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

1

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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

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
Close

A Knowledge of History Keeps Us Open to Surprise

August 29, 2013, 3:08 PM
Tumblr_lsc5m1zops1qi0xceo1_r1_500

Historians would scold us for thinking that the past is a reliable predictor of the future, and it’s not.  What I think we get out of it instead is an analysis, a worldview, a way to look at things. 

Just the idea that change can be so momentous and then what do you about that?  Do you regulate?  Do you try to constrict it?  It’s what we see happening today.  Look around us right now.  There are efforts to regulate the net on behalf of piracy, privacy, pedophilia, security, decency, civility.  Why?  The internet is not broken.  It’s pretty much the same as it has been operating for awhile.  Why, because it’s becoming more disruptive and more powerful.  

John Naughton, who is a columnist on the Observer in London asked people to stand—imagine standing on a bridge in the year 1472, which is about as far away from the printing press as we are today from the commercial web—and he says ask people on that bridge whether they think Gutenberg’s invention will cause the disruption of the Catholic Church, fuel the Reformation, spark the scientific revolution, change our view of education and thus childhood, and then I would add change our notion of nations. 

Nah, not going to happen. 

So I think the pattern there isn’t verifiable.  There is no way to predict.  We should be cautious about assuming that we know the shape of the future.  This shape could be much bigger than we think and so what we get out of looking at the past in this case is just enough discipline to say let’s hold off on our assumptions.  So actually I'm looking for kind of anti-patterns.  Let’s not presume where the world goes.  Let’s be open to surprise.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

 

A Knowledge of History Keep...

Newsletter: Share: