January 16, 2011

27 Interesting quotes from the Edge Question 2011

This year, Edge asks the following question: "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolit?" 151 Elite thinkers answered the question. Here are 27 interesting quotes from that material. Which of these quotes seems most valuable to you and why?
  1. "We're part of the unfolding world, surfing the chaotic waves"~Rudy Rucker 
  2. "Every aspect of the world is fundamentally unpredictable"~Rudy Rucker 
  3. "Truth is a model"~Neil Gershenfeld 
  4. "Making sense of anything means making models that can predict outcomes and accommodate observations"~Neil Gershenfeld 
  5. "Uncertainty is a central component of what makes science successful"~Lawrence Krauss 
  6. "Human achievement is based on collective intelligence"~Matt Ridley 
  7. "We can control the spotlight of attention, focusing on those ideas that will help us succeed"~Jonah Lehrer 
  8. "Our own most cherished beliefs might appear patently false to posterity"~Kathryn Shulz 
  9. "Knowledge collapses as often as it accretes"~Kathryn Shulz 
  10. "The concept that people need to add to their toolkit isn't a scientific discovery; it's science itself"~Paul Bloom 
  11. "Even the simplest activities of everyday life involve much more cooperation than you might think."~Roger Highfield
  12. "I think everyone would do well do overcome that urge to see agents where there are none."~Carl Zimmer 
  13. "Intellectual life is very much about the ability to distinguish between shallow and deep abstractions."~Tor Nørretranders 
  14. "The dichotomy-denying phrase "instinct to learn" deserves a place in the cognitive toolkit of everyone"~W. Tecumseh Fitch 
  15. "Understanding behavior requires that we understand the interaction between inborn processes and individual experience"~W. Tecumseh Fitch 
  16. "One of the most pernicious misconceptions in cognitive science is the belief in a dichotomy between nature and nurture"~W. Tecumseh Fitch 
  17. "At every level in the vast and dynamic world of living things lies diversity." ~Joan Chiao 
  18. "If everybody could learn to deal better with the unknown, it would improve the chances for humanity as a whole" ~Seth Lloyd 
  19. "Saying "A causes B" sounds precise, but is actually very vague"~David Dalrymple 
  20. "The power of language to direct thought should never be taken lightly."~Stuart Firestein 
  21. "Too often in science we operate under the principle that "to name it is to tame it""~Stuart Firestein 
  22. "Overcoming this mental weakness, known as confirmation bias, is a lifelong struggle"~Gary Marcus 
  23. "Knowing the limits of our minds can help us to make better reasoners"~Gary Marcus 
  24. "The universe is young; wherever we find microbial life thr will be intelligent life in the future."~J.Graig Venter
  25. "We live on a microbial planet. We have more than 100 trillion microbes on and in each of us"~J.Graig Venter
  26. "Humans are not the terminal branch of an evolutionary tree, but a species that emerged early in history" ~Martin Rees 
  27. "Far more time lies ahead than has elapsed" ~Martin Rees 


  1. Thanks for extracting this interesting collection of quotes from the articles.

    The one that has the deepest value from my perspective is the simple idea from Gary Marcus that knowing the limits of our mind helps us be better reasoners. So many of the most interesting of the other quotes are interesting largely because they reveal some of these limits. So for me that idea, while it seems obvious and even trite, is actually central and keeping it in mind is like a master heuristic for reasoning.

  2. Agree! people find it easy to imagine that a dog (for instance) has clear limitations to understand. Yet we find it harder to think that of ourselves even when we are not too different from dogs (or pigs) :)


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