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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.

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.

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Memory Is a Thing of the Past. Is That Bad?

August 14, 2011, 7:30 AM

What's the Latest Development?

Think of all the things you used to remember but no longer need to: Telephone numbers, street and email addresses, driving directions, etc. In our society of ubiquitous computing devices, the formidable capabilities of the human memory are no longer obvious. Yet individuals have been known to memorize "the precise order of 1,528 random digits and the first 50,000 digits of pi." Are valued concepts like knowledge and wisdom lost when we remember only how to access information instead of just remembering information?  

What's the Big Idea?

In Plato's dialogue Phaedrus, Socrates recounts a king's objection to the written word because it will "introduce forgetfulness" into the minds of men. And so it has, much more than the king would have dared imagine. The mind has a natural tendency to forget and unless memory is needed, recollection of events and information fall into darkness. But memory's value is not absolute, says Princeton English lecturer Casey Walker: "We might remember less, but we still know more, which makes it hard to mourn the memory palace’s loss."


Memory Is a Thing of the Pa...

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