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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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Jonathan Safran Foer, Shelby Freedman Harris, and Yaakov Stern Interviewed by Big Think

August 27, 2010, 4:35 PM

A novelist and two neuroscientists came by Big Think's offices this past week.

Jonathan Safran Foer, one of the most acclaimed young novelists of the past decade, spoke to us about his passionate belief in vegetarianism and the evils of factory farms (which generate 99% of the meat we consume).  He noted that these farms are not only unethical and cruel but is the number one cause of global warming. Foer also told us about his creative process for fiction, saying that fiction is more freeing but also scarier than writing non-fiction.

The director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, Shelby Freedman Harris is an expert on sleep disorders. She explained Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT), the therapy she uses help patients combat persistent nightmares, often associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. By rehearsing nightmares in their conscious minds (and working to change the scary aspect of the dream to something pleasant), Harris's patients are often able to overcome these nightmares without any sort of medication. Harris also discussed other bizarre disorders like sleep paralysis and REM Behavior Disorder.

Finally, Columbia University neuropsychologist Yaakov Stern talked to us about the how the brain copes with aging and sleep deprivation. Stern told us about his research on why some people are able to function with less sleep than other people. He also explained his theory of cognitive reserve which explains why some brains are able to overcome the damage caused by Alzheimer's disease better than others. Stern says education and activity make the brain more plastic and thus more able to effectively work around neural degeneration.

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Jonathan Safran Foer, Shelb...

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