03 January 2006

Edge Asks, "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?"

Each year, the Edge Foundation asks prominent "third culture" thinkers a question. Last year's question was "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" By third culture, they mean "those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are." Pretty heady stuff, eh?

You should check out their question for 2006: "What Is Your Dangerous Idea?" And the responses from such heavyweights as Craig Venter, Daniel Goleman, Brian Greene, John Allen Paulos, Martin E.P. Seligman, Jamshed Bharucha, Helen Fischer, Michael Schermer, Richard Dawkins, Michael Nesmith (yes, of The Monkees), Eric Fischl, Alison Gopnik, Stewart Brand, Leonard Susskind, and others. Here's how Edge impresario John Brockman describes the project:

Something radically new is in the air: new ways of understanding physical systems, new ways of thinking about thinking that call into question many of our basic assumptions. A realistic biology of the mind, advances in evolutionary biology, physics, information technology, genetics, neurobiology, psychology, engineering, the chemistry of materials: all are questions of critical importance with respect to what it means to be human. For the first time, we have the tools and the will to undertake the scientific study of human nature.

This year, the third culture thinkers in the Edge community have written 117 original essays (a document of 72,500 words) in response to the 2006 Edge Question "What is your dangerous idea?". Here you will find indications of a new natural philosophy, founded on the realization of the import of complexity, of evolution. Very complex systems whether organisms, brains, the biosphere, or the universe itself were not constructed by design; all have evolved. There is a new set of metaphors to describe ourselves, our minds, the universe, and all of the things we know in it.

You can find the answers at: The World Question Center 2006

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James Aach said...

Stewart Brand (mentioned in the article above) posited a number of "dangerous" (if not new) ideas for environmentalists in a May 2005 Technology Review article. This included a re-consideration of nuclear power. He has also recently endorsed a novel about the American nuclear power industry written by a longtime nuclear engineer that's designed to give the general public a clear picture of how a US nuclear plant is operated (warts and all) and how an accident might be handled. This book is available at no cost on the net. See http://RadDecision.blogspot.com.

The Green Skeptic said...

Great. Thanks, I'll definitely check that out. Mr. Brand always has interesting viewpoints...

I've often thought that nuclear power is with us and that the energies of those opposed to its use should focus not on eradicating it, but on make it safer and solving the waste problem.