[Paleopsych] Edge Annual Question 1998: What Is Your Question?
checker at panix.com
Sun Jan 8 19:59:32 UTC 2006
Edge Annual Question 1998: What Is Your Question?
EDGE 3rd Culture: THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/wqc/wqc_p1.html et seq.
[This is the first in the series.]
THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER
Dedicated to the Memory of James Lee Byars
Everything has been explained. There is nothing left to consider. The
explanation can no longer be treated as a definition. The question: a
description. The answer: not explanation, but a description and
knowing how to consider it. Asking or telling: there isn't any
The final elegance: assuming, asking the question. No answers. No
explanations. "Why do you demand explanations? If they are given, you
will once more be facing a terminus. They cannot get you any further
than you are at present."1 The solution: not an explanation: a
description and knowing how to consider it.
Experience a minute. Experience an hour. Can you experience a minute
and an hour together, simultaneously, at the same time? This is an
important question to ask.
No explanation, no solution, but consideration of the question. "Every
proposition proposing a fact must in its complete analysis propose the
general character of the universe required for the fact."2 The
description, the proposition: not a definition, but a commission.
"Understanding a commission means: knowing what one has got to do."3
Any new style, any new life, any new world, is but a god where gods
are no longer valid. "The god that one so finds is but a word born of
words, and returns to the word. For the reply we make to ourselves is
assuredly never anything other than the question itself."4
"Our kind of innovation consists not in the answers, but in the true
novelty of the questions themselves; in the statement of problems, not
in their solutions."5 What is important is not "to illustrate a
truth÷or even an interrogation÷known in advance, but to bring to the
world certain interrogations . . . not yet known as such to
A total synthesis of all human knowledge will not result in fantastic
amounts of data, or in huge libraries filled with books. There's no
value any more in amount, in quantity, in explanation. For a total
synthesis of human knowledge, use the interrogative. Ask the most
subtle sensibilities in the world what questions they are asking
÷ from By the Late John Brockman, 1969
In EDGE 19, I presented a eulogy to honor my friend and collaborator
of sorts, the artist James Lee Byars, who died in Egypt last May.
I met Byars in 1969 when he sought me out after the publication of my
first book, By the Late John Brockman. We were both in the art world,
we shared an interest in language, in the uses of the interrogative,
in avoiding the anesthesiology of wisdom, and in "the Steins" ÷
Einstein, Gertrude Stein, Wittgenstein, and Frankenstein. In 1971, our
dialogue, in part, informed the creation by James Lee of the WORLD
I wrote the following about his project at the time of his death:
"James Lee inspired the idea that led to the Reality Club (and
subsequently to EDGE), and is responsible for the motto of the club.
He believed that to arrive at an axiology of societal knowledge it was
pure folly to go to a Widener Library and read 6 million volumes of
books. (In this regard he kept only four books at a time in a box in
his minimally furnished room, replacing books as he read them.) This
led to his creation of the World Question Center in which he planned
to gather the 100 most brilliant minds in the world together in a
room, lock them behind closed doors, and have them ask each other the
questions they were asking themselves. The expected result, in theory,
was to be a synthesis of all thought. But between idea and execution
are many pitfalls. James Lee identified his 100 most brilliant minds
(a few of them have graced the pages of this Site), called each of
them, and asked what questions they were asking themselves. The
result: 70 people hung up on him."
That was in 1971. New technologies=new perceptions. The Internet and
email now allow for a serious implementation of Jimmy Lee's grand
design and I am pleased to note that among the contributors are
Freeman Dyson and Murray Gell-Mann, two names on his 1971 list of "the
100 most brilliant minds in the world."
For the first anniversary edition of EDGE I asked a number of those
people I consider to be part of "the third culture" to use the
interrogative. I have asked "the most subtle sensibilities in the
world what questions they are asking themselves."
I am pleased to present the World Question Center.
"Given the ability of regulatory proteins to rescue functions between
taxa that haven't shared a common ancestor for over 600 million years
how do we integrate this into the way we think about the evolution of
JEREMY C. AHOUSE
Works in developmental genetics at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
"Is a greater understanding of the way the brain works going to give
me a new language to explain what it is like to be me? Will the words
we use now one day seem as strange as the 'humours' we once used to
explain the state of our bodies? And what will be the consequence if a
scientist gains the power to know me better than I can know myself?"
