Edge in the News

Philosophy Now [3.27.14]

There is a pivotal scene in The Hobbit where Bilbo Baggins is lost and alone deep under the Misty Mountains, and by happenstance finds the infamous One Ring and puts it in his pocket. Soon after, he encounters the creature Gollum, and is forced to play a riddle game to determine whether Gollum will show him the way out, or eat him instead. Bilbo wins the contest, but Gollum realizes that Bilbo has his ring, which confers invisibility upon the wearer. As Gollum moves to attack him, Bilbo puts on the ring, evades Gollum, and escapes.

But there’s an important caveat here: Bilbo wins by breaking the rules of a game that in Middle-Earth is considered to be “sacred and of immense antiquity.” Bilbo was at a loss to come up with another riddle, and as he fidgeted and fumbled in his pocket he said aloud to himself, “What have I got in my pocket?” Gollum assumed this was a riddle, but of course there was no way he was going to be able to answer it correctly. Yet Bilbo’s question wasn’t a “genuine riddle according to the ancient laws,” as the narrator tells us.

“Sacred and of immense antiquity.” Sounds a lot like human morality, doesn’t it? In a recent essay collection, Thinking, John Brockman observes that “everyone seems to be studying morality these days.” But why are so many devoting so much time to it? Perhaps because moral norms pervade every aspect of our lives, from the most mundane to the most profound. The peculiar thing about morality, however, is that we expect the truly moral person to submit to its demands regardless of her own interests or desires. She should do what morality commands because it is her duty to do so. We want to know why that is.

Discovery Institute-Evolution News [3.21.14]

Ball State University (BSU) is in full spin mode trying to defend the use of a book, What Is Your Dangerous Idea?, as the sole textbook in one of its courses, "Dangerous Ideas." The book is cited in an article in the Muncie Star Press, "Lawmakers probe religion vs. science at BSU." BSU spokesman Tony Proudfoot tries to defend the course on the grounds that the book includes religion-friendly chapters, and therefore isn't a polemic against religion. In fact, BSU has badly misrepresented the hard-to-miss anti-religious goals of the book, as well as the three supposedly religion-friendly chapters it cites. I'll elaborate more below, but of the three chapters BSU cites as being religion-friendly, one has nothing to do with religion and the other two are explicitly anti-religious.

First, some background. What Is Your Dangerous Idea? is framed, billed, and marketed as a book of ideas by leading new atheist-types. The intended readership seems to be intellectual atheists, as its cover advertises the fact that the introduction is by new atheist (and evolutionary psychologist) Steven Pinker, and the afterword is by leading new atheist Richard Dawkins.

Indeed, the man behind What Is Your Dangerous Idea?, who served as its editor, is John Brockman, has been called one of "the 25 most influential living atheists." He was the literary agent and main promoter of Dawkins's 2006 book The God Delusion (and other books by Dawkins). In the acknowledgments of The God Delusion, Dawkins thanks Brockman for his "help in the preparation of this book" and states that Brockman's "whole-hearted and enthusiastic belief in the book was very encouraging." ....

Discovery Institute-Evolution News [3.21.14]

The Ball State University case receives treatment today in Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star. Trying, perhaps to a fault, to be fair to BSU president Jo Ann Gora, columnist and editor Russ Pulliam casts Dr. Gora as seeking to balance competing legitimate interests even as four Indiana legislators ask questions about her policy on teaching about intelligent design in science classrooms. ...

...Meanwhile, Gora allowed a course, "Dangerous Ideas," that also in its way tries to illuminate ultimate questions. But it does so by hammering away at the theme, as one essay in the course's text puts it, that "Science Must Destroy Religion." No, not every page or every essay in the book sounds that theme, but an intelligent reader will not be surprised to learn its editor, John Brockman, is an "influential atheist." Gora's spokesman, Tony Proudfoot, has grossly misrepresented the contents of that text. Neither Coyne nor anyone at Ball State has admitted this. ...

Scientific American [3.17.14]

...inflation has always been more a product of imagination than empirical evidence. There has never been more than circumstantial, hand-wavy support for its core mechanism, the reversal of gravity. Worse, the theory came in many different forms. My favorite was the eternally self-reproducing chaotic inflationary multiverse model proposed by Andrei Linde, who along with Alan Guth and Paul Steinhardt is credited with inventing inflation. ...

...Just two months ago, inflation pioneer Paul Steinhardt wrote on the website Edge.org: "I think a priority for theorists today is to determine if inflation and string theory can be saved from devolving into a Theory of Anything and, if not, seek new ideas to replace them. Because an unfalsifiable Theory of Anything creates unfair competition for real scientific theories, leaders in the field can play an important role by speaking out—making it clear that Anything is not acceptable—to encourage talented young scientists to rise up and meet the challenge."

