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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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The Evolutionary Logic of Knowledge Transfer

September 2, 2013, 7:00 AM

Why do certain ideas succeed? In a previous post, we looked at how idea entrepreneurs are able to lift ideas to the surface on the strength of their compelling personal narratives and powers of persuasion. Now here's another take. 

Ideas have to pass a kind of Darwinian fitness test, argues the computer scientist Ramez Naam, who is the author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement. It turns out the most useful ideas are the ones that spread, like the wheel that was invented in Egypt and was improved upon in Sumaria by going from a solid disk to spokes.  

Passing the usefulness test crucially involves the ability of ideas to propagate themselves, just as biologically successful humans are able to pass on their genes. In the case of the wheel, two ideas met, and reproduced. In other words, the wheel was carried by humans to another place where it was then improved upon by other people. 

So everything we’re doing in society today, such as expanding access to education and research tools, Naam says, "is accelerating this process of the Darwinian evolution of ideas."

This video is part of our series of the most popular videos of Summer 2013.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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