now, into the breach comes John Brockman, the literary agent
and gadfly, whose online scientific salon, Edge.org, has become
one of the most interesting stopping places on the Web. He begins
every year by posing a question to his distinguished roster
of authors and invited guests. Last year he asked what sort
of counsel each would offer George W. Bush as the nation's top
science adviser. This time the question is "What's your law?"
Brockman, a New York literary agent, writer and impresario of
the online salon Edge, figures it is time for more scientists
to get in on the whole naming thing...As a New Year's exercise,
he asked scores of leading thinkers in the natural and social
sciences for "some bit of wisdom, some rule of nature,
some law-like pattern, either grand or small, that you've noticed
in the universe that might as well be named after you."
Brockman has posted an intriguing question on his Edge website.
Brockman advises his would-be legislators to stick to the scientific
answers to the rule of law. Nature. Science. Society. All of
it obeys a set of codes...It's the thinker's challenge to put
words to these unwritten rules. Do so, and he or she may go
down in history. Like a Newton or, more recently, a Gordon Moore,
who in 1965 coined the most cited theory of the technological
age, an observation on how computers grow exponentially cheaper
and more powerful... Recently, John Brockman went looking for
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."
responses are generally written in an engaging, casual style
(perhaps encouraged by the medium of e-mail), and are often
fascinating and thought - provoking.... These are all wonderful,
are interested in thinking smart,'" declares Brockman
on the site, "we are not interested in the anesthesiology
ARENA: Edge has been bringing together the world's foremost
scientific thinkers since 1998, and the response to September
11 was measured and uplifting."
Questions Have Disappeared?"
to this year's question are deliciously creative... the variety
astonishes. Edge continues to launch intellectual skyrockets
of stunning brilliance. Nobody in the world is doing what Edge
a year, John Brockman of New York, a writer and literary agent
who represents many scientists, poses a question in his online
journal, The Edge, and invites the thousand or so people on
his mailing list to answer it."
Is Today's Most Important Unreported Story?"
assume for a second that Ted Koppel, Charlie Rose and the editorial
high command at the New York Times have a handle on all
the pressing issues of the day.... a lengthy list of profound,
esoteric and outright entertaining responses.
Questions Are You Asking Yourself?"
site that has raised electronic discourse on the Web to a whole
new level.... Genuine learning seems to be going on here."
"To mark the first anniversary of [Edge], Brockman
posed a question: 'Simply reading the six million volumes in the
Widener Library does not necessarily lead to a complex and subtle
mind," he wrote, referring to the Harvard library. "How to avoid
the anesthesiology of wisdom?' "
to often lively, sometimes obscure and almost always ambitious
Law (aka "The Law of Accelerating Returns")
applies positive feedback in that the more capable
methods resulting from one stage of evolutionary
progress are used to create the next stage. Each
epoch of evolution has progressed more rapidly
by building on the products of the previous stage.
works through indirection: evolution created humans,
humans created technology, humans are now working
with increasingly advanced technology to create
new generations of technology. As a result, the
rate of progress of an evolutionary process increases
exponentially over time.
time, the "order" of the information
embedded in the evolutionary process (i.e., the
measure of how well the information fits a purpose,
which in evolution is survival) increases.
comment on the nature of order.
concept of the "order" of information
is important here, as it is not the same as the
opposite of disorder. If disorder represents a random
sequence of events, then the opposite of disorder
should imply "not random." Information
is a sequence of data that is meaningful in a process,
such as the DNA code of an organism, or the bits
in a computer program. Noise, on the other hand,
is a random sequence. Neither noise nor information
is predictable. Noise is inherently unpredictable,
but carries no information. Information, however,
is also unpredictable. If we can predict future
data from past data, then that future data stops
being information. We might consider an alternating
pattern ("0101010. . . .") to be orderly,
but it carries no information (beyond the first
couple of bits).
orderliness does not constitute order because order
requires information. However, order goes beyond
mere information. A recording of radiation levels
from space represents information, but if we double
the size of this data file, we have increased the
amount of data, but we have not achieved a deeper
level of order.
is information that fits a purpose. The measure
of order is the measure of how well the information
fits the purpose. In the evolution of life-forms,
the purpose is to survive. In an evolutionary algorithm
(a computer program that simulates evolution to
solve a problem) applied to, say, investing in the
stock market, the purpose is to make money. Simply
having more information does not necessarily result
in a better fit. A superior solution for a purpose
may very well involve less data.
