March 5, 2014
Daniel Kahneman turns 80 today (March 5, 2014). On this occasion, Edge is pleased to reprise some of his contributions to our pages.
Steven Pinker, following Kahneman's talk at the 2011 Edge Master Class, made the following comments during the Q@A:
"If somebody were to ask me what are the most important contributions to human life from psychology, I would identify this work [by Kahneman & Tversky] as maybe number one, and certainly in the top two or three. In fact, I would identify the work on reasoning as one of the most important things that we've learned about anywhere. When we were trying to identify what should any educated person should know in the entire expanse of knowledge, I argued unsuccessfully that the work on human cognition and probabilistic reason should be up there as one of the first things any educated person should know."
One way to consider the long and illustrious career of a great thinker is not as a summation, but as a commission, one that give us permission to move forward in certain ways. (Think Newton's "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.")
Kahneman's longtime colleague Richard Thaler, suggests asking Edgies who work in fields including, but not limited to, psychology, cognitive science, behavioral economics, law, medicine, the following questions while also asking them to include inspired leaps off of his shoulders, not just application of his ideas.
"How Has Kahneman's Work Influenced Your Own? What Step Did It Make Possible?"
We look forward to receiving and publishing responses on Edge.
DANIEL KAHNEMAN is the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2013. He is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology, Princeton, and Author of Thinking Fast and Slow. (Daniel Kahneman's Edge Bio Page)
Millions of people have been asked the question, how satisfied are you with your life? That is a question to the remembering self, and there is a fair amount that we know about the happiness or the well-being of the remembering self. But the distinction between the remembering self and the experiencing self suggests immediately that there is another way to ask about well-being, and that's the happiness of the experiencing self.
A SHORT COURSE IN THINKING ABOUT THINKING
Edge Master Class
Daniel Kahneman, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Katinka Matson, Nathan Myrhvold, Peter Diamandis, Dean Kamen, W. Daniel Hillis, George Smoot, Karla Taylor, Jimmy Wales, Salar Kamangar, George Dyson, Seth Lloyd, Tim O'Reilly, Sergey Brin
Today I want to talk a little about our social and moral intuitions and I want to present a case that they're rapidly failing, more so than ever. Let me start with an example. Recently, I collaborated with economist Rob Frank, roboticist Cynthia Breazeal, and social psychologist David DeSteno. The experiment that we did was interested in looking at how we detect trustworthiness in others.
We had people interact—strangers interact in the lab—and we filmed them, and we got the cues that seemed to indicate that somebody's going to be either more cooperative or less cooperative. But the fun part of this study was that for the second part we got those cues and we programmed a robot—Nexi the robot, from the lab of Cynthia Breazeal at MIT—to emulate, in one condition, those non-verbal gestures. So what I'm talking about today is not about the results of that study, but rather what was interesting about looking at people interacting with the robot.
David Pizarro is Associate Professor of Psychology, Cornell University, specializing in moral judgement.
I'm going to be talking today about some recent work in the field of experimental philosophy. But before I talk about what this actual recent work has discovered I want to say something briefly about what this field is.
What is the field of experimental philosophy? Experimental philosophy is a relatively new field—one that just cropped up around the past ten years or so, and it's an interdisciplinary field, uniting ideas from philosophy and psychology. In particular, what experimental philosophers tend to do is to go after questions that are traditionally associated with philosophy but to go after them using the methods that have been traditionally associated with psychology.
Joshua Knobe is an Experimental Philosopher; Associate Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Yale University.
KEVIN KELLY is Senior Maverick at Wired magazine. He helped launch Wired in 1993, and served as its Executive Editor until January 1999. He is currently editor and publisher of the popular Cool Tools, True Film, and Street Use websites. His most recent books are Cool Tools, and What Technology Wants.
[1 hour; 9 minutes]
by John Brockman
A few weeks ago David Carr profiled Kevin Kelly on page 1 of the New York Times Business section. He wrote that Kelly's pronouncements were "often both grandiose and correct." That’s a pretty good summary of Kevin Kelly's style and his prescience.
For the thirty years I've known him, Kelly has been making bold declarations about the world we are crafting with new technologies. He first began to attract notice when he helped found Wired as the first executive editor. "The culture of technology," he notes, "was the prime beat of Wired. When we started the magazine 20 years ago, we had no intentions to write about hardware—bits and bauds. We wrote about the consequences of new inventions and the meaning of new stuff in our lives. At first, few believed us, and dismissed my claim that technology would become the central driver of our culture. Now everyone sees this centrality, but some are worried this means the end of civilization."
