THE NATURE OF NORMAL HUMAN VARIETY
by John Brockman
with an Afterword by Gregory Bateson
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NATURE OF NORMAL HUMAN VARIETY
A Talk with Armand Leroi
Armand Leroi Edge Video Broadband | Modem
course, there will be people who object. There will
be people who will say that this is a revival of
racial science. Perhaps so. I would argue, however,
that even if this is a revival of racial science,
we should engage in it for it does not follow that
it is a revival of racist science. Indeed,
I would argue, that it is just the opposite.
REALITY CLUB: James J. ODonnell,
Andrew Brown, Tim D. White, Alun Andeson respond
to Armand Leroi
EDGE SPECIAL EVENT
PANCAKE PEOPLE, OR,
"THE GODS ARE POUNDING MY HEAD"
today, I see within us all (myself included) the replacement
of complex inner density with a new kind of self-evolving
under the pressure of information overload and the technology
of the "instantly available". A new self that
needs to contain less and less of an inner repertory of
dense cultural inheritance—as we all become "pancake
people"—spread wide and thin as we connect with
that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch
of a button.
FOREMAN, Founder Director, Ontological-Hysteric Theater,
has written, directedand designed over fifty of his own
plays both in New York City and abroad. Five of his
plays have received "OBIE" awards as best play
of the year—and he has received five other "OBIE'S"
for directing and for 'sustained achievement'.
Richard Foreman so beautifully describes it, we've been
pounded into instantly-available pancakes, becoming the
unpredictable but statistically critical synapses in the
whole Gödel-to-Google net. Does the resulting mind
(as Richardson would have it) belong to us? Or does it belong
to something else?
DYSON, science historian, is the author of Darwin Among
early 2001, avant-garde playwright and director Richard
Foreman, called to enquire about Edge's activities.
He had noticed the optimism of the Edge crowd
and the range of intellectual interests and endeavors
and felt that he needed to to begin a process to explore
these areas. Then 9/11 happened. We never had our planned
years have gone by and recently Foreman opened his most
recent play for his Ontological-Hysteric Theater at St.
Marks Church in the Bowery in New York City. He also announced
that the play—The Gods Are Pounding My Head—would
be his last.
presents Edge with a statement and a question.
The statement appears in his program and frames the sadness
of The Gods Are Pounding My Head. The question
is an opening to the future. With both, Foreman belatedly
hopes to engage Edge contributors in a discussion,
and in this regard George Dyson has written the initial
response, posted along with others, entitled
Kelly, Jaron Lanier, Steven Johnson, Marvin Minsky, Douglas
Rushkoff, Roger Schank, James O'Donnell, Rebecca Goldstein,
respond to Richard Foreman
and George Dyson
AT TED 2005
Craig Venter; Sergey
Brin & Larry
Page, Google; JB
February 22nd, Edge presented a Reality Club Meeting
at TED 2005,
the annual conference in Monterey, CA for the movers and
shakers in Technology, Entertainment, Design. The topic
was "Science at the Edge: Rebooting Biology" and
dealt with the intersection of biology and computation.
The panelists were Rodney Brooks, Ray Kurzweil and Craig
MacKenzie & Jeff
recent years, science has also become a central part of
TED. In fact, nowhere else will you find such an intense
concentration of major third culture intellectuals. And
it's not just about their talks. Most of the speakers stick
around for 3-4 days and are accessible to the other attendees.
This year the list of scientists included: Rod Brooks, Robert
Full, Brian Greene, Danny Hillis, Olivia Judson, Irene Pepperberg,
Paul Sereno, Craig Venter, James Watson. Add to that mix
science-minded thinkers such as Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly,
Howard Rheingold, Jeff Bezos, plus computer science pioneers
such as Sergey Brin and Larry Page, inventors Ray Kurzweil
and Dean Kamen, and finally top editors from Fortune,
Time, Discover, Wired, Wall Street Journal.....it's
was quite a week.
QUE CREEN LOS CIENTIFICOS
Domingo 20 of February of 2005
John Brockman, writer, publisher and events manager for
the science elite, has asked a hundred researchers the
question, What do you believe is true even though you
cannot prove it? The answers are posted at his e-magazine
Edge (www.edge.org), and they exert an
unquestionable morbid fascination—those are the very
scientists cannot confess in their technical papers.
Since the Big Bang, matter has been busy organizing itself
on particles, atoms, stars, planets, organic compounds
and (on Earth at least) bacteria, animals and conscious
brains. That is what scientists think proved. But their
unproven beliefs tell another story, or thousand others.
“I doubt that the Big Bang is the beginning of time,
I strongly suspect that our history extends backwards before
that”, writes in Edge Lee Smolin, theoretical physicist.
He cannot prove it, but he believes it. As his colleague
Lawrence Krauss believes, without proofs too, that “there
are likely to be a large, and possibly infinite number
of other universes out there, some of which may be experiencing
Big Bangs at the current moment”.
does not play dices, said Einstein, but Alexander Vilenkin
thinks he played dices too much…
Mayr: A Remembrance
By Robert Trivers
Mayr is dead at a hundred years of age, as lordly a cedar
as ever stood in evolutionary biology and life more generally.
He was full of vigor right up to the end. A stronger
I never saw, personal quality matched to intellectual power.
Everyone needs a moral compass in life and for a time
my life Ernst was exactly that, integrity, honesty, and
a life based on sound moral principles — a standard
to which one could turn for self-criticism and inspiration.
Edge Reality Club Meeting at TED
(Technology, Entertainment, Design)
AT THE EDGE: REBOOTING BIOLOGY
Three of the World's Leading
Scientists Ask Each Other the Questions They are Asking
Brooks , Ray
Moderator: John Brockman
is up for grabs. Everything will change. There is a magnificent
sweep of intellectual landscape right in front of us."
year's Edge-TED event was a great success. In
"What's New In The Universe", physicists Alan
Guth, Paul Steinhardt, and Leonard Susskind, electrified
the audience and energized each other with their well-argued
arguments setting forth their theories.
year we explore the intersection of computation and biology.
One aspect of our culture that is no longer open to question
is that the most significant developments in the sciences
today (i.e. those that affect the lives of everybody on
the planet) are about, informed by, or implemented through
advances in software and computation. In no other field
is this as evident as in the biology. In this Edge
event, three of the world's leading scientists ask each
other the questions they are asking themselves.
CAN'T BE A SWEET CUCUMBER IN A VINEGAR BARREL
A Talk with Philip Zimbardo
Philip Zimbardo Edge Video
you put that set of horrendous work conditions and external
factors together, it creates an evil barrel. You could
put virtually anybody in it and you're going to get this
kind of evil behavior. The Pentagon and the military say
that the Abu Ghraib scandal is the result of a few bad
apples in an otherwise good barrel. That's the dispositional
analysis. The social psychologist in me, and the consensus
among many of my colleagues in experimental social psychology,
says that's the wrong analysis. It's not the bad apples,
it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people. Understanding
the abuses at this Iraqi prison starts with an analysis
of both the situational and systematic forces operating
on those soldiers working the night shift in that 'little
shop of horrors.'
January 16 — Domenica
EDGE QUESTION FORUM
Curated by Armando Massarenti
a front-page article, Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy's largest
financial daily, announced the "Edge Question
Forum" in "Domenica", the weekend Arts &
Culture section. The Forum, an ongoing project designed
to bring third culture thinking to Italy, features excerpts
from the Edge responses in addition to articles
solicited rom Italian humanist intellectuals and scientists.
Great minds can sometimes guess the truth before they
have either the evidence or arguments for it (Diderot
called it having the "esprit de divination").
