Edge in the News

News Radio 650 KENI [2.1.14]

As an amateur, I like science. I see myself as a pilgrim on a mountain path, striving toward the summit of enlightenment. The most reliable process for finding out about the world is essential for citizenship and good for the soul (or it would be if science hadn’t failed to demonstrate the existence of a soul). “Most reliable” doesn’t mean 100% reliable, however, only the best compared to flawed intuitions and preconceptions. One of the virtues of science, ideally, is that it is self-correcting and therefore infinitely improvable. Infinity is a lot of room for improvement, though, so the problem is where to begin.

The first thing to fix, according to some scientists, is the assumption that science is infinitely improvable. That was one of the common themes among answers to the annual question from The Edge: “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?” Taken together, the suggestions from all 177 contributors are about as long as a book, but I skimmed over them to discover eleven areas of overlap and seven areas of disagreement. This involves lumping concepts that, to experts, might have fine-grained differences, but it does show where Edge’s big thinkers harmonize with each other. For instance, Obrist, Rees, Regis, and Saffo independently nominated for retirement the idea of unlimited progress. Judging by the ideas cluttering the scientific enterprise, the summit of ultimate knowledge does indeed seem unreachable.

The New York Times [1.27.14]

Events and reading matter at the intersection of science and culture.


“What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at Night” by John Brockman

Last year,the literary agent John Brockman asked scientists about their concerns for the future, and this book, which collects their responses, reads like an atlas of fear. Health is an issue: The genomicist Craig Venter worries that “the unvaccinated ... could take humanity back to the pre-antibiotic era.” But the most common concerns are about the Internet. Some lament a near-future where “everyone is only pretending to pay attention” while they check email on Google Glass, while others, like the philosopher Daniel Dennett, worry that if the Internet were to go down, by error or terror, we wouldn’t have much of a backup plan. After hundreds of pages of worst-case scenarios, the psychologist Gary Klein admits to some anxiety fatigue, blaming the “science/media complex” for overplaying mild threats. The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker seems to agree, writing that while it is natural to worry about “physical stuff like weaponry and resources” the real threats are “psychological stuff like ideologies and norms.” But the shortest and calmest of the responses is from the filmmaker Terry Gilliam, who writes: “I’ve given up worrying. I merely float on a tsunami of acceptance... and marvel stupidly.”

Alison Gopnik, Wall Street Journal [1.25.14]

Are we moral by nature or as a result of learning and culture? Are men and women "hard-wired" to think differently? Do our genes or our schools make us intelligent? These all seem like important questions, but maybe they have no good scientific answer...

...As the anthropologist Pascal Boyer points out in his answer, it's tempting to talk about "the culture" of a group as if this is some mysterious force outside the biological individual or independent of evolution. But culture is a biological phenomenon. It's a set of abilities and practices that allow members of one generation to learn and change and to pass the results of that learning on to the next generation. Culture is our nature, and the ability to learn and change is our most important and fundamental instinct.

PLOS [1.24.14]

These scientific ideas will drive you crazy

Much has been made of this year's question at John Brockman's Edge, generally described as an online salon. Brockman asked for recommendations about which scientific ideas should be retired, and some 170 salonists replied. Dennis Overbye plucked up a few proposed discards for consideration at Out There, concluding, "No matter who you are, you are bound to find something that will drive you crazy."

O'Reilly Radar [1.21.14]

The 2014 Edge Annual Question (EAQ) is out. This year, the question posed to the contributors is: What scientific idea is ready for retirement?

As usual with the EAQ, it provokes thought and promotes discussion. I have only read through a fraction of the responses so far, but I think it is important to highlight a few Edge contributors who answered with a common, and in my opinion a very important and timely, theme. The responses that initially caught my attention came from Laurence Smith (UCLA), Gavin Schmidt (NASA), Guilio Boccaletti (The Nature Conservancy) and Danny Hillis (Applied Minds). If I were to have been asked this question, my contribution for idea retirement would likely align most closely with these four responses: Smith and Boccaletti  want to see same idea disappear — stationaritySchmidt’s response focused on the abolition of simple answers; and Hillis wants to do away with cause-and-effect.

Süddeutsche Zeitung [1.21.14]

"You know," Steffi Czerny says on stage, not to stretch without the "o" a little too long, "I am always introducing friends and so on." And so it is then.

From Sunday to Tuesday, Czerny's 100 best friends met at the Munich Conference "Digital Life Style" ( DLD ) of the Burda publishing house. A stroke of luck for the 1000 regular conference attendees, who have forked out € 2750 for a three day ticket that Czerny's friends are the most important heads of the digital world and thus spread often the smartest ideas for our future.

Since well-connected people, such as the New York intellectuals John Brockman Czerny granted access to their exceptionally thick address books years ago, building the networker with her ​​boss Hubert Burda and the Israeli Yossi Vardi, DLD, not only to one of the world's leading digital conferences, but also for strong brand in Burda's portfolio, which characterizes the publisher soon more than the ailing old flagship Focus.

National Review [1.20.14]

The latest assault on our uniqueness comes from Edge.org, which asked the world’s supposedly most “brilliant minds” to come up with ideas that should be retired in science. 

Süddeutsche Zeitung [1.20.14]

No. 15, Montag, 20. Januar 2014


Von Andrian Kreye

Once a year, the New York literary agent John Brockman on his online forum for science and culture edge.org, asks one question. He gets answers from his network of scientists, intellectuals and artists. For 2014 was the question was "What Scientific Ideas Should We Retire?" Among the 174 responses received to date by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ("Essentialism"), the science historian George Dyson ("Science and Technology"), the neuro-scientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore ("Left Brain/Right Brain"), as well as the response of the SZ-Feuilleton Editor, Andrian Kreye" Moore's Law.)

Il Sole 24 Ore [1.19.14]

We must accelerate the pace at which science corrects itself. Because science can remain reliable. For this is as the strategic question that arises Edge this year, the community of researchers led by John Brockman: what scientific theories are ripe for retirement? Over 130 scholars - including Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Aubrey de Grey, Sherry Turkle, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Stewart Brand, Richard Dawkins, Matt Ridley, Steven Pinker, George Dyson, Kevin Kelly - responded. Surprises abound. The findings are published edge.org .

LA NACION [1.19.14]

Domingo, 19 2014

From culture to altruism, to the left and right hemispheres of the brain, to universal grammar, to the very notion of scientific progress: for some of the brightest minds in the world, these concepts deserve to retired from the scientific conversation.

This is the result provocateur who this year had the question which, like all the years, proposed Edge - a web site associated with a Publisher that promotes thought and discussion of cutting-edge science, arts and literature - partners usual and invited, to those invited to think "what scientific idea is ready to retire?". About 170 scientists, philosophers, academics and writers responded with brief essays, that they can be read online (www.edge.org) and that, like other years, they will probably soon its publication on paper. Here, a selection of some of the responses.

This is this year's provocative result of the question, which is proposed every year, by Edge, a website associated with a literary agent that promotes thinking and discussion of cutting-edge science, arts and literature, who invited his usual collaborators and guests , to think about "What scientific idea is ready to retire?". Some 170 scientists, philosophers, scholars, and writers responded with short essays that can be read online (www.edge.org) and, as has happened in previous years, will surely soon be published as a book. Here, a selection of some of the answers.

Simple Answers
Gavin Schmidt
Climatologist, NASAs Goddard Institute

Information Overload

Jay Rosen
Associate Professor of Journalism, New York University

Markets Are Bad; Markets Are Good
Michael I. Norton
Associate Professor of Marketing, Harvard Business School

The Illusion of Scientific Progress
Paul Saffo
Technology Forecaster

Certainty. Absolute Truth. Exactitude.
Richard Saul Wurman
Founder, TED Conference; eg Conference; TEDMED Conferences

Nicholas G. Carr
Author, The Shallows and The Big Switch

Retire nothing!
Ian McEwan
Novelist; Author, Sweet Tooth; Solar; On Chesil Beach

BoingBoing [1.15.14]

What scientific idea is ready for retirement? Read responses to that inquiry from the likes of Jared Diamond, Richard Dawkins, Alison Gopnik, Max Tegmark, Freeman Dyson, June Gruber, and many other brilliant people over at Edge.org, legendary book agent John Brockman's hub for really smart scientists and other big thinkers to share ideas with each other and the public. From the intro:

Science advances by discovering new things and developing new ideas. Few truly new ideas are developed without abandoning old ones first. As theoretical physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) noted, "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." In other words, science advances by a series of funerals. Why wait that long?


About.com [1.15.14]

Yesterday, I discussed some of this year's "Annual Question" answers at Edge.org, which was:

What scientific idea is ready for retirement?

The responses were a diverse set of scientific ideas from scientists and thinkers across a wide range of disciplines. 

About.com [1.14.14]

It is unrealistic to believe that everything science believes today will continue to be believed into the future ... and I frankly know of no scientist (except perhaps Sheldon Cooper) who believes such a thing. New evidence will cause scientists to revise the thinking and models, and the understanding of reality will shift accordingly. This is as it should be.

