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

A Stunning Vision of our Interoperable Future

October 9, 2012, 12:00 AM
Big-data%20final

For the past several years, we've been hearing a lot about Big Data. There's a huge amount of information being collected about us and our world - so much that it seems impossible to organize or use to its full potential. Recently, for example, we learned that the Large Hadron Collider had to throw away much of the data it collected, because it simply couldn't store and process so much. But is there a way to leverage this ocean of information to make our lives better?

Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay, and Mickey McManus say yes. They're the authors of "Trillions", a new book about the future of the global economy. They aren't economists; they're the founders and president of a design firm called MAYA.  Yet their insights are critical to predicting how our economy will change, and how we can harness the changes for our benefit. 

At the heart of "Trillions" is the power of the microprocessor. To date, it's been mostly put at the service of personal computing, using individualized tools that only interact with each other when we tell them to. For the authors, we've gone about as far as we can go in this direction - and that's why we've been so frustrated of late with the seemingly unmanageable firehose of data coming out of the global economy. If, as the authors put it, we want to tame the complexity of our world, we need to walk back down the mountain of personal computing and begin climbing Trillions Mountain, which is based on pervasive computing.

Pervasive computing is all about interaction between the billions - soon to be trillions - of microprocessors that have infiltrated virtually every aspect of our lives.  "Trillions" argues that we can't just design devices that help us to live better using data; rather, we have to design an entire living environment where those devices communicate with each other and with us. Only by building this interoperable network of humans and computers will we finally be able to exploit the massive potential of Big Data, and of ourselves.

There are tremendous opportunities implicit in the "Trillions" story, in part because of the concentration of economic power in our current world of personal computing. "We have to climb down from this crowded summit in which it's almost not practical to consider competing with any of the major players," Lucas said in an interview last week. "We have to get down to those spacious foothills. There's going to be a period that will probably last many years where there will be so much experimentation to be done."

This experimentation will surely reveal new ways to raise our living standards as well.   "Come what may, there is just going to be an ocean of information," Lucas said. "The question is, is it something we drown in, or is it something we learn to surf in?" 

We know that companies like Google and SAS are already trying to index all the information in the universe and come up with new ways to process it. "Trillions" puts their efforts into a broader context of much greater change and implicitly suggests how to break open their markets.  It offers the grand tableau: why we need to change our view of connectivity, and how to turn that new vision into reality.  It may be the most prescient and influential book you read this year. 

Full disclosure: I read, enjoyed, and endorsed MAYA's book at about the same time we were discussing the possibility of collaborating on an unrelated venture. You can read about it here.

 

 

A Stunning Vision of our In...

Newsletter: Share: