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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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Stories of the American Land

December 15, 2009, 12:55 AM

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has tackled a wide variety of subjects, from jazz to baseball to war, but all have one thing in common: they cut somehow to the heart of the American story. In an interview with Big Think, Burns defended the claim made in the subtitle of his latest film, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," arguing that the story of our land is also the story of our people.

Throughout the conversation, Burns surveyed the full range of his storied career, beginning with his struggle as a young filmmaker to pitch his first documentary, "Brooklyn Bridge." He discussed not only the enduring American themes of "race and space" that unite his films, but also the groundbreaking techniques that distinguish them, including the "Ken Burns Effect" familiar to millions of users of Apple software. More contentiously, he argued that while digital software may have put filmmaking technologies in the hands of the masses, the idea that it makes us all filmmakers—let alone artists—"is bullshit."


Stories of the American Land

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