This week I joined the latest cohort of David Perell's Write of Passage course, and one kickoff assignment is to think through 12 of our favorite problems.
I love living with the questions. I think the practice of asking big questions that aren't necessarily actionable is essential to a fulfilling intellectual life. But I have never sat down and tried to articulate a series of them, so this is a helpful exercise.
"You have to keep a dozen of your favourite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, ‘How did he do it? He must be a genius!" - Richard Feynman
I broke mine down into areas of long-term interest. A handful of them are related to projects and efforts that are ongoing, but by and large these are what I think of as north star questions: directional but not meant to be answered.
- How can we become aware of the stories we live with, challenge them and correct them to live more honestly (and less burdened)?
- How do we create purposeful storytelling that drives meaningful progress?
- How do we change false collective stories that have led us astray?
- How can I create an open knowledge base for anyone to go deep into the study of storytelling?
- How do we transform education to encourage flexible, intentional, lifelong learning? (And how do we keep it accessible?)
- How can we curate and collate the mountains of open, free information so that it is easier to find, access, and learn from?
- How do I design meaningful work for myself, while earning a sustainable income?
- How do we justify, and move toward, a universal basic income?
- How can we eliminate bullshit jobs and automate unnecessary jobs without destroying livelihoods?
- How can I create a framework for Minimum Viable Filmmaking that enables more filmmakers to kickstart their careers?
- How do we continue to experience cinema in community in a pro-streaming, post-movietheater world?
- How do new forms of currency and direct-to-consumer access enable new modes of funding filmmaking?
I want to incorporate this exercise into a reflection practice - perhaps periodically come back to define and refine questions to use as lenses through which I can see my work and efforts.
What are some of your favorite problems?