Edge in the News: 2014

Penn State News [7.28.14]

Penn State Brandywine has chosen “What Should We Be Worried About?” as its campus Common Read for the 2014-15 academic year. During the upcoming fall and spring semesters, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to read the book and come together for several events based on the book’s philosophies and themes. Several professors from various academic disciplines will also assign the book in their classes, using it as part of their course curriculum.

Edited by John Brockman, “What Should We Be Worried About?” is a collection of short essays about the planet’s most hidden threats, written by some of the world’s most influential scientists and thinkers, who were asked to disclose unknown situations that worry them. The result was a book that challenges the way people view biology, economics, neuroscience, philosophy, physics, psychology, war, technology and much more. ...

Penn State Brandywine [8.1.14]

What Should We Be Worried About?

Edited by John Brockman

Drawing from the horizons of science, today's leading thinkers reveal the hidden threats nobody is talking about—and expose the false fears everyone else is distracted by.

What should we be worried about? That is the question John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org ("The world's smartest website"—The Guardian), posed to the planet's most influential minds. He asked them to disclose something that, for scientific reasons, worries them—particularly scenarios that aren't on the popular radar yet. Encompassing neuroscience, economics, philosophy, physics, psychology, biology, and more—here are 150 ideas that will revolutionize your understanding of the world. ...

Brain Pickings [7.28.14]

"illuminating, mind-expanding"

How a needle, a shower curtain, and a New England clam explain the possibility of parallel universes.

"The mystery of being is a permanent mystery," John Updike once observed in pondering why the universe exists, and yet of equal permanence is the allure this mystery exerts upon the scientists, philosophers, and artists of any given era. "The Universe: Leading Scientists Explore the Origin, Mysteries, and Future of the Cosmos" collects twenty-one illuminating, mind-expanding meditations on various aspects of that mystery, from multiple dimensions to quantum monkeys to why the universe looks the way it does, by some of the greatest scientific thinkers of our time. It is the fourth installment in an ongoing series by Edge editor John Brockman, following Thinking (2013), Culture (2011), and The Mind (2011). ...

. . .the sole female contributor is none other than Harvard’s Lisa Randall, one of the most influential theoretical physicists of our time, and her essay is the most intensely interesting in the entire collection. . .[Her] essay is a spectacular, mind-bending read in its entirety, as are the rest of the contributions in The Universe (http://edge.org/conversation/the-universe-on-sale-now). Complement it with Brockman’s compendium of leading scientists’ selections of the most elegant theory of how the world works (http://bit.ly/1anPcUX) and the single most important concept to make you smarter (http://bit.ly/1kr7dF1).

Wisconsin Public Radio - To the Best of Our Knowledge [7.18.14]

Many of the biggest ideas in science today were dreamed up in the studios of NY's avant garde artists.  So says John Brockman. He was there. Today, he brings the same  wide-ranging intellectual spirit to his online science salon, Edge.org. | Related Book: The Universe: Leading Scientists Explore the Origin, Mysteries and Future of the Cosmos.(John Brockman, editor)

Galileu [7.14.14]

Technological developments, then, is not linear, and you can not wait for the next 20 years we proceed much as in the 20 years that have passed Indeed, the world will be completely different:. Taking into account the projection of Moore and analyzes Kurzweil, who is one of the most respected futurists in the world, in 18 or 20 years the technology will be hundreds of thousands of times more advanced than it is today ( take a look at this chart to understand the size of the thing ). So it is very difficult to predict the paradigms that are broken in this period.

But there are those who are trying - people who even had success in the past in beating about where we technologically today. The PEW , research institute on the internet, talked to experts about the possibilities for the internet in the coming years. The site Edge.org interviewed Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired magazine and one of the most respected analysts on the future of technology. And we searched the vast material collected in these interviews in search of the answer: how different our lives will be in 20 years because of technological change?

Cult of Mac [7.12.14]

The Universe, by John Brockman

Now that Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson is on break, I'm turning to John Brockman to get my fix of easy-to-understand-but-totally-mindblowing science facts. In his latest book, The Universe, Brockman brings together the world's top physicists and science writers to explain the universe in all its wondrous splendor, providing insights on gravity, dark matter, the energy of empty space, and the possibility of a unified theory.

The Guardian [6.27.14]

"The idea is to help readers discern something you know they'd be able to see, if only they were looking in the right place."