Editor of New Scientist, biologist and author of Science And
Technology In Japan.
"What is the crucial distinction between inanimate matter and an
entity which can act as an 'agent', manipulating the world on its own
behalf; and how does that change happen?"
Nobel laureate physicist at Princeton.
"Exactly how much of nature can we trash and burn and get away with
Science writer for The New York Times; author of Natural Obsessions,
The Beauty Of The Beastly.
"To what extent can we achieve a more just society through the use of
better economic indicators, and to what extent is our choice of
economic indicators just a reificiation of the wishes of those who are
already economically powerful?"
Mathematical physicist at University of California, Riverside.
"What if Gutenberg had invented the world wide web instead of the
movable type slug? How would the questions scientists chose to ask
themselves over the past five centuries, and the language in which
they chose to answer, have been different?"
Former executive at Thinking Machines; author of After Thought.
"As a theoretical physicist, the interpretation of quantum mechanics
and the nature of time are what occupy me most, but, as a mystified
sentient being, I should like to ask the child's question: Are the
most remarkable things in life ÷ sights, sounds, colors, tastes ÷
really just subjective epiphenomena with no role or significance in
the 'objective' world?"
Theoretical physicist; author of The Frame Of Mind.
"Will we ever generate enough bandwidth to convey prana?"
JOHN PERRY BARLOW
Co-founder, Electronic Frontier Foundation; a former lyricist for the
"Is the Universe a great mechanism, a great computation, a great
symmetry, a great accident, or a great thought?"
"Is there enough information in the observable universe to identify
the fundamental laws of Nature beyond all reasonable doubt?"
"Are there other minds that think about us?"
JOHN D. BARROW
Cosmologist, Professor of Astronomy, University of Sussex, UK; author
of Theories Of Everything; Pi In The Sky.
"How can we build a new ethics of respect for life that goes beyond
individual survival to include the necessity of death, the
preservation of the environment, and our current and developing
MARY CATHERINE BATESON
Anthropologist, George Mason University; author Composing A Life;
"How can considering the longest time scales in human endeavor lead us
to deal with the approaching crises of greenhouse warming and species
Physicist, University of California, Irvine; author of Timescape.
"How do we make long-term thinking automatic and common instead of
difficult and rare?"
Founder of The Whole Earth Catalog; author of How Buildings Learn.
"Which cognitive skills develop in any reasonably normal human
environment and which only in specific socio-cultural contexts?"
JOHN T. BRUER
President, James S. McDonnell Foundation
"What is the mathematical essence that distinguishes living from
non-living, so that we can engineer a transcendence across the current
Computer scientist; director of MIT's AI Lab.
"Do humans have evolved homicide modules ÷ evolved psychological
mechanisms specifically dedicated to killing other humans under
Psychologist at University of Texas at Austin; author of The Evolution
"If Mosaic had never supported pictures (read: the Internet didn't
become a commercial medium), what would I be doing right now?"
JASON McCABE CALCANIS
Publisher, Silicon Alley Reporter.
"How will minds expand, once we understand how the brain makes mind?"
WILLIAM H. CALVIN Theoretical neurophysiologist, University of
Washington; author of The Cerebral Code; How Brains Think.
"Any musically aware listener will know of music that breaks out of
established forms or syntax to profound effect ÷ my personal
favourites include Beethoven's Eroica symphony, Wagner's Tristan und
Isolde, Schoenberg's Erwartung, Debussy's Apres midi d'un faune. ..
What is the most that we can ever say objectively about what those
composers are discovering? What are the limits of objective
description using science, mathematics and musical analysis? More
generally, how do these structures in sound make sense? As of now, I
see only very preliminary hypotheses in response to this last
question, no possibility of much more given current understanding and
techniques, and no consensus as to the ultimate constraints on such an
Editor of Nature.
"It's probably the case that intergroup competition was an important
part of human evolution and there is increasing evidence that
'ethnicity' may be a correlate of 'modernity.' If ethnicity, and the
human use of biological cues (and cultural and linguistic cues) to
indicate social identity are parts of our evolutionary legacy, it
makes it that much harder to eradicate ethnocentrism and racism. Can
we do it? How can we engage our focus on the flip side of competition
Anthropologist at the University of Michigan; coauthor of Race And
"How can we develop an objective language for describing subjective
DAVID CHALMERS Philosopher, University of California, Santa Cruz;
author of The Conscious Mind.
"When will we learn to ask 'And then what' as a matter of course?"
Biologist and BBC Radio Four broadcaster; author of The Seed Savers
"If Gordon Moore was correct in his prediction that the amount of
information storable on semiconductor chips would double every 18
months, then over time is time more or less valuable?"
President and CEO of Learn Technologies Interactive in New York City,
an interactive media developer and publisher.
"How can we sustain young people's interest in asking questions such
as these? Does the emphasis on personal success and security divert
psychic energy from taking the long-term view on things? How long can
we keep curiosity and creativity alive in an increasingly
Psychologist, University of Chicago; author of Flow: The Psychology Of
Optimal Experience; Creativity.
"What is information and where does it ultimately originate?"
Physicist, University of Adelaide, Australia; author of The Mind Of
God; Are We Alone.
"What might a second specimen of the phenomenon that we call life look
Evolutionary biologist, Oxford; author of River Out Of Eden; Climbing
"How can we even begin to formulate the right questions about
Cognitive neuropsychologist, Institut National de la Sant; author of
The Number Sense.
"How on earth does the brain manage its division of labor problem ÷
that is, how do the quite specialized bits manage to contribute
something useful when they get 'recruited' by their neighbors to
assist in currently dominant tasks (or is this 'recruitment' an
illusion ÷ are they not helping but just complaining about the noise
caused by their hyperactive neighbors)?"
DANIEL C. DENNETT
Philosopher, Tufts University; author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea;
Kinds Of Minds.
"Throughout its history, the scientific community has shown great
integrity in resisting the onslaught of anti-rationalism. How can it
now be persuaded to show the same integrity in regard to scientism?"
Physicist, Oxford University; author of The Fabric Of Reality.
"Why are decentralized processes ubiquitous in nature and society and
why are they so poorly understood that people will sacrifice their
autonomy and freedom for authoritarian, centralized solutions (gods,
governments, and gurus) to personal and social problems?"
ARTHUR DE VANY
Professor, Mathematical Behavioral Sciences Dept., University Of
"Is justice real?"
THOMAS DE ZENGOTITA
Anthropologist; teaches philosophy and anthropology at The Dalton
School and at the Draper Graduate Program at New York University.
"What do collapses of past societies teach us about our own future?"
Biologist, UCLA Medical School; author of The Third Chimpanzee; Guns,
Germs, And Steel
"Is psychic phenomenon just wishful thinking and can we ever prove it
exists or doesn't exist using scientific methodology."
JOHN C. DVORAK
Columnist for Pc Magazine; Pc/Computing, Boardwatch.
"What makes a soul? And if machines ever have souls, what will be the
equivalent of psychoactive drugs? of pain? of the physical / emotional
high I get from having a clean office?"
President, Edventures Holdings, Inc; publisher of Release 1.0
Newsletter; author of Release 2.0.
"The best questions were asked long ago. For example, Fermi's
question, 'Where are they?', and Blake's question, 'How do you know
but ev'ry bird that cuts the airy way is an immense world of delight,
clos'd by your senses five?' My question is, 'What goes on inside the
head of a baby?' "
Physicist, Institute for Advanced Study; author of Disturbing The
Universe; From Eros To Gaia.
"Why not trees in the oceans?"
Leading authority in the field of Russian Aleut kayaks; author of
Baidarka; Darwin Among The Machines.
"Will we find the will and the way to limit our population growth
before the Biosphere does it for us?"
Paleontologist and Curator at The American Museum of Natural History;
author of The High Table; Dominion.
"As biological and traditional forms of cultural evolution are
superseded by electronic (or post-electronic) evolution, what will be
the differentially propagating "units" and the outcome of the natural
selection among them?"
Evolutionary biologist at Amherst; author of Evolution Of Infectious
"Will the 'theory of everything' be a theory of principles, not
particles? Will it invoke order from above, not below?"
Retired Director of the American Institute of Physics; author of The
World Of Elementary Particles.
"However appropriate it may be for the economy, the 'market model' is
a grossly inadequate model for the rest of human society. With the
decline of religious conviction and the slow pace of changes in the
legal code, how can we nurture persons and institutions that can
resist a purely market orientation in all spheres of living?"
Psychologist at Harvard; author of Frames Of Mind; The Mind's New
Science; Extraordinary Minds.
"When will the nation's leading intellectuals come clean & admit that
Biblical doctrine (on women, nature, homosexuality, the absolute
nature of moral truth and lots of other topics) makes them cringe and
they are henceforth NOT Jews and NOT Christians, and the hell with old
Computer scientist at Yale; author of Mirror Worlds; Drawing Life.
"Is superstring theory (or M-theory, as it has become) the long-sought
unified theory of all the elementary particles and forces of nature?"
"How can we improve our reward system for excellence in filtering,
interpreting, and synthesizing the vast body of so-called information
with which we are deluged."
Nobel laureate physicist at the Santa Fe Institute; author of The
Quark And The Jaguar.
"How can we teach each other to embrace pluralism, and to trust each
other with the new tools that promote privacy and freedom of speech?"
EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Staff Counsel.
"Can science survive the sell-out to technology and the corporate
Biologist, Schumacher College; author of How The Leopard Changed Its
"At what point a complex organic macro-structure becomes 'alive' ?"
Brazilian physicist, Dartmouth; author of The Dancing Universe.
"How do intelligent beings learn to adapt successfully on their own to
a rapidly changing world without forgetting what they already know?"
Cognitive scientist at Boston University; author of Studies Of Mind
And Brain; The Adaptive Brain.
"It appears likely that the universe that we can observe is just one
of an infinity of 'pocket universes,' which are continually being
created by a process called eternal inflation. These pocket universes
are believed to split off from a region of 'false vacuum', which
expands so quickly that its volume increases forever, despite the loss
of volume to the formation of pocket universes. The problem is to find
a reliable way to extract predictions from this picture. The
properties of the pocket universes can vary, and with an infinity of
trials essentially anything will happen an infinite number of times.
We need to learn how to distinguish the probable from the improbable,
but so far such a probability calculation has never been given a
Physicist at MIT; author of The Inflationary Universe.
"Are life and consciousness purely emergent phenomena, or subtly
connected to a fundamental level of the universe?"
STUART HAMEROFF, M.D.
Neuroscientist, University of Arizona; coeditor of Toward A Science Of
"How can we reconcile our desire for fairness and equity with the
brutal fact that people are not all alike?"
JUDITH RICH HARRIS
Developmental psychologist; co-author of The Child: A Contemporary
View Of Development.
"It is now possible for functional parts of one animal's brain to be
transplanted into another's. A tasty question for future research, one
with volatile biomedical and ethical implications, is whether the
memories and goals and desires of one animal can be transplanted as
MARC D. HAUSER
Evolutionary psychologist at Harvard; author of The Evolution Of
"Is there a way to enlarge our separate tribal loyalties, to include
all our fellow humans?"
Mathematician; author of What Is Mathematics, Really?
"Where is the frontier?"
W. DANIEL HILLIS
Computer scientist; V-P of R&D at the Walt Disney Company author of
How Computers Think (forthcoming).
"How can we bring up children so that they have the ability to form
satisfying relationships and a proper moral sense? How do we construct
a society with a proper moral code? Do we know what a proper moral
Ethologist; Fellow, former Master and Royal Society Professor, St.
John's College, Cambridge; author of Towards Understanding
Releationships; Individuals, Relationships, and Culture.
"Can we use our current technology to bring C. P. Snow's two cultures
closer together? For example, could we produce a vision-oriented,
computer-based version of the cross-cultural artifact envisioned in
Hermann Hesse's Das Glasperlenspiel?"
JOHN HENRY HOLLAND
Computer Scientist at the University of Michigan; author of Hidden
Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity; Emergence.
"Does anyone who is not a fool or fundamentalist still believe in
Science writer; author of The End Of Science.
"Why and how do we jump to conclusions in mathematics?"
Mathematician; author of Goedel's Theorems; A Workbook On
"Why is music such a pleasure?"
Psychologist at The New School for Social Research; author of
Consciousness Regained; A History Of The Mind; Leaps Of Faith.
"What will be the framework for a scientific study of the
Astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study; President of the
"What are the implications of the science of complex adaptive systems
for the nature of law and of legal personhood?"
Attorney; founder of Counsel Connect; Co-Director, Cyberspace Law
"If humanity ever encounters an alien intelligence, will we be able to
communicate with it ÷ or even realize that it is there?
Writer, The New York Times; author of Fire In The Mind; Machinery Of
"What happens when a the library of human knowledge can process what
it knows and provide advice? In other words what happens when the
Library of Alexandria, Computing, and the Oracle at Delphi merge?"
Computer scientist; founder: Wide Area Information Servers Inc.; The
Internet Archive; Alexa.
"What must a physical system be such that it can act on its own in an
STUART A. KAUFFMAN
Biologist at the Santa Fe Institute; author of Origins Of Order; At
Home In The Universe.
"What does technology want?"
Executive editor, Wired; author of Out Of Control.
"Do we or even can we know the joint multi-variable probability
density function (f(x1, ... , xn)) that describes any realworld
Electrical engineer at USC; author of Fuzzy Thinking; Nanotime.
"Are the laws of physics a logical coherent whole, so that with any
small change the entire framework would crumble? Or are there a
continuum of possibilities, only one of which happens to have been
selected for our observed universe?"
LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS
Physicist, Case Western Reserve Universe University; author of The
Fifth Essence; Fear Of Physics; The Physics Of Star Trek.
"How do neural computation principles and the neural networks of our
brains, together with the relevant aspects of experience, account for
the details of all human concepts, especially their structure, how
they are learned, and how they are used in thought and expressed in
Cognitive scientist, University of California, Berkeley; coauthor of
Metaphors We Live ; author of Women, Fire, And Dangerous Things.
"How can minds, lives, and relationships be enhanced by information
systems in unforeseen ways?"
"How can scientific and technological culture be articulated so that
fewer people are driven to embrace superstitions, and so that
technology is more likely to be designed and judged on humanistic
Computer scientist and musician; pioneer of virtual reality.
"With the ever-growing dominance of corporate forms of control in
everyday social life, how do we reconcile our notions of personal
liberty and autonomy rooted in Enlightenment political thought?"
EDWARD O. LAUMANN
Sociologist at the University of Chicago; author of The Social
Organization Of Sexuality.
"For how long can Christianity and Islam survive the recovery of
living organisms from beyond our planet by our species?"
"Can religion exist after humans have created living entities that
Paleoanthropologist and former director of Kenya's Wildlife Services;
author of Origins Of Humankind and coauthor of The Sixth Extinction.
"'What is the question I am asking myself?' ÷ After contemplating this
for hours the only honest answer I could come up with was, 'What is
the question I am asking myself?'"
Physicist at MIT, who works on problems having to do with information
and complex systems.
"How can we know when and what we do not know?"
SIR JOHN MADDOX
Editor emeritus of Nature; author of The Doomsday Syndrome; What
Remains To Be Discovered (forthcoming).
"Do new computing technologies create or destroy jobs?"
Technology reporter, The New York Times; coauthor, Takedown.
"When posterity looks back on the 20th Century from the perspective of
a hundred years, what will they see as our greatest successes and
PAMELA McCORDUCK & JOSEPH TRAUB
(McCorduck:) Writer; author of Machines Who Think; coauthor of The
Futures Of Women. (Traub:) Computer scientist at Columbia; author of
Complexity And Information (forthcoming).
"What will happen when the male, scientific, hierarchical,
control-oriented Western culture that has dominated Western thought
integrates with the emerging female, spiritual, holographic,
relationship-oriented Eastern way of seeing?"
Editor, Release 1.0
"Will it be possible to direct young people to the great educational
question of learning what they have become without having chosen it,
their unknown internal worlds, in the face of the blistering assault
of stimuli ( in medias res, truly) they encounter continuously each
Philosopher & educator; Co-Director, Institute for Learning
Technologies at Columbia.
"How come we don't understand how photosynthesis works?"
Founder of Animatrix, an interactive design company; currently teaches
interactive design at Stanford.
"In 500 years, how will the phenotypic, genotypic and physical spaces
occupied by life descended from that on earth have changed?"
"How best can we combine democracy and expertise to make the living
conditions of the people of earth, especially those currently in
hardship, better and more equitable?"
Freelance writer, and a contributing editor at Wired and Newsweek
"How does the capacity for low mood give a selective advantage?"
RANDOLPH NESSE, M.D.
Psychiatrist at the University of Michigan; coauthor of Why We Get
"How much of what we as persons can experience in life can we share
with fellow human beings?"
Danish science writer; author of The User Illusion (forthcoming in the
HANS ULRICH OBRIST
Curator for Musee D'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and museum in
progress, Vienna; chief editor of the magazine "Point d'Ironie."
"Why are religions still vital?"
ELAINE H. PAGELS
Religious historian at Princeton; author of The Gnostic Gospels; ; The
Origin Of Satan.
"Which industries will shake out, or disappear in the new industrial
revolution fomented by the advent of the world wide web, intranets,
and extranets? How do we help those who are afraid of these new
technologies to benefit from them, rather than be crushed by those who
Intranet and extranet pioneer and engineer; President, Pantheon
"A chimpanzee cannot understand Bessel functions or the theory of
black holes. Human forebrains are a few ounces bigger than a chimp's,
and we can ask many more questions than a chimp. Are there facets of
the universe we can never know? Are there questions we can't ask?"
CLIFFORD A. PICKOVER
Computer scientist; author of The Alien Iq Test; The Loom Of God
"What is needed regarding the understanding of the mental process so
that we will be able to produce thought computationally?"
Cyber-entrepreneur, linguist, translator and scientist who previously
worked in image processing algorithms at Bell Labs.
"How does the brain represent the meaning of a sentence?"
Psychologist at MIT;author of The Language Instinct; How The Mind
"Do emotions contribute to intelligence, and if so, what are the
implications for the development of a technology of 'affective
ROBERT R. PROVINE
Neurobiologist and psychologist at the University of Maryland; author
of Quest For Laughter.
"Can our ever-more-integrated society avoid becoming more vulnerable
to high-tech extremists and terrorists?"
SIR MARTIN REES
Royal Society Professor at King's College, Cambridge; author of Before
"Given what we know now about the origins, history, and impacts of
technology, is it possible to design, deploy, and use technologies in
ways that help humans be more human, instead of more like components
in a machine?"
Founder of Electric Minds, a webzine; author of Tools For Thought;
"How to ensure that we develop sciences and technologies that serve
the people, are open to democratic scrutiny and which assist rather
than hinder humans to live harmoniously with the rest of nature?"
Neurobiologist, The Open University; author Lifelines; The Making Of
"Is there a happiness gene, and is it dominant?"
Co-founder and Publisher of Wired.
"Can human beings achieve spontaneous morality by opening ourselves
further to some basic expression of nature, or must we create and
adopt a set of moral guidelines?"
Author, Cyberia; Media Virus; Ecstasy Club; columnist for New York
Times Syndicate and Time Digital.
"Why does our 'humanness' keep getting in the way of rational
Writer and television producer; author of The Living Body; Skyscraper;
21St Century Jet.
"How can the implicit beliefs that are imparted to us in childhood be
'reasoned with' in an educational context."
Computer scientist and cognitive psychologist at Northwestern; author
of The Creative Attitude; Tell Me A Story.
"I often wonder÷sometimes despair÷whether it will be possible to solve
long term, global problems(global warming being my current focus)
until we can overcome collective denial, which in turn, may not become
conscious until we grapple with personal myths. I question whether the
eventual loss of half the other species on Earth will even be enough
to overcome personal escapism that has gone collective÷what I
sometimes think of a 'psychological fractal'. Perhaps that's not even
a question, but it occupies my mind a lot."
STEPHEN H. SCHNEIDER
Atmospheric scientist at Stanford; author of The Genesis Strategy;
"Do exotic life forms, made of very different materials than those
used by life on earth, occur elsewhere in the Universe?"
Biochemist at New York University; author of Origins; The Human
"Does reality have real numbers?"
Chief Architect, Microsoft Corporation.
"Fundamentally, is the flow of time something real, or might our sense
of time passing be just an illusion that hides the fact that what is
real is only a vast collection of moments?"
Theoretical physicist at Penn State; author of The Life Of The Cosmos.
"How to articulate the natural and the social sciences without being
either driven or blocked by ideological agendas?"
Cognitive and social scientist at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris;
author of Rethinking Symbolism; On Anthropological Knowledge.
"Is it more useful to theorize a new conception of self that emerges
from the widespread adoption of networked technology, or to seek to
Cofounder of Suck.
"Why are most individuals and all human societies grossly
under-achieving their potentials?"
Australian research scientist, broadcaster; author of Rogue Asteroids
And Doomsday Comets.
"Why can our minds do physics? That is, why does the behavior of the
physical world map so neatly onto mathematical laws, given that those
laws are (arguably) strings of symbols that our brains happen to be
capable of manipulating, apparently as a fortuitous byproduct of some
evolutionary process that made our ancestors better adapted to dodging
hyenas in the Rift Valley? Why is it that a person sitting in a chair
in a room can, by using those leftover hyena-dodging and
buffalo-hunting neurons to manipulate symbols in his head, design wing
flaps for a 747, or figure out what was happening one femtosecond
after the Big Bang?"
Novelist; author of The Big U; Zodiac: The Eco-Thriller; The Diamond
Age; Snow Crash.
"How shall I teach my children?"
Astronomer; author of The Cuckoo's Egg; Silicon Snake Oil.
Director of the Virtual Worlds Group in the Microsoft Advanced
Technology and Research Division.
"What was the key factor in the success of Homo sapiens compared with
other human species such as the Neanderthals?"
Research paleoanthropologist at The Natural History Museum, London;
co-author of In Search Of The Neanderthals; African Exodus.
"How predictive is the much sought-after 'Theory of Everything'
intended to be? Presumably it will show why the formation of
fundamental particles was inevitable, and why these were bound to form
into atoms, and presumably predict galaxies. But will it show that
life was bound to appear? Or consciousness? How powerful will it be
really ÷ or can it be? What is the Universe really capable of?"
"What is religion? Is it necessary? Can we devise a religion for the
21st century and beyond that is plausible and yet avoids banality ÷
one that people see the need for? What would it be like?"
Cambridge biologist and writer; author of Last Animals At The Zoo; The
Time Before History.
"Why is our western civilization so reluctant to accept subjective,
first-hand experience as fundamental data? In close association: why
the reluctance to consider one's experience as a realm to be explored
with a discipline just as rigorous as the one invented by science for
Biologist at the cole Polytechnique, in Paris; author of Principles Of
Biological Autonomy; coauthor of Autopoiesis And Cognition.
"Why does our species so obsessively document its origins and past yet
so persistently ignore the dangerous portents of its future, such as
"Can there be a more reliable definition of intelligence than the
ability of a species to realize it has predators and competitors, and
then exterminate them ÷ as we humans have?"
PETER D. WARD
Paleontologist at University of Washington; author In Search Of
Nautilus; The End Of Evolution.
"Is the phenomenology of modern biology converging on a small number
of basic truths or will it increasingly diverge, becoming so endlessly
complex that no single human mind will be able to encompass it?"
ROBERT A. WEINBERG, M.D.
Biologist, MIT; founding member of the Whitehead Institute for
Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Mass.; author of Racing To The
Beginning Of The Road.
"What do we want from science?"
Australian science writer; author of Pythagoras' Trousers: God,
Physics, And The Gender Wars.
"The major change through the prehistory of our species is the
evolution of our brain, the development of a social organ that makes
human culture (and language) part of our biology. My question is
whether we can ever transcend the consequences and free ourselves of
the biological limitations that have been imposed in the process."
MILFORD H. WOLPOFF
Paleoanthropologist at the University of Michigan; author of
Paleoanthropology; coauthor of Race And Human Evolution.
More information about the paleopsych