What are the big questions that keep you up at night?
Answered by Elie Wiesel, Robert B. Gagosian and 108 others
  • Elie Wiesel

    Elie Wiesel

  • Robert B. Gagosian

    Robert B. Gagosian

  • Jill Tarter

    Jill Tarter

  • Andrew Weil M.D.

    Andrew Weil M.D.

  • Deepak Chopra MD

    Deepak Chopra MD

  • Martha Stewart

    Martha Stewart

  • Dr. Mehmet Oz

    Dr. Mehmet Oz

  • Dean Kamen

    Dean Kamen

  • Michael Dell

    Michael Dell

  • Craig Mundie

    Craig Mundie

  • Richard Saul Wurman

    Richard Saul Wurman

  • John Sculley

    John Sculley

  • Jack Leslie

    Jack Leslie

  • Jean Oelwang

    Jean Oelwang

  • Eric Dishman

    Eric Dishman

  • Daniel Dubno

    Daniel Dubno

  • C. Richard Allen

    C. Richard Allen

  • Yossi Vardi

    Yossi Vardi

  • Gaspar Mora

    Gaspar Mora

  • John Hendricks

    John Hendricks

  • Dr. John Hamre

    Dr. John Hamre

  • Hugh Panero

    Hugh Panero

  • Aubrey de Grey

    Aubrey de Grey

  • Bill and Nicolette Hahn Niman

    Bill and Nicolette Hahn Niman

  • Stephen Tobolowsky

    Stephen Tobolowsky

  • Jaron Lanier

    Jaron Lanier

  • W. Daniel Hillis

    W. Daniel Hillis

  • John Seely Brown

    John Seely Brown

  • Madoo Varma

    Madoo Varma

  • Ling Liao

    Ling Liao

  • Mario Paniccia

    Mario Paniccia

  • Helen Marie Mahoney OBGYN

    Helen Marie Mahoney OBGYN

  • Annabelle Pratt

    Annabelle Pratt

  • Timothy E. Wirth

    Timothy E. Wirth

  • Yi Wu

    Yi Wu

  • Beppe Raffa

    Beppe Raffa

  • Tom Colicchio

    Tom Colicchio

  • Dr. Francine Patterson

    Dr. Francine Patterson

  • John Healy

    John Healy

  • Jason Howard

    Jason Howard

  • Wayne Pacelle

    Wayne Pacelle

  • Eric Mantion

    Eric Mantion

  • John L. Hennessy

    John L. Hennessy

  • Waleed Abdalati

    Waleed Abdalati

  • Jim St. Leger

    Jim St. Leger

  • Vida Ilderem

    Vida Ilderem

  • Lori Matassa

    Lori Matassa

  • Mic Bowman

    Mic Bowman

  • Anya Kamenetz

    Anya Kamenetz

  • James L. Green

    James L. Green

  • Michael Weber

    Michael Weber

  • Peter H. Diamandis

    Peter H. Diamandis

  •  Brenda Way

    Brenda Way

  • Paul Saffo

    Paul Saffo

  • Caterina Fake

    Caterina Fake

  • Julie Packard

    Julie Packard

  • Sylvia Earle

    Sylvia Earle

  • Alessandro Stratta

    Alessandro Stratta

  • Charlie Trotter

    Charlie Trotter

  • Bill Moggridge

    Bill Moggridge

  • Colin Angle

    Colin Angle

  • Rodney Brooks

    Rodney Brooks

  • Lee Rainie

    Lee Rainie

  • Jake Shimabukuro

    Jake Shimabukuro

  • Michael Massimino

    Michael Massimino

  • Michael Hawley

    Michael Hawley

  • Wayne Clough

    Wayne Clough

  • Eric Ripert

    Eric Ripert

  • Christopher J. Ferguson

    Christopher J. Ferguson

  • Rob Wrubel

    Rob Wrubel

  • Thomas Keller

    Thomas Keller

  • Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick

    Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick

  • Doreen Lorenzo

    Doreen Lorenzo

  • Jose Andres

    Jose Andres

  • Daniel Pauly

    Daniel Pauly

  • Sheila C. Johnson

    Sheila C. Johnson

  • Alex Sandy Pentland

    Alex Sandy Pentland

  • David Chang

    David Chang

  • Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

    Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

  • Benjamin and Rosamund Zander

    Benjamin and Rosamund Zander

  • Professor Joseph M. DeSimone

    Professor Joseph M. DeSimone

  • Xingang Guo

    Xingang Guo

  • Yoav Medan PhD

    Yoav Medan PhD

  • Patrick O'Connell

    Patrick O'Connell

  • Paul Schmitz

    Paul Schmitz

  • Sarah Thomas

    Sarah Thomas

  • Bruce Robison

    Bruce Robison

  • Philip Rosedale

    Philip Rosedale

  • David Agus MD

    David Agus MD

  • Alice Waters

    Alice Waters

  • Professor Robert M. Metcalfe

    Professor Robert M. Metcalfe

  • John Perry Barlow

    John Perry Barlow

  • David Harvey

    David Harvey

  •  Marissa Mayer

    Marissa Mayer

  • Steve Case

    Steve Case

  • Leonard Kleinrock

    Leonard Kleinrock

  • Larry Stone

    Larry Stone

  • Michael Tilson Thomas

    Michael Tilson Thomas

  • Nicholas Negroponte

    Nicholas Negroponte

  • Charles F. Bolden Jr.

    Charles F. Bolden Jr.

  • Hal Harvey

    Hal Harvey

  • Cheryl Pegus. MD. MPH

    Cheryl Pegus. MD. MPH

  • Brewster Kahle

    Brewster Kahle

  • Dr. Lisa Prato

    Dr. Lisa Prato

  • Eric Schmidt

    Eric Schmidt

  • Juan Enriquez

    Juan Enriquez

  • Dr. Gerard van Belle

    Dr. Gerard van Belle

  • Marshall Brain

    Marshall Brain

  • Sandy Smolan

    Sandy Smolan

  • Dr. Jeff Hall

    Dr. Jeff Hall

  1. Elie Wiesel Nobel Peace Laureate, Boston University Professor


    Why? Meaning, one day when I will go up into Heaven and face the tribunal, the celestial tribunal presided over by God himself, and he will try to ask me questions. Why didn't you do that properly? I will answer only with one word. Why? Just why. Why did it happen? Politically, we know, but theologically, we don't know. We will never know. Whatever the answer will be, I will not accept it. It comes to that period, to that tremendous event, I don't accept answers. Only questions. The greatest scholar, the saintliest person would come to me to say, "Look, I found the answer."  I would say, "Good for you, but not good for me."

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  2. Robert B. Gagosian President & CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership


    Being an oceanographer, the big picture is that the ocean provides more than half the oxygen that we breathe. Is it going to be there in two hundred years? What about sea-level rise along the coast? When I think about the Gulf Coast, there is the BP oil spill, there is Katrina. But there is also the rising sea level, and the Gulf Coast itself is sinking. So you've got water rising and land sinking. As an oceanographer, I think long-term, so the things that keep me up at night are mostly decade or century types of things.

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  3. Jill Tarter Director, Center for SETI Research, SETI Institute


    Well, there are a lot of questions that keep me up at night. Big or small depends on context. I want to be able to meet my payroll at the end of the month, and keep this kind of search going as a scientific exploration for the decades or centuries that might need to transpire before we get smart enough to do the right thing to be able to find the answer. And I don't actually have a good model of how you would continue this scientific exploration over the generations.

    Universities have done endowments. That's worked fairly well for them. That might be where this kind of scientific inquiry has to look for its funding model. But that's my big question is how do I, how do I not only do my job as well as I can, maybe find the answer myself, but how do I set this up so that my successor can continue to perhaps success at some point?

    I find it extraordinarily disturbing when science is questioned -- good science, science that is undeniably sound, such as global climate change, global warming. It's real and there is a human component to that. To have people who don't really have the credentials to just decide they don't believe it -- that's really insomnia-making. To live in a society where we need to make incredibly technical decisions about our future, we need to develop technologies to solve some of the problems that previous generations of technology have created. To have people say, "Nah, I don't believe it," that's not the way to move forward. And I also worry at night about the fact that there are just too many of us, and we need to face that right directly straight on. Because if we don't get that one right, we'll not get anything right.

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  4. Andrew Weil M.D. Best-Selling Author, Speaker & Integrative Medicine Thought-Leader


    Doesn't everyone have such questions? I have no idea why I'm here. I have no idea what all this is and how it came to be and where I'm going. And those are huge questions. I've always been fascinated about the relationship between what's in here and what's out there. And I've always felt that we're not simply passive observers or passive recorders -- that somehow consciousness interacts with what's ever out there in a very dynamic shaping way.

    More information on Dr. Weil

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  5. Deepak Chopra MD Author, Founder of The Chopra Foundation, Senior Scientist, The Gallup Organization


    The big questions that keep me up at night -- how did the universe begin? Is it chance? Necessity? Purpose? Is there any meaning to our existence? What does it mean to be human? Is a divine intelligence behind the appearance of space, time, energy, information, matter, gravity, whatever? Do we have a soul? If so, what is it? What happens to us after we die? What's the next stage of evolution of the human species?

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  6. Martha Stewart Founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia


    Well, there are many questions that keep me up at night. Since 9/11 -- I mean, I think I slept pretty well, I don't sleep a lot, but I think I slept pretty well up until 9/11. And yesterday, on the 10th anniversary -- we're talking on 9/12, right now, 2011 -- since 9/11, a lot of worries started. And I'm an optimist. I love to be optimistic about everything, and yet, so many things have occurred since 9/11 that keep me up: worry about politics, worry about the growth of our country, worry about what's really happening in the rest of the world, worry about what are we doing for the youth of tomorrow, the next generations. And then, on top of that, my daughter just gave birth to a new child, my first grandchild, and I want to be optimistic for her. I want things to be better; I want things to be happy. I want our lives to be extraordinary, the way I grew up, just with every opportunity available. That's what keeps me awake at night.

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  7. Dr. Mehmet Oz Cardiac surgeon and host, The Dr. Oz Show


    The big questions that keep me up at night, the ones I'm most curious about is, "How does it how all end? What happens to me when my heart stops beating, my lungs stop ventilating, my kidneys stop diuresing, and my liver stops detoxifying? Does it just turn black? Do I just slate out? Or is there something else that's going to go on in my life?"

    I've asked my patients who've been as close to death as you can get, whose fingers barely grasped the ledge into the abyss of death as they crawled their way back into a natural existence: "What was it like? What did it look like down there?" And I've had lots of folks recount out-of-body experiences and visions of what it might look like, but we won't know. We all will one day, but we don't know right now.

    I'm also curious about how it all started. I've always been fascinated by astronomy and the Big Bang, and what was there before that, because that may hold the clue to what's going on after we're done with this game. But of course I've been advised by numerous wise folk to not spend too much time with those big questions because it can drive you crazy. And so I try to focus my curiosity on one fundamental issue: How do I get past that external, crusty veneer that we perceive as reality into the deeper depth of what is truly going on in our existence?

    Going beneath that surface is I think what most of us seek. It's what meditation promises to afford us; it's what some of us experience during sex, when we have an epiphany, learning a new insight. We also appreciate the deep well of calmness in our world that we know is there -- we just have trouble getting to it. I think it is the biggest challenge of modern society. When the world was slower and there was less to distract you from that fundamental search for wisdom, it was sometimes easier to focus on it, but now it's like walking into a restaurant with hundreds of wines on the list, and you're not very good at wine or picking it out, and it gets pretty confusing. It's daunting.

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  8. Dean Kamen President, DEKA Research & Development Corporation and Founder, FIRST


    There are two kinds of big questions that keep me up at night: the ones that are answerable and the ones that aren't. The answerable questions that keep me up are what I do in my day job: How am I going to make that water machine? How am I going to make it simple and reliable and robust? And how am I going to make it available to 4 billion people -- two-thirds of humanity -- that right now are suffering without water? How am I going to convince a whole generation of kids in this country that working hard and understanding math and physics and science and engineering is going to lead them to a far more exciting and productive life than bouncing a ball will ever do, in terms of giving them future options?

    The big questions to me that relate to my day job are, again, trying to match technologies to problems in a way to raise the bar and the quality of life of people. The big questions in the other category, now: Why is there a universe? How did we get here? What was it like before the beginning? What will it be like after the end? And even simpler unanswerables: Why are so many people more interested in putting more effort into hurting other people than helping themselves? There are lots of those questions that I don't anticipate I will ever answer or even maybe fully understand as a question. But they sometimes keep me up at night.


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