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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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TMI: We've Always Had Too Much Information (And We've Survived Just Fine)

July 3, 2013, 7:00 AM

The telegraph was the first technology, of course, that enabled virtually instantaneous messaging over long distances.  Before that, it’s almost impossible for us to, even though it’s less than 200 years, it’s, I think, for us to put our minds back in the place where the world was when you could not communicate more than a few feet or faster than a few days.  

The fastest a message could travel across the face of the earth was by Pony Express, and Pony Express, that was an express, that was super fast.  There was one exception to that in the opening chapter of my book, which was the talking drums of Africa, which astonished the first Europeans to arrive in that continent. 

Because Africans had a technology before there was an electrical telegraph in Europe that enabled them to send externally detailed and complex messages tens of miles in a matter of minutes, and that surpassed any technology that existed in Europe or Asia.

So there are a lot of lessons from history.  But another category of lesson is we’ve been here before, and, when we worry about too much information, when we look for new services to help us search and filter and find our way through the flood, it’s helpful to recognize that we aren't the first to have these problems.  

As soon as the printing press started flooding Europe with books, people were complaining that there were too many books and that it was going to change philosophy and the course of human thought in ways that wouldn't necessarily be good.  Leibniz complained in the seventeenth century about the horrible mass of books that was overwhelming Europe and he said threatened a return to barbarism.  So we aren't the first people to worry.  

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

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


TMI: We've Always Had Too M...

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