What is your dangerous idea about museums?

Posted on December 27, 2011


A number of years ago, I acquired the book What is Your Dangerous Idea?, in which significant thinkers addressed the question “What do you believe is true, even though you cannot prove it?” According to the book’s preface, the question comes from psychologist Steven Pinker, who wrote:

The history of science is replete with discoveries that were considered socially, morally, or emotionally dangerous in their time; the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions are the most obvious. What is your dangerous idea? An idea that you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

The question asks for speculation. It asks for wild, instinctual guesses. And there is a very good chance that many of these guesses will be wrong.

However, what is even more thrilling is the possibilities that some of the guesses will not only be right, but that they will themselves shape the very future of the world and of ideas. Often simply be giving voice to something, we start creating it in fact where it previously only lived in imagination.

This is the thrill and terror of speculation. There is the chance that an idea will be wrong, laughable. But making it known (as terrifying as that can be) also brings with it the chance to write the future of the world and make possible things that once seemed unbelievable.

I recently put in an abstract for MuseumNext that dealt purely with ideas. It did not include case studies. It was not filled with practical answers to problems. Instead, it contained one (possibly dangerous) idea that I firmly believe could be true. I’m not going to go into too much depth about it here until I find out whether it made the cut (although with around 200 applications for 30 places, my hopes are not held tightly). However, the question comes up: What is your dangerous idea about museums?

I would love to know.

Posted in: Ideas, Museums, Questions