concept of "complexity" is often used
to describe the nature of the information created
by an evolutionary process. Complexity is a close
fit to the concept of order that I am describing,
but is also not sufficient. Sometimes, a deeper
order—a better fit to a purpose—is achieved
through simplification rather than further increases
in complexity. For example, a new theory that ties
together apparently disparate ideas into one broader
more coherent theory reduces complexity but nonetheless
may increase the "order for a purpose"
that I am describing. Indeed, achieving simpler
theories is a driving force in science. Evolution
has shown, however, that the general trend towards
greater order does generally result in greater complexity.
improving a solution to a problem—which may
increase or decrease complexity—increases
order. Now that just leaves the issue of defining
the problem. Indeed, the key to an evolution algorithm
(and to biological and technological evolution)
is exactly this: defining the problem.
We may note that this aspect of "Kurzweil’s
Law" (the law of accelerating returns) appears
to contradict the Second Law of Thermodynamics,
which implies that entropy (randomness in a closed
system) cannot decrease, and, therefore, generally
increases. However, the law of accelerating returns
pertains to evolution, and evolution is not a closed
system. It takes place amidst great chaos, and indeed
depends on the disorder in its midst, from which
it draws its options for diversity. And from these
options, an evolutionary process continually prunes
its choices to create ever greater order. Even a
crisis, such as the periodic large asteroids that
have crashed into the Earth, although increasing
chaos temporarily, end up increasing—deepening—the
order created by an evolutionary process.
A primary reason that evolution—of life-forms
or of technology—speeds up is that it builds
on its own increasing order, with ever more sophisticated
means of recording and manipulating information.
Innovations created by evolution encourage and
enable faster evolution. In the case of the evolution
of life forms, the most notable early example
is DNA, which provides a recorded and protected
transcription of life’s design from which
to launch further experiments. In the case of
the evolution of technology, ever improving human
methods of recording information have fostered
further technology. The first computers were designed
on paper and assembled by hand. Today, they are
designed on computer workstations with the computers
themselves working out many details of the next
generation’s design, and are then produced
in fully-automated factories with human guidance
but limited direct intervention.
• The evolutionary process of technology
seeks to improve capabilities in an exponential
fashion. Innovators seek to improve things by
multiples. Innovation is multiplicative, not additive.
Technology, like any evolutionary process, builds
on itself. This aspect will continue to accelerate
when the technology itself takes full control
of its own progression.
• We can thus conclude the following with
regard to the evolution of life-forms, and of
technology: the law of accelerating returns as
applied to an evolutionary process: An evolutionary
process is not a closed system; therefore, evolution
draws upon the chaos in the larger system in which
it takes place for its options for diversity;
and evolution builds on its own increasing order.
Therefore, in an evolutionary process, order increases
• A correlate of the above observation is
that the "returns" of an evolutionary
process (e.g., the speed, cost-effectiveness,
or overall "power" of a process) increase
exponentially over time. We see this in Moore’s
law, in which each new generation of computer
chip (now spaced about two years apart) provides
twice as many components, each of which operates
substantially faster (because of the smaller distances
required for the electrons to travel, and other
innovations). This exponential growth in the power
and price-performance of information-based technologies—now
roughly doubling every year—is not limited
to computers, but is true for a wide range of
technologies, measured many different ways.
• In another positive feedback loop, as
a particular evolutionary process (e.g., computation)
becomes more effective (e.g., cost effective),
greater resources are deployed towards the further
progress of that process. This results in a second
level of exponential growth (i.e., the rate of
exponential growth itself grows exponentially).
For example, it took three years to double the
price-performance of computation at the beginning
of the twentieth century, two years around 1950,
and is now doubling about once a year. Not only
is each chip doubling in power each year for the
same unit cost, but the number of chips being
manufactured is growing exponentially.
• Biological evolution is one such evolutionary
process. Indeed it is the quintessential evolutionary
process. It took place in a completely open system
(as opposed to the artificial constraints in an
evolutionary algorithm). Thus many levels of the
system evolved at the same time.
• Technological evolution is another such
evolutionary process. Indeed, the emergence of
the first technology-creating species resulted
in the new evolutionary process of technology.
Therefore, technological evolution is an outgrowth
of—and a continuation of—biological
evolution. Early stages of humanoid created technology
were barely faster than the biological evolution
that created our species. Homo sapiens evolved
in a few hundred thousand years. Early stages
of technology—the wheel, fire, stone tools—took
tens of thousands of years to evolve and be widely
deployed. A thousand years ago, a paradigm shift
such as the printing press, took on the order
of a century to be widely deployed. Today, major
paradigm shifts, such as cell phones and the world
wide web were widely adopted in only a few years
• A specific paradigm (a method or approach
to solving a problem, e.g., shrinking transistors
on an integrated circuit as an approach to making
more powerful computers) provides exponential
growth until the method exhausts its potential.
