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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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Why Do We Dislike Being Alone With Our Thoughts?

July 8, 2014, 5:30 PM

What's the Latest?

A team of scientists were recently surprised to find how uncomfortable most people are with simply spending quiet time alone. In an experiment led by Timothy Wilson at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, half of 409 undergraduate college freshman reported not enjoying 15 minutes away from their smart hones, tablets, and computers. "We have this huge brain that’s full of pleasant memories and has the ability to tell stories and construct fantasies," says Wilson, who says he entertains himself as he falls asleep at night by imagining that he is a castaway on an unpopulated island. "It shouldn’t be that hard."

What's the Big Idea?

In a follow up experiment, it became disturbingly clear that many people will engage in self-destructive behavior to avoid a numbing solitude. When placed in a room with a machine that delivered a moderate electric shock, most people preferred to gives themselves a jolt of painful electricity than entertain their own imagination. "Mason says that the participants would have benefited from more guidance for their thinking — perhaps if they had been instructed not only to come up with a topic to ponder, but also to map out a more structured plan of where to take their thoughts from there."

Read more at Nature

Photo credit: Shutterstock


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