Future of Science
If you’ve read Ideum Blog and you’ve been keeping up with GestureWorks and Open Exhibits, you know that we’re fast moving and productive group. The unfortunate thing about being this productive is that we often don’t get the chance to share all the cool ideas, experiments, and discoveries we’ve made along the way.
Enter Ideum Labs, our new Tumblr blog. Labs was conceived as a high output, low production value home for Ideum and GestureWorks Staff to share raw ideas, UX experiments, project snippets, random acts of science, and interesting HCI + multitouch news.
Late last Fall we posted of number video clips we developed with The Tech Museum of Innovation up on YouTube. Admittedly, it was an afterthought, as we originally began work with the Tech on the Understanding Genetics website years before YouTube was much of a force. The video clips in question, came from interviews I conducted at the Future of Science Conference in Venice back in September. The interviews were with an amazing group; Daniel Dennett, Peter Atkins, Marc Hauser, and Ian Tattersall.
The original plan was to post them on the Understanding Genetics site in a Flash video player and then to Podcast them through the website and iTunes. After seeing Ontario Science Centre’s early efforts on YouTube we decided to spend a couple extra hours uploading the video clips to our own channel on the site. Three months later, it is nice to see that some of the Future of Science clips have over 1,000 views. Atleast one has a long discussion associated with it and all 26 clips have at least one rating and a minimum of 100 views. While these are modest numbers, still a few thousand Web visitors who likely would not have seen these interviews on The Tech Museum site or on iTunes saw them on YouTube. (The Understanding Genetics’s website itself receives around 600,000 unique visitors a year.)
We’ll continue to experiment and watch as museums move forward in their efforts to colonize social websites, it seems like a simple and natural extension for projects like Understanding Genetics to expand their reach.
The video interviews we conducted at the Future of Science Conference in Venice, Italy are now available on the Tech Museum’s Understanding Genetics site and on iTunes as a video podcast. We discussed issues surrounding human evolution and genetics with Peter Atkins, Daniel Dennett, Marc Hauser, and Ian Tattersall.
Along with traveling to Venice, one the great pleasures of this project was preparing for the interviews. All four of these scientists are accomplished authors and I can enthusiastically recommend the following books…
Galileo’s Finger by Peter Atkins provides an introduction to the “Ten Great Ideas in Science.” (Galileo’s actual finger is at the Institute and Museum of the History of Science in Florence.) Daniel Dennett’s controversial book Breaking the Spell looks at religion as a social phenomenon. While Marc Hauser’s latest book, Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong explores the concept that we all have an innate sense of right and wrong. Finally, Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness by Ian Tattersall explores the story of own unique development as a species.
Yesterday we interviewed Daniel Dennett and Ian Tattersall, here at the Future of Science Conference. Both interviews, I’m happy to say went extremely well and as I mentioned in a post yesterday, they will be available on the Tech Museum’s Understanding Genetics website and through iTunes as a video podcast.
Yesterday, I attended a press lunch in which many of the speakers answered questions. Interestingly, there was an extended discussion on intelligent design and some debate about how to address the issue. Following a statement that intelligent design was a concern primarily for the United States, Denis Duboule a professor of zoology and animal biology at Geneva University warned that it is coming to Europe. There seemed to be a consensus that the scientific community needs to do more address the well organized, and aggressive intelligent design community.
Today I’m hoping to talk to Peter Atkins and Marc Hauser about this issue. Atkins has addressed the issue of creationism in his book, Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science. The first idea addressed in the book is evolution, followed by genetics.
Some interesting thoughts about our future evolution emerged yesterday. Here’s some quotes from today’s press release…
“Our genes profoundly influence how we think and hence how behave,” Luigi Luca Cavalli Sfora, Professor of Human Genetics at Stanford University told attendees during his presentation, “But cultural evolution has now become the driving force of human evolution and will eventually become powerful enough to change our genetic makeup.”
Edoardo Boncinelli, Professor of Biology and Genetics at the Universita Vita-Salute in Milan explained, “the biological evolution of humans is not over, although it is difficult to see where it is heading. If some new human trait evolves it will not be for several thousands of years. In the meantime, humans will probably begin artificially modifying their genome. It will be the first time that a species has reached a stage in its cultural evolution where it can change the course of its biological evolution.”
We’re scheduled to interview Ian Tattersall and Daniel Dennett later this afternoon! (All of these interviews will be available in coming weeks on The Tech Museum of Innovation’s Understanding Genetics website.)
As I mentioned in my last post, Ian Tattersall is the curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He’s also the author of several books. I’ve been reading Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness, which is fascinating. Some of the subjects covered in the book he discussed in his presentation today, Patterns in human evolution and the human biological future, although, the aspects of human “future development” were new. As Tattersall presented this morning, with a large and mobile population there is no possibility for us as humans to evolve, “Change is indeed occurring today, at unprecedented rates; but it is doing so on the technological rather than on the biological level, involving our ongoing exploration of a biological capacity that already exists.”
I’m also looking forward to speaking with Daniel Dennett. His latest book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon has created a great deal of controversy. Dennett is the Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University and a Professor of Philosophy. I’m going to ask him about Breaking the Spell and about some of the issues surrounding evolution.
If you were wondering why we are focusing so much on evolution for site on genetics (and human health), there is a great quote by Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”
I’ve just arrived at the Future of Science conference here in Venice and The Evolution of Life session is underway. Ian Tattersall, curator of anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York will be speaking shortly. I hope to interview him and others later today. This is from today’s press release…
“The human brain has enlarged three-fold over the last two million years, and that has surely had important survival value,” according to Ian Tattersall, “Human evolution is now at a standstill and further evolutionary growth in brain size is not possible: our long term survival depends on our ability to live with ourselves as we are.”
There’s more from Tattersall in the press release… “From the fossil record it emerges that human evolution is not a linear development from the simple to the complex, but is characterized by diversity, with several human secies developing and then dying out. Today with the single remain human species dominant, and its population still expanding, conditions for the evolution of new traits are absent. It is true we are changing at a historically unprecedented rate, but these are changes at the technological level not the biological level. Because of this technology we are discovering and exploring the biological capabilities we already possess. We can hope that evolutionary forces will intervene to improve our future prospects. We have to do it by ourselves.”
Update: The Future of Science Conference is being webcast live right now on Alice.it.
Next week, I’ll be attending the Future of Science Conference in Venice, Italy (September 20-23). The conference theme is Evolution and we’ll be covering the Evolution of Life: Darwinism in the light of modern genetics session. The plan is to interview some of the speakers and panel participants.
It’s an incredible line up; Peter Atkins, Ian Tattersall, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Daniel Dennett, Marc Hauser, Steven Pinker, among others. We’ll be posting interviews to the Tech Museum’s Understanding Genetics website later in the month. The video interviews will also be availabe via podcast. The setting is about as nice as it gets too, the conference will be held at the Giorgio Cini Foundation on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
We’ll post an update from the conference (time permitting) and we’ll let you know when the interviews are available. You can also check in on the conference live as the proceedings will be webcast live via “alice.it.” There’s more information about that on the Future of Science website.
Update (10-11-06): There’s more on the conference in the Future of Science category in this blog. We’re working on the interviews, they should be available on the Tech Museum’s site and through iTunes in the next week or two.