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Whatever anybody says, I feel that the hard problem of consciousness is still very hard, and to try and rest your ethical case on proving something that has baffled people for years seems to me to be not good for animals. Much, much better to say let's go for something tangible, something we can measure. Are the animals healthy, do they have what they want? Then if you can show that, then that's a much, much better basis for making your decisions.

MARIAN STAMP DAWKINS is professor of animal behaviour at the University of Oxford, where she heads the Animal Behaviour Research Group. She is the author of Why Animals Matter.

Marian Stamp Dawkin's Edge Bio Page

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A Conversation with

There's a notorious problem with defining information within physics, namely that on the one hand information is purely abstract, and the original theory of computation as developed by Alan Turing and others regarded computers and the information they manipulate purely abstractly as mathematical objects. Many mathematicians to this day don't realize that information is physical and that there is no such thing as an abstract computer. Only a physical object can compute things.


I think it's important to regard science not as an enterprise for the purpose of making predictions, but as an enterprise for the purpose of discovering what the world is really like, what is really there, how it behaves and why.

DAVID DEUTSCH is a Physicist at the University of Oxford. His research in quantum physics has been influential and highly acclaimed. He is the author of The Beginning of Infinity and The Fabric of Reality.

David Deutsch's Edge Bio Page

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There are many other features in the head that help us become exceptional long-distance walkers and runners. I became obsessed with the idea that humans evolved to run long distances, evolved to walk long distances, basically evolved to use our bodies as athletes. These traces are there in our heads along with those brains.

DANIEL LIEBERMAN is Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. His research combines experimental biology and paleontology to ask why and how the human body looks and functions the way it does. He is especially interested in the origin of bipedal walking, the biology and evolution of endurance running, and the evolution of the human head. He also loves to run.

Daniel Lieberman's Edge Bio Page

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"If we're going to get science policy right, it's really important for us to study the economic benefit of open access and not accept the arguments of incumbents. Existing media companies claim that they need ever stronger and longer copyright protection and new, draconian laws to protect them, and meanwhile, new free ecosystems, like the Web, have actually led to enormous wealth creation and enormous new opportunities for social value. And yes, they did in fact lead in some cases to the destruction of incumbents, but that's the kind of creative destruction that we should celebrate in the economy. We have to accept that, particularly in the area of science, there's an incredible opportunity for open access to enable new business models."

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"One question that fascinated me in the last two years is, can we ever use data to control systems? Could we go as far as, not only describe and quantify and mathematically formulate and perhaps predict the behavior of a system, but could you use this knowledge to be able to control a complex system, to control a social system, to control an economic system?"

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"The issue is that when you look at the world from these sorts of institutional lenses, identifying problems becomes relatively easy. Solving them becomes very hard. It's no mystery how you get economic growth. You need to provide opportunities and incentives. But how do you make that political equilibrium? How do you make it so that everybody in society actually agrees and abides by a system that provides those incentives and opportunities even if it's not in their short-term interests? Those are the real challenges and that's exactly the sorts of issues we're seeing in Europe, it's the sorts of issues we're seeing in the United States, it's the sorts of issues we're seeing in Turkey."

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"Part of my program of research is to convince people that they should stop distinguishing cultural and biological evolution as separate in that way. We want to think of it all as biological evolution."

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"With Big Data we can now begin to actually look at the details of social interaction and how those play out, and are no longer limited to averages like market indices or election results. This is an astounding change. The ability to see the details of the market, of political revolutions, and to be able to predict and control them is definitely a case of Promethean fire—it could be used for good or for ill, and so Big data brings us to interesting times. We're going to end up reinventing what it means to have a human society."

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"We have always had this tension of understanding the world, at small spatial scales or individual scales, and large macro scales. In the past when we looked at macro scales, at least when it comes to many social phenomena, we aggregated everything. Our idea of macro is, by an accident of history, a synonym of aggregate, a mass in which everything is added up and in which individuality is lost. What data at high spatial resolution, temporal resolution and typological resolution is allowing us to do, is to see the big picture without losing the individuality inside it."

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"One of the fundamental questions here is, is extinction a good thing? Is it "nature's way?" And if it's nature's way, who in the world says anyone should go about changing nature's way? If something was meant to go extinct, then who are we to screw around with it and bring it back? I don't think it's really nature's way. I think that the extinction that we've seen since man is 99.9 percent caused by man."

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