The brain science of bizarre behavior. If someone wants to, say, amputate his perfectly healthy arm, the call goes out to V.S. Ramachandran... more»
John Brockman is the editor of the new book “This Will Make You Smarter.” He also runs the website Edge.org, which features discussions on cutting edge science by some of the world’s most brilliant minds. In this NEW and UNCUT interview, Brockman talks with Steve Paulson about “third culture” intellectuals and how he was inspired by New York’s avant-garde arts scene in the 1960s, when he used to hang out with John Cage, Marshall McLuhan and other visionaries who laid the groundwork for today’s Internet culture.
Brockman had had such a brilliant exposition on the "third culture" with the impact and historical significance: "Scientists and experience of other thinkers in the world, showing the deep meaning of our lives, and to redefine ' who we are, what we are 'aspects are its works and descriptive writing, and gradually replace the traditional intellectuals.
The always-on nature of the web, which constantly beckons us to check what’s happening, may seem at odds with our natural instincts, but, as June Cohen of Ted Media suggests, the internet “may be returning us to the intensely social animals we evolved to be”.
This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts To Improve Your Thinking.
As the founder and publisher of edge.org, a website devoted to great thinkers discussing the world’s greatest challenges, John Brockman has a pretty decent idea of what makes a person smarter.
Here, he’s collected ideas from many of today’s top thinkers—including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Kahneman and Kathryn Schulz, to name but a few—in one book, aptly named This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking. Brockman was kind enough to allow us to run a few passages from this collection that we called in a starred review, "a winning combination of good writers, good science and serious broader concerns." ...
....As infinitely fascinating and stimulating as This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking is, its true gift — Brockman’s true gift — is in acting as a potent rupture in the filter bubble of our curiosity, cross-pollinating ideas across a multitude of disciplines to broaden our intellectual comfort zones and, in the process, spark a deeper, richer, more dimensional understanding not only of science, but of life itself.
At his online science salon Edge.org, John Brockman asked: What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive tool kit? He packed 150 answers from Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, and other leading thinkers into ``This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking'' (Harper Perennial). What's great about it is that in two to four pages a reader can learn a new concept, such as the Pareto Principle (the inevitable tendency for wealth and a variety of other things to be concentrated among the few), kakonomics (the widespread unconscious preference for mediocre outcomes), and apophenia (incorrectly finding patterns or connections in data that is actually random).
The website for years Edge.org meets many of the best scientists, artists, thinkers and technologists, all attentive to think the changes in knowledge and how to understand the world and life. As every year, the site invites them to answer a single question. The nearly 200 responses are an incredible display of wit, knowledge and sensitivity. And like every year, Radar read them and reproduced the 10 most remarkable and original to the question that opened in 2012: What's your favorite explanation deeper, beautiful or elegant? ...
At the beginning of every year, I count the minutes for the appearance of the annual question on Edge.org, the website Network Magazine has called "the world's intelligent site". And every year I tell friends about six responses from the more than 200 philosophers, writers, entrepreneurs and scientists. ... As in previous years, a collection of the answer will appear in a printed book and appear in stores ... it's still an extraordinary experience, and Free Online.
To the question 'How is the internet changing the way you think?' the right answer is 'Too soon to tell'. The deep changes will be manifested only when new cultural norms shape what the technology makes possible. - CLAY SHIRKY
... Some people will find ... an intellectual environment suited to their mental proclivities. Others will see a catastrophic erosion in the ability of humans to engage in more meditative modes of thought. Many likely will be somewhere between, worried about its long-term effects on the depth of individual intellect. - NICHOLAS CARR
...That site, www.edge.org, is a renowned intellectual salon attracting the best and the brightest minds, predominantly scientific, to an ongoing conversation about the ideas and innovations shaping the way we understand the world. ...The UK books are a year behind America's, so How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? dates from 2010. That doesn't make it any less fascinating, and for some, the book format increases their accessibility.
[Adapted from Alison Gopnik's essay] for www.edge.org, in response to the website's 2012 annual question: "What is your favorite deep, elegant or beautiful explanation?"
You can hear this faint alarm bell of anxiety ringing in the title of John Brockman's thought-provoking collection of essays, How Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? (Note the implication: the internet is moulding us, not the other way around.)...Thankfully, many of Edge's essayists violently disagree with each other. To some, the internet is "a work of genius, one of the highest achievements of the human species" (Richard Dawkins) and "the most human of technologies" (the historian Noga Arikha). To others, it is "the greatest detractor to serious thinking since the invention of the television" (the neurobiologist Leo Chalupa) and "nothing more... than a very useful, and very dumb, butler" (the neuroscientist Joshua Greene). .. The essays are peppered with insights. These include a theory that virtual cities will encourage states of psychosis, as real cities already do, and the observation that what we call old media (books, newspapers, television) are, in fact, very recent inventions, whereas websites based on communal sharing, such as Facebook, signal a return to prehistoric, tribal patterns of communication
She is intellectually fearless, deeply serious about science, personally effervescent and always curious. Her interests are environmental sustainability (particularly fish), the evolution and function of guilt, honour and shame, and the role of IT in shaping environmental action - all of which fall under a broad interest in the tragedy of the commons. ...
I was told some years ago that the reason why some species of sea turtles migrate all the way across the South Atlantic to lay their eggs on the east coast of South America after mating on the west coast of Africa is that when the behavior started, Gondwanaland was just beginning to break apart (that would be between 130 and 110 million years ago), and these turtles were just swimming across the narrow strait to lay their eggs. Each year the swim was a little longer—maybe an inch or so—but who could notice that? Eventually they were crossing the ocean to lay their eggs, having no idea, of course, why they would do such an extravagant thing.
And the answers do not disappoint. In fact, reinforce, if proof were still needed the deep sense of cultural path Edge: breaking the walls that traditionally separate scientific specialties and interdisciplinary approach to research in this time of great change, not only preference intellectual or fashionable slogan, but real preconditions for an exploration of the very sources of innovative knowledge.
... Science theories that explain puzzling human behavior or the inner workings of the universe were also particular favorites of the Edge contributors: Psychologist Alison Gopnik of the University of California, Berkeley, is partial to one that accounts for why teenagers are so restless, reckless and emotional. Two brain systems, an emotional motivational system and a cognitive control system, have fallen out of sync, she explains. ...
Chris Stringer, a leading scientist at theLondon Museum of Natural History, has been in the thick of human origins research for the last forty years.
Recently he was interviewed in a video for John Brockman’s Edge site. (It’s almost forty-five minutes long, but well worth watching in full.) A couple of points in his discussion there caught my interest.