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

1

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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

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
Close

The New Literacy Rate

April 27, 2012, 9:36 PM
Literacy%20ss

If I were to send you back in time to 1500, a time when people were just learning how to cope with the recent disruptive invention of the moveable type printing press, you could have lived a very respectable and comfortable live (by the standards of the time) without being literate. 

In fact, literacy rates were about 10% for men (and 1% for women). But, in the 150 years following the invention of the printing press, society reorganized around this new information technology, and unsurprisingly literacy rates increased by 2-3x. It should be noted that the common ability to read generally preceded the common ability to write.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and literacy (aided by population density) continued to increase significantly. Today, in developed societies, literacy rates are near 100%.

There's a parallel in this story for how we should think about the disruptive information technology pervading our current era. Literacy is to the printed word as programming is to the internet.

The speed of innovation has increased, it will happen faster than it did in 1500, but I'll predict that we'll see a cultural movement towards learning to understand and write programming languages. Things in our past, like Alice, and things in our present like CodeYear is giving us a glimpse of a time to come.

If you aren't literate in this fashion, now is a fantastic time to start. It will afford you with the same competitive advantage that literate folks had in 1500.

 

PS - There's some magic in Aaron Patzer's suggestion that students be allowed to take programming courses that count towards their foreign language requirement. This would be a fantastic way to encourage young folks to develop competitive skills and would create a lot more cohesive thinkers.

 

The New Literacy Rate

Newsletter: Share: