THE 2014 EDGE QUESTION | What Scientific Idea is ready for Retirement ?

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InfinityI am currently reading some of the until now 171 fascinating and most entertaining responses to the Edge 2014 question.

I’d love to comment on some of the entries, but.. too busy reading, so I’ve just picked a few to give you a taste.., and, being Danish, what is more altruistic natural than to begin with a Dane..


Tor Nørretranders – Science Writer; Consultant; Lecturer, Copenhagen; Author, The Generous Man

the idea that there is a conflict of interest between helping yourself and helping others… 

Frank wilczekFrank Wilczek – Physicist, MIT; Recipient, 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics; Author, The Lightness of Being

– the distinction between Mind and Matter, is embedded in everyday language and thinking, and even more deeply in philosophy and theology, – but we  now know a lot more about matter, atoms and brain. Matter can dance in intricate, dynamic patterns; it can exploit environmental resources, to self-organize and export entropy…

Roger Schank – Psychologist & Computer Scientist; Engines for Education Inc.; Author, Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools

Artificial intelligence..
should be renamed “ the attempt to get computers to do really cool stuff“.
I am working on a program now that will hold an intelligent conversation about medical issues with a user. Is my program intelligent? No. The program has no self knowledge. It doesn’t know what it is saying and it doesn’t know what it knows. The fact that we have stuck ourselves with this silly idea of intelligent machines or AI causes people to misperceive the real issues.

There really is no need to create artificial humans anyway. We have enough real ones already..

Max-TegmarkMax Tegmark – Physicist, MIT; Researcher, Precision Cosmology; Scientific Director, Foundational Questions Institute

has become mathematically mainstream, and most physicists and mathematicians have become so enamored with infinity that they rarely question it.
But we don’t actually need the infinite to do physics  So if we can do without infinity to figure out what happens next, surely nature can too…

W. Daniel Hillis – Physicist, Computer Scientist, Chairman of Applied Minds, Inc.; author, The Pattern on the Stone

Cause and effect..
which is just an artifact of our brains’ penchant for storytelling, –  a framework that we use to manipulate the world and to construct explanations for the convenience of our own understanding..

Seth Lloyd – Professor of Quantum Mechanical Engineering, MIT; Author, Programming the Universe

The Universe..
does not consist of all things visible and invisible—what is, has been, and will be…

It was licked out of the salty rim of the primordial fiery pit by the tongue of a giant cow…



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2 responses to “THE 2014 EDGE QUESTION | What Scientific Idea is ready for Retirement ?

  1. That we need to continuously increase the food supply for human consumption in order to meet the needs of a growing population is a colossal misperception, bereft of a foundation in science.

    Human population dynamics is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species. How are we to do anything with regard to the global predicament spawned by skyrocketing human population numbers if we cannot widely share and consensually validate an adequate understanding, based upon the best available science, of why human numbers have been growing so rapidly? The science of human population dynamics has been a taboo topic for too long. I have come to believe that top rank scientists and other self-proclaimed experts are acting as deliberate defenders of current, conventional, preternatural thought and willful deniers of new scientific research regarding the human population. That you are willing to say something about what you see regarding human population dynamics takes intellectual honesty and uncommon courage.

    We appear to live in a time in which humankind’s perception has fractured schizophrenogenically and clarity of vision has been lost; when incoherent minds determine what was real; a period of abject intellectual dishonesty and the absence of moral courage. Political convenience, economic expediency, specious demographics, ideological idiocy, social status quo, religious dogma, cultural prescription and incomprehensible greed rule the world, reign supreme, darken the surface of Earth and threaten future human well being and environmental health.

    Individually and collectively, human beings cannot make a difference that makes a difference if we continue not to question the ubiquitously broadcasted delusions by the world leaders of my generation who are directing our youth down a ‘primrose path’ to surely precipitate the utter extirpation of global biodiversity, the irreversible degradation of Earth’s environs, the reckless dissipation of its limited resources and the destruction of life as we know it. The very thing our leaders claim to be protecting and preserving for children everywhere and coming generations.

    • transhumanisten

      Thanks for your comment. As I understand what you’re saying, the idea to be retired is the belief in the sustainability of “growth”, e.g. population, but my impression is that most people, -- even without much education, actually agree that the earth is over-populated, so when we talk about the need to continuously increase the food supply, it is not because politicians advocate further population-growth, but to feed the hungry, basically, -- or, possibly, to prevent social upheaval that could jeopardize the priviledges of the ruling classes..

      You’re right in pointing out intellectual dishonesty , absence of moral courage , ideological idiocy etc., but I must say you sound overly pessimistic to me, and I emphasize SOUND, as it is only an impression, but of course, as a transhumanist, I am less of a doomsayer and trust than progress is inevitable, not only technologically, but also in terms of morals, ethics, etc.

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