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The Media Science

2003 Edge.org World Question 161

Posted by timothy
from the what-would-sauron-do dept.
murky.waters writes "The responses to this year's Edge.org question have been published; basically, people were asked to imagine they were nominated as White House science adviser and the President asked them what are some important issues in science and what we should do about them. There are 84 responses, ranging in topic from advanced nanotechnology to the psychology of foreign cultures, and lots of ideas regarding science, technology, politics, and education. The responses were written by academics (e.g. Roger Schank, Marvin Minsky), journalists (Kevin Kelly), Nobel Laureates (Eric Kandel), and others (Alan Alda). Some of responses are politically loaded but the majority has either a more specialised proposal, or general remarks about our world. Many are absolutely fascinating: funny, insightful, interesting, hell even informative. ... One of the most public supporters of the Singularity 'religion', Ray Kurzweil, is a regular at Edge, and currently discussed issues range from said transhumanism to early-universe theories, and many other kinds of exciting and novel science."
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2003 Edge.org World Question

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  • by Kajakske (59577) on Monday January 06, 2003 @05:50AM (#5024211) Homepage Journal
    Video games compel kids to spend dozens of hours a week exploring virtual worlds and learning their rules. Barring a massive overhaul of our school system, Nintendo and PlayStation will continue to be the most successful at captivating young minds.
    Hehe, that sounds harsh.
    But he got a point there. However, his point in the article points that video games go at the expense of eductation, where I think they just replcae part of it. People learn at young age to work with PCs and new technology, which is also eductaion IMHO.
  • by hughk (248126) on Monday January 06, 2003 @06:00AM (#5024223) Journal
    It is interesting that Kandel brought this up. Recently a group of Nobel Laureates from a number of different fields (and countries) were interviewed and they all agreed that this is the next big thing.

    Of course, the study of the biological underpinnnings of self-awareness may also help AI to take off in a big way. One of the major issues that the naysayers (such as John Searle and his Chinese Room [google.com] have) is that a machine is a bundle of electronic switches without acknowledging that the brain is just a bunch of biological ones.

  • by Pingster (14864) on Monday January 06, 2003 @06:12AM (#5024238) Homepage
    Alan Alda's response [edge.org] is very eloquent, compelling, and smart. Here's his conclusion:

    The problem is that, although we're all entitled to our beliefs, our culture increasingly holds that science is just another belief. Maybe this is because it's easier to believe something--anything--than not to know.

    We don't like uncertainty--so we gravitate back to the last comfortable solution we had, and in this way we elevate belief to the status of fact.

    But scientists are comfortable with not knowing. They thrive on it. They don't assume that just because they had an idea it must be right. They attack it as vigorously as they can because they don't want to lie to themselves. As Richard Feynman said, "Not knowing is much more interesting than believing an answer which might be wrong."

    Above all, Mr. President, I think your science advisor needs to help you help our country learn to be comfortable with uncertainty, and--as hard as this might be to believe--to put reason ahead of belief.

    If only all the young minds in the schools could hear this message!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @06:30AM (#5024264)
    Google that phrase to find papers on the subject.

    Penrose argues convincingly that consciousness is a QM phenomenon exhibited by most life forms, even bacteria. In other words, it's not as simple as cranking your Athlon up to 50Ghz and running AI Girl v7.0.
  • I like Alan's (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MegaFur (79453) <wyrd0@komy.zznGAUSS.com minus math_god> on Monday January 06, 2003 @06:31AM (#5024267) Journal

    I know it means I'm kinda pathetic, but I really like Alan Alda's [edge.org] (yes, the actor).

    From the "Deeper" section:

    What your science advisor really needs to do is help you re-fashion the thinking of the country. Too many people think cloning cells for the fight against disease is the same thing as creating Frankenstein's monster. Too many people think evolution is the idea that people are descended from apes. And too many people think that genetic modification of plants is a dangerous new idea, instead of something that's been going on for ten thousand years.
    ...
    The problem is that, although we're all entitled to our beliefs, our culture increasingly holds that science is just another belief. Maybe this is because it's easier to believe something--anything--than not to know.

