People call conversation a lost art, which is odd in an age of constant communication. Surely we are talking more than ever, if by talking we mean texting or tweeting or posting, which we frequently do even in the presence of other people to whom we could be talking if some dire digital glitch were to shut down all our devices simultaneously.
And so many conversations are fast, furious, in binary form—Israel or Palestine? Hillary or Bernie? Taylor or Nicki? When so many sound so certain about so much, there is little left to talk about, no interest, no appetite, just attitude.
True conversation, the analog kind, face to face, ideally around a table, over food and drink, is perhaps the least efficient form of communication. It requires the patience to listen and the courage to learn, to be surprised, to arrive at a conclusion you’d never have foreseen when you set out from your home harbors. And it is fueled by the kind of questions you wouldn’t normally think to ask.
Journalists spend their time asking questions, typically in the hope of assembling evidence and finding answers. But some of life’s most provocative questions aren’t answerable. For this issue we decided to celebrate uncertainty; we invited people from across the fields of science, culture, politics, business and the arts to play: If you could have any superpower, which would you pick? Would you trade 10% of your brains to be better looking—or vice versa? Can art that is offensive also be great? When our children look back on this age, what common practice will horrify them the most? And many more, in the pages that follow and for weeks to come at time.com/questioneverything.
The answers here just invite more questions. You don’t have to agree. You just might want to think twice.