"Big, deep and ambitious questions....breathtaking in scope. Keep watching The World Question Center." — New Scientist


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1998
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1999
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2000
"What Is Today's Most Important Unreported Story?"
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2001
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2001—9/11
What Now?
"INSPIRED ARENA: Edge has been bringing together the world's foremost scientific thinkers since 1998, and the response to September 11 was measured and uplifting."
(The Sunday Times)

2002
"What's Your Question?"
Brockman's thinkers of the "Third Culture," whether they, like Dawkins, study evolutionary biology at Oxford or, like Alan Alda, portray scientists on Broadway, know no taboos. Everything is permitted, and nothing is excluded from this intellectual game. (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)


2003
"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"

PRESS


Suddeutsche Zeitung


Arts & Letters Daily


Slashdot


The New York Times


The Wall Street Journal


94 responses to date
(in order received)


Todd Siler

Philip Brockman

George Smoot

John McWhorter

Sherry Turkle

Gregory Benford

Vera John-Steiner

Paul MacCready

Margaret Werthjeim

Ian Wilmut

J. Craig Venter

Ray Kurzweil

Rodney Brooks

Gino Segre

Oliver Morton

Stephen Schneider

J. Doyne Farmer

Stephen Reucroft
& John Swain

David Gelernter

Richard E. Nisbett

Denis Dutton

Seth Lloyd

Gary F. Marcus

Leon Lederman

John McCarthy

Keith Devlin

Steven Quartz

Eberhard Zangger

Clifford Pickover

Justin Hall

Jaron Lanier
































































"Big, deep and ambitious questions....breathtaking in scope. Keep watching The World Question Center." — New Scientist


2003

"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?" — GWB


The following message is the basis for the 6th Annual Edge Question. I sent individualized emails to the third culture mail list as in the example below, addressed to Steven Pinker, the first participant to respond.

From:"John Brockman" <address restricted>
To: "Steven Pinker" <address restricted>
Subject: THE EDGE ANNUAL QUESTION — 2003
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002
X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
Importance: Normal

Steve,

This just in from Washington...

From: "George W. Bush" <address restricted>
To: "John Brockman" <address restricted>
Subject: Science Advisor
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002

Dear John,

I appreciate your taking the time to recommend the appointment of Steven Pinker to be my next science advisor and I am pleased to hear of his interest in the position.

I am impressed with the resume of Dr. Pinker which you sent earlier. Could you please ask him to prepare a memo which answers the following question:

"What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"

In addition to obvious issues that have dominated the headlines during my first two years in office, I would hope to hear about less obvious scientific issues as well.

I need the memo by the end of December.

Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

GWB

I wish the above was really an email from President Bush. It is not. It's the set-up for this year's Edge Annual Question — 2003, and because this event receives wide attention from the scientific community and the global press, the responses it evokes just might have the same effect as a memo to the President....that is, if you stick to science and to those scientific areas where you have expertise.

I am asking members of the Edge community to take this project seriously as a public service, to work together to create a document that can be widely disseminated to begin a public discussion about the important scientific issues before us.

Address your memo to the President and very briefly add your credentials (as in the example below). I will post the responses as they come in. Please email your response to me on or before January 1, 2003 for publication the week of January 6th.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

JB


Happy New Year!

John Brockman
Publisher & Editor
January 6, 2003

p.s. A selection of the responses below were excerpted by The New York Times Op-Ed Page on Saturday, January 4, 2003.


New Todd SilerPhilip BrockmanGeorge SmootJohn McWhorterSherry TurkleGregory BenfordVera John-SteinerPaul MacCreadyMargaret Wertheim
Ian WilmutJ. Craig VenterSteven PinkerRay KurzweilGino Segre Stephen SchneiderOliver MortonRodney BrooksSeth LloydDenis DuttonFreeman DysonPhilip Campbell Kevin KellyLawrence BrilliantMihalyi CsikszentmihalyiPaul DaviesRobert ShapiroJaron LanierJ. Doyne FarmerColin TudgeMarvin MinskyGeorge DysonWilliam H. Calvin David GelernterJanna Levin Howard GardnerMartin SeligmanRichard NisbettDavid LykkenAlison GopnikMarc D. Hauser Eric R. KandelK. Eric DrexlerJames J. O'DonnellMichael ShermerDaniel GolemanRichard Saul WurmanAndy ClarkJohn Horgan Roger C. SchankNancy EtcoffGerald HoltonJudith Rich HarrisBrian GoodwinKarl Sabbagh Joel Garreau Susan BlackmoreLeo ChalupaJordan PollackDavid MyersErnst Pöppel Lisa RandallStuart PimmEduardo PunsetLee SmolinRafael NunezTimothy TaylorMike WeinerLeon Lederman Bart KoskoAdam BlyRandolph NesseTerrence SejnowskiMary Catherine BatesonAlan AldaCliff BarneyDouglas RushkoffDonald D. HoffmanSteve GiddingsLance KnobelPiet HutRobert AungerChristine FinnDavid M. BussBeatrice GolombRupert SheldrakeDelta WillisClifford PickoverEberhard ZanggerSteven QuartzKeith DevlinJohn McCarthyGary F. Marcus Justin HallStephen Reucroft & John Swain

Press Suddeutsche ZeitungArts & Letters Daily SlashDotThe New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal


The Engine of Prosperity
Academics Demand a New Science Policy from Bush

by Andrian Kreye
January 14, 2003

Because the last decade brought forth not only scientific successes, but also a new scientific culture, the struggle for the future no longer takes place in privileged circles, but on the public stage...The worldview with the greatest profile in this regard is the "third culture," because it attempts to find scientific answers to the most important questions facing humanity. New York literary agent John Brockman coined the term...and conducts its most important debating club on his internet platform, Edge (http://www.edge.org).

[English translation | German original]
 


Ideas — Criticism — Debate
January 6, 2003


Essays and Opinion (Lead item)

If you had the President’s ear, what would you advise him was the most urgent scientific issue the country faces? Energy? Stem-cell research? Bioterror? Science teaching?... more»

2003 Edge.org World Question

The MediaPosted by timothy on Monday January 06, @04:15AM
from the what-would-sauron-do dept.
murky.waters writes "The responses to this year's Edge.org question have been published; basically, people were asked to imagine they were nominated as White House science adviser and the President asked them what are some important issues in science and what we should do about them. There are 84 responses, ranging in topic from advanced nanotechnology to the psychology of foreign cultures, and lots of ideas regarding science, technology, politics, and education. The responses were written by academics (e.g. Roger Schank, Marvin Minsky), journalists (Kevin Kelly), Nobel Laureates (Eric Kandel), and others (Alan Alda). Some of responses are politically loaded but the majority has either a more specialised proposal, or general remarks about our world. Many are absolutely fascinating: funny, insightful, interesting, hell even informative. ... One of the most public supporters of the Singularity 'religion', Ray Kurzweil, is a regular at Edge, and currently discussed issues range from said transhumanism to early-universe theories, and many other kinds of exciting and novel science." ( Read More...)




January 4, 2003

Today's Visions of the Science of Tomorrow

At the end of every year, John Brockman, a literary agent and the publisher of Edge.org, a Web site devoted to science, poses a question to leading scientists, writers and futurists. In 2002, he asked respondents to imagine that they had been nominated as White House science adviser and that President Bush had sought their answer to "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?" Here are excerpts of some of the responses.

Mapping the Planet • Professor PlayStation • Little Geniuses • Think Small • Science Without Secrets • Fending Off the Big One • Intellectual Globalization • Cassandras of the Labs • Really Popular Science

[Click here for The New York Times Op-Ed page—free registration required]


SCIENCE JOURNAL
By SHARON BEGLEY
December 27, 2002

Dear W: Scientists Offer
President Advice on Policy


DEAR READER,

Congratulations! President George W. Bush is considering asking you to serve as his science adviser. He asks that you write him a memo addressing, "What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?"

