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

Americans Are Living on the Edge

October 8, 2011, 12:31 PM

Earlier this week, Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism flagged a disturbing finding from a September survey of U.S. households. The survey, which was conducted by a consortium of financial planning industry groups in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, found that one-third of Americans would not be able to make their rent or mortgage payments for more than a month if they lost their job.

Even relatively wealthy Americans are living close to the edge. The survey found that 10% of those earning more than $100,000 would miss a rent or mortgage payment if they lost their job. The study also found that less than 40% of Americans could make payments for more than 5 months. That doesn’t quite mean that if they lost their jobs they would be homeless, since many would be able to move into smaller homes or live with family. But it does show how little savings many Americans have and how difficult it is for them to maintain their standard of living. Three years since the start of the recession, it shows how close to the edge many Americans are still living.

Of course, one of the main reasons Americans default on their homes is because they’ve lost their jobs. With unemployment holding steady at more than 9%—yesterday’s jobs report showed the economy is barely adding enough jobs to keep up with the growth of the workforce—the labor market is still weak. The collapse of the housing bubble and high credit card debt mean that many Americans don’t have much in the way of savings. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the foreclosure rate is still high and first-time default notices actually rose in August.

Craig Pollack and Julia Lynch—who happens to be an old friend of mine—argue in The New York Times this week that the wave of foreclosures amounts to a literal health crisis. Research shows Americans who lose their homes have a harder time taking care of their health and disproportionately suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and depression. It’s ongoing disaster, and one which is only likely to get worse. With the eurozone crisis looming, the recent household survey shows how precarious the financial situation of ordinary Americans is—as well as just how fragile the American economy itself is.

Photo: Jeff Turner


Americans Are Living on the...

Newsletter: Share: