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The Edge Annual Question

12/31/2006 11:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

01.01.2007

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"Big,
deep and ambitious questions....breathtaking in scope. Keep watching
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-- New
Scientist
(1998)

GOT OPTIMISM? THE WORLD'S LEADING THINKERS SEE GOOD NEWS AHEAD

While conventional wisdom tells us that things are bad and getting worse, scientists and the science-minded among us see good news in the coming years. That's the bottom line of an outburst of high-powered optimism gathered from the world-class scientists and thinkers by Edge (www.edge.org), the influential online salon that features an ongoing conversation among third culture thinkers (i.e., 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.)

The 2007 Edge Question marks the 10th anniversary of Edge, which began in December, 1996 as an email to about fifty people. In 2006, Edge had more than five million user sessions. And Edge is frequently in the news, described as presenting "Today's visions of science tomorrow"...(New York Tmes Op-Ed Page); "A terrific, thought provoking site " (The Guardian); "brilliant!...a eureka moment at the edge of knowledge...a website that will expand your mind." (Sunday Times, London); "one of the most interesting stopping places on the Web" (New York Times); "Open-minded, free-ranging, intellectually playful ...an unadorned pleasure in curiosity, a collective expression of wonder at the living and inanimate world...an ongoing and thrilling colloquium that is open to all." (Ian McEwan, in The Telegraph); "A marvellous showcase for the Internet, it comes very highly recommended." (Prospect).

Here is the the 2007 Edge Question:

The Edge Annual Question -- 2007

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As
an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic.
Science figures out how things work and thus can make them
work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that
can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever
more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science,
on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever
better put.

What
are you optimistic about? Why? Surprise us!

The 153 responses to this year's Edge Question span topics such as string theory, intelligence, population growth, cancer, climate and much much more. Contributing their optimistic visions are a who's who of interesting and important world-class thinkers. (See below for annotated Table of Contents).

"Fantastically stimulating...It's like the crack cocaine of the thinking world.... Once you start, you can't stop thinking about that question."

-- BBC Radio 4
(2005)

Welcome to Edge. Got optimism? Welcome to the conversation!Happy New Year!

-- JB

[Click here for the 2007 Edge Question ]


CONTENTS

DANIEL C. DENNETT

Philosopher; University Professor, Co-Director, Center for Cognitive
Studies, Tufts University; Author, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a
Natural Phenomenon

>The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion

WALTER ISAACSON

President & CEO, Aspen Institute. Former CEO, CNN, Managing Editor,
TIME; Author, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.

>Print As a Technology

DANIEL GOLEMAN

Psychologist; Author, Social Intelligence

>Transparency is Inevitable

GEOFFREY CARR

Science Editor, The Economist

>Malthus was wrong

CHRIS ANDERSON

Curator, TED Conference

>Systemic Flaws In the Reported World View

LAWRENCE KRAUSS

Physicist, Case Western Reserve University; Author, Atom

>Renewal of Science for the Public Good

ALUN ANDERSON

Senior Consultant (and Former Editor-In-Chief and Publishing Director),
New Scientist

>The Sunlight-Powered Future

HOWARD GARDNER

Psychologist, Harvard University; Author, Five Minds for the Future

>Early Detection of Learning Disabilities or Difficulties

MARC D. HAUSER

Psychologist and Biologist, Harvard University: Author, Moral Minds

>The End of ISMs

STEVEN PINKER

Psychologist, Harvard University; Author, The Blank Slate

>The Decline of Violence

DAVID G. MYERS

Social Psychologist, Hope College (Michigan); Author, A Quiet World:
Living with Hearing Loss

>Doubling Hearing Aid Functionality

MICHAEL SHERMER

Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American;
Author, Why Darwin Matters

>Science and The Decline of Magic

PAMELA MCCORDUCK

Writer; Author, Machines That Think

>Understanding What Really Happens To Humans In Groups

HOWARD RHEINGOLD

Communications Expert; Author, Smart Mobs

>The Tools For Cultural Production and Distribution Are In
the Pockets of 14 Year Olds

GERALD HOLTON

Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics and Research Professor of
History of Science, Harvard University; Author, Thematic Origins
of Scientific Thought

>The Increasing Coalescence of Scientific Disciplines

DONALD HOFFMAN

Cognitive Scientist, UC, Irvine; Author, Visual Intelligence

>We Will Soon Devise a Scientific Theory for the Perennial
Mind-Body Problem

ANDREW BROWN

Journalist, The Guardian; Author, The Darwin Wars

>A Proper Scientific Understanding of Irrationality In General,
and of Religion In Particular

PIET HUT

Professor of Astrophysics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

>The Real Purity of Pure Science

KEITH DEVLIN

Mathematician; Executive Director, Center for the Study of Language and
Information, Stanford; Author, The Millennium Problems

>We Will Finally Get Mathematics Education Right

JAMES O'DONNELL

Classicist; Cultural Historian; Provost, Georgetown University; Author,
Augustine: A New Biography

>Scientific Discoveries Are Surprisingly Durable

MARTIN SELIGMAN

Psychologist, University of Pennsylvania, Author, Authentic Happiness

>The First Coming

JEAN PIGOZZI

Collector, Contemporary African Art; High-Tech Ecological Researcher & Director,
Liquid Jungle Lab, Panama

>Breaking Down the Barriers Between Artists and
the Public

KEVIN KELLY

Editor-At-Large, Wired; Author, New Rules for the New Economy

>That We Will Embrace the Reality of Progress

HAIM HARARI

Physicist, former President, Weizmann Institute of Science

>The Evolutionary Ability of Humankind To Do the Right Things

CARLO ROVELLI

Physicist, Universite' de la Mediterrane' (Marseille, France); Author:

What is time? What is Space?

>The Divide Between Rational Scientific Thinking and the
Rest of Our Culture Is Decreasing

JUAN ENRIQUEZ

CEO, Biotechonomy; Founding Director, Harvard Business School's Life
Sciences Project; Author, The Untied States of America

>A Knowledge Driven Economy Allows Individuals
to Lead Millions Out of Poverty In a Single Generation

JOHN GOTTMAN

Psychologist; Founder of Gottman Institute; Author (with Julie Gottman),
And Baby Makes Three

>When Men Are Involved In the Care of Their Own
Infants the Cultures Do Not Make War

DANIEL EVERETT

Researcher of Pirahã Culture; Chair of Languages, Literatures, & Cultures,
Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology, Illinois State University

>Humans Will Learn to Learn From Diversity

SAMUEL BARONDES

Neurobiologist and Psychiatrist, University of California San Francisco;
Author, Better Than Prozac

>Finding Mental Illness Genes

ROBERT PROVINE

Psychologist and Neuroscientist, University of Maryland; Author, Laughter

>Things Could Always Be Worse

STEPHEN KOSSLYN

Psychologist, Harvard University; Author, Wet Mind

>Human Intelligence Can Be Increased, and Can Be Increased
Dramatically

ALEXANDER VILENKIN

Cosmologist, Tufts University; Author, Many Worlds In One

>What Lies Behind Our Cosmic Horizon?

IRENE PEPPERBERG

Research Associate, Psychology, Harvard University; Author, The Alex
Studies

>A Second (and Better) Enlightenment

ROGER SCHANK

Psychologist & Computer Scientist; Engines for Education Inc.; Author,
Making Minds Less Well Educated than Our Own

>The End of the Commoditization of Knowledge

PETER SCHWARTZ

Futurist, Business Strategist; Cofounder. Global Business Network, a
Monitor Company; Author, The Long Boom

>Growing Older

GEORGE DYSON

Science Historian; Author, Project Orion

>The Return of Commercial Sail

LINDA STONE

Former VP, Microsoft & Co-Founder & Director, Microsoft's Virtual
Worlds Group/Social Computing Group

>Using Technology Toward a Healthier Global Community

JERRY ADLER

Senior Editor, Newsweek; Author High Rise

>Sometime In the Twenty-First Century I Will Understand Twentieth-Century
Physics

BRIAN GOODWIN

Biologist, Schumacher College, Devon, UK; Author, How The Leopard Changed
Its Spots

>Our Ability As a Species to Respond To the Challenge
Presented By Peak Oil

GEOFFREY MILLER

Evolutionary Psychologist, University of New Mexico; Author, The Mating
Mind

>Death

REBECCA GOLDSTEIN

Philosopher, Harvard University; Author, Betraying Spinoza

>We Have the Capacity to Understand One Another

NASSIM TALEB

Epistemologist of Randomness and Applied Statistician; Author, Fooled
By Randomness

>The Birth of Stochastic Science

JARED DIAMOND

Biologist; Geographer, UCLA; Author, Collapse

>Good Choices Sometimes Prevail

JOHN HORGAN

Director, the Center for Science Writings, Stevens Institute of Technology;
Author, Rational Mysticism

>War Will End

SUSAN BLACKMORE

Psychologist and Skeptic; Author, Consciousness: An Introduction

>Our Civilisation Will Survive the Coming Climate Catastrophe

LEO CHALUPA

Ophthalmologist and Neurobiologist, University of California, Davis

>We Will Lead Healthy and Productive Lives Well Past Our
Tenth Decade

SAM HARRIS

Neuroscience Researcher; Author, The End of Faith

>We Are Making Moral Progress

RAY KURZWEIL

Inventor and Technologist; Author, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans
Transcend Biology

>I'm Confident About Energy, the Environment, Longevity,
and Wealth; I'm Optimistic (But Not Necessarily Confident)
Of the Avoideance Of Existential Downsides; And I'm Hopeful
(But Not Necessarily Optimistic) About a Repeat Of 9-11 (Or
Worse)

MATT RIDLEY

Science Writer; Founding chairman of the International Centre for Life;
Author, Francis Crick: Discoverer of the Genetic Code

>The Future

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF

Media Analyst; Documentary Writer; Author, Get Back in the Box : Innovation
from the Inside Out

>Human Beings Are Different

LISA RANDALL

Physicist, Harvard University; Author, Warped Passages

>People Will Increasingly Value Truth (Over Truthiness)

FREEMAN DYSON

Physicist, Institute of Advanced Study, Author, Disturbing the Universe

>HAR1 (Human Accelerated Region 1) As a New Tool
Leading Us Toward a Deep Understanding of Human Nature

RANDOLPH M. NESSE

Psychiatrist, University of Michigan; Coauthor, Why We Get Sick

>We Will Find New Ways To Block Pessimism

ANDRIAN KREYE

Feuilleton (Arts & Ideas) Editor, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich

>We Will Overcome Agnotology (The Cultural Production of
Ignorance)

DAVID GELERNTER

Computer Scientist, Yale University; Chief Scientist, Mirror Worlds Technologies;
Author, Drawing Life

>The Future of Software

JONATHAN HAIDT

Psychologist, University of Virginia

>The Baby Boomers Will Soon Retire

CHARLES SEIFE

Professor of Journalism, New York University; formerly journalist, Science
magazine; Author, Zero: The Biography Of A Dangerous Idea

>Pessimistic In Its Optimism

JAMES GEARY

Former Europe editor, Time Magazine; Author, The World in a Phrase

>PCT Will Allow People To Take Individual Action to Tackle
a Global Problem

WILLIAM CALVIN

Professor, The University of Washington School of Medicine; Author, A
Brain For All Seasons

>The Climate Optimist

KAI KRAUSE

Software and Design Pioneer

>Neo-Contentism

GEORGE CHURCH

Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School; Director, Center for Computational
Genetics

>Personal Genomics Will Arrive This Year, and With
It a Revolutionary Wave Of Volunteerism and Self-Knowledge

CHRIS DIBONA

Open Source Programs Manager, Google Inc.; Editor, Open Sources: Voices
From the Open Source Software Revolution and Open Sources 2.0

>Widely Available, Constantly Renewing, High Resolution
Images of the Earth Will End Conflict and Ecological Devastation
As We Know It

TERRENCE SEJNOWSKI

Computational Neuroscientist, Salk Institute, Coauthor, The Computational
Brain

>A Breakthrough in Understanding Intelligence is
around the Corner

PHILIP CAMPBELL

Editor-in Chief, Nature

>Optimism Needs To Have Bite So That Pioneering Work In Early
Cancer Detection Is Championed and Funded

GINO SEGRE

Physicist, University of Pennsylvania; Author: Faust In Copenhagen: A
Struggle for the Soul of Physics

>The Future Of String Theory

ERNST POPPEL

Neuroscientist, Chairman, Board of Directors, Human Science Center and
Department of Medical Psychology, Munich University, Germany; Author,
Mindworks

>"Monocausalitis" -- Pestimistic Optimism
To Overcome a Common Disease

SETH LLOYD

Quantum Mechanical Engineer, MIT, Author, Programing the Universe

>My Stupid, but Not Misguided, Optimism

ELIZABETH LOFTUS

Psychologist, University of California, Irvine

>The Importance Of Innocence

MAX TEGMARK

Physicist, MIT; Researcher, Precision Cosmology

>We're Not Insignificant After All

SIMON BARON-COHEN

Psychologist, Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University; Author, The
Essential Difference

>The Rise of Autism and The Digital Age

LEE SMOLIN

Physicist, Perimeter Institute; Author, The Trouble With Physics

>The Return of the Discipline of Experiment Will Tranform
Our Knowledge of Fundamental Physics

JUDITH RICH HARRIS

Independent Investigator and Theoretician; Author, No Two Alike: Human
Nature and Human Individuality

>The Survival of Friendship

DAVID PESCOVITZ

Co-editor, Boing Boing; Research Affiliate, Institute for the Future;
Editor-at-Large, MAKE:

>We're Recognizing That the World Is a Wunderkammer

ROBERT SHAPIRO

Professor Emeritus, Senior Research Scientist, Department of Chemistry,
New York University; Author, Planetary Dreams

>Strangers In Our Midst

TOR NØRRETRANDERS

Science Writer; Consultant; Lecturer, Copenhagen; Author, The Generous
Man

>Optimism...

MARTI HEARST

Computer Scientist, UC Berkeley, School of Information

>The Rise of Usability

ADAM BLY

Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Seed

>Science on the Agenda

JORDAN POLLACK

Computer Scientist, Brandeis University

>AI Will Arise

EDUARDO PUNSET

Scientist; Spanish Television Presenter; Author, The Happiness Trip

>We Can No Longer Be Sure Of Anything

MARCO IACOBONI

Neuroscientist; Director, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Lab, UCLA

>Neuroscience Will Change Society

J. CRAIG VENTER

Human Genome Decoder; Director, The J. Craig Venter Institute

>Evidence-Based Decision Making Will Help Transform Society

MARIA SPIROPULU

Physicist, currently at CERN

>The Ever Awaited Super-Collider

RODNEY A. BROOKS

Director, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
(CSAIL); Chief Technical Officer of iRobot Corporation; author Flesh
and Machines

>The 22nd Century

NEIL GERSHENFELD

Physicist, MIT; Author, FAB

>The Creation As Well As Consumption of Scientific Knowledge
Will Be Potentially Accessible To Anyone

CLAY SHIRKY

Social & Technology Network Topology Researcher; Adjunct Professor,
NYU Graduate School of Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP)

>Evidence

ANTON ZEILINGER

University of Vienna and Scientific Director, Institute of Quantum Optics
and Quantum Information, Austrian Academy of Sciences

>The Future Of Science

DIANE HALPERN

Professor, Claremont McKenna College; Past-president, American Psychological
Association; Author, Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities

>How Technology Is Saving the World

JAMSHED BHARUCHA

Professor of Psychology, Provost, Senior Vice President, Tufts University

>The Globalization Of Higher Education

GLORIA ORIGGI

Philosopher and Researcher, Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique;
Author, Text-E: Text in the Age of the Internet

>The Impact Of Multilingualism In Europe

MICHAEL WOLFF

Columnist, Vanity Fair; Author, Autumn of the Moguls

>The Joys Of Failing Enterprises

GREGORY COCHRAN

Consultant, Adaptive Optics; Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, University
of Utah

>The Sorcerer's Apprentice

PAUL SAFFO

Technology Forecaster; Consulting Associate Professor, Stanford University

>Humankind Is Particularly Good At Muddling

DAN SPERBER

Social and cognitive scientist; Directeur de Recherche, CNRS, Paris;
Author, Rethinking Symbolism

>Altruism on the Web

HELEN FISHER

Research Professor, Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University; Author,
Why We Love

>"Free Love"

THOMAS METZINGER

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz; Author, Being No One

>I Will Be Dead Wrong Again

XENI JARDIN

Tech Culture Journalist; Co-editor, BoingBoing; Commentator, NPR; Columnist,
Wired

>Truth Prevails. Sometimes, Technology Helps

GARY MARCUS

Psychologist, New York University; Author, The Birth of the Mind

>Metacognition For Kids

SHERRY TURKLE

Psychologist, MIT; Author, Evocative Objects: Things We Think With

>The Immeasurables

SCOTT SAMPSON

Chief Curator, Utah Museum of Natural History; Associate Professor, University
of Utah; Host, Dinosaur Planet TV series

