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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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Our Brain Didn't Need to Evolve, So Why Did It?

September 15, 2013, 2:00 PM

What's the Latest Development?

Theories of evolutionary biology have a dizzying ability to explain the current state of human affairs in terms of what was necessary very early on in our species' heritage. But the power and agility of our brain was by no means necessary to hunt and kill animals, so why did the thinking organ become such an overachiever? According to Tufts University neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf, our brain has what engineers call an open architecture, allowing for the development of "new connections among structures and circuits originally devoted to other more basic brain processes."

What's the Big Idea?

There are two essential capabilities that allow our brain to create new connections using basic architecture: An ability to navigate spacial terrain and to recognize familiar shapes. "The navigation module enables us to orient ourselves spatially by registering the orientation and relative distances of walls and other features of our surrounding area. With the shape-recognition module, our brain intuitively uses angles and lengths to register the shapes of small 2-D and 3-D objects." Researchers say the cost of such powerful brains is a long childhood, during which we wire together specialized brain modules as we learn to do what adults manage without effort.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at Pacific Standard


Our Brain Didn't Need to Ev...

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