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

Do You Hate Politics? Blame Biology

December 2, 2013, 3:53 PM

I don’t think you can start talking about political order without talking about human biology.  There’s really two principles that I think every one of us is familiar with.  One the biologists call “Kin Selection” or “Inclusive Fitness.”  What that means is that we favor genetic relatives.  So this is the basic principle of nepotism.  The other one is called “Reciprocal Altruism,” which again, I think every one of us is familiar with: “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”  We build personal face-to-face relations using these two mechanisms.  

So we basically are programmed to favor friends and family, so no child needs to be taught how to do this and this is the default mode of politics.  And in some sense, to get real political order, we need to get beyond this kind of sociability. Chimpanzees do this. A lot of other animals favor friends and family, but you can’t have a human political order if that’s all you’re going to do.  You need citizens. You need people you’re going to treat in an impersonal way because that’s what a modern state is supposed to do.  

But we’re still stuck in that biology.  I think all of us recognize that we will behave this way if we’re not forced to, for example, hire somebody with talent rather than our cousin or our brother-in-law. 

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

Image courtesy of Shutterstock



Do You Hate Politics? Blame...

Newsletter: Share: