20 years: Online platform Edge.org
Where Avant-Garde Thinking Reflects The Present
By Tobias Sedlmaier 6.30.2017
The online platform Edge has been looking for the big questions for twenty years - and for the even bigger answers of life. A critical appraisal.
Internet Presence of Edge (photo: screenshot)
In the beginning is the question. Born out of restless nights and ingenious inspirations, it is examined in cold daylight, perhaps focused more precisely, and sent out by its ingenious creators into the ignorant world.
What sounds like a diffusely romantic myth of origin is in fact the recurrent practice of finding Edge’s Annual Question. On this online platform, major contemporary (mostly American) scientists and a selection of trendsetters have been formulating answers to more or less urgent questions of our time for twenty years.
How does the world work?
These can be very vague, for example: What Now? Or they can be leading questions: What Scientific Idea Is Ready for Retirement? Almost always the notion of big ideas—either brilliant or dangerous ones—resonates here; and of course, life, the internet, and all the other themes come in.
The answers, which are first published on the website, later in book form, can be long essays with examples and formulas that run five print pages. Or they are as aphoristic as Brian Eno's response about the value of the Internet: "The great promise of the Internet was that more information would automatically yield better decisions. The great disappointment is that more information actually yields more possibilities to confirm what you already believed anyway.“
Master of Ceremonies of this sophisticated debate forum is John Brockman, author and literary agent, who is called a giant by some. The industrious intellectual impresario has himself written a handful of books, edited around fifty more and performed in an inter-disciplinary program of avant-garde events with John Cage and Jorge Luis Borges in New York. He was also a Godfather for the think tanks "Reality Club" as well as Edge.
At a moment in history when borders are erected more quickly than torn down, you can imagine the larger than life Brockman with his characteristic wide-brimmed hat as an iconoclastic breaker of barriers. He is equally at home in the role of the business-minded entrepreneur as in the role of the theorist well aware of the sensitive changes in the Zeitgeist, oscillating between Andy Warhol and Norbert Wiener, at the intersection of art and cybernetics.