But which current assumptions or theories are, here and now, most ready to be retired?

That's the question posed by this year's "annual question" over at Edge.org. You can find the responses from the 176 respondents - amazing intellects from all over science and academia - over at the website, and they are all extremely fascinating. 

New York Times [1.14.14]

"Take a look. No matter who you are, you are bound to find something that will drive you crazy."

...Here are some concepts you might consider tossing out with the Christmas wrappings as you get started on the new year: human nature, cause and effect, the theory of everything, free will and evidence-based medicine.

Those are only a few of the shibboleths, pillars of modern thought or delusions — take your choice — that appear in a new compendium of essays by 166 (and counting) deep thinkers, scientists, writers, blowhards (again, take your choice) as answers to the question: What scientific idea is ready for retirement?

The discussion is posted at edge.org. Take a look. No matter who you are, you are bound to find something that will drive you crazy. ...

...The whole thing runs more than 120,000 words. You can dip into it anywhere and be maddened, confused or stirred. If there is an overall point, it is that there is no such thing as a stupid question. ...

Scientific American [1.14.14]

This year, I was invited to contribute to the Edge Foundation’s Annual Question. Other contributor include Helen Fisher, Irene Pepperberg, Alan Alda, Nina Jablonski, Jay Rosen, and, well 150 others: http://www.edge.org/responses/what-scientific-idea-is-ready-for-retirement

The question was, “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”

My contribution: The Way We Produce And Advance Science

io9.com [1.14.14]

It's the start of the new year, and that means it's time for the Edge's annual Big Question — and as always, it's a provocative one. Nearly 170 prominent thinkers were asked: "What scientific idea is ready for retirement?" Here's what they said.

"Science advances by a series of funerals," writes Edge.org editor John Brockman. "Ideas change, and the times we live in change. Perhaps the biggest change today is the rate of change. What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance?"

National Post [1.14.14]

Unlike rock stars, scientific ideas do not usually burn out. They fade away and outlast their usefulness.

This is what motivated a new survey of 166 scientists and intellectuals, asking which ideas ought to be “retired” from science, not quite because they are wrong, but because they are old and ineffective, like nature versus nurture, left-brain versus right-brain, or carbon footprints.

As with Newton’s law of gravity, which gave way to Einstein’s, many of these ideas were once on the cutting edge, but have since been revealed as incomplete, outdated and bland. So the survey, released Tuesday by U.S. literary agent John Brockman, founder of the web salon Edge.org, is like spring cleaning for science. The point is to clear away junk, but sometimes you rediscover something useful under the couch.

El Mundo [1.14.14]

Each year, the magazine Edge.org poses a question to the brightest minds on the planet. On this occasion, the editor John Brockman and his team has raised the following question: What scientific idea is time to retire? In the prestigious intellectual survey involved scientists from the likes of British biologist Richard Dawkins and the novelist Ian McEwan.

As explained in the Brockman own The Observer , Edge.org was founded in 1996 as the online version of The Reality Club, an informal meeting of intellectuals between 1981 and this year were cited in Chinese restaurants, artist studios , investment banks, dance halls, museums, halls and other places. "

Although events have moved into cyberspace, the spirit of Reality Club remains in the lively discussions back and forth on topical today pivots on intellectual debate issues, "says Brockman.

"The online salon Edge.org is hosted on a living document of the millions of words he produced conversation Edge in the last 15 years. Available for free to all Internet users."

To summarize the vision that inspires the draft annual Edge question, Brockman quotes a sentence of James Lee Byars: "To achieve great things, you have to look for extraordinary people."

"Through the years, Edge.org has had a very simple criterion for choosing their partners. Sought people whose creative work has expanded our understanding of what and who we are. Some are best selling authors and celebrities of mass culture. Most do not. preferstimulate work on the cutting edge of culture and research ideas that are not usually exposed. interested in us' think smart ', not the topics of' received wisdom, "Brockman says.

Here are some of the best answers to the Edge.org annual question, assigned to the online edition of THE WORLD through an agreement with the digital magazine. The responses of all participants in this project can be read in English here .

Worcester Telegram [1.12.14]

Great investors, such as Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger, don't just read annual reports or books on investing. Reading broadly can make you a smarter person and a better investor:

"This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking" by John Brockman (Harper Perennial, $16). Short concepts are presented by some 150 influential thinkers, covering biology, technology, negotiation and more.