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

Brad Templeton: Privacy and Security Are Not Mutually Exclusive

August 21, 2014, 12:01 AM

Isn't the internet great? It's this remarkable and multifaceted one-stop shop for socializing, romance, commerce, and cat videos. But thanks to the revelations of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers, we've realized that the internet is also something else -- something a lot less exciting.

Brad Templeton, the Track Chair for Computing at Singularity University, explains:

"What has the government done and what has big business done? They've turned [the internet] into the world's greatest surveillance apparatus, a surveillance apparatus that even George Orwell probably wouldn't have dreamed of."

Templeton is very passionate about the invasive nature of widespread internet surveillance because it exists as an affront to the idea of a free society. A free society, in searching for a needle in a haystack, does not opt to tear apart the entire haystack.

"Nobody thinks that we shouldn't have police and intelligence agents whose job it is to find bad guys and stop bad guys. That's not a question. But a free society makes a decision for itself. It makes a decision to limit the power of its police and its intelligence agents. It makes the decision to let some bad things happen, to let some guilty people get away in order to avoid punishing innocent people, [to avoid] doing surveillance on people who are innocent and there's no reason to suspect them.  But unfortunately that's not what happens."

So how do we, as citizens of a free society, fight against it? Templeton believes the key is in drawing the line between security and privacy. We need to establish that they're not mutually exclusive, that you don't need to search the entire haystack to feel safe:

"We need to make people think there's not necessarily some trade-off between privacy and security, that it's possible sometimes to keep your rights and gain security at the same time, it's just harder.  The easy thing to do is just make everyone give up their rights."

A related challenge to personal liberties exists in the form of invasive and futile anti-privacy measures:

We have a lot of forces pushing for laws and technology to basically lock down your computer so not so that you can trust it but so that movie studios and governments and so on can trust that you can't do things on it.  And that is something that computer engineers all know is never going to work and is just going to make things broken.

For more on internet surveillance, as well as a discussion about how to protect free speech on the web, be sure to watch this clip from Brad Templeton's Big Think interview:


Brad Templeton: Privacy and...

Newsletter: Share: