I’ve been tossing around the idea of Ten Smart People in a Room Theory. It works like this: say there’s some burning question that needs to be answered. It can be anything as flouncy as “did Barry Bonds use steroids?” to world-imperiling as “is Iran actually trying to make a nuclear weapon?” Ten people would be gathered in a room, and they would have the following characteristics:
– very high intelligence
– very broad, well-versed knowledge on the subject at hand
– completely agenda-free.
Now, the last of these would be hard, since almost everyone has an agenda, but it could be worked out. If one of your Ten has a book coming out about the subject and takes a side, then his book sales are dependent on his opinion, so he’d be eliminated.
Likewise, if the question was political, no partisan politicians would be allowed to be in the room either. It would simply be a room with Ten People, smart as hell, and nothing to prove. The roster would change for each question.
I think about this room a lot, because of two reasons: one, we live in an age of spin and lies, which puts even the most obvious conclusions into doubt; and two, I tend to miss the big picture and want to know what actual smart people think.
I asked some friends the other night about Barry Bonds, and the consensus was: yes, Barry Bonds took steroids and every smart person knows it. I was relieved to find out that there was a consensus, and I wanted more:
So, does Iran really want to make nuclear weapons?
Is the “bird flu” scare totally overblown?
Is Michael Jackson actually a child molester?
How will history rate George W. Bush as president?
Did Shakespeare write all of his own plays?
I want the ten smartest people to get in the room and answer those questions. Professional, smart people free of all partisan hackery or academic squibbling. Get a consensus and publish it, so at least we have a touchstone for arguments. I want things spelled out for me by serious individuals so I can make better choices with my philosophy, my writing, my voting lever, my charity and my mindset.
What would be your question?