    We don't like uncertainty--so we gravitate back to the last comfortable solution we had, and in this way we elevate belief to the status of fact.

    But scientists are comfortable with not knowing. They thrive on it. They don't assume that just because they had an idea it must be right. They attack it as vigorously as they can because they don't want to lie to themselves. As Richard Feynman said, "Not knowing is much more interesting than believing an answer which might be wrong."

    I only hope that Alan is wrong about the Death of Reason In The U.S. I hope, but not much. See, on the one hand, people are always saying, "oh, man things are so screwed up." I'm not just talking about the last few years or even the last few centuries. You go back to biblical times and before and there were still people saying how bad it all was. It's a constant throughout the ages.

    So there's hope that Alan's wrong and the seeming surge of gulibility (phone psychics, John Edwards, et al.) are just a fad or trend. Or on the other hand, it could be that the U.S's torch is fading. Goodbye reason, hello psychics, how did we ever get along without you! Yes, I understand that it's okay that we murder all those nasty Arab-types 'cause Johnny Edwards says the dead ones are thanking us from Hell...

    Okay, I apologize for going a bit freaky there, folks. Obviously, it's late and past my bedtime. Goodnite, don't let the ziparumpazoos bite.

  • Re:Ecology! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sql*kitten (1359) on Monday January 06, 2003 @07:07AM (#5024311)
    I know Bush doesn't give too much attention to that, and i wonder if he will ever know what this word means but just give it a try...
    The world won't last long if the US never change its policics on that (Kyoto.. Johanesburg etc...), IMHO...


    I'm sorry, but you don't know what you're talking about. As everyone knows, two-thirds of the Senate must ratify a treaty before it becomes law. Senators have the ability to vote on a treaty even if the President does not ask them to. In 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 against the Kyoto Protocol.

    What does this mean? It means that even if Bush wanted to ratify Kyoto he couldn't, because under the Clinton administration, the Senate rejected it.
  • meta-answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by K. (10774) on Monday January 06, 2003 @07:40AM (#5024359) Homepage Journal
    Considering the fact that there are precious few female respondents, one thing that needs to be fixed is an apparent gender imbalance in science.

  • Re:Hmm (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @08:04AM (#5024388)
    It takes a Democrat to make fun of someone's heart condition, laugh at a man that was unfairly crucified by the liberal press or the President himself.
  • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Monday January 06, 2003 @10:06AM (#5024872) Journal
    I wish someone in China would set up a "Does China Block this Site" page that lets outsiders see whether a given site is blocked within the country.

    It'd be interesting.
  • Argh!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Orne (144925) on Monday January 06, 2003 @10:08AM (#5024882) Homepage
    When will you people.... Nothing was banned! The US government simply said that it will not provide government money to private research firms to conduct studies on an morally ambiguous process. Whether or not you believe that scooping the dna out of fertilized embryos is equivalent to killing, there is a significant number of Americans who do, and they do not want their tax money supporting what they believe is murder.

    Besides, if the same celebrities (the majority of which don't know a stem cell from a make-up applicator) put their effort into supporting adult stem cell research, we'd have a much better attitude towards celluar sciences.
  • by PD (9577) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Monday January 06, 2003 @01:05PM (#5026062) Homepage Journal
    Science cannot be a religion, because there is no faith. Faith is belief without evidence, and rationality is belief only with evidence. Science is the time proven process through which we can eventually figure out from the evidence what might be true, and what definitely isn't true. Also, it can tell us what we don't have a clue about, and what we will never have a clue about.

    Science and religion are absolutely opposed to each other on that basis.

    Jesus himself said to Thomas that believing without seeing is a good thing.

    This wasn't intended as a flame, I'm just honestly pointing out what I see the relationship between science and religion to be.

"In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -- Carl Sagan, Cosmos

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