On certain summer afternoons at SFI, a brave researcher unleashes a stray thought, a wild hunch, an untested notion yearning to breathe free. Right in front of some of the smartest people in a handful of scientific fields, who then weigh its merits.
It can be a harrowing experience, says Omidyar Fellow Simon DeDeo, organizer of SFI’s every- three-weeks-or-so “Reckless Ideas,” also known as “Blue Sky Seminars” – the latter looks better on your CV, he says.
Billed as “all things provisional, questionable, and wildly long-leap,” Reckless Ideas was started by Faculty Chair David Krakauer as a way to leverage the Institute’s interdisciplinary environment in a forum more formal than banter over lunch and less so than a presentation.
Two rules apply: Presenters may use no more than one slide to present an idea, no matter how complex, and audience members must never respond with the instinctual “yeah, but”; instead, “yes, and” is the preferred interjection.
“It’s easy to sit in an of office and solve problems exactly the way the eld does it,” says Simon, “or to sit in the back row and throw spitballs while a colleague gives a talk. But it’s just as important to explore ideas that aren’t very well fleshed out.”
SFI has entertained six Reckless Ideas since March. David, for example, posited reasons development is important for an organisim. Miller Scholar Daniel Dennett introduced the notion of “selfish” neurons. Omidyar Fellow Jeremy Van Cleve discussed phenomena in social organ- isms that might appear “telepathic.”
“Reckless Ideas helps us remember that, just like us, our colleagues don’t have a direct line to the truth,” says Simon.