Wednesday, March 03, 1999

Great Thinkers Think Alike

"Well, I think Evil has been the most interesting aspect of this century." "Let's make a distinction between great tinkerers and ideas people." "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Flipping through a book of great quotes? No, although these thoughts might appear in one soon enough. You would've heard the previous statements, too, if you were at Rockefeller University on Wednesday, March 3, around lunchtime. TIME Magazine and CBS News put on a panel of great thinkers to discuss great minds of the 20th Century.

Frankly, science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling was glad this century was over. Other noted panelists were Tufts University's Daniel Dennett, Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Institute of Human Virology, Yale University's Peter Gay, TIME Managing Editor Walter Isaacson, MIT's Steven Pinker and Carnegie Institiution President Maxine Singer. This sparkly group of brilliant minds shone brightly with thoughtful discussions of who might be included in TIME's TIME 100: Great Minds of the Century issue. Hosted by tall, striking, conversational Charlie Rose, you can still catch this content-rich panel discussion on CBS Thursday, March 25, with Morley Safer.

Ms. Singer cited Hiroshima when Mr. Rose asked what was the single most important news event in this century. "Big Al" Einstein was quickly acknowledged as a great physicist, B.F. Skinner got mixed reviews and Freud was debated. Maxine Singer rounded out the 90-minute discussion with inspiring words on what motivates her. "The notion that tomorrow--and it doesn't have to be literally Tomorrow, but maybe a 10-years Tomorrow--I can know something that no one else can know."

Afterwards, I spoke briefly with Charlie Rose and Walter Isaacson. Bruce Sterling seemed eager to get back to his native Austin, TX, and throw a party for attendees at the SXSW '99 conference down there March 12-21, where local digirati Michal Wolff will be one of the keynotes. Or maybe it was because he was bashing Russia during most of the discussion and was now being taped by Yuri Kirilchenko, Correspondent for ITAR-TASS, the Russian News Agency!