Edge in the News: 1999

Salon [1.4.99]

Here's a millennial question: What was the most important invention of the past 2,000 years? John Brockman, über-agent for science and technology authors, posed the question to his online community of scientists and scholars and posted the provocative and cantankerous list of responses on his EDGEWeb site.

Some nominations were obvious: the printing press, the contraceptive pill, the atomic bomb and the computer all received multiple votes. Suggestions ranged from the concrete (the battery, the steam engine, hay) to the abstract (calculus, quantum theory, evolution, double-entry accounting); from the world-historical (religion, the city, democracy) to the quirkily mundane (the eraser, reading glasses, plumbing); and from the physiological (anesthesia, DNA sequencing, aspirin) to the philosophical (the scientific method, "the idea of an idea").

The list makes for an enjoyable read -- if you can get over the participants' utter inability to remain within the question's 2000-year bounds. Suggesting that the most important invention of this era is the spirit of rebellion against arbitrary rules.

FEED [1.4.99]

This special feature marks the first collaboration between FEED and Edge, John Brockman's invitation-only Internet forum, where hundreds of the world's leading scientists and thinkers share their thoughts on issues ranging from the meaning of numbers to genetics to affirmative action. We'll be excerpting two or three articles a month from Edge, and creating special Loop discussions where our readers can add their own observations to Edge's challenging and adventuresome debate. Our first installment is a series of answers to the question, "What was the most important invention of the past two thousand years?" The contributors include Freeman Dyson, Richard Dawkins, and Joseph Traub. Readers can visit the Edge site for even more nominations, and can post their own suggestions in the Loop.

Dave Winer, DaveNet [1.3.99]

Congratulations to John Brockman and the people at edge.org. This is an incredible source of new thoughts. I highly recommend it to DaveNet readers.....Sites like www.edge.org show what can be done when there's moderation and thoughtfulness and a little bit of editing. We can learn from each other. The world is not filled with bullshit. There are interesting new ideas, and new perspectives on old ideas

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ABC-TV News [1.3.99]

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DaveNet [1.3.99]

Getting Started Permalink to Getting Started

This is going to be an incredible year. If there's anything we needed to get done before the new millennium, this is the last minute, there's no time to wait.

But I expect we'll also do a lot of looking backward. We've started discussing who the person of the millennium is, and this morning I came across a group of thinkers who are discussing the most important invention of the last two millennia.

http://www.edge.org/documents/Invention.html

A summary of nominations. Calculus, hay, anesthesia, computers, the Internet, antibiotics, contraceptives, the spectroscope, the telescope, the theory of evolution, the steam engine, Gˆdel's Incompleteness Theorem, the Hindu-Arabic number system, the scientific method, the printing press, the atom bomb, soap, reading glasses, the human ego.

But wait, there's more! Clocks, television, discovery of the unconscious, awareness of the universe, commercialization of electricity, secularism, the eraser, telecommunications, education, automobiles, the symphony orchestra, board games, double-entry accounting, the Gatling gun, the mirror, the number zero, sewers, probability theory, democracy, the airplane.

Congratulations to John Brockman and the people at edge.org. This is an incredible source of new thoughts. I highly recommend it to DaveNet readers.

This year's to-do list Permalink to This year's to-do list

Here are some of the things I hope to work on this year.

Mainly, I want to create a cross-platform writing environment that has the best features of the desktop and the Internet. I want to be able to jot a note on my website using a palmtop computer, and I want to write stories and specs from a laptop, and I want to install server software on machines running behind the more prevalent high-bandwidth fulltime net connected computers and popular desktop OSes such as Windows and Mac.

I see a bandwidth gap that needs software to fill it. The interface between web writing tools and web storage is still very low-level and cumbersome. We're going to challenge the assumption that web writing requires technical expertise. We want to deliver tools to the technical types and designers to create inverse portals for writers, places for ideas to appear and then develop, to flow in from all areas and flow out to all interested readers.

Further, we've noticed that the web has two primary interfaces: Time and Searching. I can't find another that works as well as either of these two. So we're integrating, assuming, verticalizing. When you can make assumptions, as a software designer, you can simplify. And that's what the web needs, simplification. And that's what we can deliver.

Adult play spaces Permalink to Adult play spaces

I also hope for a more adult Internet. Sites like www.edge.org show what can be done when there's moderation and thoughtfulness and a little bit of editing. We can learn from each other. The world is not filled with bullshit. There are interesting new ideas, and new perspectives on old ideas.

But it takes calm thoughtful expression to get ideas heard. That's the number one item on my to-do list for the web for 1999, to help more of that to happen, and to support it when it does.

Dave Winer Permalink to Dave Winer

The Wall Street Journal [1.3.99]

John Brockman is the premier literary agent of the digerati, so when he asked 1,000 scientists and other techno-thinkers to suggest the most important invention of the past 2,000 years, the responses sounded a lot like proposals for yet another millennial book. 

The Daily Telegraph [1.3.99]

Edge (http://www.edge.org) is his "digital salon" in which Mr Brockman stimulates on-line discussions and debate among scientists, science writers and the "digerati", writers who discourse on digital technologies.

"Some of the most memorable conversations I've had over the years are concerned with invention, including technological innovations as well as conceptual realisations," said Brockman.

The Wall Street Journal [1.3.99]

John Brockman is the premier literary agent of the digerati, so when he asked 1,000 scientists and other techno-thinkers to suggest the most important invention of the past 2,000 years, the responses sounded a lot like proposals for yet another millennial book.

Roger Highfield, The Daily Telegraph [1.3.99]

Nobel laureate Prof. Philip Anderson, philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, biologist Prof Richard Dawkins and Sir John Maddox are among the 100 or so contributors who have nominated inventions randing from tha atomic bomb and board games to the Internet, Hindu-Arabic number system and anaethesia.

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