A year ago I emailed the participants of The Third Culture Mail List for help with a project which was published on EDGE as "The World Question Center." I asked them: "what questions are you asking yourself?".

The World Question Center was published on December 30th. On the same day The New York Times ran an article "In an Online Salon, Scientists Sit Back and Ponder" which featured a selection of the questions. Other press coverage can be found in EDGE In The News.

The project was interesting, worthwhile....and fun.

This year, beginning on Thanksgiving Day, I polled the list on (a) "What Is The Most Important Invention In The Past Two Thousand Years?" ... and (b) "Why?".

I am pleased to publish below* the more than one hundred responses in order of receipt. I expect many more entries and, in the spirit of The Reality Club, robust discussion and challenges among the contributors.

Happy New Year!!


p.s. I get the last word.

(*Please note that the length of this document is 41,000 words which prints out to about 75 pages.)



It's ever more delectable that the Edge Foundation— the network of prominent scientists and intellectuals founded by literary agent John Brockman in New York — has worked against the reciprocal ignorance of literary cultures and sciences of each other. Successfully. If you take the algorithms developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, which measure the value of links, Edge's website ranks seven on a global scale of ten. The New York Times ranks nine, eBay at eight. — Sueddeutche Zeitung

January 7, 1999

Wired News

Top-Level Think Tank Goes Public
John Brockman's invitation-only salon for scientific thinkers opens a public forum on Feed. 
By Steve Silberman

One of the Net's most prestigious, invitation-only free-trade zones for the exchange of potent ideas is opening its doors. A little. .....Starting Thursday, two or three selected dialogs a month at Edge -- founded in 1996 by author and literary agent John Brockman -- will be open for public reading and discussion in a special area on Feed.

January 7, 1999

Die Zeit (German Text) 

Brainstorming In The Club Of Thinkers
(Partial, rough English Translation) 
by Ulrich Schnabel und Urs Willmann

Could one inspire German scientists for such a brainstorming? Hardly. In German it is already difficult to find a good translation for this neural activity, leading to fantasy an fun. Brainstorming: "procedure to find the best solution of a problem by collecting spontaneous incidents (of the coworkers)", torments itself the Duden, the leading German dictionary. You can imagine the result.

January 7, 1999|

What Changed the World? Suggestions for Top Inventions
by Lee Dye — Special to ABCNEWS.COM

That question was presented on Thanksgiving Day to Nobel laureates and other heavy thinkers by New York author and literary agent John Brockman. Brockman, who presides over an eclectic gathering of scientists and science buffs, started publishing the answers this week on the group's Web site. More than 100 participants have taken the bait so far, and their answers are as varied, and in some cases as strange, as the participants themselves.....This is not a group that accepts limitations gladly. Some fudged on the dates. Some eschewed the notion of an invention as some sort of gadget, opting instead for such things as the development of the scientific method, mathematics or some religions.

January 5, 1998

The Mother of All Inventions
Richard Dawkins, Stewart Brand, Joseph Traub and others answer the question: What was the most important invention of the past two thousand years?

This special feature marks the first collaboration betweenFEED and Edge, John Brockman's invitation-only Internet forum, where hundreds of the world's leading scientists and thinkers share their thoughts on issues ranging from the meaning of numbers to genetics to affirmative action. Readers can visit the Edge site for even more nominations, and an post their own suggestions in the Loop. — The Editors 

January 5, 1998


"What's the Mother of All Inventions"
By Scott Rosenberg

The list makes for an enjoyable read — if you can get over the participants' utter inability to remain within the question's 2000-year bounds. Suggesting that the most important invention of this era is the spirit of rebellion against arbitrary rules.

January 4, 1998
World News Tonight — ABC News

Comments by Peter Jennings

January 4, 1998
Newsweek Magazine — Newsweek.com

"The Power of Big Ideas"
By Sharon Begley

Was the light bulb more important than the pill? An online gathering of scientists nominates the most important inventions of the past 2,000 years. Some of their choices might surprise you.

Newsweek on Air — Related Audio

Interview by David Alpern

January 4, 1999
The Wall Street Journal — The Wall Street Journal Interactive 
(Subscription Required)

"The Nominees for Best Invention Of the Last Two Millennia Are . . ."
By David Bank
Staff Reporter ofThe Wall Street Journal

John Brockman is the premier literary agent of the digerati, so when he asked 1,000 scientists and other techno-thinkers to suggest the most important invention of the past 2,000 years, the responses sounded a lot like proposals for yet another millennial book. 

January 4, 1999
The Daily Telegraph

The Pill and the Birth of Invention:
From Hay and Mozart to the Internet and clocks, scientists nominatre man's major achievements,
says Roger Highfield

Nobel laureate Prof. Philip Anderson, philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, biologist Prof Richard Dawkins and Sir John Maddox are among the 100 or so contributors who have nominated inventions randing from tha atomic bomb and board games to the Internet, Hindu-Arabic number system and anaethesia.

January 4, 1999

" Welcome to 1999!"
by Dave Winer

Congratulations to John Brockman and the people at edge.org. This is an incredible source of new thoughts. I highly recommend it to DaveNet readers.....Sites like www.edge.org show what can be done when there's moderation and thoughtfulness and a little bit of editing. We can learn from each other. The world is not filled with bullshit. There are interesting new ideas, and new perspectives on old ideas