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THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER
Part 2 - January 12, 1998
Dedicated to the Memory of James Lee Byars




"Most human beings perform effortlessly a variety of tasks that are computationally extremely difficult (such as seeing, holding objects and understanding speech); but they are generally poor and vary enormously in tasks that are computationally easy (such as solving puzzles, doing mathematics and science). Given that the latter skills are apparently as biologically valuable as the former, does this disparity reveal a fundamental limitation of the human brain?"

COLIN BLAKEMORE
Neuroscientist, Oxford; President, British Association for the Advancement of Science; author of The Mind's Brain.



"Quantum mechanics was (and is) such a shock because it contradicts beliefs about physical reality that we didn't even know we had, beliefs so deeply embedded in the language of everyday speech that their contradictions seem not so much false as simply nonsensical. When we contact alien intelligences, will the effect on our ideas of mental reality be as profound as those of quantum mechanics on our ideas of physical reality."

SIDNEY COLEMAN
Physicist, Harvard University.



"How can we learn to work with metaphor so that it serves rather than enthralls us?"

"Can we hope to build a Grand Universal Theory of Ideas?"

"Who holds the translation black box which will allow the subjective to talk to the objective?"

LIZ ELSE
Editor at New Scientist.



"Why does history matter?"

KATIE HAFNER
Technology Correspondent, New York Times; author of Where Wizards Stay Up Late.



"What is the evolutionary advantage of the universality of mysticism in human societies? could it have played a vital role when populations were small, and widely dispersed, but now is outdated for modern global societies?"

DONALD JOHANSON
Paleoanthropologist at Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University; author of Lucy; The Beginnings of Humankind.



"We are hurtling toward an immersive, networked virtual reality, driven by two unstoppable trends ever faster chips, and the global compulsion to be connected via the Internet. This 'Second Web' will open new territories for imagination and social interaction, unfettered by the real world's geography, physics, or time. On the wall of this new cave, what will humans dream to paint?"

JOHN McCREA
Web pioneer; Director of Marketing for the Cosmo Software division of Silicon Graphics.



"Can we learn to die?"

HANS-JOACHIM METZGER
Co-editor and translator of the German edition of the writings and lectures of Jacques Lacan.



"What are the powers, and the limits, of human intuition?"

DAVID G. MYERS
Psychologist at Hope College; author of The Pursuit of Happiness.



"Is there such a thing as narrative complexity?"

MICHAEL NESMITH
Artist, writer, and business man; former cast member of "The Monkees".



"Is 'self' necessary to life?"

"Is a sense of 'self' necessary to consciousness?"

"What would a consciousness without a sense of 'self' be like?"

GEORGE F. SMOOT
Research astrophysicist, Lawrence Berkeley Lab, UC Berkeley; coauthor of Wrinkles in Time.



"The main reason I have not sent you a question is that I can not think of one worth sending. So maybe my appropriate question is 'What question should I ask?' The one I wish I could identify would be of great intellectual or practical interest, and I (or someone) would have some hope of solving it. Peter Medawar once defined science as 'the art of the soluble'. This is an example of a definition that may be formally correct but does not help anyone trying to find out what science is, but it makes a good point. For a problem to be scientifically important it has to be soluble. How many angels can dance on a pinhead may be a problem of great interest to some people, but it is not soluble."

GEORGE C. WILLIAMS
Evolutionary biologist (emeritus) at SUNY -Stony Brook; author of Adaptation and Natural Selection; The Ponyfish's Glow.



"If tragedy + time = comedy, what is the formula for equally therapeutic music? Do (Blues) musicians reach a third person perspective similar to that found in meditation, mind-altering drugs, and genius?"

DELTA WILLIS
Writer; author of The Sand Dollar & the Slide Rule; The Hominid Gang.



"Why do people believe in things for which there is no evidence and would it be a mistake to try and persuade them not to?"

LEWIS WOLPERT
Biologist at University College, London; author of The Triumph of the Embryo ; The Unnatural Nature of Science.



Introduction | World Question Center Part 1