Playing One Hundred Questions in Berlin

Sitting in the Berlin square where Nazis burned books in 1933, Wim Wenders, Cornel West and dozens of fellow notables answer 100 weighty questions submitted by people who read about the exercise on the Internet.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

An unusual experiment is underway in Berlin today. More than 100 people are gathered at an enormous table in the center of the city. They're answering 100 questions, easy ones, like, what is God's religion, and what happens if everyone in China buys a car? NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS: It's a sunny morning in Berlin and I'm on Babelplatz, just a few blocks away from the Brandenburg Gate. More than 70 years ago here, university students burned books that the Nazis disapproved of. Today something completely different is going on.

There's an enormous round table that's been built in the middle of the square. It's up on a slightly raised platform and around it are 112 people from all over the world speaking different languages, answering questions.

Unidentified Woman: Question 1, from the Barcelona Forum 2004.

Mr. WILLEM DAFOE (Actor): Are brands more powerful than governments?

HARRIS: People who wander up and take a look can have a seat and watch the proceedings for a while. They can see the table, they can the white sun umbrellas that have been put up. They can see the backs of some of the participants and they can hear the questions, but they can't hear any of the answers.

Unidentified Woman: Question eighteen comes from Frank Davis, 53, New York, USA.

Mr. DAFOE: How can we reconcile respect for universal human rights when these rights conflict with traditional and/or religious values?

Unidentified Man: So I am from (unintelligible) and I am scientific director at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in (unintelligible). Yeah. So you go to www.droppingknowledge.org and there you find a button, join the dialogue.

And if you click it, then you can, first of all see the hundred questions that are asked here today, or you can look at the other questions, at the other 50,000 questions that came in through the Web. And you can answer one of the 100 questions or answer one of the other 50,000 questions. Or you can look at answers already given, or you can also look at comments, or you can search for background information.

You can go to Wikipedia entries, to NGO Web pages, or see how themes are connected.

Unidentified Woman: Question 20 from Nicola Brown(ph), 49, Devon, U.K.

Mr. DAFOE: Why do we consider some lives to be worth more than others?

Unidentified Woman: Question 27, from Maurice Marabu(ph), 23, Agades(ph), Niger.

Mr. DAFOE: Why is there no peace in the Middle East yet?

WERTHEIMER: That story is from NPR's Emily Harris filing from Berlin.

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