What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

How WikiLeaks Is Affecting Journalism

August 9, 2010, 3:28 PM

Now that the dust has settled after the immediate reaction to WikiLeak’s release of secret Afghan war logs, clearer lines can be drawn concerning the event’s significance. The most fundamental distinction to be drawn is between the technical and moral implications of the leak. Today I will look at the technical implications, on Wednesday, the moral ones.

From a technical standpoint, the event is a sign post for how news organizations function in the information age and how small non-state actors can hold governments accountable (governments whose resources are incomparable in scale).

On the first point, how news producers work nowadays, a democratized media means that everything not behind a paywall is instantly copied and repeated on the Internet. As a result, a general economic rule holds: scarcity makes information much more precious. This is why The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel made WikiLeak’s release of the war logs a big story—they had a guaranteed exclusive. The extent to which people are willing to pay for exclusive information could help news organizations decide whether or not to erect paywalls.

The second point, that literally a handful of people have rocked the world’s most powerful government, is a testament to the group’s ability to exist beyond the reach of legal systems, thanks in large part to their adroit computer skills. But it is this same power that makes many uncomfortable with WikiLeaks. Members of the organization seem to be adept hackers, but what if they used their power for evil rather than good? And what of WikiLeak’s as the champion of transparency? They are a highly secretive organization. WikiLeak’s argument is that as a small organization whose ambition to challenge authority greatly outweighs its resources, its enemies are numerous and powerful.

A bridge to the moral side of the story, which I’ll discuss in more depth on Wednesday, is this: the sovereign state, famously defined by Max Weber, is that entity which has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. If you raise arms against it, it will end you, unless of course you succeed (a coup d’état) in which case you become the new sovereign. 

If WikiLeaks did release the names of Afghan informants serving the U.S. military, which remains conjecture, the definition of ‘sovereign’ is put into question in the same way terrorist organizations subvert the state’s monopoly on violence. 

In this case, the ease—okay, it’s not that easy; WikiLeaks’ members sound like good hackers—the ability to easily distribute information magnifies a small organization’s power. One American associated with WikiLeaks has already been interrogated by the FBI, and some are advocating that stricter measures be taken. A response to that advocacy is made here by Raffi Khatchadourian at The New Yorker, who has also written the most extensive and thoughtful exposé on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in general.

On Wednesday I’ll ask and answer if WikiLeaks is a net boon for the world, or an overall villain.


How WikiLeaks Is Affecting ...

Newsletter: Share: