Edge in the News: 2017

De Morgen [2.22.17]

If we want to understand the reality, Mr Petry, we shoot anything with our intuition. Then we need figures, research, understanding, interpretation, knowledge. Not infrequently state of scientific knowledge even totally at odds with human intuition - just think of the theory of evolution, which few understand really, or the quantum theory, which even dizzy connoisseurs start. But you probably know all of them, because you have thoroughly read the exponents of the third culture. Yet? Yes? May I ask why you are still infatuated with psychoanalysis? Steven Pinker and others you should have learned that Sigmund Freud was a pitiful quack, who kept his intuition for the truth. A bit like you, sometimes.

Los Angeles Times [2.21.17]

We are in a particularly tribal moment in American politics in which “the enemy of my enemy is my ally” is the most powerful argument around.

John Tooby, the evolutionary psychologist, recently wrote that if he could explain one scientific concept to the public it would be the “coalitional instinct.” In our natural habitat, to be alone was to be vulnerable. If “you had no coalition, you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, pre-existing and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership,” Tooby wrote on Edge.org. “This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird.” 

We overlook the hypocrisies and shortcomings within our coalition out of a desire to protect ourselves from our enemies.

Today, the right sees the left as enemies — and, I should say, vice versa. ...

Michael Shermer, Scientific American [2.15.17]

. . . AI doomsday scenarios are often predicated on a false analogy between natural intelligence and artificial intelligence. As Harvard University experimental psychologist Steven Pinker elucidated in his answer to the 2015 Edge.org Annual Question “What Do You Think about Machines That Think?”: “AI dystopias project a parochial alpha-male psychology onto the concept of intelligence. They assume that superhumanly intelligent robots would develop goals like deposing their masters or taking over the world.” It is equally possible, Pinker suggests, that “artificial intelligence will naturally develop along female lines: fully capable of solving problems, but with no desire to annihilate innocents or dominate the civilization.”

Jon Kleinberg, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [2.5.17]

Three people are standing in front of a painting in the museum, each one taking a picture of it. The art student copies it with brush and paint; The professional photographer bans it on the film in its analog camera; The tourist presses on the button of her smartphone. Which of these images is different from the other two?

The art student has to spend more work on her copy; But in a sense the tourist is with the smartphone of cross-country skiers. Color on canvas, just like the bit of exposed film, is a purely physical representation; A chemical flower on a susceptible medium. The image can not exist independently of this physical embodiment. In contrast, the image stored in the smartphone is essentially numeric. In an approximate way, the camera divides its field of view into a grid of tiny cells in the smartphone and stores a set of numerical values ​​which represent the intensity of the colors in each of these cells; These numbers are the ones that are transmitted - in compressed form - when the picture is sent to friends or placed on the Internet.

Le Monde [2.4.17]

Each year, the prestigious journal online Edge.org ( @edge ) requests to dozens of contributors, mostly famous artists, thinkers and scientists, to answer any question. . . . 

This January, the question was: "What scientific term or concept should be better known? " On the menu, 206 answers covering both physics and biology or the social sciences. There is no question of mentioning all of them, but many contributions revolve around psychology and the cognitive sciences, exploring in particular the notion of bias.