>A New, Environmentally Sustainable Worldview

PAUL DAVIES

Physicist, Arizona State University; Author, The Cosmic Jackpot

>A One-Way Ticket To Mars

DAVID DALRYMPLE

Student, MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms; Researcher, Internet 0, Fab
Lab Thinner Clients for South Africa, Conformal Computing

>Technology in Education

ROGER HIGHFIELD

Science Editor, The Daily Telegraph; Coauthor, After Dolly

>The Public Will Become Immune To Hype

RUDY RUCKER

Mathematician, Computer Scientist; CyberPunk Pioneer; Novelist; Author,
Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul

>A Knowable Gaian Mind

GREGORY BENFORD

Physicist, UC Irvine; Author, Deep Time

>Save The Arctic

TIMOTHY TAYLOR

Archaeologist, University of Bradford; Author, The Buried Soul

>Skeuomorphism

STEPHEN H. SCHNEIDER

Biologist; Climatologist, Stanford University; Author, Laboratory Earth

>The Ozone Hole

DAVID BERREBY

Science Writer; Author, Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind

>The Zombie Concept Of Identity

KARL SABBAGH

Writer and Television Producer; Author, The Riemann Hypothesis

>The Optimism of Scientists

CHRIS W. ANDERSON

Editor in Chief, Wired Magazine; Author, The Long Tail

>A Tipping Point For Climate Change Sentiment

NICHOLAS HUMPHREY

Psychologist, London School of Economics; Author, Seeing Red

>The Best Is Yet To Come

RICHARD DAWKINS

Evolutionary Biologist, Charles Simonyi Professor For The Understanding
Of Science, Oxford University; Author, The God Delusion

The Final Scientific Enlightenment

JARON LANIER

Computer Scientist and Musician

>Interpersonal Communication Will Become More Profound; Rationality
Will Become Ever More Romantic

JASON MCCABE CALACANIS

Entrepreneur in Action, Sequoia Capital

>Eudaemonia: The Third form Of Happiness

STEVE GRAND

Aritifical Life Researcher; Creator of Lucy, a Robot Babay Orangutan;
Author, Creation: Life and How to Make It

>The Strong Possibility That We've Got Everything
Horribly Wrong

ANDY CLARK

Professor of Philosophy, Edinburgh University; Author, Being There: Putting
Brain, Body and World Together Again

>The End Of The 'Natural'

STEWART BRAND

Founder, Whole Earth Catalog, cofounder; The Well; cofounder, Global
Business Network; Author, How Buildings Learn

>Cities -- Global Population Shrinkage And Economic
Growth

MIHALYI CSIKSZENTMIHALYI

Psychologist; Director, Quality of Life Research Center, Claremont Graduate
University; Author, Flow

>We Are Asking And Answering

ESTHER DYSON

Editor, Release 1.0; Trustee, Long Now Foundation; Author, Release 2.0

>The Attention Of The World's Rich Will Turn To
Solving The Problems Of The Poor

LEONARD SUSSKIND

Physicist, Stanford University; Author, The Cosmic Landscape

>Going Beyond Our Darwinian Roots

JOEL GARREAU

Cultural Revolution Correspondent, Washington Post; Author, Radical Evolution" The
Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies -- And What It Means
to Be Human

>The Human Response To Vast Change Will Involve
Strange Bounces

MAHZARIN R. BANAJI

Psychologist; Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Harvard
University

>Unraveling Beliefs

GARNISS CURTIS

Geochronologist Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

>Geomorphic Evidence for Life on Mars

W. DANIEL HILLIS

Physicist, Computer Scientist; Chairman, Applied Minds, Inc.; Author,
The Pattern on the Stone

>The Long View of Demographics

COLIN BLAKEMORE

Chief Executive, Medical Research Council;Waynflete Professor of Physiology,
University of Oxford

>Things will -- er -- get better

PHILIP G. ZIMBARDO

Psychologist, Stanford University; Author, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding
How Good People Turn Evil

>The Situational Focus

BRIAN ENO

Artist; Composer; Recording Producer: U2, Talking Heads, Paul Simon;
Recording Artist

>And Now the Good News

MARCELO GLEISER

Physicist, Dartmouth College; Author, The Prophet and the Astronomer

>That the Debate or, Should I Say, War, Between Science and
Religion Will See New Light

ALEX (SANDY) PENTLAND

Computer Scientist, MIT Media Laboratory

>The Human Nervous System Has Come Alive

DA