In 1959 a physicist and English novelist named Charles Percy Snow published a book ... entitled "The Two Cultures"... where humanity itself was crushed between two worlds, on one hand science and on the other humanities.
Several years later, in 1995, an American named John Brockman, interested in the approach of Snow, published the book "The Third Culture" and it raised a new way to understand reality from a holistic approach... to merge the human potential to cleave the truth through scientific culture and humanistic culture. ...
Here’s a question for you:
“What is information and where does it ultimately originate?”
“Is the universe a great mechanism, a great computation, a great symmetry, a great accident or a great thought?”
The first question was posed by the physicist and writer Paul Davies, the second by John Barrow, a cosmologist, theoretical physicist and mathematician. Both were posted online nearly two decades ago at Edge.org, then a fledgling website created by John Brockman, an author and literary agent for science writers.
Writing back then about Edge and its World Question Center, I concluded: “If a few of those questions don’t get the wheels in the brain spinning, sending some thoughts flying out of the box, nothing will.”
Not long ago I returned to Edge after a few years’ absence and was happy to find it alive and well. The site’s mission remains unchanged: “To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.”
One of the site’s top recurring features is the Annual Question. Over the years, scientists and thinkers in a range of disciplines have responded to queries such as these: “What is the most important invention of the last 2,000 years?” (1999); “What questions have disappeared?” (2001); “What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” (2005); “What should we be worried about?” (2013); and “What do you think about machines that think?” (2015).
The question for 2016—“What do you consider the most interesting recent (scientific) news? What makes it important?”—already has drawn nearly 200 responses from contributors ranging from 2004 Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek to musician Peter Gabriel. ...
Nature and nurture are twin words essentially associated with the developmental process of human beings. ... In their 2014 survey of scientists, Alison Gopnik and Edge submit that many respondents wrote that the dichotomy of nature versus nurture has outlived its usefulness, and should be retired. The reason is that in many fields of research, close feedback loops have been found in which “nature” and “nurture” influence one another constantly (as in self-domestication), while in other fields, the dividing line between an inherited and an acquired trait becomes unclear (as in the field of epigenetics or in fetal development). (Edge.org and Gopnik).
There was a great contradiction about Marvin Minsky. As one of the creators of artificial intelligence (with John McCarthy), he believed as early as the 1950s that computers would have human-like cognition. But Marvin himself was an example of an intelligence so bountiful, unpredictable and sublime that not even a million Singularities could conceivably produce a machine with a mind to match his. At the least, it is beyond my imagination to conceive of that happening.
But maybe Marvin could imagine it. His imagination respected no borders.
Minsky died Sunday night, at 88. His body had been slowing down, but that mind had kept churning. He was more than a pioneering computer scientist — he was a guiding light for what intellect itself could do. He was also our Yoda. The entire computer community, which includes all of us, of course, is going to miss him.
I first met him in 1982 ... I would run into him here and there over the decades. Sometimes, we’d run into each other and talk; other times I’d hear him speak. In 2002, at asummer gathering at the Connecticut farm of Edge.org’s founder John Brockman, a few top scientists were asked to comment on “their universes.” Minsky’s rambling rejoinder was classic:
“To say that the universe exists is silly, because it’s saying that the universe is one of the things in the universe. . . So we have to conclude that it doesn’t make sense to ask about why this world exists. However, there still remain other good questions to ask, about how this particular universe works.” ...
In recent years, whenever Minsky spoke, he would take on a topic and put an astonishing spin to it, whether it was a theory of why people loved musicso much, a stab at determining what made things funny, or a challenging theory of the nature of health. To the last, he was opening minds with his unparalleled meat machine. ...
There is a community called Edge, which publishes non-fiction materials written by scientists. In particular, in recent years it has annually announced "the question of the Year" and the answers to it by leading scientists of the world. The question of 2016 was the following: "What do you think is the most interesting recent scientific news? What makes it important? " In response, 198 scientists participated from different fields ... Each question is carefully thought out ... a sort of voiced firsthand digest of the new learned science ...
Just about everyone, no matter how tech-enamored or word-weary, appreciates receiving a book as a holiday gift. So, we decided to ask local booksellers which titles have been flying off their shelves — and see whether they had any special recommendations for hidden gems. ...
Jane Stiles at Wellesley Books added that the novels “The Japanese Lover” by Isabel Allende and “Avenue of Mysteries” by John Irving were popular gift choices this year. At Papercuts J.P., one of the area’s newest bookstores, owner Kate Layte said nonfiction has been very popular this year, including many of the titles already mentioned, along with Helen MacDonald’s memoir “H Is for Hawk.”
In addition, Layte said, “there are some great paperback originals I’ve been selling lots of like ‘An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States’ by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, ‘The Best American Infographics 2015’ — the editor, Gareth Cook, lives here in JP — and John Brockman’s new collection of essays, ‘What to Think About Machines That Think: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence.’ ” A special favorite in fiction is “Katherine Carlyle” by Rupert Thomson. “When folks see the blurbs from James Salter and Phillip Pullman, they can rest assured they’re holding a treasure,” she added. ...
Why should AI scare us? Let’s compare natural vs. artificial intelligence, using Edge’s 2015 big question: What to think about machines that think?
... Alison Gopnik feels machines aren’t nearly “as smart as 3-year-olds.” While AI sometimes outwits Garry Kasparov, it needs millions of pictures (labeled by humans) to learn to recognize cats. Infants need a handful (amazing pattern detectors, + see what babies know, butscientists often ignore). ...
Christmas is coming, and the shopping list is getting fat. So we’re here to give you a hand with at least the ideas stage.
Here at Siliconrepublic.com, we’ve spent the last few weeks creating lists of books that the sci-tech lovers in your life will, well… love.
Our first foray into the world of the must-read saw us pointing you in the right direction on books for those who just can’t get their fill of science knowledge – a serious look at the world of science and technology, if you will.
With this latest list, we look at the other side of that coin. Plenty of knowledge here, too, but with a slightly different flavour.
Compiled by John Brockman, publisher of website Edge.org, This Idea Must Die brings together some of the planet’s leading thinkers and asks them, "What scientific idea is ready for retirement?"
Asking the question of 175 of the world’s leading scientists, artists and philosophers, Brockman elicited answers from a huge range of people. … The most famous book produced from the series is likely This Explains Everything, which was published in 2012, while What To Think About Machines That Think has just been published.
The implications of this research, the methods, and ideas are enormous: imagine having the ability to help make political, economic, and educational decisions. The interesting thing is that the supers are not geniuses, or experts in quantum physics, or macroeconomics, they're common people—filmmakers, mechanical or dance teachers,but they are especially vigilant and rational in discerning and processing the available evidence. And how does one become a superforecaster? Tetlock recently offered a course of 5 classes (available whole in edge.org). In these class discussions, the tournaments, counterfactual thinking ("what if?"), and what we have learned about human behavior with these techniques are discussed. ...
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