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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.

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Reasons for Optimism: Marilynne Robinson LIVE on Big Think

April 9, 2012, 12:49 PM

We are the most complex thing known to exist. We are sensitive to an incredibly rich sensory environment. And we tend to give ourselves over to experience that distracts us with objectives that are not really worth our human time. 

–– Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne Robinson, the great American essayist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead, joined us last week to explore ideas about American culture past and present – ideas she raises in her most recent collection of essays, When I Was a Child I Read Books

 Robinson sees tremendous, built-in resilience in American culture – and though she believes our public conversation of recent years has significantly lost its way, she's extremely optimistic about the potential for positive change at this moment in history. In this vein, we talked about Occupy Wall Street, which she believes has significantly "changed the conversation" in her native Midwest. In responding to a question about the "ungenerous" nature of our current national discourse, Ms. Robinson said: 

At this point things have deteriorated to the point where it is as if morally wrong to have an attitude of presumptive respect toward someone you disagree with. That's just bizarre – and it's obviously not a formula for a civilized society . . .  I think we need to ask very, very fundamental questions [as a nation] about who we are and what we want. 


Watch the (taped) live portion of our interview with Marilynne Robinson: 



Reasons for Optimism: Maril...

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