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

Alain de Botton: Imagining Advertisements for Things We Really Need

September 10, 2012, 12:00 AM
Shutterstock_91567268

What's the Big Idea?

You don't need this product. But I want you to buy it. So I am going to confuse you. Then I will be able to seduce you into buying my product. That is the logic of advertising, or manufactured demand, says Alain de Botton, a prominent atheist author and a co-founder of The School of Life

But what if advertising could be used for things that we really do need? Botton imagines what a world would look like if the tools of advertising could be used to nudge us to be the best of ourselves.

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

Is it at all practical to imagine an "ethical advertising agency," as Botton proposes, that would be used to create "beautiful presentations of the most important ideas around." Here's the challenge, as Botton wrote in The Huffington Post:

The real difficulty with the ideas which underlie virtues like love or compassion is not that they seem surprising or peculiar, but rather that they seem far too obvious: their very reasonableness and universality strip them of their power. To cite a verbal parallel, we have heard a thousand times that we should love our neighbor, but the prescription loses any of its meaning when it is merely repeated by rote. So too with bad adverts: the best virtues, presented without talent or imagination, generate only indifference and boredom. The task for advertisers is therefore to find new ways of prizing open our eyes to tiresomely familiar yet critical ideas.

Botton's ad agency would each year promote 6 virtues, selected through an online poll. He says this would unite the praiseworthy artistry of advertisers with high moral ambitions that are often elusive in capitalism. A modest proposal. To test its practicality, let's get started. What are the six most important virtues for 2012?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

More from the Big Idea for Friday, December 13 2013

Affect Heuristic

We make decisions all the time based on emotions. Whether we decide to buy a pair of shoes or follow a certain career, we allow ourselves to get swept up by fantasies that offer promises of escape... Read More…

 

Alain de Botton: Imagining ...

Newsletter: Share: