The Edge Question of 2011 is, "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

Edge posed this question to some well-known scientists and thinkers, and their answers are at http://edge.org/q2011/q11_index.html

Here, for example, is Matt Ridley's answer

"…Human achievement is based on collective intelligence — the nodes in the human neural network are people themselves. By each doing one thing and getting good at it, then sharing and combining the results through exchange, people become capable of doing things they do not even understand. As the economist Leonard Read observed in his essay 'I, Pencil' (which I'd like everybody to read), no single person knows how to make even a pencil … The idea of bottom-up collective intelligence … is one idea I wish everybody had in their cognitive toolkit."

I have always thought the Pareto Principle is one of the great secrets of life, and Clay Shirky advocates it :

"You see the pattern everywhere: the top 1% of the population control 35% of the wealth. On Twitter, the top 2% of users send 60% of the messages. In the health care system, the treatment for the most expensive fifth of patients create four-fifths of the overall cost. These figures are always reported as shocking … Pareto distributions are nothing like [Gaussian distributions] — the recursive 80/20 weighting means that the average is far from the middle. This in turn means that in such systems most people (or whatever is being measured) are below average, a pattern encapsulated in the old economics joke: 'Bill Gates walks into a bar and makes everybody a millionaire, on average."

Pitt T. Maner III comments:

The concept of networks and how they grow is still being researched but it is important at many different scales in the biological, economic and sociological realms.





Speak your mind

3 Comments so far

  1. AK on January 19, 2011 10:42 pm

    I’ll risk being called a suck up and go with “Test Everything.”

  2. Abstractor on January 19, 2011 11:09 pm

    Technological Adaptation - becoming more adaptive to growing technological innovation to produce greater results with less energy and discovering better ways to combine technology into a single component, so that a person can compress time and magnify results.

    Information Adaptation - becoming more adaptive to the magnification of data available to make more meaningful decisions and discovering better ways to group and sort information into a compressed and accessible format resulting in the compression of time to locate and act on the most relevant information thereby creating better results.

    Information Technology Adaptation - a fusion of technology and information in which extensive leverage compresses time and improves human results.

  3. Tim Woolsworth on January 21, 2011 5:25 pm

    Hayek’s theory that planners have fatal conceit and hubris is correct, but that doesn’t mean the “unplanned” , “free” and “open” society is without its problems. Is this really a society that is non-directed? Is politics really the same as economics? Does nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum not apply here?

    Regarding Matt Ridley’s answer…no arguing with specialization or I-Pencil on those terms. But I think there is still a dilemma with specialization. To believe with such certainty that we can remain as free as we have been, in an advancing technological society — with the majority of people acting more and more like worker ants — (and believing this is success and happiness, whatever that is or means,) shows there is too much ideology at play. This is dangerous. Not specialization itself, but the lack of much sense to see a possible problem here.

    I think hubris has many faces. Progress-certainty is one of them. Some don’t care about anything that came before them because it is a waste of their time. Others do care… but often only as one who stares through bars on the outside of a cage. Their caring is like that of people who go to a zoo and look at animals. Though interesting… their learning and ogling is only a form of prejudice formed from demagoguery, they look down at what they see.

    After all, that’s “history” … we are superior to it. This inability to learn from times of old— other than a serving up of morsels to fit our superiority complex is concerning. They are fossils … relics of either the ignorant, primitive, backwards or crazy. Is a society on the brink of danger when it is unable to see outside of its cocoon and question what it is so sure it knows? Are our eyes, thoughts and minds scratching on walls of an inside and failing to think maybe there is an outside?

    A parody for those who don’t “believe” in flimsy “belief.” I used to think I knew the free market psyche?… soul?… mind?… with absolute certainty. Now I don’t know IT… HIM… or HER…? But I still “believe” in all three (like the trinity.) Though I have never seen a free-market running through the hills or swimming down a river… (if it’s a she, hopefully hot… preferably naked) I have heard much about amazing catches from ambitious truth hunter-gatherers, (hiders?) Yes, it could be an abstract conception of idealism I am playing with… but at least I know where reason ends and faith takes over.

    Even so, I still support the “come on!!! Larry Kudlow, who the hell are ya’ kidding” free market — because it’s pretty much the best thing we have. As the new CNBC’s commercial says….”it’s not perfect.” (Who said TV is only full of lies?)

    I do still hope there is something better though, or what is… can be better. By the way, I like Larry…he makes me laugh, especially when he laughs.


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