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Virginia Postrel is an author and speaker whose work spans a broad range of topics, from social science to fashion, concentrating on the intersection of culture, commerce, and technology. Postrel[…]

Today’s cultural cross-pollenization is making differences ever more subtle.

Virginia Postrel: I think another thing is the coming together of east and west. This has been going on for 50 years. Anything in history you can always date to an earlier period. But there . . . we have been able in the past to think about western culture, Chinese culture, Japanese culture, or eastern culture more generally. Indian culture, these very distinct, big civilizations over broad geographical regions as having separate cultures. They are increasingly cross fertilizing each other. And they are maintaining . . . If you’re in the United States, you don’t think you’re in India. You don’t even think you’re in Canada necessarily. And if you’re in Texas, you don’t think you’re in California. I mean there’s still regional differences, and I think those will remain. But they’ll become more subtle. And they will become fertilized by other people often in weird ways so that the person who is from India will not necessarily recognize as their religion the weird, Californized version of their religion. But you see that sort of cross fertilization, and I think that that’s a big story. That’s a sort of world historical story and then what of course everyone . . . I feel stupid even saying this, but then of course again that is the claim of religions in particular that have a sort of pure, “you must be our way” – Islam, certain versions of Christianity – that are universalistic religions. Which means on the one hand that they see God as offering his salvation to everyone. It’s not tribal, it’s not ethnic, it’s not narrowly nationalistic. On the other hand, they have the conversion impulse, and in some cases the violent conversion impulse. And that clashes with this more cross fertilization, pluralistic world. So that’s obviously a big conflict that we see ourselves in. And then, of course, there is this whole issue of where technology will take us. And anything that anybody tells you about technology that goes beyond 10 years is . . . you can’t predict it at all. We have no idea.

Recorded on: 7/4/2007 at The Aspen Ideas Festival