If you have no interest in tapping directly into the very latest thinking from some of the leading intellectuals and thinkers on the planet today without any intervention from middlemen such as journalists and journal editors, then you better stop reading right now and move quickly on, because I’m about to introduce you to Edge.org.
What is edge.org?
Well, perhaps the best summary is the one that was printed in last Sunday’s Observer …
Edge.org was launched in 1996 as the online version of “the Reality Club”, an informal gathering of intellectuals who met from 1981 to 1996 in Chinese restaurants, artist lofts, investment banking firms, ballrooms, museums, living rooms and elsewhere. Though the venue is now in cyberspace, the spirit of the Reality Club lives on in the lively back-and-forth discussions on the hot-button ideas driving the discussion today.
The online salon at edge.org is a living document of millions of words charting the Edge conversation over the past 15 years. It is available, gratis, to the general public.
As the late artist James Lee Byars and I once wrote: “To accomplish the extraordinary, you must seek extraordinary people.” At the centre of every Edge project are remarkable people and remarkable minds – scientists, artists, philosophers, technologists and entrepreneurs.
Through the years, edge.org has had a simple criterion for choosing contributors. We look for people whose creative work has expanded our notion of who and what we are. A few are bestselling authors or are famous in the mass culture. Most are not. Rather, we encourage work on the cutting edge of the culture, and the investigation of ideas that have not been generally exposed. We are interested in “thinking smart”; we are not interested in received “wisdom”.
In the words of the novelist Ian McEwan, edge.org is “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.”
At the end of the year in 1999, for the first anniversary edition of Edge, I asked a number of thinkers to use the interrogative. I asked “the most subtle sensibilities in the world what question they are asking themselves”. We’ve been doing it annually ever since.
OK, so what is the question being asked this year?
To give you an idea of what is coming up, here are the questions from previous years … (with links to the results) …
- 2008: “What have you changed your mind about?“
- 2009: “What Will Change Everything? What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?“
- 2010: “How has the Internet changed the way you think?“
- 2011: “What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody’s Cognitive Toolkit?“
- 2012: “What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation?“
- 2013: “What should we be worried about?“
So what question has been put on the table this year, what will provoke answers that nobody could possibly predict?
It is a rather interesting one, and as proposed by Yale psychologist Laurie Santos last september, it is …
What Scientific idea is ready for retirement?
And so out of that mix now comes a fascinating assortment of proposals … be patient, their site is [as you might anticipate] currently under heavy load, and that interest itself is quite an encouraging observation.
So do dip in and expose yourself to some truly fascinating thinking, and remember, it is not simply a monologue, it is a conversation, so why not be part of it.