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THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER
January 1, 1998
Dedicated to the Memory of James Lee Byars




"Given the ability of regulatory proteins to rescue functions between taxa that haven't shared a common ancestor for over 600 million years how do we integrate this into the way we think about the evolution of phenotype?"

JEREMY C. AHOUSE
Works in developmental genetics at University of Wisconsin, Madison.



"Is a greater understanding of the way the brain works going to give me a new language to explain what it is like to be me? Will the words we use now one day seem as strange as the 'humours' we once used to explain the state of our bodies? And what will be the consequence if a scientist gains the power to know me better than I can know myself?"

ALUN ANDERSON
Editor of New Scientist, biologist and author of Science And Technology In Japan.



"What is the crucial distinction between inanimate matter and an entity which can act as an 'agent', manipulating the world on its own behalf; and how does that change happen?"

PHILIP ANDERSON
Nobel laureate physicist at Princeton.



"Exactly how much of nature can we trash and burn and get away with it?"

NATALIE ANGIER
Science writer for The New York Times; author of Natural Obsessions, The Beauty Of The Beastly.



"To what extent can we achieve a more just society through the use of better economic indicators, and to what extent is our choice of economic indicators just a reificiation of the wishes of those who are already economically powerful?"

JOHN BAEZ
Mathematical physicist at University of California, Riverside.



"What if Gutenberg had invented the world wide web instead of the movable type slug? How would the questions scientists chose to ask themselves over the past five centuries, and the language in which they chose to answer, have been different?"

JAMES BAILEY
Former executive at Thinking Machines; author of After Thought.



"As a theoretical physicist, the interpretation of quantum mechanics and the nature of time are what occupy me most, but, as a mystified sentient being, I should like to ask the child's question: Are the most remarkable things in life ÷ sights, sounds, colors, tastes ÷ really just subjective epiphenomena with no role or significance in the 'objective' world?"

JULIAN BARBOUR
Theoretical physicist; author of The Frame Of Mind.



"Will we ever generate enough bandwidth to convey prana?"

JOHN PERRY BARLOW
Co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation; a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead.



"Is the Universe a great mechanism, a great computation, a great symmetry, a great accident, or a great thought?"

"Is there enough information in the observable universe to identify the fundamental laws of Nature beyond all reasonable doubt?"

"Are there other minds that think about us?"

JOHN D. BARROW
Cosmologist, Professor of Astronomy, University of Sussex, UK; author of Theories Of Everything; Pi In The Sky.



"How can we build a new ethics of respect for life that goes beyond individual survival to include the necessity of death, the preservation of the environment, and our current and developing scientific knowledge?"

MARY CATHERINE BATESON
Anthropologist, George Mason University; author Composing A Life; Peripheral Visions.



"How can considering the longest time scales in human endeavor lead us to deal with the approaching crises of greenhouse warming and species diversity?"

GREGORY BENFORD
Physicist, University of California, Irvine; author of Timescape.



"How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of difficult and rare?"

STEWART BRAND
Founder of The Whole Earth Catalog; author of How Buildings Learn.



"Which cognitive skills develop in any reasonably normal human environment and which only in specific socio-cultural contexts?"

JOHN T. BRUER
President, James S. McDonnell Foundation



"What is the mathematical essence that distinguishes living from non-living, so that we can engineer a transcendence across the current boundaries?"

ROD BROOKS
Computer scientist; director of MIT's AI Lab.



"Do humans have evolved homicide modules ÷ evolved psychological mechanisms specifically dedicated to killing other humans under certain contexts?"

DAVID BUSS
Psychologist at University of Texas at Austin; author of The Evolution Of Desire.



"If Mosaic had never supported pictures (read: the Internet didn't become a commercial medium), what would I be doing right now?"

JASON McCABE CALCANIS
Publisher, Silicon Alley Reporter.



"How will minds expand, once we understand how the brain makes mind?"

WILLIAM H. CALVIN Theoretical neurophysiologist, University of Washington; author of The Cerebral Code; How Brains Think.



"Any musically aware listener will know of music that breaks out of established forms or syntax to profound effect ÷ my personal favourites include Beethoven's Eroica symphony, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, Schoenberg's Erwartung, Debussy's Apres midi d'un faune. .. What is the most that we can ever say objectively about what those composers are discovering? What are the limits of objective description using science, mathematics and musical analysis? More generally, how do these structures in sound make sense? As of now, I see only very preliminary hypotheses in response to this last question, no possibility of much more given current understanding and techniques, and no consensus as to the ultimate constraints on such an answer."