Pacific Standard [3.14.14]

Why scientists need to stop worrying about whether or not everything in biology serves a purpose.

John Brockman, the publisher and science impresario who runs the online science and culture salon Edge.org, has asked his provocative, annual Edge question: What scientific idea is ready for retirement? "Few truly new ideas are developed without abandoning old ones first," Brockman writes. "What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance?"

Here’s my candidate for forced retirement: The idea that we need to distinguish between things in biology that are there for a purpose and those that aren’t.

La Tercera [3.12.14]

So the writer Álvaro Bisam called the pairing of the philosopher and linguist Remis Ramos Ricardo Martinez, creators of Third Culture. A movement that, at the eaves of a podcast, mixed sciences, humanities, and popular culture. Now, if people want it, you could become a book.

In 2009, when the philosopher Remis Ramos (34) and the linguist Ricardo Martinez (44) were enrolled in a Masters in Cognitive Studies at the University of Chile, they launched the popular world of podcasts. The pair of humanist scholars decided that on his radio show webcast going to talk about ... science?

Yes Third Culture, podcast, blog and web show today disclosure cognitive science that make since, has earned them the title of "academic punks" (coined by writer Álvaro Bisam in the article "Freak City," published in UDP) magazine and a small, but loyal group of followers who reads and listens attentively their analyzes, ranging from dense scientific studies to issues of popular culture such as music, television and video games. According to legend, while Podcaster site existed always remained among the most listened to 10, which confirms to them that there is growing interest in learning about these issues.

- Why the name Third Culture?

RR: The concept is John Brockman, who in his book Third Culture argues that this dichotomy between science and the humanities must end. There is an idea that there are two cultures: the humanities, all locked in their libraries, arguing amongst themselves, and on the other hand, scientists in their laboratories, arguing amongst themselves. The third culture would try to amigarlos and bring that knowledge to the public.

Knack.be [3.10.14]

A man would not be human if he did not care would reveal himself.But what if scientists worried?

Annually John Brockman, founder of the famous discussion platform allows Edge.org , a question for a selection of the most interesting scientists, authors and artists in the world. The responses are then collected and published in book form. This time, Brockman asked the question: "Where should we should be worried about?"

The result can be read in the book recently published 153 x caffeine for your mind. Include Nicholas Carr (The shallow), Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker (The Blank Slate), Brian Eno (musician and producer of U2), Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Black Swan) and 148 others to answer question posed by John Brockman. They talk briefly and powerfully about the concerns that keep them busy, such as more and more people are becoming increasingly stress the consequences of a major Internet outage, and that we have ceased to explore the space ...

People Magazine [3.10.14]

John Brockman asks experts what we should fret over—and what to let go

PARENTING Relax, says psychologist Aiison Gopnik. Mostly kids are shaped by their genes and peers. Be concerned about poverty or neglect, not about being the perfect parent. Says Brockman: "Kids will be just fine."

VIOLENCE IN FILMS Fictional mayhem isn't worth all the hand-wringing, says English professor Jonathan Gottschall. Proof that it leads to real violence is shaky.

FINDING LOVE Yes, singles, worry a little. According to psychologist David Buss, 'The competition to attract desirable mates is ferocious," so give it your attention.

INTERNET COLLAPSE Big worry, says historian George Dyson, who believes we are not prepared for an inevitable "catastrophic breakdown oft he Internet."

WORRYING lt is itself a worry because it is mentally "corrosive," says psychiatrist Joel Gold, who fears too many people are fretting instead of enjoying life.

DMorgen.be [3.6.14]


...That dominance of short-term thinking is regrettable, but might also be inevitable in this media-political era. And maybe there's also a good side to the mitigating climate show. That is certainly what environmental economist Jennifer Jacquet suggests in the fascinating book [What Should We Be Worried About?] 153 x caffeine for your mind. Lay In that bundle 153 great thinkers of that we really should be worried.

In her contribution Jacquet  says that the heavy emphasis on the human responsibility in climate change leads to a kind of pessimistic lethargy. It is the paralyzing notion that no longer matter, because we are bound.Jacquet fears that a basis for a more effective climate policy is also slowed down by the fact that we let ourselves psychologically paralyze by too much doom posts. It is better to focus on concrete problems, susceptible, for which realistic solutions are conceivable. All will be well, so are the message (but not real).

Jacquet's idea stimulates the mind. Certainlyit turns out that a number of other authors-thinkers come to the same conclusion. We make ourselves worry too much. That is their biggest concern. As Classicist James O'Donnell summarizes the " Your anxiety will in the end go away, because the problem will most likely go away; or perhaps your fear will come true and you'll be in a different place; or else you'll be dead. . . .

New Scientist [3.4.14]

The darkest fears of the leading lights and rising stars of science, brought together by the Edge's John Brockman, could keep us all awake at night

WARNING: read the subtitle of this book first. Its editor, cultural impresario John Brockman, may well have you struggling to get your shut-eye as he sets out to keep us on our toes.

The trick this time lies in the tone of a book of answers to questions that Brockman poses annually to science's great and good on his Edge website. It's really not all good news.

In 2007, Edge asked what we were optimistic about. Six years later, the tone sounds like a pessimistic rejoinder: what shouldwe be worried about? But with Brockman it's rarely simple. He invited people to share a scientific worry that might not be on the popular radar, or one they think should drop off the radar. ...

At the end of the exercise, Brockman's crew has left us with a net balance of new fears. But they also introduce us to some big ideas. As psychologist Daniel Goleman puts it: "Effective worrying focuses our attention on a genuine threat and leads to anticipating solutions." Or perhaps biologist Craig Venter is onto something when he writes, hopefully tongue in cheek: "As a scientist, an optimist, an atheist, and an alpha male, I don't worry."

tportal.hr [3.3.14]

We care about the Third World War, aging, drug use but also about himself - zabrinjavanja. In the book "What Should We Be Worried About 'series of celebrity scientist reveals his greatest concerns and answers the question of how to prevent them.

What should we be worried? That's the question John Brockman, founder Edge.org ('smartest' global sites, according to a review in The Guardian) set by the world's most influential scientists including Steven Pinker, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Frank Wilczek, Seth Lloyd, Alison Gopnik, Nassim Nicholas Taleb Helen Fisher, Lawrence Krauss, Susan Blackmore and many others. 

He asked them to discover what they are most concerned, with special emphasis on scenarios that have not yet appeared on the global radar. 

The greatest minds of our time in the field of neuroscience, economics, philosophy, physics, psychology, biology and many other areas of its proposed 150 ideas that will bring a revolution in the understanding of the modern world. 



Science 2.0 [3.3.14]

Cosmologist Sean Carroll is one of many who have recently answered the annual question posed by Edge.org, which this year was: What scientific idea is ready for retirement? Sean, whom I’ve met at the Naturalism workshop he organized not long ago, and for whom I have the highest respect both as a scientist and as a writer, picked “falsifiability.”

Which is odd, since the concept — as Sean knows very well — is not a scientific, but rather a philosophical one.

Now, contra some other skeptics of my acquaintance, at least one of whom was present at the above mentioned workshop, Sean is actually somewhat knowledgable and definitely respectful of philosophy of science, as is evident even in the Edge piece. Which means that what follows isn’t going to be yet another diatribe about scientism or borderline anti-intellectualism (phew!). ...

The Washington Post [2.28.14]

Is it better to worry about the concrete and the immediate or the nebulous and the unclear? Is it better to worry about the things that hit home or the larger shifts in society? Or is it even worth it to worry at all? ...  this collection helps us see the myriad possible concerns laid out before us, articulating the various elements of fear that we need to fear.

Spektrum.de [2.22.14]

The book also focuses on lesser-known ideas, such as the modular mind. These sections are the ones who make the work fun and interesting.

One or the other essay is difficult to understand for the layman, most texts but present themselves as easily digestible and entertaining. No contribution is longer than four pages. The shortest essay is even only three words: "Keep it short." He brings an idea from philosophy to the point - that of Occam's Razor. It says that one should be frugal in the formation of scientific theories: If you have the choice between several possible explanations of the same facts is to bring forward the simplest theory - that is the one that gets by with as few hypotheses. The tightness of the contributions makes the book even to the profitable reading if you just only has ten minutes time to read.

...The compilation of the brilliant, sometimes even stunning ideas can be recommended to all who are interested in science.

Lancing City Pulse [2.20.14]

John Brockman

I've really come to look forward to these annual collections from contributors to Edge.org, the multi-disciplinary science website. Every year editor John Brockman throws out a question to scientists of any discipline to address. The responses are short essays you can snack on like brain-stretching popcorn. 

This year the responses are ones that may keep you up at night, so be warned. All of the contributors address the question of what the real threats to our planet and way of life are, as opposed to the false fears that distract us too easily. The topics range all over the scientific map; the likelihood of war, advances in medicine and health care, population growth and distribution, the advance of the virtual, global economics...you get the idea. 

Tovima.gr [2.16.14]

There are some books that are not amenable to analysis' method writing 'or' flow of the plot. " Because quite simply it works anthology individual authors. Or, as in our case, distilled wisdom year 2013. This annual essay of online magazine Edge.org ("the world's smartest website" by the British newspaper Guardian). Contains a "peak exploration of the mysteries of logical thinking, decision making, intuition, ethics, willpower, problem solving, prediction, prognosis of unconscious behavior, etc.", edited by the publisher Edge John Brockman. You therefore only list the issues-the book's chapters and gleaming spiritual writers of each...

...all 16 chapters of the book full of recent findings for the top organ of life, the human brain. ... If you are thirsty for such knowledge, do not miss this book.

Polit.ru [2.15.14]

"A good book to read 3 times"

...How do you assess the level of scientific popularisation in Russia? How did you personally get information about science: from books, from the radio broadcasts of the lectures? What is the format of presentation is the most interesting for you?

I think that all at the same time. This book, and lectures. Lectures, perhaps, is that only recently appeared in as there is in the West. It would be great to build Ted.com and Edge.org experience here, which makes Brockman (John Brockman). We have a "PostNauka" which, so far, only approaching the Ted or Edge, but great that it appears, because video lectures is a modern and convenient format. Not all live in Moscow and can go to the Polytechnical Museum "or" CC "ZIL" in an interesting lecture.



Entorno Inteligente [2.14.14]

From 1981 until today, through The Reality Club, or its online version, edge.org, the literary agent and provocateur John Brockman has brought together "the best minds of his generation" to talk. It's an old-fashioned salon of intellectuals, only adapted to the times, i.e. nearly free of literary intellectuals and full of scientists and technologists.   we are not interested in received "wisdom". …

…In 1991 John Brockman wrote that  the intellectual map of the West and the "traditional" intellectual world of the fifties had been condemned to the margins In the past few years, the playing field of American intellectual life has shifted, and the traditional intellectual has become increasingly marginalized. A 1950s education in Freud, Marx, and modernism is not a sufficient qualification for a thinking person in the 1990s.

Indeed, the traditional American intellectuals are, in a sense, increasingly reactionary, and quite often proudly (and perversely) ignorant of many of the truly significant intellectual accomplishments of our time. Their culture, which dismisses science, is often nonempirical. It uses its own jargon and washes its own laundry. It is chiefly characterized by comment on comments, the swelling spiral of commentary eventually reaching the point where the real world gets lost.

So borrowing from C.P. Snow, author of "The Two Cultures" (1959), which described the divorce between science and humanities, and who, in 1963, predicted the emergence of a "third culture", in which the gap between the two fields of knowledge would narrow until it disappears, Brockman wrote his own essay on "The Third Culture" (1991). …

Media Week [2.13.14]

There's a splendid interview with Kevin Kelly on edge.org. He points out that, in the early days of the web, everyone assumed it would turn into "TV 2.0": "5,000 different sources giving you the specialty information about a horse channel and a dog channel and a cat channel and a saltwater aquarium channel... and you could get it all in your home.

"But, of course, that missed the entire real revolution of the web, which was that most of the content would be generated by the people using it. The web was not better TV, it was the web."

This story struck me when I was reading an article in The New York Times. In the 70s, an American academic shot scenes of ordinary interactions on street corners. A few years ago, another academic, looking to understand the effect of mobile devices on social interactions, realised he could use those films as a baseline comparison. So he went out and shot movies of the same street corners and squares. Then he got his students to compare both films – noting carefully the number of interactions, the amount of smiling, chatting and talking, and the texting and phoning and game-playing. Thousands of interactions later, they had a few interesting findings. ...

Marcelo Gleiser, NPR [2.12.14]

What should we be worried about? Real Scenarios that keep scientists up at night. This is the title of the new book edited by the literary agent John Brockman, founder of the website Edge.org, a discussion forum that includes novelist Ian McEwan, musician Brian Eno, physicists Frank Wilczek and Freeman Dyson, as well as yours truly, 13.7's Tania Lombrozo, and a couple of hundred of other academics and intellectuals. Every year, Brockman asks this group a "question." Answers in the form of short essays are compiled in paperback volumes with the intention of providing food for thought, as well as showcasing some of the cutting-edge ideas in science and technology and how they shape our culture. This is year, nothing less than 150 answers were published, of which I provide a meager sample here.