Edge in the News

Steven Levy, Medium [1.26.16]

What made the father of artificial intelligence so unforgettable was his extraordinary real-life mind

There was a great contradiction about Marvin Minsky. As one of the creators of artificial intelligence (with John McCarthy), he believed as early as the 1950s that computers would have human-like cognition. But Marvin himself was an example of an intelligence so bountiful, unpredictable and sublime that not even a million Singularities could conceivably produce a machine with a mind to match his. At the least, it is beyond my imagination to conceive of that happening.

But maybe Marvin could imagine it. His imagination respected no borders.

Minsky died Sunday night, at 88. His body had been slowing down, but that mind had kept churning. He was more than a pioneering computer scientist — he was a guiding light for what intellect itself could do. He was also our Yoda. The entire computer community, which includes all of us, of course, is going to miss him.

I first met him in 1982 ... I would run into him here and there over the decades. Sometimes, we’d run into each other and talk; other times I’d hear him speak. In 2002, at asummer gathering at the Connecticut farm of Edge.org’s founder John Brockman, a few top scientists were asked to comment on “their universes.” Minsky’s rambling rejoinder was classic:

“To say that the universe exists is silly, because it’s saying that the universe is one of the things in the universe. . . So we have to conclude that it doesn’t make sense to ask about why this world exists. However, there still remain other good questions to ask, about how this particular universe works.” ...

In recent years, whenever Minsky spoke, he would take on a topic and put an astonishing spin to it, whether it was a theory of why people loved musicso much, a stab at determining what made things funny, or a challenging theory of the nature of health. To the last, he was opening minds with his unparalleled meat machine. ...

Gigamir [1.26.16]

There is a community called Edge, which publishes non-fiction materials written by scientists. In particular, in recent years it has annually announced "the question of the Year" and the answers to it by leading scientists of the world. The question of 2016 was the following: "What do you think is the most interesting recent scientific news? What makes it important? " In response, 198 scientists participated from different fields ... Each question is carefully thought out ... a sort of voiced firsthand digest of the new learned science ...

Manuela Lenzen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [1.21.16]

From Gene-knives and autistic neurons: The Scholars Association "Edge Foundation" asked well-known researchers, what is revolutionizing the sciences.The result is a fascinating kaleidoscope of new knowledge and methods.

The big bang may not have been such a huge thud, as we imagine. Drones revolutionize not only the war, but also the research on wild animals. Two-thirds of all cancers are due to random mutations. And three principles are sufficient to define rationality. All answers to the question placed before the scientists of the "Third Culture" of American literary agent John Brockman: "What is the most interesting scientific news? And what makes them so important?"

For almost twenty years Brockman puts on his online forum edge.org regularly such a question: "What do you think is right, even if you can not prove it?" (2005), "What do you ask yourself?" (1998), "What is the scientific idea is ready for retirement?" (2014). For "Third Culture" is one of Brockman researchers from natural sciences and humanities, discuss their findings in a larger, multi-disciplinary and social context.

In his this year's question Brockman got 198 very different answers. They range from knowledge about the importance of microbes in the digestive tract of new, resource-saving battery technologies and 3D printers in the medical technology to intelligently networked "green cities". The crisis of psychology, triggered by too many non-reproducible results, just missing a little like a study for vaccination against Ebola and one of the testing, "autistic neurons" to grow in the petri dish. [Continue...]

Read highlighted contributions from: Randolph NesseAndy ClarkThalia WheatleyThomas MetzingerGary KleinJared Diamond.

Süddeutsche Zeitung [1.16.16]

Caption: For musician Peter Gabriel it might not take long until we open our thoughts as easily as a can.

Brain scanners are getting better and cheaper. What could this mean for us? A vision. By Peter Gabriel

English, Edge.org | German Translation ]

Süddeutsche Zeitung [1.14.16]

Scientists and the media are establishing new ways of looking at who is responsible for anthropogenic climate change. This expanded view of responsibility is some of the most important news of our time because who we see as causing the problem informs who we see as obligated to help fix it. By Jennifer Jacquet

English, Edge.org | German Translation ]

Süddeutsche Zeitung [1.13.16]

A new study shows that men still hold the power in fields of science and art where supposedly only born geniuses succeed. By Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

English, Edge.org | German Translation ]

Süddeutsche Zeitung [1.12.16]

Prejudice because of race or religion are no longer the biggest threat to Democracy. In America, nothing divides people so much as the party affiliation. By Jonathan Haidt

English, Edge.org | German Translation ]

Süddeutsche Zeitung [1.11.16]

An answer to the "Edge" question of the year: "What Do You Consider the Most Important News?": It has never been as good for humanity as it is today. But progress can only continue if one understands it. By Steven Pinker

English, Edge.org | German Translation ]

Introduction: The Club of Edgy Thinkers 
By Andrian Kreye, Feuilleton Editor, Süddeutsche Zeitung

Edge.org’s question of the year. What has existed on the website for the past twenty years, presented under the banner of the "Third Culture," is ultimately a classical salon in the digital space. In its initial form Edge was already a club of “edgy” thinkers. 