When this happens, a paradigm shift (a fundamental
change in the approach) occurs, which enables
exponential growth to continue.
• Each paradigm follows an "S-curve,"
which consists of slow growth (the early phase
of exponential growth), followed by rapid growth
(the late, explosive phase of exponential growth),
followed by a leveling off as the particular paradigm
• During this third or maturing phase in
the life cycle of a paradigm, pressure builds
for the next paradigm shift, and research dollars
are invested to create the next paradigm. We can
see this in the enormous investments being made
today in the next computing paradigm—three-dimensional
molecular computing—despite the fact that
we still have at least a decade left for the paradigm
of shrinking transistors on a flat integrated
circuit using photolithography (Moore’s
Law). Generally, by the time a paradigm approaches
its asymptote (limit) in price-performance, the
next technical paradigm is already working in
niche applications. For example, engineers were
shrinking vacuum tubes in the 1950s to provide
greater price-performance for computers, and reached
a point where it was no longer feasible to shrink
tubes and maintain a vacuum. At this point, around
1960, transistors had already achieved a strong
niche market in portable radios.
• When a paradigm shift occurs for a particular
type of technology, the process begins a new S-curve.
• Thus the acceleration of the overall evolutionary
process proceeds as a sequence of S-curves, and
the overall exponential growth consists of this
cascade of S-curves.
• The resources underlying the exponential
growth of an evolutionary process are relatively
• One resource is the (ever-growing) order
of the evolutionary process itself. Each stage
of evolution provides more powerful tools for
the next. In biological evolution, the advent
of DNA allowed more powerful and faster evolutionary
"experiments." Later, setting the "designs"
of animal body plans during the Cambrian explosion
allowed rapid evolutionary development of other
body organs, such as the brain. Or to take a more
recent example, the advent of computer-assisted
design tools allows rapid development of the next
generation of computers.
• The other required resource is the "chaos"
of the environment in which the evolutionary process
takes place and which provides the options for
further diversity. In biological evolution, diversity
enters the process in the form of mutations and
ever- changing environmental conditions. In technological
evolution, human ingenuity combined with ever-changing
market conditions keep the process of innovation
• If we apply these principles at the highest
level of evolution on Earth, the first step, the
creation of cells, introduced the paradigm of
biology. The subsequent emergence of DNA provided
a digital method to record the results of evolutionary
experiments. Then, the evolution of a species
that combined rational thought with an opposable
appendage (the thumb) caused a fundamental paradigm
shift from biology to technology. The upcoming
primary paradigm shift will be from biological
thinking to a hybrid combining biological and
nonbiological thinking. This hybrid will include
"biologically inspired" processes resulting
from the reverse engineering of biological brains.
• If we examine the timing of these steps,
we see that the process has continuously accelerated.
The evolution of life forms required billions
of years for the first steps (e.g., primitive
cells); later on progress accelerated. During
the Cambrian explosion, major paradigm shifts
took only tens of millions of years. Later on,
Humanoids developed over a period of millions
of years, and Homo sapiens over a period of only
hundreds of thousands of years.
• With the advent of a technology-creating
species, the exponential pace became too fast
for evolution through DNA-guided protein synthesis
and moved on to human-created technology. Technology
goes beyond mere tool making; it is a process
of creating ever more powerful technology using
the tools from the previous round of innovation,
and is, thereby, an evolutionary process. As I
noted, the first technological took tens of thousands
of years. For people living in this era, there
was little noticeable technological change in
even a thousand years. By 1000 AD, progress was
much faster and a paradigm shift required only
a century or two. In the nineteenth century, we
saw more technological change than in the nine
centuries preceding it. Then in the first twenty
years of the twentieth century, we saw more advancement
than in all of the nineteenth century. Now, paradigm
shifts occur in only a few years time.
• The paradigm shift rate (i.e., the overall
rate of technical progress) is currently doubling
(approximately) every decade; that is, paradigm
shift times are halving every decade (and the
rate of acceleration is itself growing exponentially).
So, the technological progress in the twenty-first
century will be equivalent to what would require
(in the linear view) on the order of 200 centuries.
In contrast, the twentieth century saw only about
20 years of progress (again at today’s rate
of progress) since we have been speeding up to
current rates. So the twenty-first century will
see about a thousand times greater technological
change than its predecessor.
