Big Questions

Big Questions

Scott Pickard / Top Tens / Questions

Coronavirus | Dystrumpia Rising | Education | Existential Risks | Matter, Energy, Universe | Politics & Rule of Law | Racism, Prejudice, Poverty and Income Inequality | Religion | Sports | Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Social Media | Virtual Reality | War and Military

Sports

What is a hero?

What does sport teach us about leadership?

Is the purity of sports being poisoned by

  • technology (AI, surveillance, wireless)
  • the values/corruption in our increasingly uncivil society, and
  • gambling and corruption?

Dystrumpia Rising

Was Trump ever the Chosen One?

How do we fight THE BIG LIE propagated by Donald Trump?

So white nationalists, if you overthrow the federal government, what do you put in its place?

Why do Trump’s apologists and sycophants say nothing about the cumulative time and scope of his lying and vulgarity?

Will Trump pardon himself before he leaves office?

If Trump encourages Dystrumpia to defy the Biden White House, is that an act of treason per the Constitution?

Who’s profiting from this administration, and at what cost to our democracy?

Is Trump undermining and delegitimizing our elections (democracy) in collusion with Putin?

Is Truth now whatever is first in a google search results listing?

Is Fascism sneaking up on us one tweet at a time?

If President Trump becomes incapable of handing his duties as President and Commander in Chief, who’s in charge?

Are science fiction’s themes of a Dystopian Society disturbingly visible in today’s world?

Racism, Prejudice, Poverty, Income Inequality

Was that a lynch mob on January 6? Are we in the midst of a slo-mo devolution happening in plain sight?

What is a hero?

Is inequality in America irreversible?

As the pandemic has painfully revealed, do we need a new hybrid socio-economic model for the 21st century that provides for a more fair and equitable set of economic and social outcomes that an unchecked free-market capitalistic system cannot alone guarantee?

If a society allows itself to become radically unequal, will this lead to an uprising, or a police state, or both?

Is greed good?

Should the Federal Minimum Wage be increased to $15/hour?

Can we transform our “I” society back to a “We” society united by a more civil, egalitarian, and generous spirit?

Does busing work as a school desegregation strategy?

Has the pandemic delayed if not killed the American Dream?

For over 400 years, why have white Christians and the Church not stood up against genocide of indigenous peoples, slavery, and racism?

How do we battle racism without harming or killing peaceful and innocent protesters, and, well-meaning police trying to keep the peace?

Should CEOs (the 1%) earn more than 1,000 times the median salary of their employees?

What happens when you give basic income to the poor?

Is racism predominantly instinctive (nature) or learned (nuture)?

Does the Canadian healthcare model give us a feasible and sustainable road map to medicare for all?

Is rural resentment of liberal elites dividing America against itself?

Should the mega-wealthy commit to reducing the destructive effects of economic inequality?

Politics & Rule of Law

If we don’t reform the filibuster, will we be permanently reconciled to a Privileged White Male Evangelical Christian Minority Rule in America (the Senate)?

Will Trump pardon himself before he leaves office?

What will Joe Biden prioritize during a post-Dystrumpian presidency?

How do we live in a 50-50 country?

Is our Democracy as we’ve known it, at risk?

How do we insure that our political system elects a president that serves the majority of American citizens, and not just half?

Has Donald Trump replaced Joe McCarthy as the most dangerous demagogue in American history?

I have a question for Attorney General William Barr: Are you, your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and American citizens in general, part of “the mob“?

  • If not, who decides who is in the mob and on what basis?
  • You and you alone?

Is white collar crime far more dangerous (in terms of societal impact) than street crime?

Is defunding police a cost-effective, feasible alternative to reforming within the existing policing system and culture?

How do we balance “self-defense vs. nonviolence, black power vs. civil rights” to achieve justice and equality for all Americans in a peaceful and secure way?

Is there a pattern of un-justice at the Justice Department these days, where criminal judgments always tilt in favor of political allies?

Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Social Media

In an ai world, where will all the workers go?

Will we treat our robots the way we treat ourselves? Even better? Or worse?

Will the exponential acceleration of the pace of change eventually shoot past our capacity to comprehend it?

What are the long-term social implications of Artificial Intelligence?

Should there be limits on persuasive technologies?

Is Facebook crushing their competition legally or illegally?

Education

How has the pandemic disrupted education for the better, and the worse?

Religion

If an alien was sent to explore earth, what religion would the alien choose to follow, if any?

Why would you support a religious community that constantly tries to deride and diminish your humanity?

If you had to choose, would you rather live in a world without technology, or a world without religion?

Coronavirus

How will COVID inpatients be prioritized based on a survivability score?

What can science learn from the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Are immunity passports a bad idea?

Will we ever trust crowds again?

What could go wrong with self-spreading vaccines?

Has Trump’s misleading lies about the coronavirus resulted in reckless homicide?

Who will get the vaccine and in what order?

What wasn’t the U.S. prepared? Why did world leaders fail to work together to prevent the spread of Covid-19?

Is American Exceptionalism working against us in these times?

What will be the long-term socio-economic impacts from the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic?

When can America go back to work and school?

Are we ready for medical rationing and its unintended consequences?

After decades of decreased funding and demonization of the federal bureaucracy, has the coronavirus crisis exposed the tragic ineffectiveness of federal leadership at a most critical moment when we need it?

War and Military

Does human nature doom us to fight one another?

War, what is it good for?

How many nuclear warheads exist in the world?

What everyday horrors of our world will our descendants look back on with disgust?

As the decades pass by and our memories fade, if we cannot remember the past are we condemned to repeat it?

Has the disruption of the military by COVID-19 pushed the military towards more autonomous force projection across all of its strategic platforms? Are machines now more reliable then humans?

Does the U.S. need such a large and expensive military?

Matter, Energy, Universe

How do we have a civil and productive discussion with the anti-science community that brings us closer together?

What is the lowest level machine code for how our universe works? (Wolfram)

Is renewable energy essentially a shill for the fossil fuel, mining, and heavy industries?

Existential Risks

Is protecting humanity’s future from existential risks the central challenge of our time? If so, what good do warships, warplanes, 14,000+ nuclear bombs, space force, infantry, commando teams, tanks, and aircraft carriers accomplish against

  • lethal pandemics
  • rising tides
  • burning forests
  • poverty and income inequality, and
  • animal, insect and plant extinction?

How are we destroying the planet? How will we save it?

What are the biggest long-term risks to the global economy?

Virtual Reality

When it comes to Virtual Reality’s impact on kids, how long is too long? How young is too young?

Are kids now officially citizens of a dual world, real and virtual?

Has this forced online family distance-learning experience during the self-quarantining COVID-19 crisis confirmed the importance of brick-and-mortar schools for kids?

But at the same time has the social, emotional, and intellectual value of online games been confirmed during this period of virus isolation?

Art of the Good Question

Every innovation begins with a question.

Constant vigilance. This is the phrase most often associated with the responsibility of being a director. And to fulfill that responsibility there was never any better tool for the director than a well-formulated, well-timed, and well-executed question. In a perfect world (which doesn’t exist) there is for every company the perfect question that discloses at the right time a revolutionary business opportunity, or, a bankrupting disaster, such as:

  • What if you could buy a book online?, or
  • Has there been an external audit of our subprime mortgages?

It’s a possibility that the right question asked in the right way at the right time may have made someone else the richest person in the world, or, prevented a corporate icon from being brought to its knees. The perfect question, then, or even just a good question, is truly the director’s most powerful tool.

Characteristics of the Best Question

There are good questions, better questions, and best questions. What separates the best from the routine are three characteristics:

1. The best question is asked with the right content

A director, like a CEO, must know a fair amount about many things, and this general knowledge must be translated appropriately to the specifics of the organization’s products, services, and market. The dilemma most outside directors face is that they will never know as much about the business at any point in time as the CEO, which leads many directors to assume that they cannot challenge management outside of shallow waters. This is dangerous thinking by directors, evidenced by the scrap heap of supposedly invincible companies and the lineup of directors who went down with the ship.

While the director generally knows what his or her answer would be, it is preferable to formulate the question so that management must fully discover and deliver THEIR answer, not the director’s.

2. The best question is asked at the right time

Timing is everything as they say, and impossible to teach in the context of a board meeting. A good question asked too soon lands on deaf ears. Likewise, a good question asked too late is just that. The director’s best protection against bad timing is to function like an “audit radar screen,” always scanning left and right across the scope of the business, up and down the company hierarchy, and internal and external to the company to spot dysfunction or a corporate UFO……Unwanted Failing Operation.

As a rule of thumb, if the question is not asked, the answer is generally not forthcoming either because management would just as soon not disclose that issue, or they haven’t even asked the question among themselves.

3. The best question is asked in the right way

There is the “art of the deal” and there is the “art of the question”. One good question asked in the right way can start the process of disclosure, discussion, analysis, decision, and action to improve, correct, defend, or prevent. The primary person fielding the director’s questions is the CEO, who by definition is strongly confident in his or her ability to effectively manage the business, so developing the proper posture for questioning and dialogue by the director with the CEO is crucial to building and maintaining a director-CEO relationship that functions as it should for the company and the board by

  • carefully constructing the question to start a discussion, not to monopolize it, and
  • carefully constructing questions that prompt logical follow-on questions by other members of the board to get them involved.

Asking questions about operational details is not necessarily micro-management by the director if the question meets the first two requirements of a good question. However, telling the CEO how you did something in your company (as if to say, “You should do it my way.”) is micro-management, but asking the CEO what s/he plans to do is a focused act of accountability.

Notwithstanding the responsibilities placed upon the board, directors must realize that real solutions to the challenges facing the company must ultimately come from the collective intelligence of management and employees. The question is the tool the director uses to tap that force, confirm its direction, grant it authority to proceed, and challenge and refocus that collective intelligence when necessary.

sp