The Conversation

I recall one scene in a cheesy American sitcom from the 70s or 80s, (I think it might have been Benson, which just got cheesier and cheesier with every season until it was almost embarrassing to watch) where two minor political aides, one Russian, one American, were trapped in a stalled elevator for a couple of hours and while they were in there, with nothing to do but talk to each other, they managed to resolve all conflicts and come up with a foolproof plan for world peace. Then, as rescue was imminent, they looked at each other and said “Do you think they’ll buy it?” and both said “Naaah” and they ripped up the papers.

Even a bad show can have one great scene of significant import. Problems have solutions, just like feet have shoes. Hungry? The answer is food. Thirsty? The answer is water. Poor? The answer is money. And so on.

One of my big fantasies about the internet, which hasn’t come true yet but I think it could some day, is that there will be one internet conversation where the right people with the right ideas will get down to a serious exchange of information, a positive debate, a threadd that is a brain storming session, and out of that conversation will come a blueprint for the future, a plan to provide fresh drinking water and nice homes for everybody in the world, a plan to clean up the air and the water and sustain all the world’s industry with clean, renewable power sources, a plan to give everybody a good standard of living.

Last week I had a discussion with some of my students about how to solve the world’s major problems and was shocked at how many of them, to how many different questions, just said “Well, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Of course we can do something about it.


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