Saturday, January 03, 2004

It goes up to eleven

Edge's World Question Center series. It doesn't get any better than this.

(for each of these pages, you may need to scroll down a few screenfuls to get to the content.)

In 2002 they asked "What is your question? Why?". Among the responses:
  • "Why do we decorate?" ... (Brian Eno)
  • "Why do people like music?" ... (W. Daniel Hillis )
  • "Eureka: What makes coherence so important to us?" It's part of our pleasure in complex ritual or listening to Bach, to be able to guess what comes next some of the time. It's boring when it is completely predictable, however; it's the search for how things all hang together that is so much fun ... (William Calvin)
  • "Why is it only amongst adults in the Western world that has tradition been so insistently and constantly challenged by the raising of [these sorts of] questions?" (children everywhere do it, but stop when they grow up) ... (John R. Skoyles)
(includes this from John Perry Barlow: "Information is like a life jerky: dried up and not terribly communicative..."
"Democracies don't prepare well for things that have never happened before." (Richard A. Clarke)

2003 was responses to a hypothetical request for advice by George Bush ("What are the pressing scientific issues for the nation and the world, and what is your advice on how I can begin to deal with them?")

2004 asks for observed natural laws. Here's a taste -
  • Jaron Lanier
    ...You have to draw a Circle of Empathy around yourself and others in order to be moral. If you include too much in the circle, you become incompetent, while if you include too little you become cruel. This is the "Normal form" of the eternal liberal/conservative dichotomy...
  • Alan Alda:
    All laws are local - In other words, something is always bound to come along and make you rethink what you know by forcing you to look at it in a broader context
    A law does not know how local it is - Citizens of Lawville do not realize there are city limits and are constantly surprised to find out they live in a county.
  • Alison Gopnik's Gender Curves -
    The male curve is an abrupt rise followed by an equally abrupt fall. The female curve is a slow rise to an extended asymptote. The areas under the curves are roughly equal. These curves apply to all activities at all time scales (e.g. attention to TV programs, romantic love, career scientific productivity).
  • Dawkins's Law of Adversarial Debate: When two incompatible beliefs are advocated with equal intensity, the truth does not lie half way between them.

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