1998 : WHAT QUESTIONS ARE YOU ASKING YOURSELF?

Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Associate Research Scientist, Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan

"The major change through the prehistory of our species is the evolution of our brain, the development of a social organ that makes human culture (and language) part of our biology. My question is whether we can ever transcend the consequences and free ourselves of the biological limitations that have been imposed in the process."

Paleoanthropologist; Author, Lone Survivors

"What was the key factor in the success of Homo sapiens compared with other human species such as the Neanderthals?"

Biologist; Editor at New Scientist; Author, The Link

"How predictive is the much sought-after 'Theory of Everything' intended to be? Presumably it will show why the formation of fundamental particles was inevitable, and why these were bound to form into atoms, and presumably predict galaxies. But will it show that life was bound to appear? Or consciousness? How powerful will it be really ÷ or can it be? What is the Universe really capable of?"

"What is religion? Is it necessary? Can we devise a religion for the 21st century and beyond that is plausible and yet avoids banality ÷ one that people see the need for? What would it be like?"

biologist; director of research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, and professor of cognitive science

"Why is our western civilization so reluctant to accept subjective, first-hand experience as fundamental data? In close association: why the reluctance to consider one's experience as a realm to be explored with a discipline just as rigorous as the one invented by science for material phenomena?"

Media Analyst; Documentary Writer; Author, Present Shock

"Can human beings achieve spontaneous morality by opening ourselves further to some basic expression of nature, or must we create and adopt a set of moral guidelines?"

Co-Founder of Suck.com

"Is it more useful to theorize a new conception of self that emerges from the widespread adoption of networked technology, or to seek to problematize it?"

Author, The Math Book, The Physics Book, and The Medical Book Trilogy

"A chimpanzee cannot understand Bessel functions or the theory of black holes. Human forebrains are a few ounces bigger than a chimp's, and we can ask many more questions than a chimp. Are there facets of the universe we can never know? Are there questions we can't ask?"

Writer and Television Producer; Author, Remembering Our Childhood: How Memory Betrays Us

"Why does our 'humanness' keep getting in the way of rational decision-making?"

research astronomer at the Joule Physics Laboratory at the University of Salford

"Why are most individuals and all human societies grossly under-achieving their potentials?"

Linguist, translator and scientist

"What is needed regarding the understanding of the mental process so that we will be able to produce thought computationally?"

Psychologist & Computer Scientist; Engines for Education Inc.; Author, Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools

"How can the implicit beliefs that are imparted to us in childhood be 'reasoned with' in an educational context."

Astrophysicist and the author of Silicon Snake Oil (1995) and The Cuckoo's Egg (1989).

"How shall I teach my children?"

"How does the brain represent the meaning of a sentence?"

climatologist, is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences

"I often wonder÷sometimes despair÷whether it will be possible to solve long term, global problems(global warming being my current focus) until we can overcome collective denial, which in turn, may not become conscious until we grapple with personal myths. I question whether the eventual loss of half the other species on Earth will even be enough to overcome personal escapism that has gone collective÷what I sometimes think of a 'psychological fractal'. Perhaps that's not even a question, but it occupies my mind a lot."

Hi-Tech Industry Consultant; Former Executive at Apple Computer and Microsoft Corporation

"Why not?"

Research Professor/Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Author, Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping, and Beyond

"Do emotions contribute to intelligence, and if so, what are the implications for the development of a technology of 'affective computing?' "

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Senior Research Scientist, New York University; Author, Planetary Dreams

"Do exotic life forms, made of very different materials than those used by life on earth, occur elsewhere in the Universe?"

Science Writer; Consultant; Lecturer, Copenhagen; Author, The Generous Man

"How much of what we as persons can experience in life can we share with fellow human beings?"

Former President, The Royal Society; Emeritus Professor of Cosmology & Astrophysics, University of Cambridge; Fellow, Trinity College; Author, From Here to Infinity

"Can our ever-more-integrated society avoid becoming more vulnerable to high-tech extremists and terrorists?"

Software Engineer, Computer Scientist, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

"Does reality have real numbers?"

Curator, Serpentine Gallery, London; Editor: A Brief History of Curating; Formulas for Now; Co-author (with Rem Koolhas): Project Japan: Metabolism Talks

"Pont d'Ironie?"

Communications Expert; Author, Smart Mobs

"Given what we know now about the origins, history, and impacts of technology, is it possible to design, deploy, and use technologies in ways that help humans be more human, instead of more like components in a machine?"

Physicist, Perimeter Institute; Author, Time Reborn

"Fundamentally, is the flow of time something real, or might our sense of time passing be just an illusion that hides the fact that what is real is only a vast collection of moments?"

Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University; Author, Revelations

"Why are religions still vital?"

neurobiologist, is Professor of Biology and Director, Brain and Behaviour Research Group

"How to ensure that we develop sciences and technologies that serve the people, are open to democratic scrutiny and which assist rather than hinder humans to live harmoniously with the rest of nature?"

Editor and publisher of Wired and HotWired, and cofounder and CEO of Wired Ventures, Inc

"Is there a happiness gene, and is it dominant?"

Social and Cognitive Scientist; CEU Budapest and CNRS Paris; Co-author (with Deirdre Wilson), Meaning and Relevance

"How to articulate the natural and the social sciences without being either driven or blocked by ideological agendas?"

Founding Webmaster of EDGE

"Which industries will shake out, or disappear in the new industrial revolution fomented by the advent of the world wide web, intranets, and extranets? How do we help those who are afraid of these new technologies to benefit from them, rather than be crushed by those who understand?

Emeritus Professor of Psychology, London School of Economics; Visiting Professor of Philosophy, New College of the Humanities; Senior Member, Darwin College, Cambridge; Author, Soul Dust

"Why is music such a pleasure?"

Physicist; Cosmologist, ASU; Author, A Universe from Nothing

"Are the laws of physics a logical coherent whole, so that with any small change the entire framework would crumble? Or are there a continuum of possibilities, only one of which happens to have been selected for our observed universe?"

Managing Editor of Release 1.0

"What will happen when the male, scientific, hierarchical, control-oriented Western culture that has dominated Western thought integrates with the emerging female, spiritual, holographic, relationship-oriented Eastern way of seeing?"

Independent Investigator and Theoretician; Author, The Nurture Assumption; No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality

"How can we reconcile our desire for fairness and equity with the brutal fact that people are not all alike?"

professor of astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton

"What will be the framework for a scientific study of the subject-object split?"

Fellow at The Rockridge Institute; Author, The Little Blue Book

"How do neural computation principles and the neural networks of our brains, together with the relevant aspects of experience, account for the details of all human concepts, especially their structure, how they are learned, and how they are used in thought and expressed in language?"

Professor of Interaction Design, Engineering Department, Stanford University

"How come we don't understand how photosynthesis works?"

Psychologist and Biologist, Harvard University: Author, Moral Minds

"It is now possible for functional parts of one animal's brain to be transplanted into another's. A tasty question for future research, one with volatile biomedical and ethical implications, is whether the memories and goals and desires of one animal can be transplanted as well?"

Chairman of Counsel Connect

"What are the implications of the science of complex adaptive systems for the nature of law and of legal personhood?"

Computer Scientist; Musician; Author, Who Owns The Future?

"How can minds, lives, and relationships be enhanced by information systems in unforeseen ways?"

"How can scientific and technological culture be articulated so that fewer people are driven to embrace superstitions, and so that technology is more likely to be designed and judged on humanistic terms?"

Chief News and Features Editor

"In 500 years, how will the phenotypic, genotypic and physical spaces occupied by life descended from that on earth have changed?"

"How best can we combine democracy and expertise to make the living conditions of the people of earth, especially those currently in hardship, better and more equitable?"

Professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico

"Is there a way to enlarge our separate tribal loyalties, to include all our fellow humans?"

Journalist, New York Times

"If humanity ever encounters an alien intelligence, will we be able to communicate with it ÷ or even realize that it is there?

Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago

"With the ever-growing dominance of corporate forms of control in everyday social life, how do we reconcile our notions of personal liberty and autonomy rooted in Enlightenment political thought?"

Professor of Life Sciences, Director, Center for Evolution & Medicine, Arizona State University; Coauthor, Why We Get Sick

"How does the capacity for low mood give a selective advantage?"

Physicist, Computer Scientist, Chairman of Applied Minds, Inc.; author, The Pattern on the Stone

"Where is the frontier?"

Digital librarian of the internet

"What happens when a the library of human knowledge can process what it knows and provide advice? In other words what happens when the Library of Alexandria, Computing, and the Oracle at Delphi merge?"

Professor of Quantum Mechanical Engineering, MIT; Author, Programming the Universe

"'What is the question I am asking myself?' ÷ After contemplating this for hours the only honest answer I could come up with was, 'What is the question I am asking myself?'"

Professor of psychology and a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

"Can we use our current technology to bring C. P. Snow's two cultures closer together? For example, could we produce a vision-oriented, computer-based version of the cross-cultural artifact envisioned in Hermann Hesse's Das Glasperlenspiel?"

