gregory
Cochran, Michael Wolff, Gloria
Origgi, Jamshed Bharucha, Diane
Halpern, Anton Zeilinger, Clay
Shirky, Neil Gershenfeld, Rodney
Brooks, Maria Spiropulu, J.
Craig Venter, Marco Iacoboni, Eduardo
Punset, Jordan Pollack, Adam
Bly, Marti Hearst, Tor
Shapiro, David Pescovitz, Judith
Rich Harris, Lee Smolin, Simon
Baron-Cohen, Max Tegmark, Elizabeth
Loftus, Seth Lloyd, Ernst
Poppel, Gino Segre, Philip
Campbell, Terrence Sejnowski, Chris
DiBona, George Church, Kai
Krause, Jonathan Haidt, William
Calvin, James Geary, Charles
Seife, David Gelernter, Andrian
Kreye, Randolph M. Nesse, Freeman
Dyson, Lisa Randall, Douglas
Rushkoff, Matt Ridley, Ray
Kurzweil, Sam Harris, Leo
Chalupa, Sue Blackmore, John
Horgan, Jared Diamond, Nassim
Taleb, Rebecca Goldstein, Geoffrey
Miller, Brian Goodwin, Jerry
Adler, Linda Stone, George
Dyson, Peter Schwartz, Roger
Schank, Irene Pepperberg, Alexander
Vilenkin, Stephen Kosslyn, Robert
Provine, Samuel Barondes, Daniel
Everett, John Gottman, Juan
Enriquez, Carlo Rovelli, Haim
Harari, Kevin Kelly, Jean
Pigozzi, Martin Seligman, James
O'Donnell, Keith Devlin, Piet
Hut, Andrew Brown, Donald
Hoffman, Gerald Holton, Howard
Rheingold, Pamela McCorduck, Michael
Shermer, David G. Myers, Steven
Pinker, Marc D. Hauser, Howard
Gardner, Alun Anderson, Lawrence
Krauss, Chris Anderson, Geoffrey
Carr, Daniel Goleman, Walter
Isaacson, Daniel C. Dennett
"Danger – brilliant
minds at work...A brilliant book: exhilarating,
hilarious, and chilling." The
Evening Standard (London)
£12.99, 352 pp
Free Press, UK
$13.95, 336 pp
(March 1, 2007)
IS YOUR DANGEROUS IDEA? Today's Leading
Thinkers on the Unthinkable With
an Introduction by STEVEN PINKER and an
Afterword by RICHARD DAWKINS Edited By
selection of the most explosive ideas of our
age." Sunday Herald "Provocative" The
Independent "Challenging notions put
forward by some of the world’s sharpest
Times "A titillating compilation" The
collection, mostly written by working scientists,
does not represent the antithesis of science.
These are not simply the unbuttoned musings
of professionals on their day off. The contributions,
ranging across many disparate fields, express
the spirit of a scientific consciousness at
its best — informed guesswork
"Ian McEwan, from
the Introduction, in The Telegraph
£7.99 288 pp
WE BELIEVE BUT CANNOT PROVE Today's
Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age
of Certainty With
an Introduction by IAN MCEWAN Edited By
of brilliant minds, the
sum of which is nothing
short of an oracle — a
book ro be dog-eared
and debated." Seed "Scientific
pipedreams at their very
for some astounding reading." Boston
the crack cocaine of
the thinking world....
Once you start, you can't
stop thinking about that
The Guardian, Toronto Star, Los
Angeles Times, Central
Daily.com, New Scientist, San
Francisco Chronicle, Economic Times-India
Times, The Charleston Post-Courier, Wall
Street Journal, Seattlelest, Wall
Street Journal, Open Source/Chris Lydon, Welt
Am Sonntag, Cordis News, Canadian
Technology News, The News-Sentinel, The
Times (London), The
Guardian, The Times (London), SEED, Slashdot, BoingBoing, Arts
& Letters Daily, Huffington
Science Weekly for January 8
By James Randerson / Science
Welcome in the New Year with the Guardian's science team as they ask what we can be optimistic about in 2007. Thinkers such as the Darwinian philosopher Dan Dennett and psychologist Steven Pinker are looking forward respectively to the end of religion and war in 2007—or at least, the beginning of the end. Hear more predictions from web guru and editor of Edge magazine John Brockman.
