The QI Philosophy
They say human beings, like all animals, have three primal drives: food, sex and shelter.
QI says we have a fourth: curiosity.
Our species seems to be uniquely wired to be interested in things that do not directly concern our survival, or that of our genes. Porcupines and lobsters do not look up at the night sky and wonder what all the twinkly bits are.
People are born curious. Every child under seven wants to know ‘why’ – they all ask the difficult questions – and so do the great artists, scientists and explorers.
But the rest of us get stuck somewhere along the line. We feed our curiosity with a diet of gossip, cat videos on YouTube, football results, pub quizzes and Instagram selfies.
The human brain is the most complex object in the known universe, with as many neurons as there are trees in the Amazon rainforest or stars in the galaxy. But what are we doing with this extraordinary organ between our ears?
Some people are memorising all the state capitals in the USA or the name of Napoleon's horse, but as to the knottier questions...
What is life? No one knows. What, if anything, happens after death? What is consciousness? Is the universe infinite? Is time travel possible? Are there aliens out there?
No one has the answer to any of these questions.
We live, they say, in the Information Age, but the information we have often isn’t true.
Mount Everest isn’t the tallest mountain. Juliet never stood on a balcony. Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets. Joan of Arc wasn’t French, Lenin wasn’t Russian, and haggis, whisky, porridge, clan tartans and kilts aren’t Scottish.
Whatever is interesting, we are interested in. Whatever is apparently not interesting, we're even more interested in, because we believe that everything – without exception – is interesting, if looked at closely enough, for long enough, or from the right angle.
Elizabeth I invented gingerbread men. On Venus, a day is longer than a year. Diamonds can be made from peanut butter. Wombats have cubic faeces.
When it comes to finding facts, we’re burrowers, not grazers. The deeper we dig, the more extraordinary it gets. We don’t claim that any of this information is especially useful or important – only quite interesting.
But that’s the point of QI: finding and sharing interesting information is 'autotelic' – worth doing for its own sake.
Weasels don’t care about the origin of the universe, but at least they’re not bored.
With QI, no one need ever be bored again.