It was Henry Kissinger who said that “if I give interviews, I expect the reporters to have the questions for my answers.” And I’m sure Cicero had something wise to say about the philosophical importance of questions, as well. John Hagel, who runs the wonderful Edge Perspectives blog and has just joined Deloitte & Touche with a mandate to establish a major new research center in Silicon Valley, puts it this way:
“It's appropriate to step back occasionally and reflect on what we don't know, rather than simply sharing what we know. In times of rapid change, asking the right questions is often as important as the answers – at least they help us figure out where we might start looking for answers. There is no shortage of questions – the key is to focus on questions that are not just intellectually interesting, but also where significant economic impact is at stake.”
Hence Hagel presents his preliminary research agenda as a set of questions including “What if there is no equilibrium?” “Are all ecosystems created equal?” “If the world is so flat, why are spikes becoming more prominent?” and “As L curves replace Bell curves, what are the most promising routes to the head?” Hagel also wonders how we can “measure success when so many of the rules are changing,” proposing new indicators such as return on attention (ROA), return on information (ROI) and return on skills (ROS). Anyway, read the full post. GREAT stuff.
From Edge Perspectives to Edge. Edge is an online forum for the world’s leading thinkers. In the spirit of the above, every year the Edge World Question Center sends out the so-called Edge question to its members. In 2006, the question was “What’s your most dangerous idea?”
“The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?”
The responses, varying from 50 words to multiple pages in length and now compiled into a book, are literally mind-boggling. Among the myriad provocative ideas are many neuro-scientific and bio-genetic assumptions (“We have no souls,” “Marionettes on Genetic String,” “The genetic basis of human behavior,” “Brains can become minds without bodies”) as well as meta-physical shockers (“We are entirely alone,” and “This is all there is”). My favorite idea, however, is the following: “The idea that we should all share our most dangerous ideas.”