So begins this year's online question from Edge, an e-salon of leading scientists and members of the "Third Culture" (in answer to C.P. Snow's scientists vs. humanists)...

This year—with smallpox vaccination, bioterror, stem-cell research, climate change, energy policy and missile defense dominating news—the annual question eschews intellectual posturing and gets down to practicalities...

...You can improve your own science education at www.edge.org, where the Edge memos will be available January 6.

[Click here for article—subscription required]


PRead all the contributions in a 62,000 word printable file


Responses


Todd Siler

There's a simple story that sums up the perils of global terrorism. "Once there were two people sitting in a rowboat. One suddenly started making a hole on his side of the boat. The other screamed. The first countered and said, 'What do you care what I do on my side of the boat?'" [more...]


Philip Brockman

The type of research we pursue is not neary as important as the horizon. [more...]


George F. Smoot

Science and the nation are inextricably intertwined. The economic and military strength of the county is based upon the technologies that have sprung from our basic science research. Likewise our medical system is fully dependent on a mixture of medical research and physical sciences detector development. Thus the health, well being, safety of our country's citizens depends very directly on the technological fruits of scientific research. [more...]


John H. McWhorter

The typical college student who has studied Arabic for a year has essentially learned how to decode text and utter simple sentences—which is useless in decoding a memo written in running script by a terrorist, or even in understanding a speech by an Arab official. [more...]


Sherry Turkle

Advocate technology as a learning partner across the curriculum. This strategy is important for improving learning, developing computer literacy, and for inviting a variety of users, including girls, into technology. [more...]


Gregory Benford

Rather than fixate on controlling greenhouse gases, which are politically hard to suppress, I suggest a new, innovative research program directed at the central global problem: warming. A partial cure can come from simple methods, until now little studied. [more...]


Vera John-Steiner

The problem of political and religious fanaticism is beyond the scope separately of psychology, political science, or historical study. An interdisciplinary program building upon current efforts but addressing the issues with the use of multiple methods is needed. [more...]


Paul B. MacCready

Civilization's rocketing growth comes from exploiting non-renewables: coal since 1800 and oil since 1900, for example. US oil peaked about 15 years ago; global supplies should peak in about 10-15 years. There are semi-practical alternatives available or at least conceivable to let us get by on renewables, but virtually no one really sees the importance. [more...]


Margaret Wertheim

In a climate of growing religious fundamentalism and rising skepticism about science, the scientific community itself has began to understand the importance of reaching out to the wider public. [more...]


Ian Wilmut

Biomedical research in the United States has a distinguished record of contributing to knowledge and to new medical treatments. In the same way, research with cells derived from cloned human embryos will offer unique opportunities to study many extremely unpleasant diseases, perhaps one day to have treatments for these diseases and also to produce safer medicines. This research cannot be carried out in any other way. [more...]


J. Craig Venter

With the genetic material in hand of organisms such as human, mouse, and fruit fly, researchers now have the opportunity to understand these complex creatures so that we may one day better treat disease, fully understand evolutionary biology, and thus understand the most fundamental aspects of life and how we as humans function. [more...]


Steven Pinker

Your father called himself “the education president,” and you have promised new educational policies in which"no child is left behind." [more...]


Ray Kurzweil

... my proposal is on a different front: to dramatically increase funding for promising new methodologies in the field of "human somatic cell engineering," which bypass entirely fetal stem cells. These emerging technologies create new tissues with a patient's own DNA by modifying one type of cell (such as a skin cell) directly into another (such as a pancreatic Islet cell or a heart cell) without the use of fetal stem cells. [more...]


Gino Segre

New insights in developmental biology—our similarities to not only chimpanzees and baboons, but to fruit flies and worms, the genomic revolution and the invigorated emergence of neuroscience are all candidates for unforgettable discoveries. They must be pursued with all the means at our disposal. I would like to address a totally different one: the birth of our universe. [more...]


Stephen H. Schneider

Science does not allocate equal time or space to all ideas once the winnowing process of quality assessment has begun. To follow the political doctrine of "balance" diminishes democracy since it distorts the knowledge base upon which sound decisions should be made. [more...]


Oliver Morton

Your number one priority in science and technology should be a new commitment to international public health. It is not a particularly sexy topic; it needs no new nano-know-how, nor a radical change in our way of seeing the physical world. It will create no great technical advantage for America, nor add to its already impressive defenses. Though it will employ the talents of hundreds of thousands around the world, relatively few of them will be on the cutting edge of research. But it is what you must do, nonetheless. [more...]


Rodney Brooks

I would urge you to set aside perhaps a billion dollars to fund new fellowships for graduate students from predominantly Islamic countries to come and study science (broadly construed) in the United States. [more...]


Seth Lloyd

Science is public knowledge. But science is not the only field where openness is important. The security failures of 9/11 were caused not by too little, but by too much secrecy. And the discussions that form public policy should be public...Science isn't poker: it only works when the cards are dealt face up. Don't go down in history as the Texan who closed the scientific frontier. [more...]


Denis Dutton

I hope your new Science Advisor comes to the job armed with knowledge of the rich history of junk science and false predictions served up to government in the last forty years. [more...]


Freeman Dyson

The resulting memo is practical and unimaginative. It may not be of much interest to the Edge community, but I think it would be more useful to the president than a wider-ranging document. The second memo is the unpractical and imaginative version. It is not very imaginative, because I still want it to be taken seriously as an agenda for the twenty-first century. [more...]

Philip Campbell

There are many excellent researchers who would make rapid progress in malarial "post-genomics" if substantial new money became available. It would therefore be widely recognised as a wonderfully enlightened action if you were to ensure that the National Institutes of Health introduced a malaria post-genomics programme, with a new budget of at least $300m, as a first step towards the prevention and cure of this devastating disease. [more...]


Kevin Kelly

Science, like business, has been totally captured by the next quarter mentality, and it will require a deliberate effort to stress the long view so that our knowledge matches our predicament. [more...]


Lawrence B. Brilliant, M.D.

The fear of smallpox as a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists is based either on the public information, which is speculative and anecdotal, or on military or secret intelligence sources which are unavailable. [more...]


Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

The point is, Mr. President, that a National Bureau for the Support of Science, with Cabinet status, is getting to be a necessity. [more...]


Paul Davies

Many commentators are urging George Bush Jr. to finish in Iraq what President George Bush Sr. began in the Gulf War. Mr. President, I urge you to apply this advise in space. Take up the challenge. Go to Mars! [more...]


Robert Shapiro

Our scientific and cultural heritage is abundant, and the threats to it are numerous—it is time to back up civilization. To do this we will need to establish secure sanctuaries (think of the monasteries of the Middle Ages) that preserve and update copies of the vital records and articles needed for the conduct of our society. [more...]


Jaron Lanier

You are in an amazing position. You are the most powerful president in a generation. Be bold! Science and technology are the most potent tools mankind has for improving our circumstances. Let's use this amazing moment in history to create a new period of happiness and prosperity. Please don't let your marvelous position in history go to waste. [more...]


J. Doyne Farmer

...science is patriotic. Good old American know-how is the foundation that has made this a great country. It is no coincidence that so many of the founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, had a lifelong passion for science. Science is the engine that has fueled our prosperity. [more...]


Colin Tudge

...science has become bound with wealth and power into a positive feedback loop from which it cannot escape: its perceived role in the present age is to provide high technologies of the kind that generate capital which in turn supports more science, of the kind that will provide high technologies to generate more capital and so on and so on. [more...]


Marvin Minsky

My idea is that the whole "Homeland Defense" thing is too cost-ineffective to be plausible. [more...]


George Dyson

What’s missing is that science (and engineering) is no longer a fundamental priority of the national agenda—the way it was when Sputnik galvanized us into action in the aftermath of World War II. [more...]


William H. Calvin

But only a dozen years ago, no one knew much about abrupt climate change, those past occasions when the whole world flipped out of a warm-and-wet mode like today into the alternate mode, which is cool, dry, windy, dusty. [more...]


