Edge in the News: 2017

De Morgen [2.22.17]

Yves Petry is a writer. The new debate series De Morgen, uppercut, he challenged journalist Joel De Ceulaer for an interview.

Dear Joel De Ceulaer,

Perhaps you are familiar with the Edge Foundation, an organization dedicated to the spread of a so-called third culture. Intended becomes the dialogue between scientists and the public on issues of common interest: who we are, where we come from and where we are going. The first and second culture, the literary and scientific, the traditional domain of the respective alphas and betas. The third culture begins when the latter take on the role of intellectual audience and their ideas can get outside the walls of their institution influence.

John Brockman, founder of the Edge Foundation, says that he wants fast and smart thinking prevail "over the local anesthetic of wisdom." This does put a certain tone. Intellectuals from the first culture - writers, philosophers, psychoanalysts, the friends of literature, say - be dismissed as a kind of doctors from a prewetenschappelijk era, which at most can numb the pain of ignorance verbal first aid kit but not cured. A reading public, thirsting for knowledge, consult your doctor urgently serious!

The sense of cosmic dimensions in which I move has freed me from certain pretensions. But on closer inspection it was by no means a reason to deny myself the pleasure of captivating literature

Personally, I was more familiar for I had heard the term with that third culture. The book by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker I met decades ago. I am addressing you because you know those books to me. Only we draw there apparently opposite conclusions regarding the position of literature.

Found myself aforementioned book fascinating reading. Often I was touched by the concern spend the authors to their style and the composition of their story. Facts and understanding, all well and good, but it should also be brought compelling way, otherwise bored. Like a novel. Undoubtedly, science has something changed fundamentally my self-image. The evolutionary and cosmic dimensions in which I move, the only conceivable complexity that underlies even the slightest act I performed - a sharper awareness of it has freed me from certain pretensions and my I definitely instilled a deep humility as to what the know and can. But on closer inspection it was by no means a reason to deny myself the pleasure of fascinating literature.

Gerd Gigerenzer, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [6.15.17]

Not only did the victims of death and injuries attack them; It is at least as important for them to sow the seeds of fear. Fear makes us fellow players in the terrorist scenario.

Matt Ridley, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [6.9.17]

Research and growing prosperity provide us with ever healthier living conditions. But the eradication of the parasites also has a shadow side.

Stand News [6.6.17]

I graduated from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Science and Technology three years ago. I have been a secondary school teacher and have been writing philosophical articles on the Internet. Recently, I was asked to write on the topic of The Third Culture, borrowed from John Brockman's "third culture".

Dinero [6.2.17]

To the annual question of The World Question Center some time ago to the community of intellectuals of Edge.org (online version of Reality Club): "What scientific concept would improve the cognitive toolbox of all?" Writer and thinker Evgeny Morozov answered that "a constant awareness of the Einstellung Effect would be a useful addition."

Morozov recalled that the Einstellung Effect refers to the mental state that predisposes us to solve a new problem by relying on methods that have been effective in the past instead of seeking an optimal solution for that particular problem, sometimes punishing our performance or affecting the result. It is true that we almost always end up solving the problem, but in the process we may have missed the opportunity to do it in a more effective, faster, more efficient way.

Business Day (South Africa) [5.31.17]

This is the urgent context for Know This. Even as it distills humankind’s capacity for knowledge and unveils learnings of the workings of the universe — from billion-year megatrends to infinitesimal quantum mechanics — it juxtaposes this astonishing progress with humankind’s wilful ignorance about how our actions blight the planet.

[Know This] encapsulates a convincing case for mandatory science literacy and it should be prescribed reading for government cabinets, company boards, and teachers — anyone shaping policies, people’s attitudes, or prioritising and allocating funds for research and development.

As we understand more, it becomes ever clearer that we live in an incredible world. Much of this is made possible by science, and Know This proves there are still more miracles to come.

Steven R. Quartz, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [5.30.17]

Wars and disasters all around. Is the world still to save? The neuroscientist Steven R. Quartz urges to rest: findings of research are often diametrically opposed to our gut feeling.

La Nación [5.28.17]

Century after century the number of innovations that modify the human life grows; Companies must learn to deal with extreme uncertainty and have managers of "fast pivoting."

This Will Change Everything, a compilation of more than 125 essays published by Edge editor John Brockman in 2012 (and has an incredible current), thinkers Richard Dawkins, Freeman Dyson, Brian Eno and Steven Pinker speculate about a single event with the potential to completely change the history of humanity in the short or medium term.

Peter Gabriel, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [5.4.17]

The activity of the brain becomes more and more precise for science. Genesis star Peter Gabriel sees a future in which thoughts can be made visible and digitized.

Christopher J. Anderson, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [5.1.17]

Five billion people are about to go online. The Internet is establishing itself as a decisive power factor - the question of who is winning is still open.

The Star - Malaysia [4.25.17]

This week's roundup of books highlights a diverse and exciting array of nonfiction titles.


Know This: Today's Most Interesting and Important Scientific Ideas, Discoveries, and Developments

With so much news on scientific developments inundating us today, how do we tell which are truly revolutionary? And what makes them so important? To help condense the most significant of the new theories and discoveries, John Brockman asked 198 of the world's finest minds which recent scientific ideas they found most significant. From technology to medical research to neuroscience to genetics, this book addresses a wide range of scientific developments, from the likes of Jared Diamond, Steven Pinker, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Carlo Rovelli, and Peter Gabriel.

The New York Review of Books [4.4.17]

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds
by Michael Lewis
Norton, 362 pp., $28.95

In 2007, and again in 2008, Kahneman gave a masterclass in “Thinking About Thinking” to, among others, Jeff Bezos (the founder of Amazon), Larry Page (Google), Sergey Brin (Google), Nathan Myhrvold (Microsoft), Sean Parker (Facebook), Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla), Evan Williams (Twitter), and Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia). At the 2008 meeting, Richard Thaler also spoke about nudges, and in the clips we can view online he describes choice architectures that guide people toward specific behaviors but that can be reversed with one click if the subject doesn’t like the outcome. In Kahneman’s talk, however, he tells his assembled audience of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs that “priming”—picking a suitable atmosphere—is one of the most important areas of psychological research, a technique that involves offering people cues unconsciously (for instance flashing smiley faces on a screen at a speed that makes them undetectable) in order to influence their mood and behavior. He insists that there are predictable and coherent associations that can be exploited by this sort of priming. If subjects are unaware of this unconscious influence, the freedom to resist it begins to look more theoretical than real.

The Silicon Valley executives clearly saw the commercial potential in these behavioral techniques, since they have now become integral to that sector. …

Yuri Milner, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [3.30.17]

The life-friendly planet Earth is an exceptional event - but it is endangered. Experienced minds, therefore, play with the idea of ​​outsourcing our civilization partly or completely into the universe.

Alison Gopnik, Neue Zürcher Zeitung [3.3.17]

We should turn our gaze from the leather-ruffled mammoths, says the evolutionary biologist Alison Gopnik. Grandmothers and children—they are the true bearers of civilization.

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.

El Espectador [2.4.17]

Each year, the director of the website edge.org, John Brockman, asks a question to a group of intellectual collaborators, many of them belonging to the world of science but also personalities from the world of art, technology and of the music. The question he asked on January 1, 2017 was: Which term or scientific concept should be better known? According to psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker the second law of thermodynamics should be better known.

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. 

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