Professor of Biological Sciences, Physics, Astronomy, University of Calgary; Author, Reinventing the Sacred

"What must a physical system be such that it can act on its own in an environment."

Royal Commissions on environmental pollution and genetic manipulation

"How can we know when and what we do not know?"

Journalist; Director, Stevens Institute of Technology

"Does anyone who is not a fool or fundamentalist still believe in utopia?"

Senior Maverick, Wired, Author, Cool Tools; What Technology Wants; "The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World" (Wired)

"What does technology want?"

Science Journalist; Covers cyber-security for The New York Times; Author, What the Dormouse Said; Co-author, Takedown.

"Do new computing technologies create or destroy jobs?"

Emeritus Professor, Philosophy department of the University of Calgary, Alberta Canada

"Why and how do we jump to conclusions in mathematics?"

Information Scientist and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Law, the University of Southern California; Author, Noise

"Do we or even can we know the joint multi-variable probability density function (f(x1, ... , xn)) that describes any realworld event?"

Author, Machines Who Think, The Universal Machine, Bounded Rationality, This Could Be Important; Coauthor (with Edward Feigenbaum), The Fifth Generation
Professor of Computer Science, Columbia University; coauthor, Complexity and Information

"When posterity looks back on the 20th Century from the perspective of a hundred years, what will they see as our greatest successes and worst follies?"

Catalyst, Information Technology Startups, EDventure Holdings, Former Chariman,Electronic Frontier Foundation and ICANN; Author: Release 2.1

"What makes a soul? And if machines ever have souls, what will be the equivalent of psychoactive drugs? of pain? of the physical / emotional high I get from having a clean office?"

Existence is Non-Time, Non-Sequential, and Non-Objective

"Is there such a thing as narrative complexity?"

Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; Author,Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

"However appropriate it may be for the economy, the 'market model' is a grossly inadequate model for the rest of human society. With the decline of religious conviction and the slow pace of changes in the legal code, how can we nurture persons and institutions that can resist a purely market orientation in all spheres of living?"

Professor, Anesthesiology and Psychology Associate Director, Center for Consciousness Studies The University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona

"Are life and consciousness purely emergent phenomena, or subtly connected to a fundamental level of the universe?"

Physicist

"The best questions were asked long ago. For example, Fermi's question, 'Where are they?', and Blake's question, 'How do you know but ev'ry bird that cuts the airy way is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?' My question is, 'What goes on inside the head of a baby?' "

experimental astrophysics and observational cosmology

"Is 'self' necessary to life?"

"Is a sense of 'self' necessary to consciousness?"

"What would a consciousness without a sense of 'self' be like?"

Computer Scientist, Yale University; Chief Scientist, Mirror Worlds Technologies; Author, America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled our Culture (and ushered in the Obamacrats)

"When will the nation's leading intellectuals come clean & admit that Biblical doctrine (on women, nature, homosexuality, the absolute nature of moral truth and lots of other topics) makes them cringe and they are henceforth NOT Jews and NOT Christians, and the hell with old time religion?"

Technology Correspondent, New York Times; Author, Mother Daughter Me

"Why does history matter?"

was an evolutionary biologist; professor emeritus of ecology

"The main reason I have not sent you a question is that I can not think of one worth sending. So maybe my appropriate question is 'What question should I ask?' The one I wish I could identify would be of great intellectual or practical interest, and I (or someone) would have some hope of solving it. Peter Medawar once defined science as 'the art of the soluble'. This is an example of a definition that may be formally correct but does not help anyone trying to find out what science is, but it makes a good point. For a problem to be scientifically important it has to be soluble. How many angels can dance on a pinhead may be a problem of great interest to some people, but it is not soluble."

Theoretical Physicist

"Is superstring theory (or M-theory, as it has become) the long-sought unified theory of all the elementary particles and forces of nature?"

"How can we improve our reward system for excellence in filtering, interpreting, and synthesizing the vast body of so-called information with which we are deluged."

Paleoanthropologist at Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University; author of Lucy; The Beginnings of Humankind

"What is the evolutionary advantage of the universality of mysticism in human societies? could it have played a vital role when populations were small, and widely dispersed, but now is outdated for modern global societies?"

Paleontologist; Author, Hominid Gang

"If tragedy + time = comedy, what is the formula for equally therapeutic music? Do (Blues) musicians reach a third person perspective similar to that found in meditation, mind-altering drugs, and genius?"

Contributing Editor at Reason

"How can we teach each other to embrace pluralism, and to trust each other with the new tools that promote privacy and freedom of speech?"

Web pioneer; Director of Marketing for the Cosmo Software division of Silicon Graphics

"We are hurtling toward an immersive, networked virtual reality, driven by two unstoppable trends ÷ ever faster chips, and the global compulsion to be connected via the Internet. This 'Second Web' will open new territories for imagination and social interaction, unfettered by the real world's geography, physics, or time. On the wall of this new cave, what will humans dream to paint?"

Professor of Biology

"Why do people believe in things for which there is no evidence and would it be a mistake to try and persuade them not to?"

Professor of Biology at Schumacher College

"Can science survive the sell-out to technology and the corporate sector?"

Professor Emeritus of Economics and Mathematical Behavioral Sciences, University of California

"Why are decentralized processes ubiquitous in nature and society and why are they so poorly understood that people will sacrifice their autonomy and freedom for authoritarian, centralized solutions (gods, governments, and gurus) to personal and social problems?"

Science Historian; Author, Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe; Darwin Among the Machines

"Why not trees in the oceans?"

Paleontologist; Author, Darwin

"Will we find the will and the way to limit our population growth before the Biosphere does it for us?"

Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy, Dartmouth College; Author, The Island of Knowledge

"At what point a complex organic macro-structure becomes 'alive' ?"

Professor of Geography, University of California Los Angeles; Author, The World Until Yesterday

"What do collapses of past societies teach us about our own future?"

Co-editor and translator of the German edition of the writings and lectures of Jacques Lacan

"Can we learn to die?"

Professor of Biology, Amherst College; Author, Plague Time

"As biological and traditional forms of cultural evolution are superseded by electronic (or post-electronic) evolution, what will be the differentially propagating "units" and the outcome of the natural selection among them?"

Principal founders of the fields of computational neuroscience, connectionist cognitive science, and artificial neural network research

"How do intelligent beings learn to adapt successfully on their own to a rapidly changing world without forgetting what they already know?"

Columnist; Broadcaster in areas of technology and computing

"Is psychic phenomenon just wishful thinking and can we ever prove it exists or doesn't exist using scientific methodology."

Social Psychologist; Hope College; Author, Psychology, 10th Edition

"What are the powers, and the limits, of human intuition?"

Retired Director of the American Institute of Physics

"Will the 'theory of everything' be a theory of principles, not particles? Will it invoke order from above, not below?"

Cosmologist; Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics, MIT; Inaugural Recipient, Fundamental Physics Prize; Author, The Inflationary Universe

"It appears likely that the universe that we can observe is just one of an infinity of 'pocket universes,' which are continually being created by a process called eternal inflation. These pocket universes are believed to split off from a region of 'false vacuum', which expands so quickly that its volume increases forever, despite the loss of volume to the formation of pocket universes. The problem is to find a reliable way to extract predictions from this picture. The properties of the pocket universes can vary, and with an infinity of trials essentially anything will happen an infinite number of times. We need to learn how to distinguish the probable from the improbable, but so far such a probability calculation has never been given a precise definition."

Roboticist; Panasonic Professor of Robotics (emeritus) , MIT; Founder, Chairman & CTO, Rethink Robotics; Author, Flesh and Machines

"What is the mathematical essence that distinguishes living from non-living, so that we can engineer a transcendence across the current boundaries?"

Theoretical physicist; cosmologist; astro-biologist; co-Director of BEYOND, Arizona State University; principle investigator, Center for the Convergence of Physical Sciences and Cancer Biology; author, The Eerie Silence and The Cosmic Jackpot

"What is information and where does it ultimately originate?"

Pulitzer prize winning science writer for the New York Times

"Exactly how much of nature can we trash and burn and get away with it?"

Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin; Coauthor: Why Women Have Sex; Author, The Dangerous Passion

"Do humans have evolved homicide modules ÷ evolved psychological mechanisms specifically dedicated to killing other humans under certain contexts?"

Evolutionary Biologist; Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford; Author, The Selfish Gene; The God Delusion; An Appetite For Wonder; and (forthcoming) A Brief Candle In The Dark

"What might a second specimen of the phenomenon that we call life look like?"

Mathematical Physicist, U.C. Riverside

"To what extent can we achieve a more just society through the use of better economic indicators, and to what extent is our choice of economic indicators just a reificiation of the wishes of those who are already economically powerful?"

Internet Entrepreneur; Founder, Mahalo.com

"If Mosaic had never supported pictures (read: the Internet didn't become a commercial medium), what would I be doing right now?"

Neuroscientist; Collège de France, Paris; Author, The Number Sense; Reading In the Brain

"How can we even begin to formulate the right questions about consciousness?"

