Edge in the News: 2006

Editorials [1.3.06]

...Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University, said our increased understanding of how our brains work would lead to difficult questions in defining morality.

"As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics," Dawkins said.

"When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software. Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?" he said. ...

Kyung Hang [1.3.06]

Global warming can be overcome himself. ??? ???? ??. Schools should be prohibited. ????? ???? ?? ??? ??. Must learn to love bacteria. ?? ??? ??? ? ??? ?? ? ??(The Edge)? ????, ??????, ???, ??????, ????, ?????? ? ????? ??? ??? ??? ?????? ?? ? ?? ?????. Headquartered in New York, the Internet magazine, The Edge (The Edge) by physicists, evolutionary biologists, philosophers, computer scientists, psychologists and other experts against science reporter, What is dangerous is the answer to water are. ? ??? ??·????? ??? ?3? ?? ??? ???? ??? ??? ?? ? ?? 1?1? ? ???? ????(www.edge.org)? ?? ??. The Edge emerged as the social and natural scientists Article 3 of the culture of the target members questions of the year every year on January 1 after throwing them in the webpage (www.edge.org) is carrying on. ????? ??? ?? ?? ????? ???? ??? ?? ????. Living in the modern era of uncertainty, the wisdom of a scholar is to give. ??? ?? 117?? ????. This year 117 people replied. ???? ??? ??, ????. Summary of typical responses, are introduce

Slashdot [1.2.06]

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Tuesday January 03, @11:27PM
from the shhh-it's-too-dangerous-to-talk-about-here dept.

GabrielF writes "Every year The Edge asks over 100 top scientists and thinkers a question, and the responses are fascinating and widely quoted. This year, psychologist Steven Pinker suggested they ask "What is your most dangerous idea?" The 117 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." [...click here]

http://192.168.1.12/edge/?q=addedit-article&from=1&aid=6 [1.2.06]

"TechCrunch's Vivek Wadhwa has a great article that takes a look at difference between startups and "established" tech companies and what they each mean to the economy and innovation in general. Wadhwa examines statistics surrounding job creation and innovation and while big companies may acquire startups and prove out the business model, the risk and true innovations seems to be living at the startup level almost exclusively. 'Now let’s talk about innovation. Apple is the poster child for tech innovation; it releases one groundbreaking product after another. But let’s get beyond Apple. I challenge you to name another tech company that innovates like Apple—with game-changing technologies like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad. Google certainly doesn’t fit the bill—after its original search engine and ad platform, it hasn’t invented anything earth shattering. Yes, Google did develop a nice email system and some mapping software, but these were incremental innovations. For that matter, what earth-shattering products have IBM, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, or Cisco produced in recent times? These companies constantly acquire startups and take advantage of their own size and distribution channels to scale up the innovations they have purchased.'"
Link to Original Source

The Hindu [1.2.06]

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. The concerns were voiced as part of an exercise by the web magazine Edge, which asked more than 100 scientists and philosophers: "What is your dangerous idea?" The responses were published online on Sunday.

Craig Venter, founder of the J.Craig Venter Science Foundation, said the genetic basis of personality and behaviour would cause conflicts in society. He said it was inevitable that strong genetic components would be discovered at the root of many more human characteristics such as personality type, language capability, intelligence, quality of memory and athletic ability. "The danger rests with what we already know: that we are not all created equal," he said.

It is an idea echoed by Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University. "The human genomic revolution has spawned an enormous amount of commentary about the possible perils of cloning and human genetic enhancement. I suspect that these are red herrings.

"When people realise that cloning is just forgoing a genetically mixed child for a twin of one parent, and is not the resurrection of the soul or a source of replacement organs, no one will want to do it. Likewise, when they realise that most genes have costs as well as benefits [they may raise a child's IQ but also predispose him to genetic disease], `designer babies' will lose whatever appeal they have."

Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University, said our increased understanding of how our brains work would lead to difficult questions in defining morality.

"As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software. Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?"

Focus on environment

Other scientists chose to focus on people's relationship with the environment. Physicist Paul Davies puts forward the idea that our fight against global warming may be lost. "The idea of giving up the global warming struggle is dangerous because it shouldn't have come to this. Mankind does have the resources and the technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions. What we lack is the political will."

Samuel Barondes, a neurobiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, is concerned at the march of drugs that can control the behaviour of the brain. Medications such as Prozac have been used successfully for years to treat conditions from depression to more serious psychiatric illnesses. "Despite the testimonials and apparent successes, the sustained use of such drugs to change personality should still be considered dangerous," said Professor Barondes. "The real danger is that there are no controlled studies of the effects of these drugs on personality over the many years or even decades in which some people are taking them."

Royal Society president Martin Rees said the most dangerous idea was public concern that science and technology were running out of control. "Almost any scientific discovery has a potential for evil as well as for good; its applications can be channelled either way, depending on our personal and political choices; we can't accept the benefits without also confronting the risks. The decisions that we make, individually and collectively, will determine whether the outcomes of 21st century sciences are benign or devastating."

