When I was growing up, I shared a large attic bedroom with my two brothers. On late Sunday nights, we always went to bed listening to King Crimson Biscuit Flower Hour on Public Radio, followed by many probing shows that asked and attempted to answer big questions. One of my favorites is still a conversation starter I love using today that has led to hours of fascinating conversation.

If we were ever visited by super-intelligent aliens:

  1. Who would you put in the room besides yourself?
  2. What would be your three questions?
Please do not hold against us!

The obscure questions/answers often lead to the most intriguing insights.

“I would invite God.”
Why: “Because if he does not show up for this, he doesn’t exist, or we are in some real deep trouble.”

“I would ask what is the best Beatles Album?”
Why: “Because it will tell us how much the know about us, and if they can read our minds.”

This can go on for a very long time with a small group of interesting people, but the lesson is that the insight is not neccesarily in the question or answer itself, but by in the nature of why it was asked and context of what it answers.