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

Creating the Right Incentives for Sustainability

January 15, 2012, 12:00 AM

What's the Big Idea? 

Larry Coben, Executive Director of the Sustainable Preservation Initiative, recognized an opportunity for the local population that lived around an archeological site called Inca Yocta--located in the mountains about 100 miles east of Cochabamba, Bolivia, at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. Not only would foreign tourists travel to the middle of nowhere to see the Incan ruins, Coben figured, but they would pay for the privilege. The hard part was convincing the villagers his plan would work.

In order to preserve the site, Coben urged the community not to grow crops, graze cattle or play soccer there. He had a difficult time convincing them. If given enough money, Coben knew he could have preserved the archeological site without much of a problem. He would simply build "Fort Knox around it and make sure that no one gets in." And yet, as Coben tells Big Think, "that’s hardly a good risk-reward calculus. I’d be spending a ridiculous amount of money for very little preservation and no community benefit."

Ultimately Coben convinced the community to put up a gate at the cost $50. In the first week four tourists visited, and each payed the $10 price of admission. By the following week they had a complete return on their investment.

What's the Significance?

As Coben muses, "I wish I could do that with all of the transactions in which I enter." As a result, Coben formed the Sustainable Preservation Initiative to try to "change the paradigm of the way archeologists deal with communities and preserve their sites."

Watch here:



Creating the Right Incentiv...

Newsletter: Share: