The day remained on topic, as Brockman had invited only half a dozen journalists, to avoid slowing down the thinkers with an onslaught of too many layman’s questions. The object was to have them talk about ideas mainly amongst themselves in the manner of a salon, not unlike his online forum edge.org. Not that the day went over the heads of the non-scientist guests. With Dyson, Lloyd, genetic engineer George Church, chemist Robert Shapiro, astronomer Dimitar Sasselov and biologist and decoder of the genome J. Craig Venter, six men came together, each of whom had made enormous contributions in interdiscplinary sciences, and as a consequence have mastered the ability to talk to people who are not well-read in their respective fields. This made it possible for an outsider to follow the discussions, even though moments made one feel just that, as when Robert Shapiro cracked a joke about RNA that was met with great laughter from the scientists.
Freeman Dyson, a fragile gentleman of 84 years, opened the morning with his legendary provocation that Darwinian evolution represents only a short phase of three billion years in the life of this planet, a phase that will soon reach its end.