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

The Value of Answers in Search of Questions

by Joi Ito
December 28, 2013, 8:00 AM
Shutterstock_126980690

The really important thing about the Media Lab is that we actually encourage doing research in areas that aren’t necessarily hot or big or even very clearly defined as to exactly what the application will be.  The idea is that we are trying to do the sorts of things that wouldn’t typically be done by other institutions and we’re trying also to really push and discover the boundaries.  And when you’re doing this kind of discovery, it’s actually very difficult to tell which technology is going to have the most impact.  

Every single project in the Media Lab, I think, has the potential to become incredibly impactful because we don’t necessarily know what question the answer is actually for. Nicholas Negroponte famously called the Media Lab a place full of answers looking for questions. It is interesting because in some of the most unexpected ways, technologies that we’re working on turn out to have tons of impact.  For instance, there’s a project where we’re testing skin conductivity, working with autistic kids.  There’s a huge problem in some of the developing countries in terms ort infant mortality.  Now they can measure when a woman goes into labor.  And so they’re trying to build these low cost devices that the women can wear in which as soon as she goes into labor, it sends a message to a hospital with GPS coordinates so that a doctor knows that the woman in going into labor.  

With these sorts of devices, the impact is really difficult to tell because it wasn’t until that NGO and that engineer or that student got together that they realized that this sort of solution could happen.  So I think the importance is that research is unbounded.  And so for me, it’s really very difficult to say that any particular piece of research is more important or more interesting than others.  To me what’s most exciting is the process that we use for discovery, the process of looking for the questions for the answers we’re developing.  

 

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

Image courtesy fo Shutterstock. 

 

The Value of Answers in Sea...

Newsletter: Share: