Thursday, June 03, 2010

What's the big idea?

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.

1 comment:

JimmyGiro said...

Nice to see that 'Feminism' is next to its antithesis, "evolution by natural selection".

And where is 'justice'? Considering how many people have died in its support and opposition, through revolution and war; indeed how can you judge the "abolition of slavery" without a sense of it?

The organisers missed an opportunity by not asking for voters to offer their own 'good idea', so as to build a public data base. After all, isn't part of this project to understand people; or is it more about telling people what they should be understanding, thanks to some 'kindly' experts, reminding us what we should be thinking about?

Oh, and that reminds me, cynicism was my second choice.