To understand what people are thinking and feeling,
look beyond what they say. Language does not capture
the full range and grain of thought and experience,
and its unique power enables us as easily to mask
our thoughts and feelings as it does to express
abhors contradictions; scientist's minds are replete
is inherently inaccurate because most of our knowledge
comes from specific behavioral experiences that
are often inconsistent; and our mechanisms of learning
are designed to store memories whether or or not
their implications are formally contradictory.
are dominated 70-80% by a single player—product,
company, or country.
The reason: Such markets are subject to increasing
returns or self-reinforcing mechanisms. Therefore
an initial advantage—often
bestowed by chance—leads
to increasing advantage and eventually heavy market
domination. (Absent government intervention, of
technology advances it becomes ever more biological.
We are leaving an
age of mechanistic, fixed-design technologies, and
entering an age of metabolic, self-reorganizing
technologies. In this sense, as technology becomes
more advanced it becomes more organic—therefore
more "biological." Further, as biological
mechanisms at the cellular and DNA levels become
better understood, they become harnessed and co-opted
as technologies. In this century, biology and technology
will therefore intertwine.
The modularization of technologies increases with
the extent of the market.
Just as it pays
to create a specialized worker if there is sufficient
volume of throughput to occupy that specialty, it
pays to create a standard prefabricated assembly,
or module, if its function recurs in many instances.
Modularity therefore is to a technological economy
what the division of labor is to a manufacturing
increases as the economy expands.
Dennett's Law of
is an extension of Schank's
On any important
topic, we tend to have a dim idea of what we hope
to be true, and when an author writes the words
we want to read, we tend to fall for it, no matter
how shoddy the arguments. Needy readers have an
asymptote at illiteracy; if a text doesn't say the
one thing they need to read, it might as well be
in a foreign language. To be open-minded, you have
to recognize, and counteract, your own doxastic
Ridley's First Law
Science is the discovery of ignorance. It is not a
catalog of facts.
Ridley's Second Law
Experience affects an organism largely by switching
genes on and off. (Nurture works through nature.)
Ridley's Third Law
Neither the number of base pairs nor the number of
genes in an organism's genome bears much if any relation
to that organism's size or complexity.
Law of Science Education
The faster Science and Technology advance—the
more important it is to teach and to learn the basics
of Math and Science and the less important it is
to teach and to learn the latest developments.
Law of Particle Physics
The electron, its replicas (muon and tau), the quarks
and the neutrinos are all composed of the same set
of more fundamental objects, which will become the
newly accepted basic building blocks of all of nature.
Law of Scientific Fads and Bandwagons
Every scientific discovery is first made by one
person or by a few people. At the time of the discovery,
they are the only ones aware of it. It follows logically
that democratic votes, public opinion polls, majority
views of scientists and scientific fads do not necessarily
represent scientific truth. Only correct experimental
Frames trump facts.
All of our concepts are organized into conceptual
structures called "frames" (which may
include images and metaphors) and all words are
defined relative to those frames. Conventional frames
are pretty much fixed in the neural structures of
our brains. In order for a fact to be comprehended,
it must fit the relevant frames. If the facts contradict
the frames, the frames, being fixed in the brain,
will be kept and the facts ignored.
We see this in politics every day. Consider the
expression "tax relief" which the White
House introduced into common use on the day of George
W. Bush's inauguration. A "relief" frame
has an affliction, an afflicted party, a reliever
who removes the affliction and is thereby a hero,
and in the frame anyone who tries to stop the reliever
from administering the relief is a bad guy, a villain.
"Tax relief" imposes the additional metaphor
that Taxation Is an Affliction, with the entailments
that the president is a hero for attempting to remove
this affliction and the Democrats are bad guys for
opposing him. This frame trumps many facts: Most
people wind up paying more in local taxes, payments
for services cut, and debt servicing as a result
of the Bush's tax cuts.
There is of course another way to think about taxes:
Taxes are what you pay to live in America—to
have democracy, opportunity, government services,
and the vast infrastructure build by previous taxpayers—the
highways, the internet, the schools, scientific
research, the court system, etc. Taxes are membership
fees used to maintain and expand services and the
infrastructure. But however true this may be, it
is not yet an established frame inscribed in the
synapses of our brains.
This has an important consequence. Political liberals
have inherited an assumption from the Enlightenment,
that The facts will set us free, that if the public
is just given the facts, they will, being rational
beings, reach the right conclusion. It is simply
false. It violates Lakoff's Law.
Voters vote their identities, not their self-interest.
Because of the way they frame the world, voters
vote in a way that best accords with their identities
and not in accord with their self-interest. That
is why it is of no use for Democrats to keep pointing
out that Bush's tax cuts go to the top 1 percent,
not to most voters. If they identify with Bush because
they share his culture and his world view, they
will vote against their self-interest.
We saw this in California in the recall election,
when, for example, union members overwhelming favored
Gray Davis' policies as being better for them, yet
voted for Schwarzenegger.
Edward O. Laumann
in levels of partnered sex activity is the mode
for the bulk of humankind and is consistent with
high levels of subjective well-being.
Laumann's Second Proposition
Low levels of subjective sexual well-being is associated
with poor physical, emotional, and mental health.
propositions (they are empirical associations and
not established as causal) are based on my extensive
international work on human sexuality. They are
based on surveys I have conducted in the United
States and China as well as the Pfizer-funded Global
Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Behavior (N = 27,500)
which interviewed equal numbers of men and women
40 to 80 years old in 29 countries world wide. The
real question is the nature of the causal link between
There is no Fundamental Law.
Zeilinger's Law on
Reality, Space and Time
Information is the most Fundamental Concept, it's
all we have.
wary of scientific dualisms.
them with caution, the way demolition experts regard
bombs, likely to explode, in this case into unproductive
argument and the obscuring of truth. "Opposing
forces" are the scientific version of the original
dualism—good vs evil and darkness vs. light.
Instead, of acting in opposition, in nature two
forces are likely to dependent, interactive and
interwoven; sometimes they are merely two names
for the same thing.
Brain vs Mind
Mind vs Body
Emotion vs Reason
Nature vs Nurture
Us vs Them
Remember always that it is easy to be in possession
of some facts, extraordinarily difficult to know
Genuine advances are rarely made by accident; in
fact, the outcome of a scientific investigation
is usually less dramatic than originally hoped for.
Therefore, if you want to do something really significant
in science, you must aim high and you must take
Smolin's Second Law
In every period and every community there is something
that everybody believes, but cannot justify. If
you want to understand anything, you have to start
by ignoring what everyone believes, and thinking
This was advice given to me by my father when I
was a child. Feynman said something very similar:
"Science is the organized skepticism in the
reliability of expert opinion."
Smolin's Third Law
Time does exist.
A measure of our ignorance about nature is the extent
to which our theories depend on background structures,
which are entities necessary to define the quantities
in the theory, that do not themselves refer to anything
which evolves dynamically in time. Our understanding
can always be deepened by bringing such fixed, background
structures into the domain of dynamical law. By
doing so, we convert absolute properties, defined
with respect to background structures, into relational
properties, defined in terms of relationships among
dynamical degrees of freedom.
imagine the universe is to fear it, even as one
feels the power and pleasure of trying to find its
furthest boundaries. To meet that fear one has to
seek consolation whether in scientific theory or
As a corollary to that, the return of past time
in the present, as death comes steadily closer,
if not unique to the human mind, is certainly one
of the consolations of consciousness, and of the
shadow realm of dream. If there is hope it is in
our ability as men and women to imagine ourselves
not only in other worlds but as an "other,"
as an opposite. Robert Musil, Proust, Kafka, Shakespeare,
Dante Alighieri together with the anonymous scribes
of the religious epics, Gilgamesh, the Old Testament,
were uncanny in their ability to imagine in this
precedes what we call reality. I would propose this
as a law of daily life and suspect that it plays
a large part in our evolution. Trying to preserve
and recreate what was best in my past and the past
of distant ancestors is part of what keeps me balanced
before a future in which I want to hope.
To imagine is not just to exist, but to prolong
existence. At the last moment Spinoza could not
surrender the idea that somehow memory of what had
happened would not be lost in the vastness of the
universe. Spinoza needed that consolation. Whether
it does or not, we need to believe that memory persists,
and that we are capable of influencing just what
memory will be valued and given predominance.
Laws of Human Mating
Buss’s Third Law of Human Mating
For every mating adaptation
in one sex, there exists at least one co-evolved
adaptation in the other sex designed to manipulate
and exploit it.
Buss’s Fourth Law of Human Mating
For every co-evolved exploitative
mating adaptation, there exists at least one co-co-evolved
defensive adaptation designed to circumvent being
manipulated and exploited.
Buss’s Seventh Law of Human Mating
Never reveal your first
two laws of mating, lest they be used to manipulate
and exploit you.