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A UNIVERSE OF SELF-REPLICATING CODE

Conversation:
[3.26.12]
Topic:

"We're missing a tremendous opportunity. We're asleep at the switch because it's not a metaphor. In 1945 we actually did create a new universe. This is a universe of numbers with a life of their own, that we only see in terms of what those numbers can do for us. Can they record this interview? Can they play our music? Can they order our books on Amazon? If you cross the mirror in the other direction, there really is a universe of self-reproducing digital code. When I last checked, it was growing by five trillion bits per second. And that's not just a metaphor for something else. It actually is. It's a physical reality."

 

ADVENTURES IN BEHAVIORAL NEUROLOGY—OR—WHAT NEUROLOGY CAN TELL US ABOUT HUMAN NATURE

Conversation:
[2.21.12]
Topic:

"So here is something staring you in the face, an extraordinary syndrome, utterly mysterious, where a person wants his normal limb removed. Why does this happen? There are all kinds of crazy theories about it including Freudian theories. One theory asserts, for example, that it's an attention seeking behavior. This chap wants attention so he asks you to remove his arm. It doesn't make any sense. Why does he not want his nose removed or ear removed or something less drastic? Why an arm? It seems a little bit too drastic for seeking attention."

 

Infinite Stupidity

Conversation:
[12.15.11]
Topic:

"A tiny number of ideas can go a long way, as we've seen. And the Internet makes that more and more likely. What's happening is that we might, in fact, be at a time in our history where we're being domesticated by these great big societal things, such as Facebook and the Internet. We're being domesticated by them, because fewer and fewer and fewer of us have to be innovators to get by. And so, in the cold calculus of evolution by natural selection, at no greater time in history than ever before, copiers are probably doing better than innovators. Because innovation is extraordinarily hard. My worry is that we could be moving in that direction, towards becoming more and more sort of docile copiers."

 

A Rough Mix: Brian Eno & Jennifer Jacquet An Edge Conversation

Conversation:
[11.22.11]
Topic:

"Here we are in my studio. What I am working on at the moment is a rough mix for a piece of music for a totem pole. Usually one is asked to do music for films but this is for a totem pole. I call this piece of music Jennifer Financial Talk 3 and in fact it's a soundtrack for the project Jennifer is working on which is called a "Shame Totem", and we don't yet know exactly what form this shame totem will be presented in which gives me a few problems as a composer because obviously I would compose differently for different scenarios." —Brian Eno

Throughout the 19th century, native tribes that spanned the north coast of North America erected shame totem poles to signal to the community that certain individuals or groups had transgressed. This art is resurrected with a modernized, garish, digitally rendered 3-D shame pole to represent the most shameful corporations—chosen with the assistance of 500 people based in the U.S. who surveyed about the corporations that have most negatively affected society. —Jennifer Jacquet

 

Thinking About the Universe on the Larger Scales

Conversation:
[11.22.11]
Topic:

"Andrei Linde had some ideas, Alan Guth had some ideas, Alex Vilenkin had some ideas.  I thought I was coming in with this radically new idea that we shouldn't think of the universe as existing on this global scale that no one observer can actually see, that it's actually important to think about what can happen in the causally connected region to one observer, what can you do in any experiment that doesn't actually conflict with the laws of physics, and require superluminal propagation, that we have to ask questions in a way that conform to the laws of physics if we want to get sensible answers."

 

Cities as Gardens

Conversation:
[11.22.11]
Topic:

"Up until 10,000 years ago there were no permanent settlements and all human groups lived by hunting and gathering. Then agriculture was discovered and everything changed. Now a small number of people could supply food for the rest and the first cities arose. Every since that time there has been a steady movement of people out of our original arcadia and into cities, such that now over half the world lives in them. But why given that cities have historically been targets of attack and places of crime and where diseases fester and spread? The answer is that cities have acted as gardens of our prosperity, creativity and innovations and their continued existence is vital to fitting the projected 9 billion people onto this planet. Surprisingly, they are the new 'green centres' of the world."

 

Rethinking "Out of Africa"

Conversation:
[11.12.11]
Topic:

"I'm thinking a lot about species concepts as applied to humans, about the "Out of Africa" model, and also looking back into Africa itself. I think the idea that modern humans originated in Africa is still a sound concept. Behaviorally and physically, we began our story there, but I've come around to thinking that it wasn't a simple origin. Twenty years ago, I would have argued that our species evolved in one place, maybe in East Africa or South Africa. There was a period of time in just one place where a small population of humans became modern, physically and behaviourally. Isolated and perhaps stressed by climate change, this drove a rapid and punctuational origin for our species. Now I don’t think it was that simple, either within or outside of Africa. "

 

Composers as Gardeners

Conversation:
[11.10.11]
Topic:

"My topic is the shift from 'architect' to 'gardener', where 'architect' stands for 'someone who carries a full picture of the work before it is made', to 'gardener' standing for 'someone who plants seeds and waits to see exactly what will come up'. I will argue that today's composer are more frequently 'gardeners' than 'architects' and, further, that the 'composer as architect' metaphor was a transitory historical blip."

 

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