Sun, Jan. 07, 2007
hint of a brighter tomorrow
my season of gloom, a ray of hope arrived the other day via
the Internet, benefit of the Web site called Edge.
I understand it, Edge is an electronic gathering
place for scientists, artists and other creative thinkers.
Most of them are out traveling on the far reaches of the high-tech
superhighway, sending us their postcards from a few years in
the future. ...
Anderson, who is the curator for an intellectual
gathering called the TED Conference, makes a similar point.
He says that the number of armed conflicts has declined
worldwide by 40 percent in the past decade.
the world seems ever more threatening, it is because we are
wired to respond more strongly to threats than we are to good
news. Besides, good news such as scientific discovery and economic
progress is largely under-reported in the media, while disaster
and doom are hugely over-reported.
was cheered by the optimism of a science writer who thinks
that we will soon have a technological breakthrough that will
make solar energy dirt cheap long before the big energy crunch
arrives. He's not sure which of the many bright ideas he has
written about will be the one that works, but he has faith
in the scientists who are pushing at the boundaries of the
Edge contributors fanned the flame of optimism in me in the
season of darkness.
January 2007, page 3
Reasons to be cheerful
new year is a time for reflection and re-evaluation. It is
a process that can leave one feeling up and optimistic or
distinctly depressed. If you need some reasons to be cheerful,
impact of science and technology has been overwhelmingly positive.
In a few hundred years life has been transformed from short
and brutish to long and civilised. Improvements are spreading
(admittedly too slowly) around the planet. Of course, some
discoveries and inventions have led to serious problems, but
science and technology often provide ways to monitor and alleviate
those problems, from ozone destruction to overproduction of
further benefits are coming. To take one example from this
issue, researchers have made a drug to treat hepatitis C that
should be affordable even in poor countries . Then there is
the extent to which cellphones are improving life for the world's
poor, the numerous ideas for harnessing energy from sunlight,
that human intelligence can be increased and that a revolution
in personal genomics is in the wings. These ideas come from www.edge.org,
which asked 160 scientists and intellectuals what they are
optimistic about. One way or another the answers should give
you a warm glow - either because you agree, or because they
make you angry.
you are still left thinking your glass is half empty, check
out the submission by Randolph
M. Nesse of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
He predicts that we will find a way to block pessimism. The
consequences may not be all good, but it's a safe bet that
science and technology will come to the rescue.
January 05, 2007
digest of international news and culture
the future, now: A world without religion or violence.
Edward M. Gomez
article is making some news. Britain's Guardian has
summarized some of its contributors' thoughts. ...
many provocative observations in Edge's wide-ranging survey
are those of musician, composer and record producer Brian
Eno (David Bowie, U2, Talking Heads). Eno writes: "The
currency of conservatism...has been that markets are smarter
than governments," a notion that "has reinforced
the conservative resistance to anything resembling binding
Eno notes, the "suggestion that global warming represents
a failure of the market is therefore important." Will
a phenomenon like the warming trend force governments around
the world to finally work together in earnest? If they do,
and if "a single[,] first instance of global governance
proves successful," Eno argues, "it will strengthen
its appeal as a way of addressing other problems - such as
weapons control, energy management, money-laundering, conflict
resolution, people-trafficking, slavery, and poverty. It will
become increasingly difficult for countries [like the U.S.]
to stay outside of future treaties like Kyoto - partly because
of international pressure but increasingly because of pressure
from their own populations."
his Edge contribution, Eno really does sound
optimistic. He also writes: "Something like real democracy
(and a fair amount of interim chaos) could be on the horizon.
The Internet is catalyzing knowledge, innovation and social
change,...proving that there are other models of social and
cultural evolution[,] that you don't need centralized, top-down
control to produce intelligent results. The bottom-up lesson
of Darwinism, so difficult for previous generations, comes
more naturally to the current generation. There is a real revolution
in thinking going on at all cultural levels...." ...
Friday, January 05, 2007
notions of great scientists
assigned purpose of the influential Web magazine, Edge,
is lofty enough. It’s to 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.
