The Really Important Question

I would have to ask the questioner. I haven't had a chance to ask the questioners the question they've been questioning."-George W. Bush, Jan. 8, 2001.

I would have to ask the questioner. I havent had a chance to ask the questioners the question theyve been questioning."—George W. Bush, Jan. 8, 2001. The context of Dubyas latest "Bushism": the now-failed nomination of Linda Chavez as his secretary of labor. Bushs point, if you can follow his logic, is that he never interviewed Chavez himself, so he couldnt answer whether Chavez had actually revealed her illegal alien indiscretion during the vetting process. So, without firsthand knowledge, Bush would have had to ask the people who did, which he didnt, if you get my drift.

Dubyas mouthful unintentionally provides us with a beautiful way of describing the way many problems get discussed in a public forum. We can never get to the question(s) that really matter(s); we spend our time instead scratching the surface, surrounding the problem but never getting at it.

For instance, in our mad rush to wire the world, put a computer on everyones desk, plant a cell phone in everyones ear and set a PlayStation 2 next to everyones television, no one ever stops to ask: Why? And why is that? Because were too busy trying to figure out ways to get people and corporations convinced that they really do need all of these things.

To wit: The other day I was with a group of friends, one of whom brought along a new PS2 to play Madden NFL 2001. Ive never been much of a video game freak, so I just watched from the sidelines. An hour after they turned it on, they were still trying to figure out how to play the darn thing. My idea: Get up and toss the pigskin around outside.

Im certainly part of the problem. The media write millions of words every day about the latest and greatest technologies. What we often miss is the real question: Is this really useful? I think that if we all did a better job asking that question, we wouldnt worry so much about mysteries such as why does my computer crash so often, why were there so many dimpled chads, and does George W. Bush really want to be president anyway?

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...