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


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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


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

Glitches in the Human Brain Also Appear in Computers

August 7, 2012, 2:00 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Like humans, computers may occasionally be given to seeing the face of Jesus in a potato chip or bowl of oatmeal. How is this possible? The emergence of facial recognition technology has again demonstrated the computational nature of the human mind, as computers, it turns out, see faces in plenty of inanimate objects. In humans, this ability is theorized to serve an evolutionary role. As Carl Sagan once wrote: "As soon as the infant can see, it recognizes faces, and we now know that this skill is hardwired in our brains. Those infants who a million years ago were unable to recognize a face smiled back less, were less likely to win the hearts of their parents, and less likely to prosper."

What's the Big Idea?

Can this possibly mean that computers are subject to evolutionary pressures just as humans are? Not exactly. Seeing faces in a random collection of angles, a phenomenon known as pareidolia, is a mistake that humans make. For a computer, it is not strictly a mistake. Facial recognition technology is programmed to piece together disparate parts of nature into what it believes is a face. While humans know the shapes they see in clouds are not actually what they appear to be, computers do not. In other words, a computer's flaws are still very machine-like. And ours, such as experiencing Jesus in some fried food, are still very human.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


Glitches in the Human Brain...

Newsletter: Share: