The week of June 7, 2015

Invitations to the dinner party

By Jesse Hicks

“If you could invite 10 people, living or dead, to a dinner party, who would you choose and why?” You’ve probably heard this question, in more or less hackneyed variations: Which three people would you want to be stranded with on a desert island? Who would you choose to wait out a zombie apocalypse with? Etc., etc.

The obvious point of the question is to reveal (and defend!) who you find worth talking to—that, after all, is the point of a dinner party. (I’m assuming, because I don’t think I’ve ever attended a dinner party. Presumably it involves pantaloons.) For this issue of the Kernel, we asked our writers who they most wanted to have a conversation with. Their answers were as varied as you’d imagine. And then we sent them out to talk to those people.

The conversations they returned with ranged widely. We heard musician and comedian Reggie Watts compare technology to training wheels for humanity and writer Warren Ellis admit that he doesn’t find his dystopias all that horrible. Director Lexi Alexander explained the roots of Hollywood’s sexism (as with many things, money plays a big role), and journalist William M. Arkin detailed how the United States has further embraced militarism after 9/11. Poet Patricia Lockwood talked about writing for Twitter and created viral poems—she even closed with an original poem—while Tyler Toney, of YouTube sensation Dude Perfect, told us the group’s plan for life after trick shots. Angel Munoz, the founding father of esports, looked back on his legacy and described his next act; Marc Maron, too, had some thoughts about what he’d do next. So did Pavel Durov, who founded a social networking site and became known as Russian Mark Zuckerberg, only to later find himself in political exile and working on a new project.

If there’s a theme to these conversations, it would be that they are all with thinkers, creators, and innovators captured at a particular moment in time, looking backward on what they’ve done and forward to what they’ll do next. Like the best conversations, they’re thoughtful and reflective without getting too self-serious. If you’re planning your next dinner party, you could do worse than start with this list. I’ll bring the pantaloons.

Illustration by Max Fleishman