Between 1981 and 1996, the "Reality Club" met in New York in pubs, clubs and apartments. Forerunner of Reality Clubs were notable developments. First, a series of dinners in 1965 organized in the kitchen of a New York townhouse where composer John Cage cooked mushrooms for a group of young New York avant-garde artists, holding forth on the ideas of Norbert Wiener (cybernetics), Marshall McLuhan (communication theory), Buckminster Fuller (systems theory), and Norman O. Brown (social philosophy), among others.

During that same time period, Brockman was invited to co-organize a seminar on cybernetics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology between a group of New York artists and those scientists (colleagues of Wiener, who had died the year before) who were pioneers in the field of cybernetics. The aim of such events was to consider ideas scientific ideas and also to have the artists and scientists ask each other the questions they were asking themselves.

When asked, Brockman takes the tradition much further back. One of the first of such circles is the "Lunar Society of Birmingham” at the end of the 18th century. The scientists, industrialists and philosophers who gathered for dinner included Charles Darwin's grandfather Erasmus. Another member was Benjamin Franklin, a scientist and later a founding father of the United States.

Last year we published excerpts from the answers to the 2015 Edge Question "What do you think of machines that think?". The Question this year was: "What Do You Consider the Most Interesting Recent [Scientific] News? What Makes It Important?” Because the open formulation of this year’s question brought so many differing and detailed answers, the Feuilleton Section of SZ is publishing one unabridged text every day this week. The first is written by the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. This is followed by the social scientist Jonathan Haidt, the philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, the environmental researcher Jennifer Jacquet, the rock singer Peter Gabriel, the psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer and the behaviorist Michael McCullough. All 197 answers are available on Edge.org in the original English

Tania Lombrozo, NPR [1.11.16]

What do the United States, Suriname, Papua New Guinea and Tonga have in common?

These countries are among the few worldwide that don't offer paid maternity leave at the federal level for new mothers. ...

In a lovely short essay at Edge.org, psychology professor Linda Wilbrecht, a colleague at UC Berkeley, highlights what we do — and don't — yet know about the impacts of early life experiences on later development. High-quality childcare — whether it comes from mom or other caregivers — and a rich, stable environment could have important downstream consequences for individuals and for society.

Wilbrecht's essay is worth a read...

Gizmodo [1.8.16]

Each year, Edge.org editor John Brockman poses a provocative question to a select group of thinkers. For this year’s installment, nearly 200 brainy contributors were asked: “What do you consider the most recent scientific news?” Here’s what they had to say.

As Brockman notes, “We now live in a world in which the rate of change is the biggest change.” Science, therefore, has “become a big story, if not the big story: news that will stay news.” But given the insane amount of science-related news that makes the rounds on a daily basis, it’s not immediately clear which sciency tidbits are the ones we should be focused on. 

To help him parse through this staggering amount of science—and to provide a 50-foot perspective on where we are right now—Brockman recruited some of the biggest names in science, technology, art, and philosophy. Contributors included Martin Rees, Steven Pinker, Gloria Origgi, Freeman Dyson, Max Tegmark, Judith Rich Harris, Peter Gabriel, Nina Jablonski, Bill Joy, Michael Shermer, Kevin Kelly, Gregory Benford, Sean Carroll, Frank Tipler, Steve Omohundro, and many, many others. ...

The News Lens [1.8.16]

Online Thinkers forum frontier (Edge.org) since 1998, has put forward thought-provoking topics every year, such as '98: What questions are you asking yourself?; '99: What is the most important invention in the past 2,000 years?; 2006: What is your dangerous idea?; Last year: What do you think about machines that think? This year, editor John Brockman, got nearly 200 thinkers: What do consider the most interesting recent [science] news? What makes it so important?

As a result, 198 experts from physics, astronomy, psychology, archeology, biology, history, computer science, etc. each wrote an essay, including Steven Pinker, Peter Gabriel, Nina Jablonski, Bill Joy, Michael Shermer, Kevin Kelly, Gregory Benford, George Church. ... Several hot topics ran as expected, including research cancer and other diseases, pollution, genetic research, artificial intelligence, quantum physics and gravity research, to find Earth 2.0 and extraterrestrial life. ...

Washington Post [1.6.16]

At the end of every year, Edge reaches out to the smartest people on the planet and asks them a single question in an attempt to find the ideas and concepts that are changing the world of science. This year’s two-part question was: “What do you consider the most interesting recent [scientific] news? What makes it important?”

Not surprisingly, this year’s set of 197 responses converged around a few key themes – the human brain, the human genome, space exploration and artificial intelligence. Based on these responses, here are 10 of the edgiest innovation buzzwords that have the greatest potential to change the trajectory of innovation in 2016. ...

Read highlighted contributions from: Max TegmarkGeorge DysonMelanie SwanChristian KeysersAbigail MarshKevin KellyW. Tecumseh FitchStewart BrandThomas Metzinger, and Mark Pagel

David Pescovitz, BoingBoing [1.4.16]

It is time once again for the Edge Annual Question, a mind-bending and boundary-busting online convening of scientists, technologists, and other big thinkers all responding to a single question at the intersection of science and culture. From physicists to artists, cognitive psychologists to journalists, evolutionary biologists to maverick anthropologists, these are people who Edge founder, famed literary agent, and BB pal John Brockman describes as the "third culture (consisting) of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are."

This year, John asked: What do you consider the most interesting (scientific) news? What makes it important?" Nearly two hundred really smart people responded, including Steven PinkerNina JablonskiFreeman DysonStewart BrandMarti HearstPhilip TetlockKevin KellyLisa Feldman BarrettDouglas RushkoffLisa RandallAlan AldaJared DiamondPamela McCorduck, and on and on.

Alison Gopnik, Wall Street Journal [1.1.16]

Big advances in astronomy and genetics

Every year on the website Edge, scientists and other thinkers reply to one question. This year it’s “What do you consider the most interesting recent news” in science? The answers are fascinating. We’re used to thinking of news as the events that happen in a city or country within a few weeks or months. But scientists expand our thinking to the unimaginably large and the infinitesimally small.

Despite this extraordinary range, the answers of the Edge contributors have an underlying theme. The biggest news of all is that a handful of large-brained primates on an insignificant planet have created machines that let them understand the world, at every scale, and let them change it too, for good or ill. ...

Independent.co.uk [12.31.15]

Advances in biology and cosmology have dominated the science year

Growing a “brain in a dish”, the prospect of creating designer babies, and the possibility of detecting the first signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence – these are just some of the most important scientific news stories of 2015, according to some of the world’s leading scholars celebrating the year’s achievements.

The question posed to the top thinkers was this: what do you consider the most interesting recent scientific news and what makes it important? Back came a smorgasbord of essay-length answers from more than 100 contributors to Edge.org, the online salon for scientists, philosophers and followers of the “third culture” merging science and the humanities. ...

Read highlighted contributions from: Mark PagelGeorge ChurchSimon Baron-CohenAlison GopnikMario LivioMartin Rees

The Boston Globe [12.16.15]

Just about everyone, no matter how tech-enamored or word-weary, appreciates receiving a book as a holiday gift. So, we decided to ask local booksellers which titles have been flying off their shelves — and see whether they had any special recommendations for hidden gems. ...

Jane Stiles at Wellesley Books added that the novels “The Japanese Lover” by Isabel Allende and “Avenue of Mysteries” by John Irving were popular gift choices this year. At Papercuts J.P., one of the area’s newest bookstores, owner Kate Layte said nonfiction has been very popular this year, including many of the titles already mentioned, along with Helen MacDonald’s memoir “H Is for Hawk.”

In addition, Layte said, “there are some great paperback originals I’ve been selling lots of like ‘An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States’ by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, ‘The Best American Infographics 2015’ — the editor, Gareth Cook, lives here in JP — and John Brockman’s new collection of essays, ‘What to Think About Machines That Think: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Age of Machine Intelligence.’ ” A special favorite in fiction is “Katherine Carlyle” by Rupert Thomson. “When folks see the blurbs from James Salter and Phillip Pullman, they can rest assured they’re holding a treasure,” she added. ...

Big Think [12.11.15]

Why should AI scare us? Let’s compare natural vs. artificial intelligence, using Edge’s 2015 big question: What to think about machines that think?

... Alison Gopnik feels machines aren’t nearly “as smart as 3-year-olds.” While AI sometimes outwits Garry Kasparov, it needs millions of pictures (labeled by humans) to learn to recognize cats. Infants need a handful (amazing pattern detectors, + see what babies know, butscientists often ignore). ...

Silicon Republic [12.9.15]

Christmas is coming, and the shopping list is getting fat. So we’re here to give you a hand with at least the ideas stage.

Here at Siliconrepublic.com, we’ve spent the last few weeks creating lists of books that the sci-tech lovers in your life will, well… love.

Our first foray into the world of the must-read saw us pointing you in the right direction on books for those who just can’t get their fill of science knowledge – a serious look at the world of science and technology, if you will.

With this latest list, we look at the other side of that coin. Plenty of knowledge here, too, but with a slightly different flavour.

Compiled by John Brockman, publisher of website Edge.orgThis Idea Must Die brings together some of the planet’s leading thinkers and asks them, "What scientific idea is ready for retirement?"

Asking the question of 175 of the world’s leading scientists, artists and philosophers, Brockman elicited answers from a huge range of people. … The most famous book produced from the series is likely This Explains Everything, which was published in 2012, while What To Think About Machines That Think has just been published.