David Gelernter

What the president ought to do is obvious: focus the nation's mind on a big, real and exciting problem. Ideally we ought to have a competitor to keep us playing our best game—but if the problem is interesting enough, maybe the competitor doesn't matter. [more...]


Janna Levin

It is a compelling human story. From genetics, to cognitive science, to physics we can patch together a view of the world, our place in it, our power and powerlessness. We can describe the mad animals we are in the middle of a range of phenomenon from the microscopic to the mind tauntingly vast. [more...]


Howard Gardner

You went to Andover, Yale and Harvard, respected educational institutions where educational values are debated up front, where you were not a guinea pig in randomized trials, and where you had some of the most gifted teachers in the world. Your children, our children, deserve the same respect. [more...]


Martin Seligman

It takes a bomb in the office of some academics to make them realize that their most basic values are now threatened, and some of my good friends and colleagues on the Edge seem to have forgotten 9/11. [more...]

Richard E. Nisbett

Beneficial results for innovations in minority education have been obtained at every level from early elementary school through college. Unfortunately, it is frequently assumed, even by educators, that such results are possible only for charismatic individuals and that they cannot be duplicated by normal people in normal school systems. [more...]


David Lykken

One promising example of such legislation would be a program of parental licensure requiring persons, wishing to birth and rear a baby, to demonstrate at least what we should minimally require of persons wishing to adopt someone else's baby. [more...]

Alison Gopnik

Human beings have thrived because, more than any other creature, we are naturally driven to learn about the world around us. Our greatest scientists and most creative companies regularly borrow the best practices of mothers and preschool teachers. Give all our scientists, old and young, lunch, the right toys, a safe place to play, interesting problems to solve, and someone to talk to, and watch them fly. [more...]


Marc D. Hauser

To understand the nature of foreign markets, we must understand the psychology of foreign cultures. This entails a search for human universals and how these constrain cultural variation. To illustrate, consider the problem of cooperation, and in particular, how people judge fairness and respond to unfair play. [more...]

Eric R. Kandel

The first and most important issue at the edge is the biology underlying conscious experience, particularly the biology of self-awareness: How do you study it? Where is it located in the brain? How does it develop over time? [more...]

K. Eric Drexler

Advanced nanotechnologies, based on molecular manufacturing, will enable the production of computer systems a billion times more powerful than today's, aerospace vehicles with 98% less structural mass, and medical tools enabling molecular repair of cells, tissues, and organs. These and related technologies will be economically and strategically decisive. [more...]


James J. O'Donnell

The most critical science policy decisions that face you can all be reduced to a three words: education, education, education. [more...]

Michael Shermer

Science is a way of thinking that recognizes the need to test hypotheses so that the process is not reduced to mere opinion mongering, that the findings of such tests are provisional and probabilistic, and that natural explanations are always sought for natural phenomena. [more...]

Daniel Goleman

My proposal: surface the hidden links between what we buy and the consequential impacts of those products. Then let consumers make choices based on this new information—in a sense,"voting" every time we purchase goods—and let the power of the free market, rather than government policy alone, become a force for improvement. [more...]

Richard Saul Wurman

The making of scientific information understandable means presenting, designing & structuring this information so that it is accessible, available and actionable. Constructive science is based upon accessibility, understandability, an informed constituency and finally action. [more...]


Andy Clark

As your new scientific advisor, I would like to draw your attention to an important and perhaps surprising fact. The citizens of your country are not just flesh and blood. They are, increasingly, flesh, blood, and machine. Let me explain why, and then why it matters.
[more...]

John Horgan

I recommend that you create a new governmental body, The National Institute for the Scientific Study of Peace, to address by far the most pressing issue of our time: the persistence of war as a means of resolving disputes between nations.
[more...]

Roger C. Schank

I'll bet you didn't take a single science course at Yale. Who could blame you? I was a member of the Yale faculty for many years. The science professors are preparing future scientists not future Presidents. The nation suffers as a result.
[more...]

Nancy Etcoff

The new National Institute for Humanism would be a mechanism to formally foster and encourage collaborations across the arts, humanities, and sciences, create synergy and cross-fertilization of ideas, uniting thinkers from different viewpoints and disciplines in tackling important questions about who and what we are.   [more...]

Gerald Holton

...it is essential to realize that behind the many pressing scientific issues facing our Nation today, one stands out far among the rest: The persistent decline for several years in the past, and into the foreseeable future, of the very health of the scientific/technological workforce of America. [more...]


Judith Rich Harris

Maybe you should look for a science advisor in some other field ... um, botany? No, too controversial. Dermatology? [more...]


Brian Goodwin

Accelerating the rate of CO2 increase in the atmosphere by profligate use of Iraq's vast oil supplies, together with the continuing deforestation of the Amazon, will not only turn the Amazon basin into a parched desert but plunge the entire mid-West into prolonged drought, resulting in famine in your own land. History would then judge you as an apocalyptic Burning Bush, bringing the scourge of parching fire to your country and its people. [more...]


Karl Sabbagh

The best way to deal with this particular problem [deep level of ignorance of science], which impedes the solution of most other scientific problems, is to provide an annual bonus on top of their salary to new science teachers of $100,000 a year, and put applicants through a rigorous selection process based on a combination of knowledge, skill and passion for the subject, combined with superb pupil handling ability. [more...]


Joel Garreau

We are entering an era of scientific change that is rocking no less than human nature itself. This directed evolution is unprecedented. It is convulsing everything from the affairs of state, to defense, to commerce, to labor, to education, to health, to welfare, to the economy. It is not science fiction. It has begun to occur and is accelerating this decade. You need an advisor who can help you try to ride this curve of change. [more...]


Susan Blackmore

Mr President, it is the United States of America who long ago brought the evil of prohibition upon the world, and still holds the power to prevent the rest of us from seeking freedom from prohibition. Mr President, you could win the war on terrorism, not by fighting, but by refusing to fight the war on drugs. [more...]


Leo M. Chalupa

A key aspect of this program is the prize: $100,000 to each high school senior and $1,000,000 to the college counterparts. The total annual cost of the program (including administration) would be less than $250 million, while its impact would be dramatic and long lasting. With serious prize money on the line science would no longer be just for the "weird" kids. Indeed, doing science would be seen as cool. [more...]


Jordan Pollack

Taking all three points together, my advice is to stimulate optimism by making a bold move turning America's focus from its negative role in war brinkmanship to a positive role as a leader who stands for peace, freedom and economic growth. [more...]


David G. Myers

The moral: It is perfectly normal to fear purposeful violence from those who hate us. When Saddam commits more evil, or when terrorists strike again (likely where unexpected), we will all recoil in horror. But smart thinkers will also want to check their intuitive fears against the facts.
[more...]


Ernst Pöppel

Scientists are natural ambassadors...It is only scientists who bring people and nations together. Independent of history, religious faith, economic status, gender or color of skin, scientists work together and have worked together to pursue a common goal, i.e. a deeper understanding of nature and culture.
[more...]


Lisa Randall

The views of the scientific community could be especially relevant today. Many pressing issues that will shape the lives of Americans and the world in the coming years will be best addressed by leaders who recognize that science, science education, scientific expertise, and international science cooperation are crucial to formulating the best policy.
[more...]


Stuart L. Pimm

I have yet to see an area where science has informed any of this present administration's policies. Despite much hand waving about "sound science" I have no confidence that a science advisor would have any useful impact whatsoever. [more...]


Eduardo Punset

Science is pointing towards an LSD-like world without LSD intake. And we are wholly unprepared for both. Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Psychology—the things we are made of—are inextricably intertwined. People though, remain interactiveless and disentangled. [more...]


Lee Smolin

In the modern world, science, democracy and prosperity go hand in hand, and it is no coincidence that throughout history those nations that led the development of democracy also led their times in scientific advancement. [more...]


Rafael Nunez

Without the Infinite, mathematics as we know it, would simply not exist. But where does the Infinite come from? How do we grasp the Infinite if, after all, our biology is finite, and so are our experiences and everything we encounter with our bodies?  [more...]