What do you believe is true even though you cannot
(120 contributors; 60,000 words:) Howard
Gardner • Nicholas Humphrey • Marc D. Hauser
• Daniel Gilbert • George Dyson • Daniel
C. Dennett • William Calvin • Lawrence Krauss
• Neil Gershenfeld • Joseph LeDoux •
Stephen Kosslyn • Philip W. Anderson • Kevin
Kelly • Paul Davies • Haim Harari •
Janna Levin • Steven Pinker • Alison Gopnik
• Martin E. P. Seligman • John McWhorter •
Freeman Dyson • Robert Sapolsky • Leonard
Susskind • Keith Devlin • Susan Blackmore
• Clifford Pickover • Piet Hut • Gino
Segre • Roger Schank • Alan Kay • Bruce
Sterling • Judith Rich Harris • Arnold Trehub
• Gregory Benford • Lynn Margulis •
Sam Harris • Elizabeth Spelke • Kai Krause
• Todd Feinberg • Nassim Nicholas Taleb •
Irene Pepperberg • Jesse Bering • Scott Atran
• Karl Sabbagh • Gary Marcus • Stuart
A. Kauffman • Ray Kurzweil • John Barrow •
Jaron Lanier • Alex Pentland • Richard Dawkins
• Jean Paul Schmetz • Thomas Metzinger •
John R. Skoyles • John Horgan • David Gelernter
• Jordan Pollack • Lee Smolin • Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi • Jeffrey Epstein • Michael
Shermer • Leon Lederman • Tom Standage •
Simon Baron-Cohen • Stephen Petranek • J.
Craig Venter • Maria Spiropulu • David Buss
• Esther Dyson • David Myers • Denis
Dutton • Donald Hoffman • Kenneth Ford •
Margaret Wertheim • Alun Anderson • Philip
Zimbardo • Paul Bloom • Robert Provine •
W. Daniel Hillis • Martin Nowak • Seth Lloyd
• Donald I. Williamson • Jonathan Haidt •
Rebecca Goldstein • Ned Block • Christine
Finn • Rupert Sheldrake • Rudy Rucker •
Douglas Rushkoff • Verena Huber-Dyson • Chris
W. Anderson • Charles Simonyi • Carolyn Porco
• Martin Rees • Pamela McCorduck • James
O'Donnell • John McCarthy • Carlo Rovelli
• Leo Chalupa • Howard Rheingold • Steve
Giddings • Tor Nørretranders • Stanislas
Deheane • Benoit Mandelbrot • Ellen Winner
• Paul Steinhardt • Oliver Morton •
Alexander Vilenkin • Terrence Sejnowski •
Brian Goodwin • Stephen H. Schneider • Randolph
Nesse • Timothy Taylor • Marti Hearst •
Daniel Goleman • Jared Diamond • Anton Zeilinger
• Ian Wilmut • Robert Trivers • Ian
here for responses]
This year's Edge Question was suggested by Nicholas Humphrey.
Sunday, January 9. 0900-1000
stimulating...Once you start, you can't stop thinking
that question." — Broadcasting
House, BBC Radio 4
January 6, 2003 SOCIETA '
E CULTURA; Pg. 23
Singolare inchiesta in usa
di un sito internet. Ha chiesto ai signori della ricerca
di svelare i loro "atti di fede". Sono arrivate
le risposte piu' imprevedibili i fantasmi dello scienziato:
non ho prove ma ci credo.
By Sindici Fabio
Guardian Friday G2—
07.01.05 — pp
ARTICLES OF NOTE
What do you believe to be true, even though you can’t
prove it? John Brockman asked over a hundred
scientists and intellectuals... more»
Image for The New Year
is cofounder and resident artist of Edge.
IN THE NEWS
greatest virtual research university in the world."
— Denis Dutton, Editor, Arts & Letters
stellar cast of thinkers tackles the really big questions
— by Paul Nettleton,The Guardian
"It is like having a front-row seat at the ultimate
scientific seminar series."
— Matin Durani (Deputy Editor, Physics World)
THEORY OF ROUGHNESS
A Talk with Benoit Mandelbrot
recent, important turn in my life occurred when I realized
that something that I have long been stating in footnotes
should be put on the marquee. I have engaged myself, without
realizing it, in undertaking a theory of roughness. Think
of color, pitch, loudness, heaviness, and hotness. Each
is the topic of a branch of physics. Chemistry is filled
with acids, sugars, and alcohols — all are concepts
derived from sensory perceptions. Roughness is just as
important as all those other raw sensations, but was not
studied for its own sake.
RECIPROCITY, ASSESSMENT HARDWIRING, AND REPUTATION
A Talk with Karl Sigmund
Sigmund in front of Albertina Platz, Vienna
ideas fed into our work on indirect reciprocity, a concept
that was first introduced by Robert Trivers in a famous
paper in the 1970s. I recall that he mentioned this idea
obliquely when he wrote about something he called "general
altruism". Here you give something back not to the person
to whom you owe something, but to somebody else in society.
He pointed out that this also works with regard to cooperation
at a high level. Trivers didn't go into details, because
at the time it was not really at the center of his thinking.
He was mostly interested in animal behavior, and so far
indirect reciprocity has not been proven to exist in animal
behavior. It might exist in some cases, but ethologists
are still debating the pros and cons.
In human societies, however, indirect reciprocity has
a very striking effect. There is a famous anecdote about
the American baseball player Yogi Berra, who said something
to the effect of, "I make a point of going to other people's
funerals because otherwise they won't come to mine." This
is not as nonsensical as it seems. If a colleague of the
university, for instance, goes faithfully to every faculty
member's funeral, then the faculty will turn out strongly
at his. Others reciprocate. It works. We think instinctively
in terms of direct reciprocation — when I do something
for you, you do something for me — but the same
principle can apply in situations of indirect reciprocity.
I do something for you and somebody else helps me in return.
BATESON: THE CENTENNIAL
1904 — 2004
by John Brockman with an
Afterword by Gregory Bateson
contended that as a result of advances in cybernetics and
fundamental mathematics, many other areas of thought have
shifted. In The Evolutionary Idea, a proposed new
book, he planned to gather together those new advances to
present an alternative to then current orthodox theories
of evolution. This alternative view was to stress the role
of information, that is, of mind, in all levels of
biology from genetics to ecology and from human culture
to the pathology of schizophrenia. In place of natural selection
of organisms, Bateson considered the survival of patterns,
ideas, and forms of interaction.
descriptive proposition," he said, "which remains true longer
will out-survive other propositions which do not survive
so long. This switch from the survival of the creatures
to the survival of ideas which are immanent in the creatures
(in their anatomical forms and in their interrelationships)
gives a totally new slant to evolutionary ethics and philosophy.
Adaptation, purpose, homology, somatic change, and mutation
all take on new meaning with this shift in theory."
Katinka Matson, Edge's
cofounder and resident artist, has just returned from
a visit to the Genoa Science Festival, where her exhibition
of "scanner photography" at Palazzo Rosso continues
through November 28th. (I was along for the ride).
I am pleased to report that the Festival della Scienza
— 2004 was vibrant, new, and exciting, making interesting
use of the ancient city of Genoa as a backdrop to a moveable
feast of lectures, panels, exhibitions, and performances.
Based on numbers alone, the attendance was close to 150,000
visitors, a dramatic increase over the first year.
Part of the Festival's charm was the use of a mixture
of the old city of Genoa and the reconstructed areas as
venues for the programs. Katinka's exhibition is mounted
in Palazzo Rosso, a 16th century palace now converted
into a leading European museum which house works by many
of Italy's most distinguished artists. The Palazzo is
an exquisite building on via Garibaldi, a street of palazzos
built on top of each other during a ten year period in
the 16th century. It's an astonishing vista. There's nothing
else like it in the world. Other events were held in ancient
churches, in civil buildings, etc. Many of the events,
convened at the modern Genoa waterfront, cold only be
accessed by walking through the old town, one of the most
ancient parts of Europe.
Every night the guests of the festival were invited to
a dinner hosted by a local family who opened the doors
of their palazzo for the visitors, and unlike other festivals,
which convene for a short period with everyone in attendance
together, the Genoa Science Festival takes place over
a two week period with the participants coming in for
2 to 3 day stays. While we were there, the company could
hardly have been better as our companions at lunches and
dinners included such notables as Lynn Margulis, Niles
Eldredge, Patrick Bateson, Carl Djerassi, John Barrow,
and Luca Cvalli-Sforza, to name but a few. Ever present,
and seemingly inexhaustible, was the Festival Director,
Vittorio Bo, the former CEO of the distinguished Italian
book publisher, Einaudi.
Bo did a great job. Everything was professionally organized,
and executed. There was a national buzz and wide coverage
in the Italian press (For intance, Katinka's exhibit has
received coverage in many major dailies such as La
Stampa as well as the largest Italian magazine, Panorama.)
While America has various conferences, academic and commercial,
we have nothing like Festival della Scienza. Perhaps there
should be. The question of venue is critical and hopefully
it could be in a place that's more of a destination, where
people will stay and hang out, rather than a metropolis
such as New York (although if I were the Mayor, I would
go for a Science Festival over the Olympics any day).
In the meantime, Vittorio Bo has asked, and Edge
has agreed, to attempt some kind of collaboration at next
year's Genoa Festival in which Edge plays a role
in programming an "Edge" series of
events. (Jared Diamond, who has been studying Italian
for the past three years, has already signed on.) Any
other takers? Ideas? Suggestions?
ROBERT TRIVERS: An Edge Special
Event — Co-hosted by The Program for Evolutionary
Dynamics at Harvard University, Martin Nowak, Director
the last ten or fifteen years, I've been trying to understand
situations in nature in which the genes within a single
individual are in disagreement—or put differently,
in which genes within an individual are selected in conflicting
directions. It's an enormous topic, which 20 years ago looked
like a shadow on the horizon, just as about a hundred years
ago what later became relativity theory was just two little
shadows on the horizon of physics, and blew up to become
major developments. In genetics it's fair to say that about
20 years ago a cloud on the horizon was our knowledge that
there were so-called selfish genetic elements in various
species that propagated themselves at the expense of the
larger organism. What was then just a cloud on the horizon
is now a full-force storm with gale winds blowing."
FULL-FORCE STORM WITH GALE WINDS BLOWING
A Talk with Robert Trivers
the past several years Edge has hosted an annual
end-of-summer event. As a departure, this year's event was
organized around the work of one person: the legendary Robert
Trivers. It was held in Cambridge, on September 7-8 at The
Program for Evolutionary Dynamics
at Harvard University.
event began with a reception and dinner
on September 7th. The following day featured five
talks: Robert Trivers began the program with a talk on "New
Work on Selfish Genetic Elements",
and ended the proceedings with his long-standing ideas on
J. Craig Venter spoke about "Ocean
Lloyd on "The
and Martin Nowak on "The
Evolution of Cooperation."
included: Daniel C. Dennett, Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Epstein,
Nancy Etcoff, Peter Galison, Daniel Gilbert, Alan Guth Marc
D. Hauser, Seth Lloyd, Marvin Minsky, Andrew Murray, Martin
Nowak, Steven Pinker, Lisa Randall, Lee Smolin, Liz Spelke,
Lawrence Summers, Robert Trivers, J. Craig Venter, Dan Wegner,
online presentation is a reprise of the live program in
Cambridge with an added introduction, comments on the work
of Trivers by Steven Pinker, and a talk with Trivers in
July which inspired the program. Edge plans to
publish the edited talks, video clips, and discussions over
the next few months along with Reality Club discussions
among speakers, participants, and the wider Edge
essays by Edge contributors...
narrative history, combined with much fine writing...quirky,
absorbing and persuasive in just the way that good stories
are."—Nature • "Some of the
biggest brains in the world turn their lenses on their own
lives...fascinating...an invigorating debate."—Washington
Post • "Compelling."—Discover•
" An engrossing treat of a book...crammed with
hugely enjoyable anecdotes ...you'll have a wonderful time
reading these reminiscences."—New Scientist
intriguing collection of essays detailing the childhood
experiences of prominent scientists and the life events
that sparked their hunger for knowledge. Full of comical
and thought-provoking stories."—Globe &
Mail •• "An inspiring collection of
27 essays by leading scientists about the childhood moments
that set them on their shining paths."—Psychology
How a Child Becomes a Scientist
We Were Kids:
How a Child Becomes a Scientist (UK)
best of Edge, now
available in print...
stellar cast of thinkers tackles the really big questions
facing scientists." — The Guardian •
"A compact, if bumpy, tour through the
minds of some of the world's preeminent players in science
and technology." — Philadelphia Inquirer
wisely exits the stage after a brief monologue and turns
the rest of the show over to his guests. What a show they
put on!"— San Jose Mercury News
The New Humanists:
Science at the Edge (US)
Science at the Edge (UK)