CULTURE

THE WORLD THROUGH INSTITUTIONAL LENSES

[9.12.12]

The issue is that when you look at the world from these sorts of institutional lenses, identifying problems becomes relatively easy. Solving them becomes very hard. It's no mystery how you get economic growth. You need to provide opportunities and incentives. But how do you make that political equilibrium? How do you make it so that everybody in society actually agrees and abides by a system that provides those incentives and opportunities even if it's not in their short-term interests? Those are the real challenges and that's exactly the sorts of issues we're seeing in Europe, it's the sorts of issues we're seeing in the United States, it's the sorts of issues we're seeing in Turkey. The problems are reasonably easy to identify. Developing solutions to them is hard because you cannot develop the solutions from the outside. It's not an engineering problem. At the end of the day you really need the grassroots solution to it. You really need people themselves to start taking part in the political process because any solution you impose from above is not going to stick unless it has the support of the people, unless the people themselves are the ones who push for it, who demand it, and who implement that solution.
 

DARON ACEMOGLU is the Killian Professor of Economics at MIT. In 2005 he received the John Bates Clark Medal awarded to economists under forty judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge. He is the author of Why Nations Fail.

Daron Acemoglu's Edge Bio Page



[1 hour 4 minutes]


HOW CULTURE DROVE HUMAN EVOLUTION

[9.4.12]

Part of my program of research is to convince people that they should stop distinguishing cultural and biological evolution as separate in that way. We want to think of it all as biological evolution. 

JOSEPH HENRICH is an anthropologist and Professor of Psychology and Economics. He is the Canada Research Chair in Culture, Cognition and Coevolution at University of British Columbia.

Joseph Henrich's Edge Bio Page


[39:00 minutes]

[ED. NOTE: This conversation with Joe Henrich was conducted in Vancouver for Edge by  Jennifer Jacquet.]


HOW CULTURE DROVE HUMAN EVOLUTION

[JOSEPH HENRICH:] The main questions I've been asking myself over the last couple years are broadly about how culture drove human evolution. Think back to when humans first got the capacity for cumulative cultural evolution—and by this I mean the ability for ideas to accumulate over generations, to get an increasingly complex tool starting from something simple. One generation adds a few things to it, the next generation adds a few more things, and the next generation, until it's so complex that no one in the first generation could have invented it. This was a really important line in human evolution, and we've begun to pursue this idea called the cultural brain hypothesis—this is the idea that the real driver in the expansion of human brains was this growing cumulative body of cultural information, so that what our brains increasingly got good at was the ability to acquire information, store, process and retransmit this non genetic body of information.


We've begun to pursue this idea called the cultural brain hypothesis—the idea that the real driver in the expansion of human brains was this growing cumulative body of cultural information.


WHAT IS VALUE? WHAT IS MONEY?

Topic: 

  • CULTURE
http://vimeo.com/80815481

"We have always had this tension of understanding the world, at small spatial scales or individual scales, and large macro scales. In the past when we looked at macro scales, at least when it comes to many social phenomena, we aggregated everything. Our idea of macro is, by an accident of history, a synonym of aggregate, a mass in which everything is added up and in which individuality is lost. What data at high spatial resolution, temporal resolution and typological resolution is allowing us to do, is to see the big picture without losing the individuality inside it."

WHAT IS VALUE? WHAT IS MONEY?

[8.28.12]

We have always had this tension of understanding the world, at small spatial scales or individual scales, and large macro scales. In the past when we looked at macro scales, at least when it comes to many social phenomena, we aggregated everything. Our idea of macro is, by an accident of history, a synonym of aggregate, a mass in which everything is added up and in which individuality is lost. What data at high spatial resolution, temporal resolution and typological resolution is allowing us to do, is to see the big picture without losing the individuality inside it.

CESAR HIDALGO is an assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab, and faculty associate at Harvard University’s Center for International Development.  His work focuses on improving the understanding of systems by using and developing concepts of complexity, evolution, and network science. He is also the founder and driving force behind Cambridge Nights, a series of online video interviews with academics who discuss the way in which they view the world.

Cesar Hidalgo's Edge Bio Page



[44:08 minutes]


WHAT IS VALUE? WHAT IS MONEY?

[CESAR HIDALGO:] I've been thinking about a variety of things. One of the things that I come across a lot is this idea of big data, or the use of data. Whether it's just hype, or whether it's going to be something deeper, something useful. There's a big promise on our newfound ability to collect large amounts of data and I can illustrate that through a few examples. I think that our ability to collect data  is opening an increase in resolution that is unprecedented. We are able to see systems that we have looked at many times before. But we're able to see them in much more detail, and my belief is that increase in detail is not cosmetic.

