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

In Praise of (Hopeful) Pessimism

August 4, 2013, 3:08 PM

What's the Latest Development?

English novelist, journalist, and short story writer Will Self counsels his readership to remain negative, or at least pessimistic, which is how his mother would have wanted it. Self sees the worst events of our era—the Iraq War, the global financial crisis, persistent Middle East conflict—as the result of overly optimistic thinking. A collective cognitive dissonance, which allows us to believe that everything is fine and can only get better, leaves us politically inert and ill-equiped to deal with bumps in the road. When we do take action (which is rare), we refuse to allow for the possibility that some negative consequences may result. 

What's the Big Idea?

Self characterizes the criticisms of pessimism as follows: "The optimist...thinks that it is her willingness to entertain a better future that acts as a psychic midwife to its birth. How, the optimist argues, can you be bothered to struggle for a state of affairs that you regard as at best unlikely, and quite possibly altogether unattainable?" All that’s necessary, according to Self, "is to expect the worst but live hopefully, if by 'living hopefully' is meant to invest the present in the raiment of all the idealism any of us could wish for—to practise, in the telling phrase of Basho, the Japanese Zen poet, 'random acts of senseless generosity'."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at the New Statesman


In Praise of (Hopeful) Pess...

Newsletter: Share: