Can a $1 Million 'Idea Prize' Stop a Superpower Conflict?

A philosophy school with a $1 million dollar prize believes that knowledge truly is power.

Can a $1 Million 'Idea Prize' Stop a Superpower Conflict?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the possibility that Western influence may be waning around the world, which is further crippled by the Western hubris that its values trump those of any other culture. In particular, it continues to ignore the rise of China, a nation that has emerged not only as an economic powerhouse, but also as a country poised to be the cultural juggernaut of the 21st century.

The main contention that prevents any meaningful dialogue is the fundamental difference at the West and East’s cultural cores — broadly speaking, the West values democracy and individualism, while the East values harmony and loyalty. Neither way of thinking is more correct than the other; nevertheless, the West’s disconnected understanding from Eastern values often prevents it from engaging in meaningful dialogue about globalization.

Confucius once said, “Real knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance,” and it is certainly time for us to face our own.

Enter billionaire Nicolas Berggruen. The financier's eponymous institute has announced a $1 million philosophy prize intended to send scholars to top American, European, and Chinese universities to research the relationship between democracy and meritocracy. Berggruen told The New York Times that the prize is intended to force new ideas, not highlight differences: “We want to have an impact in a world that is becoming more and more fractured culturally and politically.”

[T]he West’s disconnected understanding from Eastern values often prevents it from engaging in meaningful dialogue about globalization.

For the U.S. and China, it is a conversation sorely overdue. While the U.S. may be the most powerful nation in the world, it is at a critical point in history with China, which has been described as “the fastest rising power in history.”  Perhaps the biggest and most threatening cultural difference between the two nations is not political, but intellectual. The United States is the developed world’s second most ignorant country (after Italy), and our cultural esteem for anti-intellectualism further undermines our capacity to engage. It certainly is no match for China’s so-called "cult of intelligence," which prizes learning and knowledge.

Our immense misunderstandings about Chinese culture — most devastatingly that it is monolith — will on impede our ability to accurately reflect upon our shifting influence on global values. Confucius once said, “Real knowledge is knowing the extent of one’s ignorance,” and it is certainly time for us to face our own.

"The United States does not know what it stands for," explains political scientist Ian Bremmer.

‘Designer baby’ book trilogy explores the moral dilemmas humans may soon create

How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.

Surprising Science
  • A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
  • It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
  • While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Keep reading Show less

The mystery of the Bermuda Triangle may finally be solved

Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.

Surprising Science

One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.

Keep reading Show less

Astrophysicists find unique "hot Jupiter" planet without clouds

A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.

Illustration of WASP-62b, the Jupiter-like planet without clouds or haze in its atmosphere.

Credit: M. Weiss/Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Surprising Science
  • Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
  • Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
  • Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Keep reading Show less

Lair of giant predator worms from 20 million years ago found

Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.

Bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois)

Credit: Rickard Zerpe / Flickr
Surprising Science
  • Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
  • The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
  • The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
Keep reading Show less
Politics & Current Affairs

FOSTA-SESTA: Have controversial sex trafficking acts done more harm than good?

The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.

Scroll down to load more…