John Brockman: Pioneer of Scientific Literature

[ Thu. Apr. 12. 2018 ]

The Selfish Gene; The Illusion of Self; The Glass Cage. If you have ever read a book by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Nicholas Carr —among a host of others — you have been in contact, most likely unknowingly, with John Brockman.

For Hollywood, there is the parlour game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”: just about every actor or actress is within six connections, normally fewer, of Bacon himself. Emma Watson, for instance, has a Bacon Number of two: she has acted alongside John Cleese, who has in turn acted alongside Bacon. If you were to transpose that game to the world of scientific publishing, you might choose to search out “Brockman Numbers”. The only difficulty would be that Brockman is connected to everybody. I mentioned Brockman to an acquaintance at Oxford University Press, asking their opinion of him. In response I got pursed lips and the comment, “Brockman? He’s a big fish.”

...It is hard to think of anybody else with this clout; Jeff Bezos, perhaps, or Bill Gates, but it is a small and rarefied group. There are few fish bigger.