Professor Rees argues that the feeling of fatalism will get in the way of properly regulating how science progresses. "The future will best be safeguarded — and science has the best chance of being applied optimally — through the efforts of people who are less fatalistic." —

http://search.yahoo.com/404handler?src=news&fr=404_news&ref=http%3A//www.edge.or... [1.1.06]

What you will find emerging out of the 117 essays written in response to the 2006 Edge Question — "What is your dangerous idea?" — are indications of a new natural philosophy, founded on the realization of the import of complexity, of evolution. Very 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 in it.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article78... [1.1.06]

The cyber salon styles itself, with unabashed pomposity, as a purveyor of the Third Culture, a potpourri of current science, futurology and philosophy. An annual highlight is the Edge question, posed every January by Brockman to set the theme for the coming year. The 2006 teaser, announced yesterday, is this: what is your dangerous idea? Brockman describes it as “an idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?”.

The answers have already started rolling in (Edge contributors have a particular disdain for the divine, so they probably haven’t got much to do at this time of year), and how very provocative they are. Here is my pick of the crop:

Kevin Kelly, editor-at-large of Wired magazine, cautions that the preservation of anonymity, usually viewed as admirable in this identity-obsessed world, is not necessarily a good thing. “There’s a dangerous idea circulating that . . . it is a noble antidote to technologies of control . . . Privacy can only be won by trust, and trust requires persistent identity,” he writes. He points to the damage done to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia by its policy, now abandoned, of allowing anonymous sources to place information on its public records.

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, the director of the Quality of Life Research Centre at Claremont Graduate University in California, argues that the simplicity of the free market cannot meet the complex needs of humankind. “The dangerous idea on which our culture is based is that the political economy has a silver bullet — the free market — that must take precedence over any other value, and thereby lead to peace and prosperity.

“It is dangerous because, like all silver bullets, it is an intellectual and political scam that might benefit some, but ultimately requires the majority to pay for the destruction it causes.” When health, the environment and public safety are eroded by the free market, he says, we should think carefully about allowing it to reign unchallenged.

  • 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”.

    With the advent of genetics, the tinkle of The Bell Curve, reviled for its thesis that whites are smarter than blacks, refuses to fade away. The idea of genetic racial difference — accepted for physical traits such as skin colour and hair texture — is discarded as irrelevant and even dangerous when applied to mental characteristics such as intelligence.

    A pair of academics trod this perilous territory recently, when they suggested that the disease-causing genes unique to Ashkenazi Jews — such as those responsible for Tay-Sachs disease and Gaucher disease — continue to be passed on because they offer a counter benefit: enhanced intelligence.

    Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran, from the University of Utah, cite circumstantial evidence for their theory: a handful of papers that link those same disease-causing genes to increased neural growth. This, they suggest, fits with the observation that Ashkenazis favoured “cognitively demanding” jobs, such as setting up businesses.

    The Bell Curve, incidentally, suggested that Ashkenazi Jews had the highest average IQ of any ethnic group. Einstein was an Ashkenazi (although it’s safe to assume he was so exceptional as to be untypical). The Utah academics, whose study has been denounced as “bullshit” by some commentators, point out that Jews — not necessarily Ashkenazi — punch well above their weight in the Nobel Prize league. They comprise 3 per cent of the American population but 27 per cent of US laureates.

    Of course, others confronted with genius do not invoke genes, brains and diseases — rather a cultural emphasis among Jewish parents on scholarship and academic achievement. What . . . pushy Jewish mothers nagging their precious sons to do well? Now there’s a dangerous idea.

Alok Jha, http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2006/jan/02/genetics.research [1.1.06]

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. The concerns were voiced as part of an exercise by the web magazine Edge, which asked more than 100 scientists and philosophers: "What is your dangerous idea?". The responses were published online yesterday.

Craig Venter, founder of the J Craig Venter Science Foundation, said the genetic basis of personality and behaviour would cause conflicts in society. He said it was inevitable that strong genetic components would be discovered at the root of many more human characteristics such as personality type, language capability, intelligence, quality of memory and athletic ability. "The danger rests with what we already know: that we are not all created equal," he said.

THE GUARDIAN [1.1.06]

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. The concerns were voiced as part of an exercise by the web magazine Edge, which asked more than 100 scientists and philosophers: "What is your dangerous idea?". The responses were published online yesterday.

Craig Venter, founder of the J Craig Venter Science Foundation, said the genetic basis of personality and behaviour would cause conflicts in society. He said it was inevitable that strong genetic components would be discovered at the root of many more human characteristics such as personality type, language capability, intelligence, quality of memory and athletic ability. "The danger rests with what we already know: that we are not all created equal," he said.