What's the secret to writing well? As I've said previously here, an awful lot of people seem to think they know, yet their "rules for writers" are almost always (pardon the technical linguistics jargon) bullshit. For example, "Show, don't tell" is frequently bad advice. In the right context, the passive voice is fine. Elmore Leonard's most famous rule, "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue", is sheer silliness. Even the sainted Orwell's rules are a bit rubbish: the final one is, "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous", which means his advice is really just "Don't write barbarically". So it doesn't bode well that the psychologist Steven Pinker is to publish his own advice book, The Sense Of Style, later this year. Judging by a recent interview at edge.org, however, this one might be different. Writing, Pinker points out, is inherently a psychological phenomenon, "a way that one mind can cause ideas to happen in another mind". So one place to begin is with actual psychology.

The key thing to realise, Pinker argues, is that writing is "cognitively unnatural". For almost all human existence, nobody wrote anything; even after that, for millennia, only a tiny elite did so. And it remains an odd way to communicate. You can't see your readers' facial expressions. They can't ask for clarification. Often, you don't know who they are, or how much they know. How to make up for all this? ... (@oliverburkeman)

 

HABERTURK [6.26.14]

Recently, the much-debated concept of the global level "third culture" (third culture).

In Germany and America many articles written on this subject in the university environment have been seriously debated. With complete peace of mind I can recommend a site —"www.edge.org" where I also read an extremely interesting article I read about it on Tuesday.

"Third culture", in fact, is an answer to the question: "Globalism, how can be truly global in this century?"

Subject to the risk of simplification, I will try to describe the third culture. ....
 

Tania Lombrozo, NPR [6.23.14]

As adults we don't have the advantage of benevolent, parental overlords engineering our environments, but we still have some options. For example, psychologist Laurie Santos and philosopher Tamar Gendler, in a short essay at Edge.org rejecting the idea that "knowing is half the battle," write:

"The lesson of much contemporary research in judgment and decision-making is that knowledge — at least in the form of our consciously accessible representation of a situation — is rarely the central factor controlling our behavior. The real power of online behavioral control comes not from knowledge, but from things like situation selection, habit formation, and emotion regulation. This is a lesson that therapy has taken to heart, but one that 'pure science' continues to neglect."

In other words, we can try to change our own environments to trigger and reinforce the right behaviors, work on making those behaviors routine, and change the way we construe situations — if not the situations themselves — to change the way we feel and the way we act. For instance, construing a toddler's misbehavior as deliberate provocation will likely elicit a different emotional response (and different parental behavior) from construing the same misdeed as the little tyke's exploration of her social world — an experiment in figuring out how you work.

Mother Jones [6.20.14]

How pocket supercomputers warp our perception of time.

I'm kind of a worrier, so naturally I picked up this book called What Should We Be Worried About? Editor John Brockman, the curator of Edge.org, asked a bunch of really smart people—scientists, writers, journalists, tech gurus, folks like that—to write essays about what keeps them up at night. It's that simple.

My wife commented that perhaps this wasn't the sort of book I should be reading, but as a curmudgeon, I had to disagree. It's actually sort of validating to read about all these other people's worries. Plus, the writers keep 'em short—too short, in the case of Terry Gilliam—and the breadth of the worriers clues you in to a wide range of worries you never even knew you needed to worry about. How awesome is that?

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THE PATIENCE DEFICIT
By Nicholas G. Carr

I'm concerned about time—the way we're warping it and it's warping us. Human beings, like other animals, seem to have remarkably accurate internal clocks. Take away our wristwatches and our cell phones and we can still make pretty good estimates about time intervals. But that faculty can also be easily distorted. Our perception of time is subjective; it changes with our circumstances and our experiences. When things are happening quickly all around us, delays that would otherwise seem brief begin to seem interminable. Seconds stretch out. Minutes go on forever. "Our sense of time," observed William James in his 1890 masterworkThe Principles of Psychology, "seems subject to the law of contrast." ...

... It's not clear whether a technology-induced loss of patience persists even when we're not using the technology. But I would hypothesize (based on what I see in myself and others) that our sense of time is indeed changing in a lasting way. Digital technologies are training us to be more conscious of and more antagonistic toward delays of all sorts—and perhaps more intolerant of moments of time that pass without the arrival of new stimuli. Because our experience of time is so important to our experience of life, it strikes me that these kinds of technology-induced changes in our perceptions can have broad consequences.
 

Irish Times [6.19.14]

Stephen Kosslyn once put forward the intriguing notion that God exists but is not supernatural

I recently came across an interesting book called What Is Your Dangerous Idea? (2006), edited by John Brockman. The book is a collection of "dangerous" ideas proposed by 108 of today’s leading thinkers (including physicists Freeman Dyson, Lee Smolin, Paul Davies, Frank Tipler, philosopher Daniel Dennett and biochemist Craig Venter), with a preface by Steven Pinker and an afterword by Richard Dawkins. Today I present you with one fascinating idea from this book, proposed by Stephen M Kosslyn, a professor of psychology at Harvard University. I am neither advocating nor criticising Kosslyn’s proposal – I merely present it as an intriguing idea.

Kosslyn’s dangerous idea is: God exists but is not supernatural; God is part of the natural order. When looked at in this manner, the God concept can be approached scientifically. On the other hand, the orthodox approach, to which I generally subscribe, is to view science and religion as inhabiting two largely “non-overlapping magisteria” (in the words of Stephen Jay Gould). Kosslyn’s idea will please neither the atheist nor the religious.

Kosslyn’s concept of God is of a supreme being that transcends time and space, permeates our world but also stands outside of it, and can intervene in our daily lives, partly in response to prayer.

A scientific approach to this concept rests on three principles. Firstly, emergent properties: this is a well-known phenomenon whereby new properties emerge from aggregates, properties that cannot be fully predicted from the properties of individual aggregate elements. Thus, life emerges from aggregates of biochemicals of particular types in large numbers, mind emerges from neurons in large numbers, and economic and social systems emerge from minds in large numbers. Secondly, downward causality: events at higher levels (where emergent properties arise) can affect events at lower levels, for example an economic depression affects individuals living in society. Thirdly, the ultimate superset: the set of all living things. This superset has emergent properties that feed back to affect the living things that make up the superset.

Business Insider India [6.17.14]

The world is hitting its stride in technological advances and futurists have been making wild-sounding bets on what we'll accomplish in the not-so-distant future. Futurist Ray Kurzweil, for example, believes that by 2040 artificial intelligence will be so good, humans will be fully-immersed in virtual reality and that something called The Singularity, when technology becomes so advanced that it actually changes the human race irreversibly, will occur.

Kevin Kelly, who helped launched Wired in 1993, sat down for an hour-long videointerview with John Brockman at The Edge. Kelly believes that the next 20 years in technology will be radical. So much so, that he believes our technological advances will make the previous 20 years "pale" in comparison.

"If we were sent back with a time machine, even 20 years, and reported to people what we have right now and describe what we were going to get in this device in our pocket-we'd have this free encyclopedia, and we'd have street maps to most of the cities of the world, and we'd have box scores in real time and stock quotes and weather reports, PDFs for every manual in the world...You would simply be declared insane," Kelly said.

Dilema (Romania) [6.15.14]

 

• Edge.org, TIFF Bucureşti, Istorie în culori

Site edge.org a place where the best minds of our times gather. Some conversations last uploaded on the website: psychologist Steven Pinker about "the act of writing in the 21st century", the curator Hans Ulrich Obrist about the "intellectual enzyme" physicists Alan Guth and Andrei Linde about "what's new in the universe." 

The Star Online - Malaysia [6.13.14]

For me, this book functions best as an eye-opener on subjects that we might not have previously thought about.

For example, British academic Dylan Evans worries that the spread and embrace of democracy, which has its own flaws, is preventing us from evolving a better political system.

And computer scientist and physicist W. Daniel Hillis is concerned about the assumptions behind the type of information Internet search engines provide us. With Google incorporating semantics alongside the traditional keyword search, this means that the search engine is now assigning meaning to the words we are searching for. And in a world where one person’s freedom fighter might be another’s terrorist, the worry is that computer programs may now be deciding what words mean for us and providing us information according to that judgement.

In fact, my personal favourite is a two-sentence gem from Monty Python troupe member and British director and screenwriter Terry Gilliam: “I’ve given up on worrying. I merely float on a tsunami of acceptance of anything life throws at me ... and marvel stupidly.”
Recommended for those who want an accessible, intellectual read on a wide range of science-related topics, both popular and more esoteric.

Also, good material for those who might want to impress others in social settings with their “smartness”.

Nature [6.12.14]

Michael John Gorman is intrigued by a survey of art informed and invigorated by science.
Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art
Arthur I. Miller W. W. Norton: 2014.

After months of injections with horse immunoglobulin in 2011, artist Marion Laval-Jeantet had a transfusion of horse blood in a Ljubljana art gallery. She walked around the donor animal on prosthetic hooves; then samples of her hybrid blood were freeze-dried and placed in engraved aluminium cases. In 2005, a New York gallery showed a starburst of glass orbs and aluminium rods depicting the explosion of space after the Big Bang, by sculptor Josiah McElheny and cosmologist David Weinberg.

Such are the collaborations chronicled by historian Arthur I. Miller in Colliding Worlds. Miller argues that we are seeing the emergence of a “third culture” — a term coined by writer John Brockman — in which boundaries between art and science dissolve.

The past decade has seen a proliferation of galleries, labs and residency programmes devoted to mingling art and science. Miller surveys these, from London's Wellcome Collection to the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz, Austria; the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin (of which I was founding director); Le Laboratoire in Paris; and the Collide@CERN artist-residency programme at Europe's particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland. He provides engaging pen portraits of many of the artists involved, such as Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand, who experiment with sonoluminescence.
 

Stuttgarter Zeitung [6.5.14]

Stuttgart - Hardly an interview with Jaron Lanier, hardly an article about him does not the legend of his transformation by Paul to Saul, by the Prophet to the heretics. Lanier was born in May 1960 in New York City, and even before the turn of the Millennium he had enrolled immediately in several chapters of the history of the digital. With him, a thought leader in the digital world for the first time receives the peace prize, which is endowed with 25,000 euros, precisely because he had the risks digitization for the free lifestyle of each person, as reported by the Board of Trustees of the prize. ...

The dangerous logic of collectivism

But Jaron Lanier disappointed expectations, and that is one of his favorite activities according to his own statement. Instead, he got a hearing as a critic of progressive mechanisation. In the year 2000 "One Half of a Manifesto", in which he opposed the idea of humans as biological computer appeared his essay edge.org debate portal. 2010 followed by an another "Manifesto" called "you are not a gadget" on German "Gadget - why the future us still needs", sought to establish that the individual as a counterpart to the technology and hold didn't even before online shrines such as the Wikipedia Encyclopedia. Again he coined a term, namely the of "digital Maoism": the dangerous logic of collectivism that hides more bad than in concepts of swarm intelligence, of crowd sourcing, and the "social networks" is meant."Every penny Google earns, proves that the many - failed and Google deserves a whole lot of pennies", it says "Gadget".

ASP—Agence Science.Press [5.30.14]


[ 2nd part of the reflection on the scientific and the "third culture". Click here for Part I. December 12, 2013.]

My previous post, The third culture or CP Snow Revisited, addressed the rift between science and the humanities, and I ended by saying that he had not only build bridges between the two, but propose a new cultural map.

As worth exploring, I mentioned the "third culture" of John Brockman , which defines the term based on the text The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution of CP Snow: "The" third culture "refers to scientists and other thinkers empirical world who, through their work and writings take the place traditionally occupied by intellectuals, and put forward the deep meaning of your lives, redefining who and what we are "[translation by the author].

Brockman therefore refers to these scientists, intellectuals, from the vast body of empirical knowledge developed in the 20th century, not only the rethinking howthe world but play leapfrog over disciplinary fences.Consider, for example, Jared Diamond and historical geography, or the sociologist Nicholas Christakis and its reflection on the science of social connections. But you could also attach the Michel Serres, Joel De Rosnay, Ilya Prigogine, Henri Atlan, etc....

Corriere Della Sera — La Lettura [5.27.14]

...John Brockman, pioneer of knowledge online with his Edge.org, is an expert in "life of the mind": each year he encourages the community of scientists, intellectuals and thinkers that animate the site with questions and challenges of an epistemological and ethical nature (the Question for 2014 is: "What scientific theories are ready to be retired?"). For Brockman, to embrace Scruton's ["high culture"] thesis is tantamount to accepting the aphorism of conceptual artist James Lee Byars: "Meditate the putrifying corpse." "Many people don't know and don't know that they don't know. Why spend a life looking through a rear-view mirror", he explained to La Lettura by email.

Brockman rejects the label of a niche site: "the point is that there is no more mass audience. Individuals know what they love and the Internet allows them to follow their own interests. Edge is not for everybody. It is helpful for our readers to understand who the contributors are, and how their ideas play out  in the cultural landscape. In a sense, it is an elite, but elitism is a good and necessary when the group is transparent and open to new people, and ideas are considered on a meritocratic basis".

The author sensed the cultural change, in the early days of  the Internet, when, in 1980, he created the Reality Club (which turned into the Edge Foundation) to bring together artists, scientists, politicians and businessmen to create a new kind of knowledge. "The site, established at the end of 1996, has no interest in 'democratizing' science. Rather it's an expansive conversation between minds." 

Hans Ulrich Obrist, [5.26.14]


[Teamwork, from left: John Brockman, Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan in 1967 in the New York Factory] 

...Finally Brockman has also proved his own talent for synthesis as a writer. In his first book By The Late John Brockman, he considers the world through the lens of information theory, in 37 through Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and in Afterwords as a verbal construct. Above all, his first work was a magnificent combination, not just in content but also in form, of philosophy and experimental literature, which he presented in 1968 in a six-part reading of the book in the New York Poetry Center. Each page of the book contained only one paragraph, composed of citations from the likes of Ludwig Wittgenstein or Samuel Beckett. The very? process of reading is supposed to create a performance, freely after Marcel Duchamp’s dictum that an artist makes the material available but that it is up to the observer or reader to make an artwork out of it.

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