Edges are where topics intersect.  Edges are where uncomfortable thoughts reside.  Edges define a topic by being just barely part of that topic.  They are the border between what is known, and what is speculative.

Working around edges requires new methods, disruption, and massive creativity.  Web2.0 is about breaking the border between reader and creator.  Science2.0 is about expanding the choices of how we do science.  The new space race and things like the X-Prize are about breaking down the old framework of space exploration to make new methods.  Heck, DARPA is about research at the edge of things.

The SpaceUpDC.org 'unconference' last week was all about edges.
"SpaceUp DC is not leaving the nation's space program to the rocket scientists alone. Instead, the organization is inviting all area space enthusiasts to share their thoughts, ideas and plans for space exploration, innovation and outreach."
It's about open sourcing space, creating new frontiers, finding new ways of solving problems and connecting people.  And a lot of the people participating already know each other.  It's growing into an 'established edge'.  (And that's a good thing!)
 SpaceUpDC banner (2010), photo by Flying Jenny
I'm an edges person.  Not edgy-- that'd be cool, but I'm talking 'edges'.  The borders between topics, or the people that are looking at things from the side, not the comfortable middle, are more interesting to me.

I do cross-domain research in science for this reason.  Mixing super computing with observational work, for example, is an edge study. Building a satellite to create music from space is another borderlands work.

At meetings, edge discussions are my favorite.  If there's a group of people engaged in the main dialog, I tend to be more curious about the folks on the edges.  The outliers.

Part of this is pragmatics.  The main proceedings from any event tends to be based on published work.  If not, it gets into the followup publications. And that's useful information, don't kid yourself that being on the edge means you need to ignore the meaty middle body of thought on a topic.

Stuff that isn't ready for prime time, that really pushes limits, is the stuff on the edge.  The work people talk about but haven't set to pen or run in the real world.

 Jakita Wagner from Planetary[tm] by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
Jakita Wagner, superhuman:
"I get bored easily.
Planetary stops me getting bored."

So at SpaceUpDC, what did I learn about the edges of the edge scene?

* If you give kids access to ultra high grade technology, they'll use it to mine the asteroid belt instead of blowing up other countries.

* If you offer a launch company businessman $100 million to stop exploring space, he'll immediately start looking for loopholes to get back into the space game.

* Just because no one knows the future doesn't mean you shouldn't pick a direction and work like hell to make it happen.

* And finally, if you really want to see heated argument, skip religion or politics and just ask a bunch of space enthusiasts their opinions on the different rocket fuel choices.

So here's my test for you.  Next conference you're at, find out what the biggest, most popular event is going to be.  Then choose the smallest niche topic that is running opposite it.  That's an edge.  That's where the diehard 'change the world' types will be coming up with World3.0, while everyone is still writing about 2.0.


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