The Bend, Oregon Big Picture Book Club chose A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger as our book of the month for discussion. It was a great choice because it prompted our group of fifteen to do what the book recommended, that is to do recycling questions going deeper into the first question. There was a tendency for people to start answering the questions that were posed, but Steve, our facilitator, kept us on track and we got several questions deep into the recycling. One time it may have gotten thirty questions deeper into one about-to-retire professional woman’s question, “Do I want to work more or less?” That was a seemingly simple question, but it had some ramifications that were obvious and others that were obscure.
Other first questions that were explored were basically evolutionary in origin, such as “What caused humans to evolve from the Great Apes?” “Why are we intelligent?” “Does intelligence really help us get by in our modern world?” “Is social intelligence more important than mental intelligence?” “Is the fact that higher IQ people are having few children degrading the general gene pool of intelligence?” “Does a higher IQ result in more intelligent children, and does it matter?” “What part of the present environment should we be attempting to adapt to?” “Shouldn’t we be trying to prepare ourselves for the coming age of Machine Intelligence taking over?” “What are the hidden questions beneath these questions?” “What would be the questions that would be asked by us if we were speaking a foreign language, or living in a different place, or were at a bar instead of a coffeeshop-bookstore?” “What are you going to do next?” “What happened this year that will be remembered in 500 years?” “How can we know what will be significant to people in the future?” “What question will asking a question stimulate?” “Where do I want to live?” “Is fear of change the driving force for innovation?” “What decision that I make today will I regret when I’m 80?”
Those were the kinds of questions that came up, but the value of the book is to stimulate the process of asking lots of questions and then probing into the sub-questions of those questions. We did that too.
The book itself gave suggestions such as, work on finding a question that is important to you and then pursue it vigorously for quite a while. It’s like climbing a mountain, in that first you must decide what mountain to climb. Find your question and its problems such that they are hard enough to be interesting, challenging enough to keep you engaged, but realistic enough and solvable enough that you can probably be successful at accomplishing something that you will value.
My take on this is to actually do something worthwhile to others as well as yourself.