October 24, 2018

The 60 Questions of Our Life

“Curiosity: The Questions of Our Life” is the name of a new 60-episode five-year “landmark” series “>fanfare by the Discovery Channel.

So what are those 60 “fundamental questions and underlying mysteries of our time”?  They’re looking for nominations. 

Princeton, Georgetown and Syracuse are among the universities who’ve delightedly signed on to come up with them.  Discovery has primed the pump with examples like these:  What is consciousness?  What will our understanding of genomics mean for future generations?  Where are the aliens?  Where will artificial intelligence lead?  What is our universe made of – and why?

All good questions.  They’re the kind of subjects that public television series like Nova, The Living Planet, The Elegant Universe and a host of other noncommercial programs have been exploring for years, and if the Discovery Channel is going to pour new money into making documentaries, more power to ‘em, even if they break for Lexus and Olive Garden ads every few minutes.

But I have a hunch that none of the 60 questions will address mysteries like, How can anyone stomach Glenn Beck?, or, When did Rahm Emmanuel become such a wuss? or, Is anyone in Washington not owned by the drug companies?

I suppose some Princeton professor might say that questions like those aren’t fundamental enough – they’re too topical, too shallow, too close to the Andy Rooney end of the pool.

But if Discovery is going to produce an hour of television that answers, What is a virus, and how can it become a pandemic?, then why can’t they look into, What is judicial activism, and how can we stop Chief Justice “>Roberts from plaguing American politics with corporate money?

I’m willing to concede that, say, What’s up with Venus Williams? doesn’t belong on the big 60 list, mainly because it isn’t much of a mystery.  But if Discovery could get a neuroscientist to identify the part of the brain that thinks tax cuts for the rich are the solution to every problem, they’d be doing a real service to democracy.

How many people can our planet support? – another subject Discovery is mulling – is definitely worth a program.  But what about, How many Goldman Sachs alumni can our Treasury Department support?

A Discovery executive says that their Curiosity series will speak “to the millions of students each day raising their hands in class and asking questions.”  That would be great, especially for the students in Texas wondering why the State Board of Education review committee drafted