Theoretical physicist; Author, The End of Time

"As a theoretical physicist, the interpretation of quantum mechanics and the nature of time are what occupy me most, but, as a mystified sentient being, I should like to ask the child's question: Are the most remarkable things in life ÷ sights, sounds, colors, tastes ÷ really just subjective epiphenomena with no role or significance in the 'objective' world?"

Theoretical Neurobiologist; Affiliate Professor Emeritus, University of Washington; Author, Global Fever

"How will minds expand, once we understand how the brain makes mind?"

Philosopher; Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Co-Director, Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University; Author, Intuition Pumps

"How on earth does the brain manage its division of labor problem ÷ that is, how do the quite specialized bits manage to contribute something useful when they get 'recruited' by their neighbors to assist in currently dominant tasks (or is this 'recruitment' an illusion ÷ are they not helping but just complaining about the noise caused by their hyperactive neighbors)?"

Co-founder and Co-chair, Electronic Frontier Foundation

"Will we ever generate enough bandwidth to convey prana?"

Editor-in-Chief, Nature

"Any musically aware listener will know of music that breaks out of established forms or syntax to profound effect ÷ my personal favourites include Beethoven'sEroica symphony, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde,Schoenberg's Erwartung, Debussy's Apres midi d'un faune. .. What is the most that we can ever say objectively about what those composers are discovering? What are the limits of objective description using science, mathematics and musical analysis? More generally, how do these structures in sound make sense? As of now, I see only very preliminary hypotheses in response to this last question, no possibility of much more given current understanding and techniques, and no consensus as to the ultimate constraints on such an answer."

Physicist, University of Oxford; Author, The Beginning of Infinity; Recipient, Edge Computation Science Prize

"Throughout its history, the scientific community has shown great integrity in resisting the onslaught of anti-rationalism. How can it now be persuaded to show the same integrity in regard to scientism?"

Chief Executive, Medical Research Council;Waynflete Professor of Physiology, University of Oxford

"Most human beings perform effortlessly a variety of tasks that are computationally extremely difficult (such as seeing, holding objects and understanding speech); but they are generally poor and vary enormously in tasks that are computationally easy (such as solving puzzles, doing mathematics and science). Given that the latter skills are apparently as biologically valuable as the former, does this disparity reveal a fundamental limitation of the human brain?"

Cosmologist; Physicist; Professor of Mathematical Science, Director, Millennium Mathematics Project, University of Cambridge; Author, The Book of Universes

"Is the Universe a great mechanism, a great computation, a great symmetry, a great accident, or a great thought?"

"Is there enough information in the observable universe to identify the fundamental laws of Nature beyond all reasonable doubt?"

"Are there other minds that think about us?"

Professor Emerita, George Mason University; Visiting Scholar, Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College; Author, Composing a Further Life

"How can we build a new ethics of respect for life that goes beyond individual survival to include the necessity of death, the preservation of the environment, and our current and developing scientific knowledge?"

Biologist; Senior Science Writer, Bioversity International; Managing Director, Green Ink

"When will we learn to ask 'And then what' as a matter of course?"

Physicist, Harvard University

"Quantum mechanics was (and is) such a shock because it contradicts beliefs about physical reality that we didn't even know we had, beliefs so deeply embedded in the language of everyday speech that their contradictions seem not so much false as simply nonsensical. When we contact alien intelligences, will the effect on our ideas of mental reality be as profound as those of quantum mechanics on our ideas of physical reality.

Emeritus Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UC-Irvine; Novelist, Shipstar

"How can considering the longest time scales in human endeavor lead us to deal with the approaching crises of greenhouse warming and species diversity?"

Senior Vice President, Product Strategy, Pearson

"If Gordon Moore was correct in his prediction that the amount of information storable on semiconductor chips would double every 18 months, then over time is time more or less valuable?"

Senior Consultant (& former Editor-in-Chief & Publishing Director), New Scientist; Author, After the Ice

"Is a greater understanding of the way the brain works going to give me a new language to explain what it is like to be me? Will the words we use now one day seem as strange as the 'humours' we once used to explain the state of our bodies? And what will be the consequence if a scientist gains the power to know me better than I can know myself?"

Founder, The Whole Earth Catalog; Co-founder, The Well; Co-Founder, The Long Now Foundation; Author, Whole Earth Discipline

"How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare?"

Psychologist; Director, Quality of Life Research Center, Claremont Graduate University; Author, Flow

"How can we sustain young people's interest in asking questions such as these? Does the emphasis on personal success and security divert psychic energy from taking the long-term view on things? How long can we keep curiosity and creativity alive in an increasingly materialistic culture?"

Nobel Laureate; Physicist

"What is the crucial distinction between inanimate matter and an entity which can act as an 'agent', manipulating the world on its own behalf; and how does that change happen?"