John Brockman: the man who runs the world’s smartest website

Johan Naughton in The Guardian:

John-brockman-007In cyberspace, Brockman is best known for, a site he founded as a continuation of what he describes as “a failed art experiment” by his late friend, performance artist James Lee Byars. Byars believed, Brockman recalls, “that to arrive at a satisfactory plateau of knowledge it was pure folly to go to Widener Library at Harvard and read six million books. Instead, he planned to gather the 100 most brilliant minds in the world in a room, lock them in and have them ask one another the questions they'd been asking themselves. The expected result – in theory – was to be a synthesis of all thought.” But it didn't work out that way. Byars did identify his 100 most brilliant minds and phoned each of them. The result: 70 hung up on him!

Byars died in 1997, but Brockman persisted with his idea, or at any rate with the notion that it might be possible to do something analogous using the internet. And so was born as a kind of high-octane online salon with Brockman as its editor and host. He describes it as “a conversation. We look for people whose creative work has expanded our notion of who and what we are. We encourage work on the cutting edge of the culture and the investigation of ideas that have not been generally exposed.”As of now, the roll call of current and deceased members of the Edge salon runs to 660. They include many of the usual suspects (Richard Dawkins, Craig Venter and Stewart Brand, for example, plus Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, George Lakoff, Daniel Kahneman, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Murray Gell-Mann, Nick Humphreycorrect and Richard Thaler, to name just a few.).

More here.