It is an idea echoed by Steven Pinker, a psychologist at Harvard University. "The human genomic revolution has spawned an enormous amount of commentary about the possible perils of cloning and human genetic enhancement. I suspect that these are red herrings. When people realise that cloning is just forgoing a genetically mixed child for a twin of one parent, and is not the resurrection of the soul or a source of replacement organs, no one will want to do it. Likewise, when they realise that most genes have costs as well as benefits (they may raise a child's IQ but also predispose him to genetic disease), "designer babies" will lose whatever appeal they have."

Richard Dawkins, of Oxford University, said our increased understanding of how our brains work would lead to difficult questions in defining morality. "As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics.

"When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software. Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?"

Other scientists chose to focus on people's relationship with the environment. Physicist Paul Davies puts forward the idea that our fight against global warming may be lost. "The idea of giving up the global warming struggle is dangerous because it shouldn't have come to this. Mankind does have the resources and the technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions. What we lack is the political will."

Samuel Barondes, a neurobiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, is concerned at the march of drugs that can control the behaviour of the brain. Medications such as Prozac have been used successfully for years to treat conditions from depression to more serious psychiatric illnesses. "Despite the testimonials and apparent successes, the sustained use of such drugs to change personality should still be considered dangerous," said Professor Barondes. "The real danger is that there are no controlled studies of the effects of these drugs on personality over the many years or even decades in which some people are taking them."

Royal Society president Martin Rees said the most dangerous idea was public concern that science and technology were running out of control. "Almost any scientific discovery has a potential for evil as well as for good; its applications can be channelled either way, depending on our personal and political choices; we can't accept the benefits without also confronting the risks. The decisions that we make, individually and collectively, will determine whether the outcomes of 21st century sciences are benign or devastating."

Professor Rees argues that the feeling of fatalism will get in the way of properly regulating how science progresses. "The future will best be safeguarded - and science has the best chance of being applied optimally - through the efforts of people who are less fatalistic."

THE TIMES [1.1.06]

LET ME take you to The Edge. Or more specifically, www.edge.org, an intriguing little website set up by John Brockman, the literary agent in New York responsible for catapulting science writers such as the neuropsychologist Steven Pinker into the big time.

The cyber salon styles itself, with unabashed pomposity, as a purveyor of the Third Culture, a potpourri of current science, futurology and philosophy. An annual highlight is the Edge question, posed every January by Brockman to set the theme for the coming year. The 2006 teaser, announced yesterday, is this: what is your dangerous idea? Brockman describes it as “an idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?”.

The answers have already started rolling in (Edge contributors have a particular disdain for the divine, so they probably haven’t got much to do at this time of year), and how very provocative they are. Here is my pick of the crop:

Kevin Kelly, editor-at-large of Wired magazine, cautions that the preservation of anonymity, usually viewed as admirable in this identity-obsessed world, is not necessarily a good thing. “There’s a dangerous idea circulating that . . . it is a noble antidote to technologies of control . . . Privacy can only be won by trust, and trust requires persistent identity,” he writes. He points to the damage done to the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia by its policy, now abandoned, of allowing anonymous sources to place information on its public records.

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, the director of the Quality of Life Research Centre at Claremont Graduate University in California, argues that the simplicity of the free market cannot meet the complex needs of humankind. “The dangerous idea on which our culture is based is that the political economy has a silver bullet — the free market — that must take precedence over any other value, and thereby lead to peace and prosperity.

“It is dangerous because, like all silver bullets, it is an intellectual and political scam that might benefit some, but ultimately requires the majority to pay for the destruction it causes.” When health, the environment and public safety are eroded by the free market, he says, we should think carefully about allowing it to reign unchallenged.

  • 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”.

    With the advent of genetics, the tinkle of The Bell Curve, reviled for its thesis that whites are smarter than blacks, refuses to fade away. The idea of genetic racial difference — accepted for physical traits such as skin colour and hair texture — is discarded as irrelevant and even dangerous when applied to mental characteristics such as intelligence.

    A pair of academics trod this perilous territory recently, when they suggested that the disease-causing genes unique to Ashkenazi Jews — such as those responsible for Tay-Sachs disease and Gaucher disease — continue to be passed on because they offer a counter benefit: enhanced intelligence.

    Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran, from the University of Utah, cite circumstantial evidence for their theory: a handful of papers that link those same disease-causing genes to increased neural growth. This, they suggest, fits with the observation that Ashkenazis favoured “cognitively demanding” jobs, such as setting up businesses.

    The Bell Curve, incidentally, suggested that Ashkenazi Jews had the highest average IQ of any ethnic group. Einstein was an Ashkenazi (although it’s safe to assume he was so exceptional as to be untypical). The Utah academics, whose study has been denounced as “bullshit” by some commentators, point out that Jews — not necessarily Ashkenazi — punch well above their weight in the Nobel Prize league. They comprise 3 per cent of the American population but 27 per cent of US laureates.

    Of course, others confronted with genius do not invoke genes, brains and diseases — rather a cultural emphasis among Jewish parents on scholarship and academic achievement. What . . . pushy Jewish mothers nagging their precious sons to do well? Now there’s a dangerous idea.

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