The biggest change in our lives is the rate of change and while for many, Facebook and Twitter are a fact of life today. it's interesting to note that today (February 4th) marks only the 10th anniversary of the founding of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg. When, during that same month, Forbes Magazine published their 2004 Billionaires List, it occured during the Edge Dinner in Monterey, California. Larry Page, present at dinner, made the list for the first time. When he showed me the Forbes headline, it was on his Blackberry pager. And it wasn't until 2006, just 8 years ago, that Twitter was founded by Ev Williams and his colleagues. If you read your news electronically at that time, most likely it was on a pager. "Sharing" was something you did at a Chinese restaurant.
Kelly recently successfully published an over-sized book based on his blog Cool Tools. He is one of the few actually making a living from a blog, while he is also reinstating print as a great publishing medium (Carr’s point). He doesn’t just pontificate; he innovates himself. He was one of the founders, for example, of the “quantified self” movement.
Kelly is well aware that his complete embrace of what he calls "The Technium", is a lightning rod for criticism. But, he points out that "we are still at the beginning of the beginning. We have just started to make a technological society. The technological changes in the next 20 years will dwarf those of the last 20 years. It will almost be like nothing at all has happened yet."
In the meantime Kelly is doing what he's been up to for decades, acting as a sensing and ruddering mechanism for the rest of us, finding his way through this new landscape.
On the road to Munich in January for DLD14, the 10th annual DLD conference (Digital-Life-Day) run by Steffi Czerny and Lukas Kubina for Hubert Burda Media. The theme this year: "Content and Context". It was the fifth time Edge has been asked to participate. (See below for links to our previous DLD co-events.)
This year the Edge conversation was on "information" from the Neandertal DNA sequenced by Svante Pääbo, the founder of the field of ancient DNA, to the multi-particle entanglement states of physicist Anton Zeilinger, which have become essential in fundamental tests of quantum mechanics and in quantum information science, most notably in quantum computation. In addition, Edge's roving editor, Jennifer Jacquet, was present for a session on "Time's Role in the Tragedy of the Commons" in which she developed themes in her work recently presented on Edge.
ON INFORMATION: AN EDGE CONVERSATION
Svante Pääbo, Anton Zeilinger, John Brockman
Information is the foundation of our universe—and life itself. Cultural impresario John Brockman hosts a Third Culture conversation, spanning science and the humanities.
SVANTE PÄÄBO the founder of the field of ancient DNA, is Director, Department of Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig. Among his achievements are the first demonstration of DNA survival in an ancient Egyptian mummy, the first amplification of ancient DNA, the first study of the DNA from the Iceman found in the Alps, and the first retrieval of DNA from a Neanderthal in 1997. Four years ago, he initiated and organized an effort to sequence the entire Neanderthal genome. The first scientific overview of the genome was published in 2009 and was front page news word-wide. He is the author of Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes. Svante Pääbo's Edge Bio Page
ANTON ZEILINGER, a physicist, is Professor of Physics at the Quantum Optics, Quantum Nanophysics, Quantum Information Institute of University of Vienna. He is President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the author of Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation. Zeilinger is a pioneer in the field of quantum information and of the foundations of quantum mechanics. He realized many important quantum information protocols for the first time, including quantum teleportation of an independent qubit, entanglement swapping (i.e. the teleportation of an entangled state), hyper-dense coding (which was the first entanglement-based protocol ever realized in experiment), entanglement-based quantum cryptography, one-way quantum computation and blind quantum computation. His further contributions to the experimental and conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics include multi-particle entanglement and matter wave interference all the way from neutrons via atoms to macromolecules such as fullerenes. Anton Zeilinger's Edge Bio Page
TIME'S ROLE IN THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS
How do tensions between individuals and groups play out? Between high-consuming people and low? Between the now and the future? Game theory offers answers.
JENNIFER JACQUET is Clinical Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU, researching shame,cooperation and the tragedy of the commons. She is also Edge's Roving Editor (see interviews with Adam Alter and Joseph Heinrich).
Her work was recently featured on Edge after Nature Climate Change published a study by Jacquet and her colleagues at two Max Planck Institutes on "Delayed Gratification Hurts Cimate Change Cooperation". Jennifer Jacquet's Edge Bio Page
In July, Edge invited a group of social scientists to participate in an experimental project, a dry run for a possible annual Edge event focusing on the state of the art of what the social sciences have to tell us about human nature. For want of something more serious, I called it "The Head Conference" or "HeadCon". This is not a subject that's new to me ...
Out-take from the trailer I made for the 1968 movie "Head" (Columbia Pictures; Directed by Bob Rafelson; Written by Jack Nicholson)
I asked the participants the following:
"What's new in your field of social science in the last year or two, and why should I care? Why do I want or need to know about it? How does it change my view of human nature?"
I asked them to focus broadly and address the major developments in their field (including but not limited to their own research agenda). My goal was to get new, fresh, and original up-to-date field reports on different areas of social science.
The speakers are Sendhil Mullainathan: "What Big Data Means For Social Science"; June Gruber: "The Scientific Study of Positive Emotion"; Fiery Cushman: "The Paradox of Automatic Planning"; Rob Kurzban: "P-Hacking and the Replication Crisis"; Nicholas Christakis: "The Science of Social Connections"; Joshua Greene: "The Role of Brain Imaging In Social Science"; Laurie Santos: "What Makes Humans Unique"; Joshua Knobe: "Experimental Philosophy and the Notion of the Self"; David Pizarro: "The Failure of Social and Moral Intuitions"; Daniel C. Dennett: "The De-Darwinizing of Cultural Change. Also participating: Jennifer Jacquet, Daniel Kahneman, Anne Treisman.
HeadCon '13, is the beginning of an experiment in online video designed to capture the dynamic of an Edge event, focusing on the interaction of ideas, and of people. We recruited Film Director Jason Wishnow, Director of Film and Video at TED from 2006- 20012 (co-creator of TED Talks) to help us develop this new iteration of EdgeVideo. Wishnow filmed the ten sessions in split-screen with five cameras, presenting each speaker and the surrounding participants from multiple simultaneous camera perspectives.
We are rolling out the project, consisting of nearly six hours of EdgeVideo and a 58,000-word transcript, one talk at a time through early March.
The great biologist Ernst Mayr (the "Darwin of the 20th Century") once said to me: "Edge is a conversation." And like any conversation, it is evolving. And what a conversation it is!
Every year, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman summons some of our eras greatest thinkers and unleashes them on one provocative question, whether its the single most elegant theory of how the world works or the best way to enhance our cognitive toolkit. This year, he sets out on the most ambitious quest yet, a meta-exploration of thought itself: Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction (public library) collects short essays and lecture adaptations from such celebrated and wide-ranging (though not in gender) minds as Daniel Dennett, Jonathan Haidt, Dan Gilbert, andTimothy Wilson, covering subjects as diverse as morality, essentialism, and the adolescent brain.
Thinking is excellent and mind-expanding in its entirety. Complement it with Brockman's This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking, one of the best psychology books of 2012.
"For ... readers interested in keeping up with what serious thinkers are thinking about thinking, this book offers nourishing food for thought". —Kirkus Reviews
Contributors: Daniel C. Dennett, Philip Tetlock, Gerd Gigerenzer, Daniel Gilbert, Vilayanur Ramacahndran. Timothy D. Wilson, Sarah-Jane Blakemore, Bruce Hood, Simon Baron-Cohen, Gary Klein, Simon Schnall, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Alva Noë, Daniel L. Everett, Jonathan Haidt, Joshua Greene, Sam Harris, Roy Baumeister, Paul Bloo, Daivd Pizarro, Joshua Knobe, Daniel Kahneman
I'm going to talk about some new findings in my field, comparative cognition. I'm interested in what makes humans unique. There are findings that I think are fantastically cool, in that they might be redefining how we think about human nature, but first they're going to pose for us some really interesting new problems.
I'm doing this, in part, because I think already having redefined human nature in the last couple of years is sort of a tall order, and that scared me, but also because I think that open questions about human nature can actually be more fun and I couldn't help but use this audience to kind of get some feedback on this stuff.
The findings in comparative cognition I'm going to talk about are often different than the ones you hear comparative cognitive researchers typically talking about. Usually when somebody up here is talking about how animals are redefining human nature, it's cases where we're seeing animals being really similar to humans—elephants who do mirror self-recognition; rodents who have empathy; capuchin monkeys who obey prospect theory—all these cases where we see animals doing something really similar.
Laurie Santos is Associate Professor, Department of Psychology; Director, Comparative Cognition Laboratory, Yale University.
THE 2014 EDGE QUESTION . . .
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?
WHAT SCIENTIFIC IDEA IS READY FOR RETIREMENT?
Ideas change, and the times we live in change. Perhaps the biggest change today is the rate of change. What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance?
[175 essays; 129,000 words;] Geoffrey West, Andrei Linde, Nina Jablonski, Anton Zeilinger, Julia Clarke, Martin Rees, Seirian Sumner, Fiery Cushman, Laurie Santos & Tamar Gendler, Jay Rosen, Alan Guth, Robert Sapolsky, Andrian Kreye, David Berreby, Dean Ornish, Benjamin Bergen, Eric Weinstein, Kai Krause, Gary Marcus, Amanda Gefter, Paul Saffo, Ian Gold & Joel Gold, Dimitar Sasselov, Jamil Zaki, Scott Sampson, Susan Fiske, Alexander Wissner-Gross, Kate Jeffery, Tor Nørretranders, Kiley Hamlin, Oliver Scott Curry, Bruce Parker, Brian Christian, Kate Mills, Athena Vouloumanos, June Gruber, Eduardo Salcedo-Albaran, N.J. Enfield, Kathryn Clancy, Eldar Shafir, Ross Anderson, Ian Bogost, Simon Baron-Cohen, Bart Kosko, Tom Griffiths, Sarah Demers, Stephen Stich, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Roger Highfield, Todd Sacktor, Victoria Wyatt, Ernst Pöppel, Gavin Schmidt, Bruce Hood, David Buss, Nigel Goldenfeld, Steve Giddings, Michael Norton, Catherine Bateson, Laurence Smith, Frank Tipler, Stephen Kosslyn, Brian Knutson, Robert Provine, Gerd Gigerenzer, Paul Bloom, Laura Betzig, Buddhini Samarasinghe, Kurt Gray, Daniel Goleman, Susan Blackmore, Alun Anderson, Martin Nowak, Marcelo Gleiser, David Deutsch, Donald Hoffman, Samuel Arbesman, Gregory Benford, Seth Lloyd, Nicholas Carr, Thomas Metzinger, Alex Holcombe, Leo Chalupa, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Stuart Pimm, Ed Regis, Giulio Boccaletti, Nicholas Christakis, W. Daniel Hillis, Michael McCullough, Gary Klein, Alex "Sandy" Pentland, Luca De Biase, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Jonathan Gottschall, Azra Raza, M.D., Cesar Hidalgo, Aubrey de Grey, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Sherry Turkle, Scott Atran, Patricia Churchland, Gerald Smallberg, Peter Woit, Robert Kurzban, Charles Seife, David Myers, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Roger Schank, Paul Steinhardt, Peter Richerson, Helen Fisher, Abigail Marsh, Lisa Barrett, Irene Pepperberg, Adam Waytz, Andrew Lih, Steve Fuller, Stewart Brand, Gordon Kane, Andy Clark, Melanie Swan, Satyajit Das, Pascal Boyer, Richard Nisbett, Samuel Barondes, Jerry Coyne, Alan Alda, Paul Davies, Neil Gershenfeld, Dan Sperber, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Matt Ridley, Lee Smolin, Sam Harris, A.C. Grayling, Eric Topol, M.D., Timo Hannay, Ian McEwan, Alison Gopnik, Adam Alter, John McWhorter, Freeman Dyson, Emanuel Derman, Haim Harari, Jared Diamond, Carlo Rovelli, Jonathan Haidt, John Tooby, Max Tegmark, Richard Saul Wurman, Edward Slingerland, Christine Finn, Frank Wilczek, Victoria Stodden, Steven Pinker, Howard Gardner, David Gelernter, Rodney Brooks, Douglas Rushkoff, Hugo Mercier, Michael Shermer, Beatrice Golomb, Terrence Sejnowski, Sean Carroll, Daniel Everett, Margaret Levi, Richard Thaler, Tania Lombrozo, Daniel C. Dennett, Maria Spiropulu, Nicholas Humphrey, George Dyson, Kevin Kelly
Thanks to Laurie Santos for suggesting this year's Edge Question and to Paul Bloom and Jonathan Haidt for their refinements. As always, thanks to Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, George Dyson, and Steven Pinker, for their continued support.
Happy New Year!