A NEW KIND OF SOCIAL SCIENCE FOR THE 21st CENTURY

[8.21.12]

These three things—a biological hurricane, computational social science, and the rediscovery of experimentation—are going to change the social sciences in the 21st century. With that change will come, in my judgment, a variety of discoveries and opportunities that offer tremendous prospect for improving the human condition.

It's one thing to say that the way in which we study our object of inquiry, namely humans, is undergoing profound change, as I think it is. The social sciences are indeed changing. But the next question is: is the object of inquiry also undergoing profound change? It's not just how we study it that's changing, which it is. The question is: is the thing itself, our humanity, also changing?

NICHOLAS A. CHRISTAKIS is a Physician and Social Scientist, Harvard University; Coauthor (with James Fowler) of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

Nicholas A. Christakis's Edge Bio Page
 


[40:59 minutes]


A NEW KIND OF SOCIAL SCIENCE FOR THE 21st CENTURY

[NICHOLAS A. CHRISTAKIS:] In the 20th century, there was a tremendous expectation, or appreciation, for the role that the biological and the physical sciences could play in improving human welfare and human affairs. We had everything from the discovery of nuclear power to plastics to, in biology, the discovery of new drugs, beginning with penicillin (which is one of the gigantic feats of human ingenuity ever). We had this phenomenal progress that was made in the sciences, in the physical and the biological sciences.

In the 21st century, the social sciences offer equal promise for improving human welfare. The advances that we have made and will be making, especially in understanding human behavior and its very deep origins, will be translated into interventions of diverse sorts that will have a much bigger impact in terms of improving human welfare than many of the prior examples that I gave. 

LINKED DATA: WEB SCIENCE AND THE SEMANTIC WEB

[8.15.12]

A lot of people assume that Semantic Web consists only of the metadata, the data at the top of an article that indicates who it was written by. But no, it's the data. It's the government spending data. It's where the potholes are and where space ships are. It's where cars are. It's where taxis are and it is all the data that makes a map. It's the data that makes all the charts, and it's the data that makes industry run. It's the data that makes governments run. It's not just metadata, and it's not data just sucked from the Web.

TIM BERNERS-LEE is a British engineer and computer scientist and MIT professor credited with inventing the World Wide Web, making the first proposal for it in March 1989. Berners-Lee is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees the Web's continued development. He is also the founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, and is a senior researcher and holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). He is a director of The Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI), and a member of the advisory board of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. 

THE REALITY CLUB: Anonymous, George Dyson, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Dave Winer, Douglas Rushkoff, Esther Dyson, Nicholas Carr, Brian Eno, Craig Mundie



[55:58 minutes]


LINKED DATA: WEB SCIENCE AND THE SEMANTIC WEB

[TIM BERNERS-LEE:] The questions I'm asking myself vary depending on the hat I'm wearing at the time. I'm switching hats quite a lot these days. If I'm at the Web Foundation, then I'm thinking about what are the smallest, simplest things that we can do, what buttons can we push so that things change, so that the people who are the 80 percent of the world, who are not really members of the society of people using the web and not members of the information society, how can we get them up to speed, perhaps 15 years earlier than they would otherwise?      

When it comes to the standards, the impact of the open web platform, what missing pieces of the architecture are there? I have just come from a WPC Technical Advisory Group meeting where we were talking about the effect that every web page will basically become a computer. How is that going to change the world? What will we be able to build on top of that? What extra pieces in architecture do we have to put in now so that we'll be able to do really amazing things? There are other things where I wear research hats and hacking hats and there are lots of questions out there.

If you look back at the Internet, the Internet is a layer on which the Web was built. Since I built the web on top of the Internet —the Internet really is the service, the Internet provides to the web of transmitting packets around—it has remained basically the same. The code I wrote back then, 20 years ago, would still basically run today. You can write programs using this net in the same way. That is amazing because the speed at which those packets go, the bits per second when we connect to the Internet has gone up by a million or a billion times, depending on where we are.    

The Internet has changed massively when it comes to speed, but not in terms of the function that it provides. Even though lots of things inside it may have changed and the sorts of equipment would look very different, it's still called the Internet. I think the same may happen of the Web. The Web is also a platform. It's built on top of the Internet, but other things are built on top of that: social networking sites, search services, buying and selling, auctions. All kinds of things are built on top of the Web.

LINKED DATA: WEB SCIENCE AND THE SEMANTIC WEB

Topic: 

  • CULTURE

"A lot of people assume that Semantic Web consists only of the metadata, the data at the top of an article that indicates who it was written by. But no, it's the data. It's the government spending data. It's where the potholes are and where space ships are. It's where cars are. It's where taxis are and it is all the data that makes a map. It's the data that makes all the charts, and it's the data that makes industry run. It's the data that makes governments run. It's not just metadata, and it's not data just sucked from the Web."

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