I’m still not sure whether I did right to join the panel for the online debate
being launched by Icon Books on ‘The World’s Greatest Idea’. Well, the title says it all, no? I’m dubious about any view of history as a succession of ‘great ideas’, and the notion of ranking them – abolition of slavery vs the aerofoil vs arable farming – could seem worse than meaningless. Besides, does one rate them according to how intellectually dramatic an ‘idea’ is, or how important it has been to world civilization, or how well it has served humankind, or…? But I acceded in the end because I figured it does not do to be too po-faced about an exercise that after all is just a springboard for a potential discussion about how society produces and is changed by innovation. And there is something grandly absurd about pitching sewerage against romance against simplified Chinese characters. I’m also reassured to see that someone as discerning as Patricia Fara has also taken part. Go on, place a vote – there’s no harm in it.