Special Events
Event Date: [ 3.15.19 2:15 PM ]
Location:
United States


Front Page

DEFGH Nr. 63, Freitag, 15. März 2019. 

Collage: Stefan Dimitrov

The Ghost in the Machine
Artificial intelligence inspires wild fantasies, but remains hard to imagine. A SZ series creates clarity. 

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Artificial intelligence:
A new series brings science and culture together to fathom the inexplicable

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The Overdue Debate 
By Andrian Kreye
Friday, March 15, 2019

Technology in turbo gear: Humanities and Natural Sciences must finally be united to talk about artificial intelligence.
 
Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is a subject in which the imagination switches to turbo speed. From the medieval myth of the golem to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: Odyssey in Space" to Frank Schätzing's bestseller "The Tyranny of the Butterfly", literature and film have long been concerned with what would happen if machines could develop consciousness and free will. But even if they never will, the possibilities of this technology exceed even the imagination of scientists.
 
As AI enters a new phase with the latest advances in digital technology, there is a growing demand that the natural sciences and the humanities join forces to think about the impact on society and people of machines that can learn and make decisions on their own.

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The Spirit In The Machine
What does artificial intelligence mean?
A series of essays seeks answers.
Part 1

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John Brockman has long called for, and practiced, the unification of the natural sciences and humanities into what he has called “the third culture”. He is the founder of the debate forum Edge.org, where scientists, writers and artists work together to ask the great questions of the present. Since 1981, his "Reality Club" has held gatherings in New York, San Francisco or London in pubs, lofts, museums and living rooms. In 1996, he migrated  the debate to Edge.org on the web, which led to his Edge dinners.

Because he has a full-time career as a literary agent for science authors, as well as being the first to negotiate major deals for books by bestselling  academics such as Daniel Kahneman, Richard Dawkins or Lisa Randall, his roundtable was always already very prominently cast.

One can imagine the 78-year-old today as a mixture of King Arthur and Dorothy Parker. On the one hand, he often recognizes powerful talents earlier than others, which led to the fact that he had the Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos or the boy-wonder of Facebook as guests at his dinner parties even when they were still precocious start-up entrepreneurs. On the other hand, he has the humor and charm to keep you on your toes at such events, whether in the back room of a restaurant, at workshop weekends on his farm near New York, or on his web pages.

So it was a rare “must” in the social life of Harvard University when he recently invited a large group to an evening event in Cambridge at the Brattle Theatre, followed by a dinner at the Charles Hotel to continue the debate on artificial intelligence, which he had presented as a "Possible Minds" project last fall. Many of those who attended are celebrated as stars in scientific circles—such as the cognition researcher Steven Pinker, the robot ethicist Kate Darling, the science philosopher Max Tegmark and as an eminence price, the writer and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson.

In the theater they delivered 5-minute Lightning talks (lectures), presenting a picture of the state of things as wide-ranging as anything currently running in the A.I. debate.

Mary Catherine Bateson began the evening with a call for the need to revive the almost forgotten science of systems theory in light of the complex networks of AI. The developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik asked that we remember that while four-year-olds are mentally immature, they’re fitter than any AI. Max Tegmark compared A.I. to a missile that requires precise control by humans.  

And Stephen Wolfram was enthusiastic about the almost unlimited possibilities still beyond our understanding.

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John Brockman’s
Dinners are Today’s
"Roundtables"
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As a non-academic guest of the following dinner I realized how deeply connected the various disciplines of the humanities and sciences already are in places like Cambridge, MA. It felt like being at a great reunion, hugs and gossip included. John Brockman ruled the room like a social alchemist, taking some from the numerous groups adding them to another to spark new conversations. One could learn about the latest breakthroughs in science or about how projects like AI enhanced democratic processes neutralizing lobbyists and empowering voters, or get a sense of greater trends like programmable cells (which might have an even greater impact on history than AI, especially if you talk to a biologist).

John Brockman's most recent roundtables in artificial intelligence has resulted in an essay collection. Authors and scientists such as the geneticist George Church, Alison Gopnik, the art historian Caroline Jones, Steven Pinker and the Nobel laureate and president of the Royal Society Venki Ramakrishnan have joined the debate about artificial intelligence. The Süddeutsche Zeitung will make the essays available to the public in the coming weeks, publishing them in the Feuilleton.

We will also invite, and publish in our pages, the first reactions of German and European intellectuals, cultural figures, and natural scientists. This will be the beginning of a debate the end of which is not in sight.’

Andrian Kreye is the Feuilleton Editor of Süddeutsche Zeitung. © Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH, Munich. Courtesy of Süddeutsche Zeitung Content.


The Spirit of Unlimited Possibilities

Of cybernetics, man and man machine—a brief history of thinking about artificial intelligence. By John Brockman
 
Artificial intelligence is the big theme of our days, the story behind all the other stories. It is the return of the Messiah and the Apocalypse in one: Good AI versus evil AI.
 
Over the years, it has always been important to me to keep in touch with the key figures in this field of research, with the scientists and all the other thought leaders who have advanced the developmental steps of AI. But it all started much earlier than the current debate. Because Before AI, there was cybernetics—the idea of automatic, self-regulating control, laid out in Norbert Wiener’s foundational text of 1948.
 
In 1965, the composer John Cage invited me and other artists to a series of dinners. At the time I was the program manager of Filmmakers’ Cinematheque, where I produced the Expanded Cinema Festival featuring people like Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, Carolee Schneemann, and Andy Warhol.

Cage's dinner parties were an ongoing seminar on media, communication, art, music and philosophy, driven by Cage's interest in the ideas of Wiener, Claude Shannon and Marshall McLuhan. Cage was particularly fascinated by McLuhan's idea that with the invention of electronic technologies we had externalized our central nervous system, that is, our mind, and that we had to assume that "there is only one mind that we all share. Such ideas were increasingly circulating among artists and intellectuals at the time. Many of these people were reading Wiener, and cybernetics was in the air. During one of those dinners, Cage reached into his briefcase and pulled out a copy Wiener's Cybernetics and handed it to me with the words: “This is for you." That was a key moment for everything I've done in the last 53 years.

During the festival, I received an unexpected phone call from Wiener’s colleague Arthur K. Solomon, head of Harvard’s Biophysics Department. Wiener had died the year before, and Solomon’s and Wiener’s other close colleagues at MIT and Harvard had been reading about the Expanded Cinema Festival in the New York Times and were intrigued by the connection to Wiener’s work. Solomon invited me to bring some of the artists up to Cambridge to meet with him and a group that included MIT sensory communications researcher Walter Rosenblith, Harvard applied mathematician Anthony Oettinger, and MIT engineer Harold “Doc” Edgerton, inventor of the strobe light.

New Technologies = New Perceptions

Like many other “art meets science” situations I’ve been involved in since, the two-day event was an informed failure: ships passing in the night. But I took it all on board and the event was consequential in some interesting ways—one of which came from the fact that they took us to see “the” computer. Computers were a rarity back then; at least none of us on the visit had ever seen one. We were ushered into a large space on the MIT campus, in the middle of which there was a “cold room” raised off the floor and enclosed in glass, in which technicians wearing white lab coats, scarves, and gloves were busy collating punch cards coming through an enormous machine. When I approached, the steam from my breath fogged up the window into the cold room. Wiping it off, I saw “the” computer. I fell in love.

I began to develop a theme, a mantra of sorts, that has informed my endeavors since: “new technologies = new perceptions.” Inspired by communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, architect-designer Buckminster Fuller, futurist John McHale, and cultural anthropologists Edward T. “Ned” Hall and Edmund Carpenter, I started reading avidly in the fields of information theory, cybernetics, and systems theory. McLuhan himself suggested I read Warren Weaver and Claude Shannon’s 1949 paper “Recent Contributions to the Mathematical Theory of Communication,” which begins: “The word communication will be used here in a very broad sense to include all of the procedures by which one mind may affect another. This, of course, involves not only written and oral speech, but also music, the pictorial arts, the theater, the ballet, and in fact all human behavior.”

