Edge in the News

Marcelo Gleiser, NPR [2.12.14]

What should we be worried about? Real Scenarios that keep scientists up at night. This is the title of the new book edited by the literary agent John Brockman, founder of the website Edge.org, a discussion forum that includes novelist Ian McEwan, musician Brian Eno, physicists Frank Wilczek and Freeman Dyson, as well as yours truly, 13.7's Tania Lombrozo, and a couple of hundred of other academics and intellectuals. Every year, Brockman asks this group a "question." Answers in the form of short essays are compiled in paperback volumes with the intention of providing food for thought, as well as showcasing some of the cutting-edge ideas in science and technology and how they shape our culture. This is year, nothing less than 150 answers were published, of which I provide a meager sample here.

Gulf News [2.12.14]

The telescope, that allows us to see far in space and thus back in time, giving us an unprecedented understanding of our own existence, is a far superior tool

Reese regards the internet as the greatest human invention of all time. In barely two decades, it has become so essential to our lives and work that one cannot imagine doing almost anything without it. Indeed, in a book that comes out this week, a collection of essays titled What Should We Be Worried About? by a hundred or so prime thinkers of the world, philosopher Daniel Dennett and historian of science and technology George Dyson consider the possible breakdown of the internet as the issue that they are most worried about. ...

Brain Pickings [2.11.14]

A cross-disciplinary kaleidoscope of intelligent concerns for the self and the species.

In his famous and wonderfully heartening letter of fatherly advice, F. Scott Fitzgerald gave his young daughter Scottie a list of things to worry and not worry about in life. Among the unworriables, he named popular opinion, the past, the future, triumph, and failure "unless it comes through your own fault." Among the worry-worthy, courage, cleanliness, and efficiency. What Fitzgerald touched on, of course, is the quintessential anxiety of the human condition, which drives us to worry about things big and small, mundane and monumental, often confusing the two classes. It was this "worryability" that young Italo Calvino resolved to shake from his life. A wonderful 1934 book classified all of our worries in five general categories that endure with astounding prescience and precision, but we still struggle to identify the things truly worth worrying about — and, implicitly, working to resolve — versus those that only strain our psychoemotional capacity with thedeathly grip of anxiety.

In What Should We Be Worried About? (public library), intellectual jockey and Edge founder John Brockman tackles this issue with his annual question — which has previously answered such conundrums as the single most elegant theory of how the world works (2012) and the best way to make ourselves smarter (2011) — and asks some of our era’s greatest thinkers in science, psychology, technology, philosophy, and more to each contribute one valid "worry" about our shared future. Rather than alarmist anxiety-slinging, however, the ethos of the project is quite the opposite — to put in perspective the things we worry about but shouldn’t, whether by our own volition or thanks to ample media manipulation, and contrast them with issues of actual concern, at which we ought to aim our collective attention and efforts in order to ensure humanity’s progress and survival. . . .

. . .What Should We Be Worried About? is an awakening read in its entirety. For more of Brockman’s editorial-curatorial mastery, revisit the Edge Questions compendiums from 2013 and 2012, and see Nobel-winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman on the marvels and flaws of our intuition.

Le Monde [2.10.14]

LES COULISSES DE LA PAILLASSE. Quelles sont les théories scientifiques qui devraient être mises au placard ? C'est la question qu'a posée dans son "défi" annuel le site Edge (Edge.org), un forum de discussion sur la science : le but est d'accélérer le progrès de nos connaissances.

Le débat scientifique peut en effet donner lieu à des situations de blocage, comme celle décrite par Max Planck, un des pères de la mécanique quantique. Il expliquait qu'il avait été incapable de persuader le chimiste germano-balte Wilhelm Ostwald que la deuxième loi de la thermodynamique (augmentation de l'entropie) ne pouvait pas être déduite de la première (la conservation de l'énergie). "Cette expérience me donnait aussi l'occasion d'apprendre un fait remarquable : une nouvelle vérité scientifique ne triomphe pas en convainquant ses opposants et en leur faisant voir la lumière, mais plutôt parce que ses opposants finissent par mourir, et arrive une nouvelle génération qui est familière avec la nouvelle idée."

Svvoboda.org [2.4.14]

Responding to the "question of the Year" from the portal Edge.org physics absentia argument, one of them it is time to pension.

Reservations Edge.org annually sets a pressing question to answer in that short essay form invites the world's leading scientists, philosophers, writers and other public intellectuals. Issue last year was "what we should be afraid of?" And almost exactly a year ago, we published an overview of the responses to it. 

It's time a new issue, and it's "What scientific idea or concept it is time to scrap?" . Nearly two hundred public intellectuals sent their essays that expressed the often very bold ideas, for example, to abandon such concepts as culture, race, common sense and economic growth. Special attention is given correspondence discussion between physicists, which are widespread among survey respondents. This implicit argument could not take place, if not physics community was divided into two camps: the romantics and visionaries on the one hand and the pragmatists and advocates strict falsifiable in the sense of science Karl Popper - c the other side.

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."

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.

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.

Scientific American [1.20.14]

Kate ClancyJohn Horgan and Ashutosh Jogalekar offered interesting replies to the annual Big Question from Edge’s John Brockman: What scientific idea is ready for retirement?

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]

Von Andrian Kreye
No. 15, Montag, 20. Januar 2014

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. 

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.

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.