The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Edge Question of the Year.

Every year The Edge World Question Center asks a bunch of smart people to answer one question. Last year they asked a bunch of scientists for one thing that they believe to be true, but cannot prove. The answers ranged from boring to bizarre, but they were all illuminating.

This year, it's:

The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?


You can read all of the answers here.

Here's an excerpt from Freeman Dyson's answer:

Biotechnology will be domesticated in the next fifty years as thoroughly as computer technology was in the last fifty years.


Here's an excerpt from Ray Kurzweil:

My dangerous idea is the near-term inevitability of radical life extension and expansion. The idea is dangerous, however, only when contemplated from current linear perspectives.


Here's Jared Diamond's answer:

The evidence that tribal peoples often damage their environments and make war.


And here's an excerpt from Richard Dawkins' answer:


Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.


There are many more, and you can find them here.

(Hat tip, ALD.)

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