Reality is a man-made process. The images we make of ourselves and our world are in part models rooted in the knowledge of the technologies we create. Although many of us weren't ready yet, after only a few years we looked at our brain as a computer. And when we connected computers to the Internet, we realized that our brain is not a computer, but a network of computers.


Basic text of the digital debate: Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics of 1948. Photo: SZ

Two years after Cybernetics, in 1950, Norbert Wiener published The Human Use of Human Beings—a deeper story, in which he expressed his concerns about the runaway commercial exploitation and other unforeseen consequences of the new technologies of control. I didn’t read The Human Use of Human Beings until the spring of 2016, when I picked up my copy, a first edition, which was sitting in my library next to Cybernetics. What shocked me was the realization of just how prescient Wiener was in 1950 about what’s going on today. Although the first edition was a major bestseller—and, indeed, jump-started an important conversation—under pressure from his peers Wiener brought out a revised and milder edition in 1954, from which the original concluding chapter, “Voices of Rigidity,” is conspicuously absent.

Science historian George Dyson points out that in this long-forgotten first edition, Wiener predicted the possibility of a “threatening new Fascism dependent on the machine à gouverner”:

No elite escaped his criticism, from the Marxists and the Jesuits (“all of Catholicism is indeed essentially a totalitarian religion”) to the FBI (“our great merchant princes have looked upon the propaganda technique of the Russians, and have found that it is good”) and the financiers lending their support “to make American capitalism and the fifth freedom of the businessman supreme throughout the world.” Scientists. . . received the same scrutiny given the Church: “Indeed, the heads of great laboratories are very much like Bishops, with their association with the powerful in all walks of life, and the dangers they incur of the carnal sins of pride and of lust for power.”

This jeremiad did not go well for Wiener. As Dyson puts it:

These alarms were discounted at the time, not because Wiener was wrong about digital computing but because larger threats were looming as he completed his manuscript in the fall of 1949. Wiener had nothing against digital computing but was strongly opposed to nuclear weapons and refused to join those who were building digital computers to move forward on the thousand-times-more-powerful hydrogen bomb.

Since the original of The Human Use of Human Beings is now out of print, lost to us is Wiener’s cri de coeur, more relevant today than when he wrote it sixty-eight years ago: “We must cease to kiss the whip that lashes us.”

It Is Time to Challenge the Prevailing Digital AI Narrative

Among the reasons we don’t hear much about cybernetics today, two are central: First, although The Human Use of Human Beings was considered an important book in its time, it ran counter to the aspirations of many of Wiener’s colleagues, including John von Neumann and Claude Shannon, who were interested in the commercialization of the new technologies. Second, computer pioneer John McCarthy disliked Wiener and refused to use Wiener’s term “Cybernetics.” McCarthy, in turn, coined the term “artificial intelligence” and became a founding father of that field.

Cybernetics, rather than disappearing, was becoming metabolized into everything, so we no longer saw it as a separate, distinct new discipline. And there it remains, hiding in plain sight.

Now AI is everywhere. We have the Internet. We have our smartphones. The founders of the dominant companies— the companies that hold “the whip that lashes us”— have net worths of $65 billion, $90 billion, $150 billion. High- profile individuals such as Elon Musk, Nick Bostrom, Martin Rees, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and the late Stephen Hawking have issued dire warnings about AI, resulting in the ascendancy of well-funded institutes tasked with promoting “Nice AI.” But will we, as a species, be able to control a fully realized, unsupervised, self-improving AI? Wiener’s warnings and admonitions in The Human Use of Human Beings are now very real, and they need to be looked at anew by researchers at the forefront of the AI revolution.

Here is Dyson again:

Wiener became increasingly disenchanted with the “gadget worshipers” whose corporate selfishness brought “motives to automatization that go beyond a legitimate curiosity and are sinful in themselves.” He knew the danger was not machines becoming more like humans but humans being treated like machines. “The world of the future will be an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence,” he warned in God & Golem, Inc., published in 1964, the year of his death, “not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.”

Thus, it’s time to present the ideas of a community of sophisticated thinkers who are bringing their experience and erudition to bear in challenging the prevailing digital AI narrative as they communicate their thoughts to one another. The aim is to present a mosaic of views that will help make sense out of this rapidly emerging field.

Similar to the fable of  the blind man and the elephant, AI is far too big a subject to be viewed from a single angle. The "Possible Minds Project," from which the essays in this series emerged, and are also published as CT, where some of the authors of these essays were also present.

Since then, I have hosted a series of dinners and discussions in New York, London, Cambridge, and the Serpentine Marathon on Artificial Intelligence, and major public events at London City Hall, The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, The LongNow at SF Jazz, and Pioneer Works, in Brooklyn. Among the guests were natural scientists and humanists, communication theorists, science historians, philosophers and artists, all of whom have thought very seriously about artificial intelligence throughout their professional lives. It’s time to examine the evolving AI narrative by identifying the leading members of that mainstream community along with the dissidents and presenting their counter-narratives in their own voices.

The essays that follow thus constitute a much-needed update from the field.

[Adapted from Introduction, Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]


 


Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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Will Computers Be Our Rulers?
By Venki Ramakrishnan
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The loss of human control has long since begun. Machines make us do things. They cost us jobs. And we understand them less and less.
 
[Adapted from Chapter 18 - "Will Computers Become Our Overlords?" by Venki Ramakrishnan, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]


Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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The Circle is Closing
By Neil Gershenfeld
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

The current mania about artificial intelligence is only one phase that is likely to be followed by the fusion of artificial and natural intelligence. 
 
[Adapted from Chapter 16 - "Scaling" by Neil Gershenfeld, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]


Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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Borders of Obscure Learning
By Judea Pearl
Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Scientists are developing artificial intelligence that they no longer understand themselves. Nevertheless, this usually leads to correct results. And finally, people also understand their own brain. But in machine learning it leads into a trap.
 
[Adapted from Chapter 2 - "The Limitations of Opaque Learning Machines" by Judea Pearl, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]


Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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Unpredictable Human
By Anca Dragan
Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The more powerful an artificial intelligence is, the more difficult it becomes to program it to deal with its environment. Because reality works not by clear rules. This can have catastrophic consequences. 
 
[Adapted from Chapter 13 - "Putting the Human Into the AI Equation" by Anca Dragan, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]


Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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Meat and Blood Machines
By W. Daniel Hillis
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Hybrid superintelligence such as nation states and corporations often act as independent intelligent beings. Their actions are not always in line with the interests of the people. 
 
[Adapted from Chapter 17 - "The First Machine Intelligences" by W. Daniel Hillis, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]


Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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Beings and Tools 
By Daniel C. Dennett
Monday, April 1, 2019

With artificial intelligence, man creates a means that rearranges the world. That forces him to act, otherwise he loses control.
 
[Adapted from Chapter 5 - "What Can We Do?" by Daniel C. Dennett, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]


Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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The Wisdom of Children
By Alison Gopnik
Tuesday, March 26, 2019

If one compares the learning of artificial intelligence with the methods with which four-year-olds learn, one realizes that children are far better off.

[Adapted from Chapter 21 - "AIs Versus Four-Year-Olds" by Alison Gopnik, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]



Collage: Stefan Dimitrov
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What Is Intelligence Anyway?
By Steven Pinker
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Do not be afraid of almighty machines or why most of the future scenarios for AI completely miss reality. A guest post by cognitive researcher Steven Pinker.
 
[Adapted from Chapter 10 - "Tech Prophecy and the Underappreciated Causal Power of Ideas" by Steven Pinker, from Possible Minds: 25 of Looking at AI, edited by John Brockman (Penguin Press, 2019)]
Master Classes
Event Date: [ 7.31.15 ]
Location:
Spring Mountain Vineyard
St. Helena, CA
United States

 

INTRODUCTION
On the weekend of July 30th, Edge convened one of its "Master Classes." In the past, these classes have featured short courses taught by people such as psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman ("A Short Course in Thinking About Thinking"); behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Sendhil Mullainathan, again with Kahneman ("A Short Course in Behavioral Economics"); and genomic researchers George Church and J. Craig Venter ("A Short Course on Synthetic Genomics").

This year, the psychologist and social scientist Philip E. Tetlock presented the findings based on his work on forecasting as part of the Good Judgment Project. In 1984, Tetlock began holding "forecasting tournaments" in which selected candidates were asked questions about the course of events: In the wake of a natural disaster, what policies will be changed in the United States? When will North Korea test nuclear weapons? Candidates examine the questions in teams. They are not necessarily experts, but attentive, shrewd citizens.

Steven Pinker, who has written about Tetlock's work on superforecasting, noted that "Tetlock is one of the very, very best minds in the social sciences today. He has come up with one brilliant idea after another, and superforecasting is no exception. Everyone agrees that the way to know if an idea is right  is to see whether it accurately predicts the future. But which ideas, which methods, which people have an actual, provable track record of non-obvious predictions vindicated by the course of events? The answers will surprise you, and have radical implications for politics, policy, journalism, education, and even epistemology—how we can best gain knowledge about the world we live in."

Among Tetlock's "students" at the Edge weekend were many intellectual heavyweights including political scientist and National Medal of Science winner Robert Axelrod; psychologist, Nobel Laureate, and recipient of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom Daniel Kahneman; the political scientist and Director of Stanford’s CASBS Margaret Levi; Google Senior Vice President Salar Kamangar; psychologist and National Medal of Science winner Anne Treisman; Roboticist Rodney Brooks, former head of MIT's Computer Science Lab; W. Daniel Hillis, pioneer in massively parallel computation; medical inventor Dean Kamen; and Peter Lee, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Research, overseeing MSR NExT. 

Over the weekend in Napa, Tetlock held five classes, which are being presented by Edge in their entirety (8.5 hours of video and audio) along with accompanying transcripts (61,000 words). Commenting on the event, one of the participants wrote:

The interesting thing is that this is not about a latest trend that might scale in one or two years, but about real change that might take a decade or two. Also, these masterclasses are not only much more profound than any of the conferences popularizing contemporary intellectualism. The possibility to spend that much time with the clairvoyants in a setting like this also gives you a sense of community so much greater than any of the advertised.

Enjoy!

Best,

John Brockman
Editor, Edge 


PHILIP E. TETLOCK, Political and Social Scientist, is the Annenberg University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, with appointments in Wharton, psychology and political science. He is co-leader of the Good Judgment Project, a multi-year forecasting study, the author of Expert Political Judgment and (with Aaron Belkin) Counterfactual Thought Experiments in World Politics, and co-author (with Dan Gardner) of Superforecasting: The Art & Science of Prediction  (forthcoming, US, Crown, September 29th; UK, Random House, September 24th). Further reading on Edge: "How To Win At Forecasting: A Conversation with Philip Tetlock" (December 6, 2012). Philip Tetlock's Edge Bio Page.

US
UK

ATTENDEES:
Robert Axelrod, Political Scientist; Walgreen Professor for the Study of Human Understanding, U. Michigan; Author, The Evolution of Cooperation; Member, National Academy of Sciences; Recipient, the National Medal of Science; Stewart Brand, Founder, The Whole Earth Catalog; Co-Founder, The Well; Co-Founder, The Long Now Foundation; Author, Whole Earth Discipline; John Brockman, Editor, Edge; Author, The Third CultureRodney Brooks, Panasonic Professor of Robotics (emeritus), MIT; Founder, Chmn/CTO, Rethink Robotics; Author, Flesh and MachinesBrian Christian, Philosopher, Computer Scientist, Poet; Author, The Most Human HumanWael Ghonim, Pro-democracy leader of the Tarir Square demonstrations in Egypt; Anonymous administrator of the Facebook page, "We are all Khaled Saeed"; W. Daniel Hillis, Physicist; Computer Scientist; Chairman, Applied Minds; Author, The Pattern on the StoneJennifer Jacquet, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU; Author, Is Shame Necessary?Daniel Kahneman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Princeton; Author, Thinking, Fast and Slow; Winner of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom; Recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences; Salar Kamangar, Senior Vice President, Google; Fmr head of YouTube; Dean Kamen, Inventor and Entrepreneur, DEKA Research;  Andrian Kreye, Feuilleton Editor, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich; Peter Lee, Corp. VP, Microsoft Research; Former Founder / Director, DARPA's technology office; Former Head, Carnegie Mellon Computer Science Department & CMU's Vice Provost for Research; Margaret Levi, Political Scientist, Director, Center For Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), Stanford University; Barbara Mellers, Psychologist; George Heyman University Professor at UPennsylvania; Past President, Society of Judgment and Decision Making; Ludwig Siegele, Technology Editor, The Economist; Rory Sutherland, Executive Creative Director and Vice-Chairman, OgilvyOne London; Vice-Chairman, Ogilvy & Mather UK; Columnist, The SpectatorPhilip Tetlock, Political and Social Scientist; Annenberg University Professor at UPenn; Author, Expert Political Judgment; and (with Dan Gardner) Superforecasting (forthcoming); Anne Treisman, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Princeton; Recipient, National Medal of Science; D.A.Wallach, Recording Artist; Songwriter; Artist in Residence, Spotify; Hi-Tech Investor




"La Miravalle" at Spring Mountain Vineyard


The Office for Anticipating Surprise
by Andrian KreyeFeuilleton Editor
English translation by Arya Kamangar
[Click on image for English-language translation.



In the circle of clairvoyants: At a vineyard north of San Francisco, Philip Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania (left) presented his findings. Initially skeptical was Nobel Laureate Kahneman (third from left). Photo: John Brockman / edge.org


CLASS I — Forecasting Tournaments: What We Discover When We Start Scoring Accuracy

It is as though high status pundits have learned a valuable survival skill, and that survival skill is they've mastered the art of appearing to go out on a limb without actually going out on a limb. They say dramatic things but there are vague verbiage quantifiers connected to the dramatic things. It sounds as though they're saying something very compelling and riveting. There's a scenario that's been conjured up in your mind of something either very good or very bad. It's vivid, easily imaginable.

It turns out, on close inspection they're not really saying that's going to happen. They're not specifying the conditions, or a time frame, or likelihood, so there's no way of assessing accuracy. You could say these pundits are just doing what a rational pundit would do because they know that they live in a somewhat stochastic world. They know that it's a world that frequently is going to throw off surprises at them, so to maintain their credibility with their community of co-believers they need to be vague. It's an essential survival skill. There is some considerable truth to that, and forecasting tournaments are a very different way of proceeding. Forecasting tournaments require people to attach explicit probabilities to well-defined outcomes in well-defined time frames so you can keep score.


CLASS II — Tournaments: Prying Open Closed Minds in Unnecessarily Polarized Debates

Tournaments have a scientific value. They help us test a lot of psychological hypotheses about the drivers of accuracy, they help us test statistical ideas; there are a lot of ideas we can test in tournaments. Tournaments have a value inside organizations and businesses. A more accurate probability helps to price options better on Wall Street, so they have value. 

I wanted to focus more on what I see as the wider societal value of tournaments and the potential value of tournaments in depolarizing unnecessarily polarizing policy debates. In short, making us more civilized. ... 

There is well-developed research literature on how to measure accuracy. There is not such well-developed research literature on how to measure the quality of questions. The quality of questions is going to be absolutely crucial if we want tournaments to be able to play a role in tipping the scales of plausibility in important debates, and if you want tournaments to play a role in incentivizing people to behave more reasonably in debates.


CLASS III — Counterfactual History: The Elusive Control Groups in Policy Debates

There's a picture of two people on slide seventy-two, one of whom is one of the most famous historians in the 20th century, E.H. Carr, and the other of whom is a famous economic historian at the University of Chicago, Robert Fogel. They could not have more different attitudes toward the importance of counterfactuals in history. For E.H. Carr, counterfactuals were a pestilence, they were a frivolous parlor game, a methodological rattle, a sore loser's history. It was a waste of cognitive effort to think about counterfactuals. You should think about history the way it did unfold and figure out why it had to unfold the way it did—almost a prescription for hindsight bias. 

Robert Fogel, on the other hand, approached it more like a scientist. He quite correctly recognized that if you want to draw causal inferences from any historical sequence, you have to make assumptions about what would have happened if the hypothesized cause had taken on a different value. That's a counterfactual. You had this interesting tension. Many historians do still agree, in some form, with E.H. Carr. Virtually all economic historians would agree with Robert Fogel, who's one of the pivital people in economic history; he won a Nobel Prize. But there's this very interesting tension between people who are more open or less open to thinking about counterfactuals. Why that is, is something that is worth exploring.


CLASS IV — Skillful Backward and Forward Reasoning in Time: Superforecasting Requires "Counterfactualizing"

A famous economist, Albert Hirschman, had a wonderful phrase, "self-subversion." Some people, he thought, were capable of thinking in self-subverting ways. What would a self-subverting liberal or conservative say about the Cold War? A self-subverting liberal might say, "I don’t like Reagan. I don’t think he was right, but yes, there may be some truth to the counterfactual that if he hadn’t been in power and doing what he did, the Soviet Union might still be around." A self-subverting conservative might say, "I like Reagan a lot, but it’s quite possible that the Soviet Union would have disintegrated anyway because there were lots of other forces in play."
        
Self-subversion is an integral part of what makes superforecasting cognition work. It’s the willingness to tolerate dissonance. It’s hard to be an extremist when you engage in self-subverting counterfactual cognition. That’s the first example. The second example deals with how regular people think about fate and how superforecasters think about it, which is, they don’t. Regular people often invoke fate, "it was meant to be," as an explanation for things.


CLASS V — Condensing it All Into Four Big Problems and a Killer App Solution

The beauty of forecasting tournaments is that they’re pure accuracy games that impose an unusual monastic discipline on how people go about making probability estimates of the possible consequences of policy options. It’s a way of reducing escape clauses for the debaters, as well as reducing motivated reasoning room for the audience.

Tournaments, if they’re given a real shot, have a potential to raise the quality of debates by incentivizing competition to be more accurate and reducing functionalist blurring that makes it so difficult to figure out who is closer to the truth. 

Edge Dinners
Event Date: [ 3.18.15 ]
Location:
Blue Water Cafe
Vancouver,
Canada


Anne Wojcicki  &  Jean Pigozzi

"To accomplish the extraordinary, you must seek extraordinary people."

A new generation of artists, writing genomes as fluently as Blake and Byron wrote verses, might create an abundance of new flowers and fruit and trees and birds to enrich the ecology of our planet. Most of these artists would be amateurs, but they would be in close touch with science, like the poets of the earlier Age of Wonder. The new Age of Wonder might bring together wealthy entrepreneurs ... and a worldwide community of gardeners and farmers and breeders, working together to make the planet beautiful as well as fertile, hospitable to hummingbirds as well as to humans. —Freeman Dyson

In his 2009 talk at the Bristol Festival of Ideas, Freeman Dyson pointed out that we are entering a new Age of Wonder, which is dominated by computational biology.  The leaders of the new Age of Wonder, Dyson noted, include "biology wizards" Kary Mullis, Craig Venter, medical engineer Dean Kamen, and "computer wizards" Larry PageSergey Brin, and Charles Simonyi, and  John Brockman and Katinka Matson, the cofounders of Edge, the nexus of this intellectual activity. 

Every year since 1999, we have hosted The Edge Annual Dinner (sometimes referred to as “The Billionaires' Dinner”). Guests have included the leading third culture intellectuals of our time, dining and conversing with the founders of Amazon, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PayPal, Space X, Skype, and Twitter. It is a remarkable gathering of outstanding minds—the people who are rewriting our global culture. 


Paul AllenJulia Milner, Yuri Milner

Through such gatherings, its online publications, master classes, and seminars, Edge, operating under the umbrella of the non-profit  501 (c) (3) Edge Foundation, Inc., promotes interactions between the third culture intellectuals and technology pioneers of the post-industrial, digital age, the "worldwide community of gardeners and farmers and breeders" referred to by Dyson as the leaders of the "Age of Wonder”. Edge members share the boundaries of their knowledge and experience with each other and respond to challenges, comments, criticisms, and insights. The constant shifting of metaphors, the intensity with which we advance our ideas to each other—this is what intellectuals do. Edge draws attention to the larger context of intellectual life.

An indication of Edge's role in contemporary culture can be measured, in part, by its Google PageRank of "8", which places it in the same category as The Economist, Financial Times, Le Monde, La Repubblica, ScienceSüddeutsche Zeitung, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. Its influence is evident from the attention paid by the global media:

 "The world's smartest website … a salon for the world's finest minds." Guardian—"the fabulous Edge symposium" New York Times—"A lavish cerebral feast", Atlantic—"Not just wonderful, but plausible", Wall St. Journal "Fabulous", Independent—" Thrilling", FAZ—"The brightest minds", Vanity Fair, "The intellectual elite", Guardian—"Intellectual skyrockets of stunning brilliance", Arts & Letter Daily—"Terrific, thought provoking", Guardian— "An intellectual treasure trove, San Francisco Chronicle—"Thrilling colloquium", Telegraph—"Fantastically stimulating", BBC Radio 4—"Astounding reading", Boston Globe—"Where the age of biology began", Süddeutsche Zeitung—"Splendidly enlightened", Independent—The world’s best brains", Times— "Brilliant... a eureka moment at the edge of knowledge", Sunday Times—"Fascinating and provocative", Guardian—"Uplifting ...enthralling", Daily Mail—"Breathtaking in scope", New Scientist—"Exhilarating, hilarious, and chilling", Evening Standard—"Today's visions of science tomorrow", New York Times


Larry Page & Jesse Dylan

Edge is different from The Invisible College (1646), The Club (1764), The Cambridge Apostles (1820), The Bloomsbury Group (1905), or The Algonquin Roundtable (1919), but it offers the same quality of intellectual adventure.

Perhaps the closest resemblance is to the early nineteenth century Lunar Society of Birmingham (1765), an informal dinner club and learned society of leading cultural figures of the new industrial age—James Watt, Joseph Priestly, Benjamin Franklin, and the two grandfathers of Charles Darwin, Erasmus Darwin and Josiah Wedgwood. The Society met each month near the full moon. They referred to themselves as "lunaticks". In a similar fashion, Edge attempts to inspire conversations exploring the themes of the post-industrial age. 

I
Tim O'Reilly Marissa Mayer

In this regard, Edge is not just a group of people. I see it as the constant shifting of metaphors, the advancement of ideas, the agreement on, and the invention of, reality.

John Brockman 
 Vancouver, March 18, 2015

Seminars
Event Date: [ 11.12.14 4:45 PM ]
Location:
United States

"To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves." 

HEADCON '14

In September a group of social scientists gathered for HEADCON '14, an Edge Conference at Eastover Farm. Speakers addressed a range of topics concerning the social (or moral, or emotional) brain: Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: "The Teenager's Sense Of Social Self"; Lawrence Ian Reed: "The Face Of Emotion"; Molly Crockett: "The Neuroscience of Moral Decision Making"; Hugo Mercier: "Toward The Seamless Integration Of The Sciences"; Jennifer Jacquet: "Shaming At Scale"; Simone Schnall: "Moral Intuitions, Replication, and the Scientific Study of Human Nature"; David Rand: "How Do You Change People's Minds About What Is Right And Wrong?"; L.A. Paul: "The Transformative Experience"; Michael McCullough: "Two Cheers For Falsification". Also participating as "kibitzers" were four speakers from HEADCON '13, the previous year's event: Fiery CushmanJoshua KnobeDavid Pizarro, and Laurie Santos.

We are now pleased to present the program in its entiretynearly six hours of Edge Video and a downloadable PDF of the 55,000-word transcript.

[6 hours] 

John Brockman, Editor
Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher

 Download PDF of Manuscript  

Copyright (c) 2014 by Edge Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to use for personal, noncommercial use (only).

_____
 

Related on Edge:

HeadCon '13
Edge Meetings & Seminars
Edge Master Classes
 


CONTENTS
 

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: "The Teenager's Sense Of Social Self"

The reason why that letter is nice is because it illustrates what's important to that girl at that particular moment in her life. Less important that man landed on moon than things like what she was wearing, what clothes she was into, who she liked, who she didn't like. This is the period of life where that sense of self, and particularly sense of social self, undergoes profound transition. Just think back to when you were a teenager. It's not that before then you don't have a sense of self, of course you do.  A sense of self develops very early. What happens during the teenage years is that your sense of who you are—your moral beliefs, your political beliefs, what music you're into, fashion, what social group you're into—that's what undergoes profound change.


[36.22]

SARAH-JAYNE BLAKEMORE is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore's Edge Bio Page


Lawrence Ian Reed: "The Face Of Emotion"

What can we tell from the face? There’s some mixed data, but data out that there’s a pretty strong coherence between what is felt and what’s expressed on the face. Happiness, sadness, disgust, contempt, fear, anger, all have prototypic or characteristic facial expressions. In addition to that, you can tell whether two emotions are blended together. You can tell the difference between surprise and happiness, and surprise and anger, or surprise and sadness. You can also tell the strength of an emotion. There seems to be a relationship between the strength of the emotion and the strength of the contraction of the associated facial muscles. 



[26:27]

LAWRENCE IAN REED is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, Skidmore College. Lawrence Ian Reed's Edge Bio Page


Molly Crockett: "The Neuroscience of Moral Decision Making"

Imagine we could develop a precise drug that amplifies people’s aversion to harming others; you won’t hurt a fly, everyone becomes Buddhist monks or something. Who should take this drug? Only convicted criminals—people who have committed violent crimes? Should we put it in the water supply? These are normative questions. These are questions about what should be done. I feel grossly unprepared to answer these questions with the training that I have, but these are important conversations to have between disciplines. Psychologists and neuroscientists need to be talking to philosophers about this and these are conversations that we need to have because we don’t want to get to the point where we have the technology and then we haven’t had this conversation because then terrible things could happen. 



[44:00]

MOLLY CROCKETT is Associate Professor, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford; Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging. Molly Crockett's Edge Bio Page 


Hugo Mercier: "Toward The Seamless Integration Of The Sciences"

One of the great things about cognitive science is that it allowed us to continue that seamless integration of the sciences, from physics, to chemistry, to biology, and then to the mind sciences, and it's been quite successful at doing this in a relatively short time. But on the whole, I feel there's still a failure to continue this thing towards some of the social sciences such as, anthropology, to some extent, and sociology or history that still remain very much shut off from what some would see as progress, and as further integration. 



[39:34]

HUGO MERCIER, a Cognitive Scientist, is an Ambizione Fellow at the Cognitive Science Center at the University of Neuchâtel. Hugo Mercier's Edge Bio Page


Jennifer Jacquet: "Shaming At Scale"

Shaming, in this case, was a fairly low-cost form of punishment that had high reputational impact on the U.S. government, and led to a change in behavior. It worked at scale—one group of people using it against another group of people at the group level. This is the kind of scale that interests me. And the other thing that it points to, which is interesting, is the question of when shaming works. In part, it's when there's an absence of any other option. Shaming is a little bit like antibiotics. We can overuse it and actually dilute its effectiveness, because it's linked to attention, and attention is finite. With punishment, in general, using it sparingly is best. But in the international arena, and in cases in which there is no other option, there is no formalized institution, or no formal legislation, shaming might be the only tool that we have, and that's why it interests me. 



[31:58]

JENNIFER JACQUET is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU; Researching cooperation and the tragedy of the commons; Author, Is Shame Necessary? Jennifer Jacquet's Edge Bio Page


Simone Schnall: "Moral Intuitions, Replication, and the Scientific Study of Human Nature"

In the end, it's about admissible evidence and ultimately, we need to hold all scientific evidence to the same high standard. Right now we're using a lower standard for the replications involving negative findings when in fact this standard needs to be higher. To establish the absence of an effect is much more difficult than the presence of an effect. 



[42:15]

SIMONE SCHNALL is a University Senior Lecturer and Director of the Cambridge Embodied Cognition and Emotion Laboratory at Cambridge University. Simone Schnall's Edge Bio Page 


David Rand: "How Do You Change People's Minds About What Is Right And Wrong?" 

What all these different things boil down to is the idea that there are future consequences for your current behavior. You can't just do whatever you want because if you are selfish now, it'll come back to bite you. I should say that there are lots of theoretical models, math models, computational models, lab experiments, and also real world field data from field experiments showing the power of these reputation observability effects for getting people to cooperate.



[34:37]

DAVID RAND is Assistant Professor of Psychology, Economics, and Management at Yale University, and the Director of Yale University's Human Cooperation Laboratory. David Rand's Edge Bio page


L.A. Paul: "The Transformative Experience"

We're going to pretend that modern-day vampires don't drink the blood of humans; they're vegetarian vampires, which means they only drink the blood of humanely-farmed animals. You have a one-time-only chance to become a modern-day vampire. You think, "This is a pretty amazing opportunity, but do I want to gain immortality, amazing speed, strength, and power? Do I want to become undead, become an immortal monster and have to drink blood? It's a tough call." Then you go around asking people for their advice and you discover that all of your friends and family members have already become vampires. They tell you, "It is amazing. It is the best thing ever. It's absolutely fabulous. It's incredible. You get these new sensory capacities. You should definitely become a vampire." Then you say, " Can you tell me a little more about it?" And they say, "You have to become a vampire to know what it's like. You can't, as a mere human, understand what it's like to become a vampire just by hearing me talk about it. Until you're a vampire, you're just not going to know what it's going to be like."



[48:42]

L.A. PAUL is Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Professorial Fellow in the Arché Research Centre at the University of St. Andrews.  L.A. Paul's Edge Bio page


Michael McCullough: "Two Cheers For Falsification"

What I want to do today is raise one cheer for falsification, maybe two cheers for falsification. Maybe it’s not philosophical falsificationism I’m calling for, but maybe something more like methodological falsificationism. It has an important role to play in theory development that maybe we have turned our backs on in some areas of this racket we’re in, particularly the part of it that I do—Ev Psych—more than we should have.

edge.org/conversation/michael_mccullough

[43:37]

MICHAEL MCCULLOUGH is Director, Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory, Professor of Psychology, Cooper Fellow, University of Miami; Author, Beyond Revenge. Michael McCullough's Edge Bio page


Also Participating

FIERY CUSHMAN is Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Harvard University. JOSHUA KNOBE is an Experimental Philosopher; Associate Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Yale University. DAVID PIZARRO is Associate Professor of Psychology, Cornell University, specializing in moral judgment. LAURIE SANTOS is Associate Professor, Department of Psychology; Director, Comparative Cognition Laboratory, Yale University. 

 

On the Road
Event Date: [ 10.29.14 3:15 PM ]
Location:
United States

This year's Edge-Serpentine Gallery collaboration took place in London at part of the Serpentine's "Extinction Marathon: Visions of the Future" event, at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery's extension, designed by Zaha Hadid, on Oct. 18, 2014. The 2-hour event, which was live-streamed, is presented, here in its entiretly, on Edge.

The first hour was a converseation between Stewart Brand and Richard Prum on whether of not the prospect of "de-extinction" changes how we think about extinction. For the second hour, Molly Crockett introduced four Edgies—Helena Cronin, Jennifer Jacquet, Steve Jones, and Chiara Marletto, who gave 10-minute talks with their perspectives on the subject of extinction. This was followed by a panel.

NEW—COMPLETE VIDEO AND TEXT

Part I: "DE-EXTINCTION": STEWART BRAND & RICHARD PRUM
With Hans Ulrich Obrist and John Brockman

Does the prospect of "de-extinction" change how we think about extinction? Conservation science is shifting from being species-centric to function-centric, focussing on the overall health of ecosystems. Does the extinction of a species leave a "gap in nature" that can only be filled by returning the species to life and to the wild? Or will a functionally close relative serve? Is a de-extincted species really nothing more than a functionally close relative anyway? If it is too difficult and expensive to revive every extinct species, what are the criteria for deciding which ones to work on? Humans are the ones deciding. What ethics and aesthetics should guide those decisions?

STEWART BRAND is the Founder of the "The Whole Earth Catalog" and Co-founder of The Long Now Foundation and Revive and Restore; Author, Whole Earth Discipline.
Stewart Brand's Edge Bio Page

RICHARD PRUM is an Evolutionary Ornithologist at Yale University, where he is the Curator of Ornithology and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. He is working on a book about duck sex, aesthetic evolution, and the origin of beauty.
Richard Prum's Edge Bio Page

[Continue to Part I—Video & Text]


Part II: "EDGIES ON EXTINCTION"

Molly Crockett introduces and moderates an event of four 10-minute talks by Helena Cronin, Jennifer Jacquet, Steve Jones, and Chiara Marletto, followed by a discussion joined by Hans Ulrich Obrist, and John Brockman.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: When we spoke with John Brockman about the Extinction Marathon he suggested, as a second part—as I mentioned in previous marathons we got the Edge community to realize maps and different formulas, and John thought today it would be wonderful to do a panel with UK based scientists who are part of the Edge community. We are extremely delighted that we now will have four presentations by Helena Cronin, by Chiara Marletto, by Jennifer Jacquet, and by Steve Jones. We welcome Steve Jones back to the Serpentine because he was part of the 2007 Experiment Marathon with Olafur Eliasson. The entire panel will be introduced by Molly Crockett. Molly is an associate professor for experimental psychology and fellow of Jesus college at the University of Oxford. She holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Cambridge and a B.S. in neuroscience from UCLA. Dr. Crockett studies the neuroscience and psychology of altruism, of morality, and self-control. Her work has been published in many top academic journals including Science, PNAS, and also Neuron. Molly Crockett will now introduce Helena, Chiara, Jennifer, and Steve. We then, together with Molly and all the speakers and John, give a panel after that.

MOLLY CROCKETT:  I'm very, very pleased to introduce Helena Cronin. She's the co-director of the Center for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science and the director of Darwin at LSE at the London School of Economics. She has many notable publications including the edited series, Darwinism Today, and the award winning, The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today, that has been featured in the New York Times' Best Books and Nature's Best Science Books of the Year. Her current research interests focus on the evolutionary understanding of sex differences. Let's give a very warm welcome to Helena and welcome her to the stage. ...


... A strange thing happened on the way to a better world in pursuit of an admirable quest, that is, a world free of sex discrimination where you’re judged on your own qualities and not your sex. Truth and falsity went topsy-turvy. The truth—the silence of sex differences—became dangerous, unmentionable, and in its place the conventional wisdom, which is a ragbag of ideas that have long been extinct but are kept ghoulishly alive by popularity, became the entrenched orthodoxy influencing public thinking, agendas and policy-making, and completely crowding out science and sense.

My aim is to show you why the current orthodoxy should be abandoned and why, if you really care about a fairer world, the science does matter. It matters profoundly. I’m going to take two examples, both about the professions, because they very well epitomize the orthodox litany: how society systematically discriminates against women, and how at work they are victims of pervasive sexism. ...

HELENA CRONIN is the Co-Director of LSE's Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science; Author, The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today.  Helena Cronin's Edge Bio Page


There is a new fundamental theory of physics that's called constructor theory, and was proposed by David Deutsch who pioneered the theory of the universe of quantum computer. David and I are working this theory together. The fundamental idea in this theory is that we forumlate all laws of physics in terms of what tasks are possible, what are impossible, and why. In this theory we have an exact physical characterization of an object that has those properties, and we call that knowledge. Note that knowledge here means knowledge without knowing the subject, as in the thoery of knowledge of the philosopher, Karl Popper.

We’ve just come to the conclusion that the fact that extinction is possible means that knowledge can be instantiated in our physical world. In fact, extinction is the very process by which that knowledge is disabled in its ability to remain instantiated in physical systems because there are problems that it cannot solve. With any luck that bit of knowledge can be replaced with a better one. ... 

CHIARA MARLETTO is a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College and Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the Materials Department, University of Oxford.  Chiara Marletto's Edge Bio Page


I dream about the sea cow or imagine what they would be like to see in the wild, but the case of the Pinta Island giant tortoise was a particularly strange feeling for me personally because I had spent many afternoons in the Galapagos Islands when I was a volunteer with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Lonesome George’s den with him. If any of you visited the Galapagos, you know that you can even feed the giant tortoises that are in the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is Lonesome George here.
 
He lived to a ripe old age but failed, as they pointed out many times, to reproduce. Just recently, in 2012, he died, and with him the last of his species. He was couriered to the American Museum of Natural History and taxidermied there. A couple weeks ago his body was unveiled. This was the unveiling that I attended, and at this exact moment in time I can say that I was feeling a little like I am now: nervous and kind of nauseous, while everyone else seemed calm. I wasn’t prepared to see Lonesome George. Here he is taxidermied, looking out over Central Park, which was strange as well. At that moment realized that I knew the last individual of this species to go extinct. That presents this strange predicament for us to be in in the 21st century—this idea of conspicuous extinction. ...

JENNIFER JACQUET is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU; Researching cooperation and the tragedy of the commons; Author, Is Shame Necessary? Jennifer Jacquet's Edge Bio Page


... A strange thing happened on the way to a better world in pursuit of an admirable quest, that is, a world free of sex discrimination where you’re j

What I wanted to talk about is somewhat of a parallel of that in human populations. If you were to go to a textbook on human biology from the time of Darwin or a bit later, you would certainly get an image that looked a bit like this. This is an image of the so-called races of humankind—racial types, as they called them. I’m not going to go into the question of whether there are real races of humankind because there aren’t. It’s interesting to note that until quite recently people assumed, and scientists assumed too, that the human species was divided into distinct groups that were biologically different from each other and had been isolated from each other for a long, long time.

Well, to some extent that was true. Until quite recently, human populations were isolated from each other. That’s changing quite quickly. ...

STEVE JONES is an Emeritus Professor of Genetics at University College London.  Steve Jones's Edge Bio Page


MOLLY CROCKETT is an Associate Professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford; Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging.  Molly Crockett's Edge Bio Page

 

 

 

 

 


HANS ULRICH OBRIST is the Co-director of the Serpentine Gallery in London; Author, Ways of Curating. Hans Ulrich Obrist's Edge Bio Page

JOHN BROCKMAN is the Editor and Publisher of Edge.org; Chairman of Brockman, Inc.; Author, By the Late John Brockman, The Third Culture. John Brockman's Edge Bio Page

[Continue to Part II — Video & Text]


EDGE & SERPENTINE GALLERY

Previous Edge-Serpentine collaborations have included:

"Formulae for the 21st Century" (2007)
"The Table-Top Experiment Marathon" (2007)
"Maps For The 21st Century" (2010)
"Information Gardens" (2011)  


SPEAKING OF EXTINCTIONS....

Edge's own contribution to the conversation will be published in February:

 
Special Events
Event Date: [ 10.13.14 10:15 AM ]
Location:
United States

EDGE: LIVE, IN LONDON

This year's collaboration with the Serpentine Gallery in London was part of the "Extinction Marathon: Visions of the Future" event, which will took place in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery's extension, designed by Zaha Hadid, on Oct. 18th. The entire event which was live-streamed, will be presented on Edge.

