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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.

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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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Can We Reach the End of Knowledge?

January 19, 2013, 12:00 AM

What's the Big Idea?

If Western philosophy begins with the Greek philosopher Thales, it begins with the question of whether humans can ever arrive at the dream of "knowing all there is to know." Thales had his answer. Water held the key to understanding the universe. It was believed to be the substance from which everything that exists is derived. 

As knowledge has marched triumphantly forward ever since, scientists have continued to look for ways to simplify all knowledge with a unified theory, and grown ever-confident in our ability to develop such a theory.

Groundbreaking discoveries in physics, such as the realization of the importance of dark matter, for instance, have challenged this notion. The more we learn, the more it pushes the boundaries of what we don't know.  

Marcelo Gleiser, professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth, describes this problem by using the metaphor of an island. Knowledge is an island. As this island grows, Gleiser says, the border of what we do not know also grows. So the history of knwoledge will always be incomplete. 

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

Can a single theory give us a consistent picture of the evolution of the universe? That is what scientists from Newton to Einstein attempted to do. The proponents of Super String Theory today are attempting to do the same thing. 

String Theory is a notoriously untestable model that attempts to describe all fundamental forces and forms of matter. As Gleiser points out, in order for a theory to have true relevance to our world you must be able to design an experiment to test it. When you're theory involves multiple hidden dimensions, you end up with a theory that is not even wrong


Can We Reach the End of Kno...

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