There was a provocative item we noted a couple Sundays ago in the New York Times. One response to it has appeared in The Economist’s online site. It would seem that anyone who believes in the notion of immortal soul might not bet on their own (or anyone else’s for that matter) no matter how confident they are about a particular issue:
…I’ll bet my immortal soul that more really big ideas, whatever that means, were studied, discussed, and produced in 2010 than in 1950. The number of people with the means, opportunity, and motive to care deeply about ideas is greater than ever.
A TED talk or a book-talk spot on “The Daily Show” may not have the audience or cultural centrality of a half-hour with Dick Cavett on ABC in 1970, but more people are consuming and discussing big ideas, old and new, than ever before. The difference is that the audience and the discussion has become fragmented and decentralised.
Of course, it is a turn of phrase, effective precisely when you are confident of your own opinion but not certain of the facts. Nonetheless, the point is well taken, not least because we are so frequently awed by TED talks. It is good to have more ideas more available to more people.
But this misses the point. It is one thing to be creating big ideas (the major point in the original piece, even if it dillydallied with mentions of Norman Mailer, William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal–none of whom belong in the same paragraph with Carl Sagan let alone Albert Einstein) and another to be disseminating them more effectively and more efficiently.