An EDGE Conversation: "DE-EXTINCTION": Stewart Brand & Richard Prum
with Hans Ulrich Obrist & John Brockman

Does the prospect of "de-extinction" change how we think about extinction? Conservation science is shifting from being species-centric to function-centric, focussing on the overall health of ecosystems. Does the extinction of a species leave a "gap in nature" that can only be filled by returning the species to life and to the wild? Or will a functionally close relative serve? Is a de-extincted species really nothing more than a functionally close relative anyway? If it is too difficult and expensive to revive every extinct species, what are the criteria for deciding which ones to work on? Humans are the ones deciding. What ethics and aesthetics should guide those decisions?

   

STEWART BRAND is the Founder of the "The Whole Earth Catalog" and Co-founder of The Long Now Foundation and Revive and Restore; Author, Whole Earth Discipline.

Stewart Brand's Edge Bio Page

RICHARD PRUM is an Evolutionary Ornithologist at Yale University, where he is the Curator of Ornithology and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology in the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. He is working on a book about duck sex, aesthetic evolution, and the origin of beauty.

Richard Prum's Edge Bio Page


"EDGIES ON EXTINCTION": 10 Minute talks by Helena Cronin, Jennifer Jacquet, Steve Jones, and Chiara Marletto, and an EDGE discussion joined by Molly Crockett, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and John Brockman.

I dream about the sea cow or imagine what they would be like to see in the wild, but the case of the Pinta Island giant tortoise was a particularly strange feeling for me personally because I had spent many afternoons in the Galapagos Islands when I was a volunteer with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in Lonesome George’s den with him. If any of you visited the Galapagos, you know that you can even feed the giant tortoises that are in the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is Lonesome George here.
 
He lived to a ripe old age but failed, as they pointed out many times, to reproduce. Just recently, in 2012, he died, and with him the last of his species. He was couriered to the American Museum of Natural History and taxidermied there. A couple weeks ago his body was unveiled. This was the unveiling that I attended, and at this exact moment in time I can say that I was feeling a little like I am now: nervous and kind of nauseous, while everyone else seemed calm. I wasn’t prepared to see Lonesome George. Here he is taxidermied, looking out over Central Park, which was strange as well. At that moment realized that I knew the last individual of this species to go extinct. That presents this strange predicament for us to be in in the 21st century—this idea of conspicuous extinction.
[Continue...]

JENNIFER JACQUET is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at NYU researching cooperation and the tragedy of the commons; Author, Is Shame Necessary? Jennifer Jacquet's Edge Bio Page

~ ~ ~ ~

There is a new fundamental theory of physics that’s called constructor theory, and was proposed by David Deutsch who pioneered the theory of the universe of quantum computer. David and I are working this theory together. The fundamental idea in this theory is that we formulate all laws of physics in terms of what tasks are possible, what are impossible, and why. In this theory we have an exact physical characterization of an object that has those properties, and we call that knowledge. Note that knowledge here means knowledge without knowing the subject, as in the theory of knowledge of the philosopher, Karl Popper.

We’ve just come to the conclusion that the fact that extinction is possible means that knowledge can be instantiated in our physical world. In fact, extinction is the very process by which that knowledge is disabled in its ability to remain instantiated in physical systems because there are problems that it cannot solve. With any luck that bit of knowledge can be replaced with a better one. [Continue...]

CHIARA MARLETTO is a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College and Postdoctoral Research Assistnat at the Materials Department at the University of Oxford. Chiara Marletto's Edge Bio Page

~ ~ ~ ~

What I wanted to talk about is somewhat of a parallel of that in human populations. If you were to go to a textbook on human biology from the time of Darwin or a bit later, you would certainly get an image that looked a bit like this. This is an image of the so-called races of humankind—racial types, as they called them. I’m not going to go into the question of whether there are real races of humankind because there aren’t. It’s interesting to note that until quite recently people assumed, and scientists assumed too, that the human species was divided into distinct groups that were biologically different from each other and had been isolated from each other for a long, long time.

Well, to some extent that was true. Until quite recently, human populations were isolated from each other. That’s changing quite quickly. [Continue...]

STEVE JONES is a Professor of Genetics at the Galton Laboratory of University College London; Author, The Lanugage of the GenesSteve Jones's Edge Bio Page

~ ~ ~ ~

... A strange thing happened on the way to a better world in pursuit of an admirable quest, that is, a world free of sex discrimination where you’re judged on your own qualities and not your sex. Truth and falsity went topsy-turvy. The truth—the silence of sex differences—became dangerous, unmentionable, and in its place the conventional wisdom, which is a ragbag of ideas that have long been extinct but are kept ghoulishly alive by popularity, became the entrenched orthodoxy influencing public thinking, agendas and policy-making, and completely crowding out science and sense.

My aim is to show you why the current orthodoxy should be abandoned and why, if you really care about a fairer world, the science does matter. It matters profoundly. I’m going to take two examples, both about the professions, because they very well epitomize the orthodox litany: how society systematically discriminates against women, and how at work they are victims of pervasive sexism. [Continue...]

HELENA CRONIN is the Co-Director of LSE's Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science; Author, The Ant and the Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today. Helena Cronin's Edge Bio Page

~ ~ ~ ~

MOLLY CROCKETT is an Associate Professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford; Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging. Molly Crockett's Edge Bio Page



                                                                                       

HANS ULRICH OBRIST is the Co-director of the Serpentine Gallery in London; Author, Ways of CuratingHans Ulrich Obrist's Edge Bio Page

JOHN BROCKMAN is the Editor and Publisher of Edge.org; Chairman of Brockman, Inc.; Author, By the Late John Brockman, The Third Culture. John Brockman's Edge Bio Page


EDGE & SERPENTINE GALLERY

Previous Edge-Serpentine collaborations have included:

"Formulae for the 21st Century" (2007)
"The Table-Top Experiment Marathon" (2007)
"Maps For The 21st Century" (2010)
"Information Gardens" (2011)  


SPEAKING OF EXTINCTIONS....

Edge's own contribution to the conversation will be published in February:

Annual Questions
Event Date: [ 5.31.14 11:00 AM ]
Location:
United States

Edge @ World Science Festival: REAL SCENARIOS THAT KEEP SCIENTISTS UP AT NIGHT
Panelists: Helen Fisher, Amanda Gefter, Seth Lloyd, Steven Pinker, Max Tegmark; Moderator, John Brockman

Science and Story Cafe: Meet the Authors
Date: Saturday, May 31, 2014
Time: 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM


Venue: NYU Kimmel Center
Register Now

What should we be worried about? That is the question John Brockman, founding editor of the celebrated science website Edge, posed in 2013 to our planet’s most influential minds. Five leading scientists share their worries and discuss their own recent books.

Moderator
JOHN BROCKMAN
Editor, Edge.org; Chairman of Brockman, Inc.; Author, By the Late John Brockman, The Third Culture; Editor, What Should We Be Worried About?

Featuring 
HELEN FISHER
Biological Anthropologist, Rutgers University; Author, Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love
AMANDA GEFTER
Consultant, New Scientist; Founding Editor, "CultureLab"; Author, Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn: A Father, a Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything
SETH LLOYD
Professor of Quantum Mechanical Engineering, MIT; Author, Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
STEVEN PINKER
Johnstone Family Professor, Department of Psychology; Harvard University; Author, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined
MAX TEGMARK
Physicist, MIT; Researcher, Precision Cosmology; Scientific Director, Foundational Questions Institute; Author, Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality

[ED. NOTE: The 2014 World Science Festival takes place May 28-June 2 in New York City. Under the leadership of cofounders Tracy Day and Brian Greenethe Festival, founded in 2008, has evolved into a deep and rich city-wide intellectual feast, available to all. Highly recommended! For information, schedule and tickets, click here. —JB]


 

“Reads like an atlas of fear.”
—New York Times

“Substantial and engrossing.  . . .Brockman and the Edge contributors offer fresh and invaluable perspectives on crucial aspects of our lives.”
Booklist (starred review)

"The most stimulating English-language reading to be had from anywhere in the world." 
—The Canberra Times

“This collection helps us see the myriad possible concerns laid out before us, articulating the various elements of fear that we need to fear.”
—Washington Post

"An awakening read in its entirety."
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings


Edge Dinners
Event Date: [ 3.17.14 7:30 PM ]
Location:
Vancouver,
Canada

Special Events
Event Date: [ 3.4.14 ]
Location:
United States

March 5, 2014

INTRODUCTION

Daniel Kahneman turns 80 today (March 5, 2014). Edge is using this occasion to launch a Reality Club Discussion about his work. (See:  On Kahneman). Also, we are pleased to reprise some of his contributions to our pages below. 

