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06/01/2008

En quoi avez-vous changez d'idée cette année ?

C'est la question que Edge a posé à 164 "cerveau", chercheur de tout poil et de toute horizon. C'est une tradition du site, et les réponses sont parfois fascinantes !
 
 
JOSEPH LEDOUX: Like many scientists in the field of memory, I used to think that a memory is something stored in the brain and then accessed when used.
 
 
Then, in 2000, a researcher in my lab, Karim Nader, did an experiment that convinced me, and many others, that our usual way of thinking was wrong.
 
 
In a nutshell, what Karim showed was that each time a memory is used, it has to be restored as a new memory in order to be accessible later. The old memory is either not there or is inaccessible.
 
 
In short, your memory about something is only as good as your last memory about it. This is why people who witness crimes testify about what they read in the paper rather than what they witnessed.
 
 
CHARLES SEIFE: I used to think that a modern, democratic society had to be a scientific society. After all, the scientific revolution and the American Revolution were forged in the same flames of the enlightenment.
 
 
Naturally, I thought, a society that embraces the freedom of thought and expression of a democracy would also embrace science.


However, when I first started reporting on science, I quickly realized that science didn't spring up naturally in the fertile soil of the young American democracy.
 
 
Americans were extraordinary innovators — wonderful tinkerers and engineers — but you can count the great 19th century American physicists on one hand and have two fingers left over. The United States owes its scientific tradition to aristocratic Europe's universities (and to its refugees), not to any native drive.


In fact, science clashes with the democratic ideal. Though it is meritocratic, it is practiced in the elite and effete world of academe, leaving the vast majority of citizens unable to contribute to it in any meaningful way. Science is about freedom of thought, yet at the same time it imposes a tyranny of ideas.


DANIEL GILBERT: Six years ago, I changed my mind about the benefit of being able to change my mind.


In 2002, Jane Ebert and I discovered that people are generally happier with decisions when they can't undo them. When subjects in our experiments were able to undo their decisions they tended to consider both the positive and negative features of the decisions they had made, but when they couldn't undo their decisions they tended to concentrate on the good features and ignore the bad.
 
 
As such, they were more satisfied when they made irrevocable than revocable decisions. Ironically, subjects did not realize this would happen and strongly preferred to have the opportunity to change their minds.


Now up until this point I had always believed that love causes marriage. But these experiments suggested to me that marriage could also cause love. If you take data seriously you act on it, so when these results came in I went home and proposed to the woman I was living with.
 
 
She said yes, and it turned out that the data were right: I love my wife more than I loved my girlfriend.



NICHOLAS CARR: In January of 2007, China's president, Hu Jintao, gave a speech before a group of Communist Party officials. His subject was the Internet. "Strengthening network culture construction and management," he assured the assembled bureaucrats, "will help extend the battlefront of propaganda and ideological work. It is good for increasing the radiant power and infectiousness of socialist spiritual growth."


If I had read those words a few years earlier, they would have struck me as ludicrous. It seemed so obvious that the Internet stood in opposition to the kind of centralized power symbolized by China's regime. A vast array of autonomous nodes, not just decentralized but centerless, the Net was a technology of personal liberation, a force for freedom.


I now see that I was naive. Like many others, I mistakenly interpreted a technical structure as a metaphor for human liberty.
 
 
In recent years, we have seen clear signs that while the Net may be a decentralized communications system, its technical and commercial workings actually promote the centralization of power and control.
 
 
Look, for instance, at the growing concentration of web traffic. During the five years from 2002 through 2006, the number of Internet sites nearly doubled, yet the concentration of traffic at the ten most popular sites nonetheless grew substantially, from 31% to 40% of all page views, according to the research firm Compete.

 
LERA BORODITSKY: I used to think that languages and cultures shape the ways we think. I suspected they shaped they ways we reason and interpret information.  But I didn't think languages could shape the nuts and bolts of perception, the way we actually see the world.  That part of cognition seemed too low-level, too hard-wired, too constrained by the constants of physics and physiology to be affected by language.
 

Then studies started coming out claiming to find cross-linguistic differences in color memory.  For example, it was shown that if your language makes a distinction between blue and green (as in English), then you're less likely to confuse a blue color chip for a green one in memory.  In a study like this you would see a color chip, it would then be taken away, and then after a delay you would have to decide whether another color chip was identical to the one you saw or not.

 
 
[ Edge
 
Et plein d'autres réponses encore plus fascinantes !!!

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