Sunday, January 8, 2012

John Brockman's 'salon for the world's finest minds'

In today's 'Observer' a certain John Naughton almost demands our interest by advertising a certain John Brockman's website 'Edge' as being "a salon for the world's finest minds" . A bold claim and not ontradicted by the fact that these "finest minds" are based on academic and intellectual reputation rather than fame and fortune. Indeed, it might be argued that this only cements Mr Naughton's assertion.

Unfortunately, what we do get when we look at the biographies on Mr Brockman's "salon", is an array of the usual white faces from the usual elite universities. Not exculsively so, and there are some notable exceptions such as the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, but, nevertheless, enough to suggest that Mr Brockman's "finest minds" are exclusively those that he has come into contact with in his role as a literary agent. However, according to Mr Brockman that is not the case and someone is added to the Edge list when someone like "Richard Dawkins" tells him to add them.

However, it is there that the platitudes of this all too limited elitist view of "the finest minds" should end. All the more so in view of the fact that Mr Brockman sees those minds as constituting a "third culture" of people "who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are."Does he honestly believe that we need a Richard Dawkins to do that, does he honestly believe that?  Dawkins might  loquaciously formulate a hypothesis that we already hold, but something new? Or, having spent two years living in China and working with some exceptionally intelligent, and, of course, exceptionally stupid, Chinese, do I need Ai Weiwei to tell me how fucked up the system in China is?

Humbug, of course, and it goes without saying that the, while the "finest minds" represent a group of people who are in a position to influence those who have access them, there influence is invariably marginal, if not limited. No more and no less, and while even that is still something, we cannot help but feel that in John Naughton, even if he does refer to the above flaws in his article, John Brockman has found someone to promote him not only as a literary agent., but also in his prime role as a networker. Well, John you scratch my back and I will scratch yours and expect to see John Naughton having a profile on 'Edge' in the not too distant future.

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