John Brockman

DANIEL KAHNEMAN is the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 2002 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2013. He is Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Princeton, and Author of Thinking Fast and Slow. (Daniel Kahneman's Edge Bio Page)

        


2007


Millions of people have been asked the question, how satisfied are you with your life? That is a question to the remembering self, and there is a fair amount that we know about the happiness or the well-being of the remembering self. But the distinction between the remembering self and the experiencing self suggests immediately that there is another way to ask about well-being, and that's the happiness of the experiencing self.

 A SHORT COURSE IN THINKING ABOUT THINKING
Edge Master Class
 
Daniel Kahneman, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Katinka Matson, Nathan Myrhvold, Peter Diamandis, Dean Kamen, W. Daniel Hillis, George Smoot, Karla Taylor, Jimmy Wales, Salar Kamangar, George Dyson, Seth Lloyd, Tim O'Reilly, Sergey Brin


Anne Treisman


2008


What we're saying is that there is a technology emerging from behavioral economics. It's not only an abstract thing. You can do things with it. We are just at the beginning. I thought that the input of psychology into behavioral economics was done. But hearing Sendhil was very encouraging because there was a lot of new psychology there. That conversation is continuing and it looks to me as if that conversation is going to go forward. It's pretty intuitive, based on research, good theory, and important. — Daniel Kahneman

A SHORT COURSE IN BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS
Edge Master Class


Jeff Bezos, John Brockman, Max Brockman, George Dyson, W. Daniel Hillis, Daniel Kahneman,   Salar Kamangar,  France LeClerc,  Katinka Matson, Sendhil Mullainathan, Elon Musk, Nathan Myhrvold, Sean Parker, Paul Romer, Richard Thaler, Anne Treisman, Evan Williams 

TWO BIG THINGS HAPPENING IN PSYCHOLOGY TODAY 
A Talk By Daniel Kahneman

PUTTING PSYCHOLOGY INTO BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS 
Richard Thaler, Sendhil Mullainathan, Daniel Kahneman 


Sendhil Mullainathan, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos


2011


The power of settings, the power of priming, and the power of unconscious thinking, all of those are a major change in psychology. I can't think of a bigger change in my lifetime. You were asking what's exciting? That's exciting, to me.

THE MARVELS AND THE FLAWS OF INTUITIVE THINKING
Daniel Kahneman 
Edge Master Class: THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN NATURE 


Steven Pinker & Daniel Kahneman 


2013


"I'm still not convinced it was a good idea to write the book." — Kahneman on Thinking Fast and Slow

EDGE RETREAT @ SPRING MOUNTAIN VINEYARD


Daniel Kahneman & Richard Thaler 


 

 

On the Road
Event Date: [ 1.24.14 11:45 AM ]
Location:
United States


JANUARY 19-21, 2014

On the road to Munich in January for DLD14, the 10th annual DLD conference (Digital-Life-Day) run by Steffi Czerny and Lukas Kubina for Hubert Burda Media. The theme this year: "Content and Context." It was the fifth time Edge has been asked to participate. (See below for links to our previous DLD co-events.)


Steffi Czerny and John Brockman

This year the Edge conversation was on "information" from the Neandertal DNA sequenced by Svante Pääbo, the founder of the field of ancient DNA, to the multi-particle entanglement states of physicist Anton Zeilinger, which have become essential in fundamental tests of quantum mechanics and in quantum information science, most notably in quantum computation. In addition, Edge's roving editor, Jennifer Jacquet, was present for a session on "Time's Role in the Tragedy of the Commons" in which she developed themes in her work recently presented on Edge


Svante PääboAnton ZeilingerJohn Brockman: On Information

Information is the foundation of our universe—and life itself. Cultural impresario John Brockman hosts a Third Culture conversation, spanning science and the humanities.

SVANTE PÄÄBO the founder of the field of ancient DNA, is Director, Department of Genetics, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig. Among his achievements are the first demonstration of DNA survival in an ancient Egyptian mummy, the first amplification of ancient DNA, the first study of the DNA from the Iceman found in the Alps, and the first retrieval of DNA from a Neanderthal in 1997. Four years ago, he initiated and organized an effort to sequence the entire Neanderthal genome. The first scientific overview of the genome was published in 2009 and was front page news wordwide. He is the author of Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost GenomesSvante Pääbo's Edge Bio Page

ANTON ZEILINGER, a physicist, is Professor of Physics at the Quantum Optics, Quantum Nanophysics, Quantum Information Institute of University of Vienna. He is President of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the author of Dance of the Photons: From Einstein to Quantum Teleportation. Zeilinger is a pioneer in the field of quantum information and of the foundations of quantum mechanics. He realized many important quantum information protocols for the first time, including quantum teleportation of an independent qubit, entanglement swapping (i.e. the teleportation of an entangled state), hyper-dense coding (which was the first entanglement-based protocol ever realized in experiment), entanglement-based quantum cryptography, one-way quantum computation and blind quantum computation. His further contributions to the experimental and conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics include multi-particle entanglement and matter wave interference all the way from neutrons via atoms to macromolecules such as fullerenes. Anton Zeilinger's Edge Bio Page


Jennifer Jacquet: Times Role in the Tragedy of the Commons

How do tensions between individuals and groups play out? Between high-consuming people and low? Between the now and the future? Game theory offers answers.

JENNIFER JACQUET is Clinical Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, NYU, researching shame, cooperation and the tragedy of the commons. She is also Edge's Roving Editor (see interviews with Adam Alter and Joseph Heinrich).

Her work was recently featured on Edge after Nature Climate Change published a study by Jacquet and her colleagues at two Max Planck Institutes on "Delayed Gratification Hurts Cimate Change Cooperation".  Jennifer Jacquet's Edge Bio Page


EDGE @DLD: 2011: AN EDGE CONVERSATION IN MUNICH with Stewart Brand, George Dyson, Kevin Kelly, introduced by Andrian Kreye. A session with three of the original members of Edge who year in and year out provide the core sounding board for the ideas and information we present to the public. I refer to them in private correspondance as "The Council." Every year, beginning late summer, I consult with Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly, and George Dyson, and together we create the Edge Annual Question which Edge has been asking since 1996. 2010: "INFORMAVORE" with Frank Schirrmacher, Editor of the Feuilleton and Co-Publisher of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Andrian Kreye, Feuilleton Editor of Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich; and Yale computer science visionary David Gelernter, who, in his 1991 book Mirror Worlds presented what's now called "cloud computing." 2009: REFLECTIONS ON A CRISISDaniel Kahneman, the greatest living psychologist, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the foremost scholar of extreme events discuss hindsight biases, the illusion of patterns, perception of risk, and denial. 2008: LIFE: A GENE-CENTRIC VIEWRichard Dawkins & J. Craig Venter. It's not everyday you have Richard Dawkins and Craig Venter on a stage talking for an hour. That it occured in Germany, where the culture had been resistant to open discussion of genetics, and at DLD, the Digital, Life, Design conference organized by Hubert Burda Media in Munich, a high-level event for the digital elite—the movers and shakers of the Internet—made the discussion particularly interesting.  

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