Timothy Taylor

I have recently suggested that what early humans were up to was very different to what we hitherto thought, and that the birth of religion and the emergence of social cohesion was rooted in atavistic practices of human sacrifice and ceremonial cannibalism. [more...]


Mike Weiner

We are benefitted by the significant investments into nano/bio technologies being funded through NIH, NSF, DARPA/DOD. An increase, modest on the scale of the overall budget, with a research mandate encouraging exploring these new areas of potential discovery, can yield enormous benefits in developing diagnostics, and as a result of that, therapeutics, to tackle the many diseases afflicting humanity, and the current enormous cost of treating these diseases. [more...]


Leon Lederman

When you remarked that the nation owes me (i.e. its scientists) a great debt, I could not refrain from asking, "Sir, could you possibly estimate approximately how much that would be?" the crowd broke up and I missed my chance. [more...]


Bart Kosko

But there is a more focused and more urgent crisis of scientific literacy: There is widespread statistical illiteracy among scientists themselves. The signature of this illiteracy is not being able to tell a number from a curve. [more...]


Adam Bly

In times where the most important issues facing your administration, and indeed the nation, are science-centric—from the search for biological weapons in Iraq to human cloning, from global warming to smallpox vaccinations—the voice of the President's chief science advisor must be more pronounced; the public needs to see and hear a stronger scientific presence in the West Wing. [more...]


Randolph Nesse

A World Science Collaboration committed to providing no-strings-attached scientific resources to other countries would change how the United States is viewed by the world community. [more...]


Terrence Sejnowski

A bold new initiative is needed to train a new generation of computational biologists who are equally at home in wet bench science and the world of computational science. [more...]


Mary Catherine Bateson

...we regard more and more problems of individual behavior as biologically determined, but we are increasingly ready to treat them biochemically, and looking forward to treating them genetically. Our fatalism about the individual capacity to learn and heal is matched only by our technological hubris. [more...]


Alan Alda

Too many people think cloning cells for the fight against disease is the same thing as creating Frankenstein's monster. Too many people think evolution is the idea that people are descended from apes. And too many people think that genetic modification of plants is a dangerous new idea, instead of something that's been going on for ten thousand years...The problem is that, although we're all entitled to our beliefs, our culture increasingly holds that science is just another belief. Maybe this is because it's easier to believe something—anything—than not to know. [more...]


Cliff Barney

Your science advisor is really a social advisor, providing an expert's view on how the state can best assist in and benefit from the advancement of science. [more...]


Doulgas Rushkoff

To push a science agenda, we would have to promote the underlying premise of science: that none of the systems we use to understand this reality are pre-existing or true. They were simply the most useful at a particular moment—very often to a particular group. When they stop being useful, we must be prepared to discard them. [more...]


Donald D. Hoffman

But the single greatest mystery facing science today arises, remarkably, each time we see the red of an apple, hear the blast of a trumpet, smell the fragrance of a rose, or reel with anger from an insult. The mystery is this: What is the relationship between our everyday conscious experiences and our brains? [more...]


Steve Giddings

Science is the only way we have of truly understanding how our increasingly complex world works. The scientific view is the long view—it is not short term thinking; it seeks the big picture. The choice is clear: a future of ignorance, or a far better future of enlightenment. [more...]


Lance Knobel

Your friend Tony Blair recently gave a speech where he declared, "We're at a crossroads. We could choose a path of timidity in the face of the unknown. Or we could choose to be a nation at ease with radical knowledge, not fearful of the future, a culture that values a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to new opportunities." Prime Minister Blair believes the second path is the clear choice. It's time you demonstrated the same conviction. [more...]


Piet Hut

However, there is one aspect of my work that does have deadly consequences, more precisely, will have deadly consequences if it is ignored. Here is where heaven and earth meet: in the possibility, and in the long run the certainty, that people will die through the effects of an impact of an asteroid, large or small. [more...]