PHILIP CAMPBELL
Editor of Nature.



"It's probably the case that intergroup competition was an important part of human evolution and there is increasing evidence that 'ethnicity' may be a correlate of 'modernity.' If ethnicity, and the human use of biological cues (and cultural and linguistic cues) to indicate social identity are parts of our evolutionary legacy, it makes it that much harder to eradicate ethnocentrism and racism. Can we do it? How can we engage our focus on the flip side of competition ÷ cooperation?"

RACHEL CASPARI
Anthropologist at the University of Michigan; coauthor of Race And Human Evolution.



"How can we develop an objective language for describing subjective experience?"

DAVID CHALMERS Philosopher, University of California, Santa Cruz; author of The Conscious Mind.



"When will we learn to ask 'And then what' as a matter of course?"

JEREMY CHERFAS
Biologist and BBC Radio Four broadcaster; author of The Seed Savers Handbook.



"If Gordon Moore was correct in his prediction that the amount of information storable on semiconductor chips would double every 18 months, then over time is time more or less valuable?"

LUYEN CHOU
President and CEO of Learn Technologies Interactive in New York City, an interactive media developer and publisher.



"How can we sustain young people's interest in asking questions such as these? Does the emphasis on personal success and security divert psychic energy from taking the long-term view on things? How long can we keep curiosity and creativity alive in an increasingly materialistic culture?"

MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI



Psychologist, University of Chicago; author of Flow: The Psychology Of Optimal Experience; Creativity.
"What is information and where does it ultimately originate?"

PAUL DAVIES
Physicist, University of Adelaide, Australia; author of The Mind Of God; Are We Alone.



"What might a second specimen of the phenomenon that we call life look like?"

RICHARD DAWKINS
Evolutionary biologist, Oxford; author of River Out Of Eden; Climbing Mount Improbable.



"How can we even begin to formulate the right questions about consciousness?"

STANISLAS DEHAENE
Cognitive neuropsychologist, Institut National de la Santˇ; author of The Number Sense.



"How on earth does the brain manage its division of labor problem ÷ that is, how do the quite specialized bits manage to contribute something useful when they get 'recruited' by their neighbors to assist in currently dominant tasks (or is this 'recruitment' an illusion ÷ are they not helping but just complaining about the noise caused by their hyperactive neighbors)?"

DANIEL C. DENNETT
Philosopher, Tufts University; author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea; Kinds Of Minds.



"Throughout its history, the scientific community has shown great integrity in resisting the onslaught of anti-rationalism. How can it now be persuaded to show the same integrity in regard to scientism?"

DAVID DEUTSCH
Physicist, Oxford University; author of The Fabric Of Reality.



"Why are decentralized processes ubiquitous in nature and society and why are they so poorly understood that people will sacrifice their autonomy and freedom for authoritarian, centralized solutions (gods, governments, and gurus) to personal and social problems?"

ARTHUR DE VANY
Professor, Mathematical Behavioral Sciences Dept., University Of California, Irvine.



"Is justice real?"

THOMAS DE ZENGOTITA
Anthropologist; teaches philosophy and anthropology at The Dalton School and at the Draper Graduate Program at New York University.



"What do collapses of past societies teach us about our own future?"

JARED DIAMOND
Biologist, UCLA Medical School; author of The Third Chimpanzee; Guns, Germs, And Steel



"Is psychic phenomenon just wishful thinking and can we ever prove it exists or doesn't exist using scientific methodology."

JOHN C. DVORAK
Columnist for Pc Magazine; Pc/Computing, Boardwatch.



"What makes a soul? And if machines ever have souls, what will be the equivalent of psychoactive drugs? of pain? of the physical / emotional high I get from having a clean office?"

ESTHER DYSON
President, Edventures Holdings, Inc; publisher of Release 1.0 Newsletter; author of Release 2.0.



"The best questions were asked long ago. For example, Fermi's question, 'Where are they?', and Blake's question, 'How do you know but ev'ry bird that cuts the airy way is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?' My question is, 'What goes on inside the head of a baby?' "

FREEMAN DYSON
Physicist, Institute for Advanced Study; author of Disturbing The Universe; From Eros To Gaia.



"Why not trees in the oceans?"

GEORGE DYSON
Leading authority in the field of Russian Aleut kayaks; author of Baidarka; Darwin Among The Machines.




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