What are the dangerous ideas ? The Edge question


“Ideas have had their impact for good… But one of these days, one of those nice ideas is likely to have the unintended consequence of destroying everything we know.(Seth Lloyd)One never knows whether the same genetic predisposition which gives the homo sapiens the the power to think up ideas as against the other species has an inherent tendency towards self-destruction. Going by the 20th century history this does not seem to be a far-fetched idea because some times everything seems headed for the origination of such an idea.

The ‘dangerous ideas’ are not about harmful technologies and WMDs, but about statements of fact or policy evidenced by science, which are ‘felt to challenge the collective decency of an age.(The Edge)

We have religious fundamentalism which has spawned a commitment to an ideology based upon religion which goes counter to the sum total of what is good for all groups of people.We have Maoism based upon an armed peasant struggle committed to overthrow the political system.

“Time and again people have invested factual claims with ethical implications that today look ludicrous.” There are a few mercies, however. “Punishments have changed from torture and mutilation to cancelling of grants and the writing of vituperative reviews.

Rodney Brooks, author of ‘Flesh and Machines’, wonders if we might find ourselves to be alone, not just in the solar system, but in the galaxy. The shock could ‘drive us to despair and back toward religion as our salve,’

“The fact that our existence has no purpose for the universe – whatever that means – in no way means that it has no purpose for us,” he declares.

The only dangerous idea is, ‘the idea that ideas can be dangerous’. We live in a world in which people are beheaded, imprisoned, demoted, and censured simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air, he rues. “Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we’re in one.”

A major disconnect between the ways our brains are wired to connect and the interface offered in online communications, he cautions. “The Internet may harbour social perils that our inhibitory circuitry was not evolutionarily designed to handle.

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