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

Larry Summers: Can We Keep Spending Like Americans?

November 25, 2011, 12:00 AM
Black_friday

What’s the Big Idea?

Last year some 212 million Americans spent over $45 billion over Black Friday Weekend. To put that in perspective, Americans spent more than the 2010 GDP of North Korea in one weekend. Sure, that represents the clear triumph of American capitalism over North Korean communism. And yet, according to former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, the story that will be written in the history books 50 or 150 years from now will be about "the rise of Asia and the developing world," where living standards are rapidly increasing.

The problem is not everyone on the planet can consume like Americans. We would need more like four planets to sustain that. So what is Summers’s advice for the present? We need to save, while other countries, like China, need to spend. (Summers points out that China currently spends less than 40 percent of its GNP.) The immediate benefit of increased spending in the developing world will be more global prosperity. And Summers says more global prosperity means greater global stability.

Watch here:

What’s the Significance?

Summers says we need an international solution to two existential threats facing the world right now—global warming and nuclear proliferation. That means the United States will need to take a leadership role as part of a “global steering committee” that supports more inclusive democracy and more inclusive prosperity.

Take China. The country has functioned more or less as America’s ATM while investing very little in increasing the living standards of its own people. China is laying waste to the environment and its long-term stability is suspect. Take North Korea. The insular and incredibly paranoid regime in power there is armed with nuclear weapons.

Unless we are able to create more inclusive democracy and more inclusive prosperity in these areas, we will never be able to tackle the dual threat of global warming and nuclear proliferation, issues that Summers says “have the chance to profoundly change the terms of life on earth 50 or 100 years from now.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @DanielHonan

 

Larry Summers: Can We Keep ...

Newsletter: Share: