Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tweetless in Shanghai

NAME: Bill Fischer
RELIGION: Curiosity

Can you imagine filling-out an "entry form" like this before entering immigration at some airport? No admission would be possible! But, why not? After all, in a very real sense this is as accurate a description of who I am as anything else I might care to put down.

This all came to mind recently, when I was unable to access Twitter (or even this blog, which is truly amazing!) because of internet controls that had been put into place by someone, somewhere, for reasons that simply escape me.

The experience forcefully brought-home to me of the importance of IdeaHunting in how I define who I am, and what I believe in. It also reminded me that in the 1950s, the great broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow ran a radio series, later newspaper series, and book, entitled This I Believe. The idea was to have a cross-section of people offer brief [3 1/2 minutes on the radio] commentaries on truths that they held fundamental. The frustration of knowing that there were ideas "out there" that I could not access gave me the opportunity to consider what I do believe in: I believe in the primacy of ideas. Next to family and friends, ideas are at the very center of the meaning of life. Without access to ideas, we are diminished as human beings; our talent is squandered by those who care more about the continuity of their own power, than allowing us the ability to fulfill our potential.

I also believe that as Idea Hunters we have an inalienable right to be able to search for ideas no matter where they might be found. To quote two very different, but original and influential, thinkers: Deng Xiaoping insightfully admonished us to learn truth from facts, while John XXIII observed that the truth shall set [us] free.

Ideas matter, and in the early years of our emerging knowledge era, those societies which encourage active idea-hunting, far and wide, would appear to me to have the best chances for successfully anticipating and addressing the uncertainties which surely loom ahead of us. Ideas will become the raw materials that economic wealth will be made-of, and social well-being improved. To shut-off as important a source of this raw material as Twitter is a strategic choice of considerable import. One wonders who makes such a choice, and on the basis of what criteria?

The image above is a detail from the original floor of the Cercle Sportif Francais in Shanghai. It reminded me of the knots which tie-up modern Idea-Hunters. The floor is now part of the modern Garden Hotel. The original was designed by architects Leonard, Veysseyre & Kruze, and built between 1924-1926.

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