Robert Aunger

While the findings of anthropologists indicate that we should be tolerant of cultural variation, taking anthropology seriously as a science also indicates that we should not mistake exotic beliefs for science. The fact that people have diverse systems of belief does not give them all equal claims on truth. [more...]


Christine Finn

Without a sense of the past, there is a danger of raising a generation of change-junkies, weaned on the rush of accelerating technologies, for whom history has no relevance. They would recognise technological change only through its material culture—the stuff—brought to them on the street and in a welter of media hits. In their world where nothing stands still, they are left with no space to evaluate why technological change happens and, crucially, its implications. [more...]


David M. Buss

We are endangered from the outside by our avowed enemies. We are threatened from within by killers among us. An urgent need for the nation to establish a deep scientific understanding of psychological circuits dedicated to murder and the causal processes that create, activate, and deactivate those circuits. [more...]


Beatrice Golomb

As recognized pathogens develop multi-drug resistance, and as new pathogens are recognized, our tools for recognizing and treating these agents must keep up. At one time it was thought that infectious diseases had been practically vanquished. We must work hard to keep up. [more...]


Rupert Sheldrake

My proposal is that 99 per cent of the research funds continue to be allocated in the usual way. But I suggest that 1 per cent is spent in a way that reflects the curiosity of lay people, who pay for all publicly funded research through taxes. It would be necessary to create a separate funding body. One possible name would be the National Discovery Center.
[more...]


Delta Willis

Your science advisor would also need to be a political analyst, whose first hurdle would be overcoming West Wing Withdrawal. For all Martin Sheen's ability to multi-task, in reality, key problems are often pushed to the back burner, and domestic policy is naturally suffering by the current need to put out so many fires in foreign policy. [more...]


Clifford Pickover

Quantum dots consist of trapped electrons with no nucleus. Once confined, the electrons repel one another and form orbitals reminiscent of orbitals we find in actual atoms. Novel substances made from quantum dots will be able to change their properties as easy as a traffic light changes from red to green, and their properties can be adjusted in real-time through the application of light, electricity, and so forth. [more...]


Eberhard Zangger

What is needed now to get scientific research back on a fast and efficient track again can be termed "lean science". Lean science is slender, quick, efficient and inexpensive. It has the potential of leading to numerous unexpected insights and discoveries. [more...]


Steven R. Quartz

Studies of our biological constitution make it increasingly clear that we are social creatures of meaning, who crave a sense of coherence and purpose. Yet, our modern way of life seems to provide fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in the group life that satisfies these human needs—indeed, many of its structures and institutions stunts these very needs. [more...]


Keith Devlin

In short, most of the current effort being put into increasing airline safety is a waste of valuable resources. In a world where fanatical individuals are willing to give their own lives to achieve their goals, we can never be 100% safe. What we should do, is direct our resources in the most efficient manner possible. [more...]


John McCarthy

Now here's my warning; it may be unnecessary. The scientific community, worldwide as well as in America, is like other communities and given to fads and taboos. These taboos have prevented some subjects from being researched or even discussed. These subjects include the genetics of behavior and intelligence. [more...]


Gary F. Marcus

In the 20th century, we led the way—our discovery of transistors led to everything from radios and televisions to cell phones and PocketPCs. But the leading technologies in the 21st century—cures for cancer, heart disease, and mental illness—will all be biological, and without research on stem cells, we will be left behind. [more...]


Justin Hall

Video games compel kids to spend dozens of hours a week exploring virtual worlds and learning their rules. Barring a massive overhaul of our school system, Nintendo and PlayStation will continue to be the most successful at captivating young minds. [more...]


Stephen Reucroft and John Swain

Science is the nemesis of ignorance, and ignorance is our single biggest enemy. Ignorance has been attacking us for ages and it is so ever present that we often forget that it's there. Broad-based support for science, and the public awareness and appreciation of it, are essential if we are to have a future. There is no single overwhelmingly pressing sub field or sub-issue. We need it all, we need it now, and we need everyone to understand it as deeply as possible. [more...]


PPrinter version (complete text of all responses)

John Brockman, Editor and Publisher
Russell Weinberger, Associate Publisher

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