Optimism from the Edge

The World Question Center at Edge.org each year asks a broad based global scientific elite a single question. In years passed the questions have included “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”, “WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION IN THE PAST TWO THOUSAND YEARS?” … AND “WHY?” and so on. This year, the question is “WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? WHY?”

There are 160 responses from some of the smartest (and occasionally controversial) folks out there. I’ve waded through the answers and have highlighted a small sampling to get you started. There’s more on the site than can be digested (or even skimmed) in a single seating, so I’ll likely come back to this subject.

What are you optimistic about?

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

CHRIS ANDERSON, Curator, TED Conference: Systemic Flaws In the Reported World View

ALUN ANDERSON, Senior Consultant (and Former Editor-In-Chief and Publishing Director), New Scientist: The Sunlight-Powered Future

STEVEN PINKER, Psychologist, Harvard University; Author, The Blank Slate: The Decline of Violence

HOWARD RHEINGOLD, Communications Expert; Author, Smart Mobs: The tools for cultural production and distribution are in the pockets of 14 year olds

MARTIN E.P. SELIGMAN, Psychologist, University of Pennsylvania, Author, Authentic Happiness: The First Coming

KEVIN KELLY, Editor-At-Large, Wired; Author, New Rules for the New Economy: That We Will Embrace the Reality of Progress

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

STEPHEN M. KOSSLYN, Psychologist, Harvard University; Author, Wet Mind: Human Intelligence Can Be Increased, and Can Be Increased Dramatically

LINDA STONE, Former VP, Microsoft & Co-Founder & Director, Microsoft’s Virtual Worlds Group/Social Computing Group: People Are Using Technology Effectively To Mediate Toward a Healthier Global Community

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)

ANDRIAN KREYE, Feuilleton (Arts & Ideas) Editor, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich: We Will Overcome Agnotology (The Cultural Production of Ignorance) (scroll down, the link from Edge is broken)

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

KAI KRAUSE, Software and Design Pioneer: Neo-Contentism

MAX TEGMARK, Physicist, MIT; Researcher, Precision Cosmology: We’re Not Insignificant After All