Recently, Edge asked a group of world class scientists and thinkers
its 10th Anniversary Question: “What are you optimistic
about and why? Among the respondents were leading American philosopher Daniel
C Dennett and evolutionary biologist Richard
Dawkins— both pretty rabid proponents
was of the opinion that within 25 years religion will command
little of the awe it instils in people today and their fascination
for it will disappear. He said the spread of information through
the Internet, television and cell phones will generally and
irresistibly undermine the mindsets requisite for religious
maintained that once scientists discover the so-called “theory
of everything” it would be the end of the road as far
as faith was concerned. “This final scientific enlightenment,” he
said, “will deal an overdue death blow to religion and
other juvenile superstitions.”
are we to make of these grand pronouncements? ...
January 01, 2007
World Question Center at www.edge.org every year asks
scientists, doctors, philosophers and educators a question.
question for 2006 was "What is your dangerous idea?"
University professor of astrophysics Piet
Hut posted this idea:
everyday experience, time flows, and we flow with it. In classical
physics, time is frozen as part of a frozen spacetime picture.
And there is, as yet, no agreed-upon interpretation of time
in quantum mechanics.
if a future scientific understanding of time would show all
previous pictures to be wrong, and demonstrate that past and
future and even the present do not exist? That stories woven
around our individual personal history and future are all just
wrong? Now that would be a dangerous idea."
hope we've reassured you, dear reader, that those crow's feet
do not really exist. They are just an illusion.
here on Earth, we like to celebrate the passage of time. Like
we did last night. That's why our head hurts this morning and
we don't have much of an appetite.
January 5, 2007;
God, Gall Is Permitted
By SAM SCHULMAN
in part to the actions of a few jihadists in September 2001,
it is believers who stand accused, not freethinkers. Among
the prominent atheists who now sermonize to the believers
in their midst are Dr.
C. Dennett ("Breaking the Spell")
Harris ("The End of Faith" and, more
recently, "Letter to a Christian Nation"). There
are others, too, like Steven Weinberg, the Nobel Prize-winning
physicist, Brooke Allen (whose "Moral Minority" was
a celebration of the skeptical Founders) and a host of commentators
appalled by the Intelligent Design movement. The transcript
of a recent symposium on the perils of religious thought
can be found at a science Web site called edge.org.
are many themes to the atheist lament. A common worry is
the political and social effect of religious belief. To a
lot of atheists, the fate of civilization and of mankind
depends on their ability to cool -- or better, simply to
ban -- the fevered fancies of the God-intoxicated among us.
the atheists focus their peevishness not on Muslim extremists
(who advertise their hatred and violent intentions) but on
the old-time Christian religion. ("Wisdom dwells with
prudence," the Good Book teaches.) They can always haul
out the abortion-clinic bomber if they need a boogeyman;
and they can always argue as if all faiths are interchangeable:
Persuade American Christians to give up their infantile attachment
to God and maybe Muslims will too. In any case, they conclude:
God is not necessary, God is impossible and God is not permissible
if our society -- or even our species -- is to survive. ...
of Sight, But Not Forgotten
The folks over at Edge.org, a small corner of the interwebs
filled with some of the most surprisingly literary smarty-pants
science types, asked their Question of 2007: What
are you optimistic about?
that we were asked, but Seattlest is optimistic that someone
will figure out that whole time-travel business, so we
can go back and see James Brown in 1964. We did not see
him the two times he performed in Seattle since we moved
here (2000 at the EMP opening and again in 2003) and each
time we neglected to buy tickets, we thought that despite
the fact that it would never compare to JB in '64, we'd
regret our inaction someday. And so we do.
of either Seattle show is nowhere to be found online, so
instead we present to you what we will see in person someday,
even if it means we have to scrounge up a battered old
January 3, 2007;
Glass Is Half Full for Some Scientists
• WWW.EDGE.ORG Jan.
Each year the Edge, a Web site that aims to bridge the gap
between scientists and other thinkers, asks a question of
major figures associated with the science world. This year's
query: "What are you optimistic about? Why?"
respondents, such as biologist and entrepreneur J. Craig
Venter, said he was hopeful science's empirical, evidence-based
methods would be extended "to all aspects of modern
some scientists clearly were hoping to limit expectations. Robert
Trivers, a Rutgers University biologist, says
the good news is "there is presently no chance that
we could extinguish all of life -- the bacterial 'slimosphere'
alone extends some 10 miles into the earth -- and as yet
we can only make life truly miserable for the vast majority
of people, not extinguish human life entirely."
to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)
the new year comes new resolutions, and new questions,
including the new Edge.org question.
The science super-hero club house that brought you dangerous
ideas in 2006 wants to bring you optimism in
Knowledge Driven Economy Allows Individuals to
Lead Millions Out of Poverty In a Single Generation,
The Edge Annual Question 2007, Edge
Decline of Violence, The Edge Annual
Question 2007, Edge
The Edge Annual Question 2007, Edge
Available, Constantly Renewing,
High Resolution Images of the Earth
Will End Conflict and Ecological
Devastation As We Know It,
The Edge Annual Question 2007, Edge
on Cosmology, The Edge Annual
Question 2007, Edge
Discoveries Are Surprisingly
Durable, The Edge Annual
Question 2007, Edge
January 3, 2007
Armut und Terror - Warum ich für die kommenden
Jahre trotzdem optimistisch bin; Von düsteren
Prognosen hält Ray Kurzweil wenig. Der renommierte
Forscher erwartet, dass die Informationstechnik viele
der heutigen Probleme lösen wird
Confident About Energy, the Environment, Longevity, and
Wealth; I'm Optimistic (But Not Necessarily Confident)
Of the Avoidance Of Existential Downsides; And I'm Hopeful
(But Not Necessarily Optimistic) About a Repeat Of 9-11
exists on a continuum in-between confidence and hope. Let
me take these in order.
am confident that the acceleration and expanding purview
of information technology will solve the problems with
which we are now preoccupied within twenty years.
Kurzweil is inventor and technologist. The shortened contribution
appeared on New Years in the Internet magazine Edge (www.edge.org)
(http://www.edge.org), on scientists and
their Optimism for the coming year.
Kult um digitale Schwarmintelligenz; Aus internationalen
Zeitschriften: Über kollektivistische Niederländer
und europäische Selbstbefragung in New York
Dezember Einen der interessantesten theoretischen
Artikel über die Internetöffentlichkeit und
das Web 2.0 hat im letzten Jahr Jaron Lanier in Edge geschrieben: "Digital Maoism", wo der Autor
den Kult der "Schwarmintelligenz" angreift,
der sich seiner Meinung nach in Phänomenen wie Wikipedia
manifestiert. In einem neuen Artikel für Time, der
in Edge dokumentiert ist, greift Lanier seine These noch
einmal auf: "Wikipedia hat eine Menge jener Energie
aufgesaugt, die vorher in individuelle, eigenständige
Websites gesteckt wurde, und gießt sie in eine
ein- und gleichförmige Beschreibung der Realität.
Ein anderes Phänomen steckt in vielen Blogprogrammen,
die die User geradezu dazu einladen, sich unter Pseudonym
zu äußern. Das hat zu einer Flut anonymer
Unflätigkeiten in den Kommentaren geführt."
January 02, 2007
optimistic about 2007
Rovelli, a physicist at the Mediterranean
University in Marseilles, France, believes that 'the
divide between rational scientific thinking and the
rest of our culture is decreasing'. 'In the small world
of the academia, the senseless divide between science
and the humanities is slowly evaporating. Intellectuals
on both sides realize that the complexity of contemporary
knowledge cannot be seen unless we look at it all,'
DiBona, Open Source Programs Manager, Google
Inc, 'Widely available, constantly renewing, high resolution
images of the Earth will end conflict and ecological devastation
as we know it.'
Pöppel, a neuroscientist at Munich
University, is optimistic about fighting 'monocausalitis',
the tendency to search for one single explanation for
a phenomenon or event. 'Biological phenomena can better
be understood, if multicausality is accepted as a guiding
principle,' he writes.
eagerly-awaited collider carries Maria
Spiropulu's hopes for 2007. Dr Spiropulu is
a physicist at CERN. 'Being built under the Jura on the
border of Switzerland and France the Large Hadron Collider
is a serious reason of optimism for experimental science.
It is the first time that the human exploration and technology
will offer reproducible 'hand-made' 14 TeV collisions of
protons with protons. The physics of such interactions,
the analysis of the data from the debris of these collisions
[the highest energy such] are to be seen in the coming
year,' she writes. ...
January 03, 2007
is the response of Meagan McArdle, not exactly a religious
fundamentalist but probably smarter than the 150 scientists
and intellectuals put together:Let me see if I can phrase
this in a way that Mr
Dennett might understand: if smoking made
us live forever, it would be very, very popular. Even if
it didn't make you live for ever, but could convince enough
people that it might, it would be very, very popular. And
anyone who thinks that they have the same caliber of evidence
for atheism that we do for the carcinogenicity of tobacco
needs to have his ego examined for possibly fatal inflammation.
I make my way through life and try to sort things out,
I need the help of both dreamers and thinkers. I just wish
they would keep their missions straight, although the intellectuals
lately encroach more into the wishful-thinkers' territory
than the artists do into the scientists'. At least I never
heard Lennon sing, "Imagine quantum physics, it would
make Einstein cry . . ." ...
management for zombies
Time to start recognizing the
other layers underneath office stereotypes
by Shane Schick
doesn’t matter whether you’re making a resolution
for the new year or a new day. The point is to change who
you are. It’s not always a case of completely transforming
yourself: you just want to be recognized as something other
than one of David Berreby’s zombies.
online forum conducted by Edge.org recently asked a slew
of scientists and intellectuals what they are optimistic
about. Berreby, the author Us and Them: Understanding Your
Tribal Mind, said he was hopeful that the idea of a “zombie
identity is coming to an end, or at least being put into
greater context. I’ll let Berreby explain the notion
of a zombie identity himself.
the intuition that people do things because of their membership
in a collective identity or affiliation,” he writes. “It's
a fundamental confusion that starts with a perhaps statistically
valid idea (if you define your terms well, you can speak
of ‘American behaviour’ or ‘Muslim behaviour’ or ‘Italian
behaviour’)—and then makes the absurd assumption
that all Americans or Muslims or Italians are bound to
behave as you expect, by virtue of their membership in
the category (a category that, often, you created).” ...
Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don’t
C. Dennett, a philosopher and cognitive
scientist at Tufts University who has written extensively
about free will, said that “when we consider
whether free will is an illusion or reality, we are
looking into an abyss. What seems to confront us is
a plunge into nihilism and despair.”...
vote in favor of free will comes from some physicists,
who say it is a prerequisite for inventing theories and
is especially true when it comes to quantum mechanics,
the strange paradoxical theory that ascribes a microscopic
randomness to the foundation of reality. Anton
Zeilinger, a quantum physicist at the University
of Vienna, said recently that quantum randomness was “not
a proof, just a hint, telling us we have free will.” ...
by free will we mean the ability to choose, even a simple
laptop computer has some kind of free will, said Seth
Lloyd, an expert on quantum computing and
professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
time you click on an icon, he explained, the computer’s
operating system decides how to allocate memory space,
based on some deterministic instructions. But, Dr. Lloyd
said, “If I ask how long will it take to boot up
five minutes from now, the operating system will say ‘I
don’t know, wait and see, and I’ll make decisions
and let you know.’ ”
can’t computers say what they’re going to do?
In 1930, the Austrian philosopher Kurt Gödel proved
that in any formal system of logic, which includes mathematics
and a kind of idealized computer called a Turing machine,
there are statements that cannot be proven either true
or false. Among them are self-referential statements like
the famous paradox stated by the Cretan philosopher Epimenides,
who said that all Cretans are liars: if he is telling the
truth, then, as a Cretan, he is lying.
implication is that no system can contain a complete representation
of itself, or as Janna
Levin, a cosmologist at Barnard College of
Columbia University and author of the 2006 novel about
Gödel, “A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines,” said: “Gödel
says you can’t program intelligence as complex as
yourself. But you can let it evolve. A complex machine
would still suffer from the illusion of free will.” ...
find reasons to
'Jeremiahs' list their great hopes for 2007
• More romance, better old age and better death
often find themselves accused of pessimism. From the gravity
of their public warnings about the dangers of climate change
or bird flu, they have earned a reputation as Jeremiahs
with a bleak view of human nature and humanity’s
It is a charge most researchers contest vigorously: science,
they say, is a profoundly optimistic pursuit. The idea that
the world can be understood by gathering evidence, to the
ultimate benefit of its citizens, lies at its heart. It is
not just about problems, but about finding the solutions.
breadth of this optimism is revealed today by the discussion
website Edge.org — often likened to an online scientific “salon” — which
marks every new year by inviting dozens of the world’s
best scientific minds to answer a single question. For
2007, it is: “What are you optimistic about?” The
answers show that even in the face of such threats as global
warming and religious fundamentalism, scientists remain
positive about the future.
January 1, 2007
religion and an end to war: how thinkers see the future
Alok Jha, science correspondent
People's fascination for religion and superstition will disappear
within a few decades as television and the internet make
it easier to get information, and scientists get closer to
discovering a final theory of everything, leading thinkers
The web magazine Edge (www.edge.org) asked
more than 150 scientists and intellectuals: "What are
you optimistic about?" Answers included hope for an
extended human life span, a bright future for autistic children,
and an end to violent conflicts around the world.
Philosopher Daniel Denett believes that within 25 years religion will
command little of the awe it seems to instil today. The spread
of information through the internet and mobile phones will "gently,
irresistibly, undermine the mindsets requisite for religious
fanaticism and intolerance".
Biologist Richard Dawkins said that physicists would give religion
another problem: a theory of everything that would complete
Albert Einstein's dream of unifying the fundamental laws
of physics. "This final scientific enlightenment will
deal an overdue death blow to religion and other juvenile
World Without Disgust
If we could eradicate disgust, would global warfare disappear?
That is the intriguing thesis of Marc
Hauser, Professor of Psychology at Harvard
University and contributor to Edge (www.edge.org), a discussion
forum for some of the world’s leading scientists.
Every year, Edge contributors are asked to consider an
open-ended question. In his response to this year’s
poser — What are you optimistic about, and why? — Hauser
suggests that science may be able to rid the world of prejudices
such as racism and sexism. These “isms” are
fuelled not only by the perception of difference, but by
the systematic denigration of others.
to this process is disgust. Some aspects of this emotion
are common to all cultures (an aversion to faeces and urine)
but others are culture-specific. The agreeability of consuming
sheeps’ eyeballs or chicken’s feet, for example,
varies between countries.
calls disgust a “mischievous emotion”, stretching
beyond the purpose for which it originally evolved (most
probably to keep us away from disease-carrying substances)
and leaking into other arenas, such as the construction of
social hierarchies. Look at the Indian caste system — the
Dalits, or untouchables, perform the dirtiest work (such
as handling dead animals or human excrement), live apart
from polite society and, in some rural regions, are still
banned from temples. ...
issues, insights, and observations shaping our perspective,
from the editors of Seed.
Edge Annual Question — 2007
What are you optimistic about? Why? Tons of brilliabnt
thinkers respond. Check out our own editor-in-chief's answer here.
January 1, 2007
Question 2007: What are you optimistic about?
Each year, John Brockman's EDGE asks a single
question for the new year, and publishes the responses online.
For 2007: ...
Respondents include many whose work has appeared on Boing
Boing before, including: J.
Craig Venter, Sherry
Dyson, Rudy Rucker, Mihalyi
Kurzweil, and Clifford
Several of us from BoingBoing participated: here's Cory's response ("Copying Is What Bits Are For"), here's Pesco's ("We're Recognizing That the World Is a Wunderkammer"), here's mine (" Truth Prevails. Sometimes, Technology Helps.").
by Xeni Jardin at
are you optimistic about? Intellectual impresario
John Brockman puts his annual Edge question to leading
Optimism? — The EDGE Annual Question for 2007
Conventional wisdom tells us that things are bad and
getting worse. Yet according to Edge — the heady
website for world-class scientists and thinkers, and
the brainchild of author and entrepreneurial idea man,
John Brockman, there's good news ahead. Each year, through
their World Question Center, they pose a provocative
query to their high-minded community.
& CEO, Aspen Institute. Former CEO, CNN, Managing Editor, TIME; Author,
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.
As a Technology
and Biologist, Harvard University: Author, Moral
End of ISMs
Psychologist, University of Pennsylvania, Author, Authentic
Neurobiologist and Psychiatrist, University of
California San Francisco; Author, Better Than
Mental Illness Genes
Futurist, Business Strategist; Cofounder. Global
Business Network, a Monitor Company; Author, The
Evolutionary Psychologist, University of New Mexico;
Author, The Mating Mind
Director, the Center for Science Writings, Stevens
Institute of Technology; Author, Rational Mysticism
Science Writer; Founding chairman of the International
Centre for Life; Author, Francis Crick: Discoverer
of the Genetic Code
Media Analyst; Documentary Writer; Author, Get
Back in the Box : Innovation from the Inside Out
Beings Are Different
Computer Scientist, Yale University; Chief Scientist,
Mirror Worlds Technologies; Author, Drawing Life
Future of Software
Professor of Journalism, New York University; formerly
journalist, Science magazine; Author, Zero: The
Biography Of A Dangerous Idea
In Its Optimism
Professor, The University of Washington School
of Medicine; Author, A Brain For All Seasons
Physicist, University of Pennsylvania; Author: Faust
In Copenhagen: A Struggle for the Soul of Physics
Future Of String Theory
Independent Investigator and Theoretician; Author, No
Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality
Survival of Friendship
Emeritus, Senior Research Scientist, Department of Chemistry,
New York University; Author, Planetary Dreams
In Our Midst
Writer; Consultant; Lecturer, Copenhagen; Author, The
Computer Scientist, Brandeis University
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
(CSAIL); Chief Technical Officer of iRobot Corporation;
Social & Technology
Network Topology Researcher; Adjunct Professor, NYU Graduate
School of Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP)
University of Vienna and Scientific
Director, Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information,
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Future Of Science
Claremont McKenna College; Past-president, American Psychological
Association; Author, Sex
Differences in Cognitive Abilities
Technology Is Saving the World
Social and cognitive scientist; Directeur
de Recherche, CNRS, Paris; Author, Rethinking
on the Web
Research Professor, Department of Anthropology,
Rutgers University; Author, Why
Psychologist, MIT; Author, Evocative
Objects: Things We Think With
Student, MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms;
Researcher, Internet 0, Fab Lab Thinner Clients for South
Africa, Conformal Computing
Mathematician, Computer Scientist; CyberPunk Pioneer; Novelist;
the Seashell, and the Soul
Knowable Gaian Mind
University of Bradford; Author, The
Biologist; Climatologist, Stanford University;
Author, Laboratory Earth
Evolutionary Biologist, Charles Simonyi Professor
For The Understanding Of Science, Oxford University; Author, The
Final Scientific Enlightenment
Professor of Philosophy, Edinburgh University; Author, Being
There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again
End Of The 'Natural'
Director, Quality of Life Research Center, Claremont Graduate
University; Author, Flow
Are Asking And Answering
Psychologist; Richard Clarke Cabot Professor
of Social Ethics, Harvard University
Stanford University; Author, The
Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
Composer; Recording Producer: U2, Talking Heads, Paul Simon;
Now the Good News
The Royal Society; Professor of Cosmology & Astrophysics;
Master, Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Author, Our
Final Century: The 50/50 Threat to Humanity's Survival
Physicist; Albert Einstein Professor
of Science, Princeton University; Coauthor, Endless
Universe: A New History of the Cosmos
Cofounder and Director, The Science
Network; Neuroscience Researcher, Center for Brain
and Cognition, UCSD; Coauthor, The
Origin of Minds; Creator PBS Science Programs
Women of the 110th Congress
News and Features Editor, Nature;
Author, Mapping Mars
Harvard Medical School & Harvard University’s
Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative; Author, Survival
of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty
Hedonic Set Point Can Be Raised
Computer Scientist; 1st
Generation Artificial Intelligence Pioneer, Stanford University
Computer Scientist; 1st Generation
Artificial Intelligence Pioneer, MIT;
Author, The Emotion Machine
Prospects of Immortality