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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.

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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 Human Mind Meld: The Perils of Unfiltered Knowledge Transfer

February 19, 2013, 12:00 AM

Vulcans, the extraterrestrial species in Star Trek, are capable of transferring knowledge to other species, including humans, through physical contact. Fortunately for humans, the Vulcans have a great deal to offer, such as how to eliminate poverty and disease. 

While this so-called "mind meld" trick might be the stuff of science fiction, it is nonetheless true that humans are remarkably good at picking up on what other people know, and actually do it all the time without realizing it.

What's the Big Idea?

In her talk at The Nantucket Project, a festival of ideas on Nantucket, Massachusetts, Laurie Santos, a cognitive psychologist at Yale University, presented research that suggests humans are hardwired to share. This motivation, in fact, might be the enabling characteristic of our species to create culture. 

Not only are we inclined to share knowledge, our brains also automatically process the knowledge of other people. Even when we are incidentally processing information we are influenced by others, Santos points out. So does this make us good learners?

It depends, of course, on who your teacher is. 

The problem, of course, is that the "human mind meld" is an unfiltered process. We might like to think that we have completely original minds, but we are easily influenced by others and have an "unknowingness" of how this mind meld works. 

So what are we to do about it?

For one thing, Santos says you should "surround your minds with the smartest people you can."

Watch the video here:

Images courtesy of ShutterstockMeghan Brosnan

To learn more about The Nantucket Project and how to attend the 2013 event visit nantucketproject.com.

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan


The Human Mind Meld: The Pe...

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