Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Ask the Experts 

Wednesday, Aug 16 2006
"Is egoism the reason for human failure?"

"Is there an afterlife such as heaven, hell, or reincarnation, or is there just a black nothingness after death?"

"Do you need Service Pack 4 for Windows if you are exclusively surfing porn?"

These and 11,000 other pressing questions are vying for a place at the "Table of Free Voices," the latest performance art/pseudo-event from Dropping Knowledge, an international nonprofit with U.S. headquarters in San Francisco. The voices come from 112 global luminaries as disparate as Terry Gilliam, director and co-writer of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Avi Primor, former Israeli ambassador to Germany, who will gather around an Olympic-sized table in Berlin's Bebelplatz Square, simultaneously answering the 100 top questions in their native languages, each with a camera recording his every word. Footage will be stored and distributed for free in perpetuity. And it's all to be moderated by two-time Academy Award nominee Willem Dafoe.

Founded by filmmaker Cindy Gantz, activist Jackie Wallace, and director Ralf Schmerberg, Dropping Knowledge says its mission is to give the globe's concerned citizens a way to communicate with each other. The result,, will be part online library, part search engine, and part social network — basically, MySpace for save-the-worlders. The organization has enlisted researchers at MIT and German artificial intelligence lab DFKI to set up the technology. The multimillion-dollar project is funded by private individuals, a few foundations, and German mega-insurer Allianz AG. (To executives at the firm that insured the World Trade Center, promoting a global dialogue for peace seems like a good idea.)

The Dropping Knowledge founders have spent the past four years traveling the world spreading the word, raising money, whittling down the list of Table members from an original 2,000 targets, and finally persuading 112 to take a seat. Although thousands worldwide have posted questions online, the videotaped wisdom of celebrities and diplomats seems like a bizarre way to inspire action among the apathetic. Still, it might be worth tuning in on Sept. 10, once the hundreds of hours of video are posted online. You never know what the man behind the Knights Who Say "Ni" might say.

About The Author

Ryan Blitstein


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"