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

The True Cost of Congestion

February 29, 2012, 12:00 AM
Traffic

What's the Big Idea?

No one would accuse Gernot Wagner of having an environmentally irresponsible lifestyle. "I don’t drive," he tells Big Think. "I don’t even have a driver’s license. I don’t eat meat. I try to do all the right things."

And yet, are his actions making a difference? No. And your personal decisions won't make a difference, either, Wagner argues in a provocative new book, But Will the Planet Notice? How Smart Economics Can Save the World

Gernot Wagner is an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund who describes economics as "organized common sense." In other words, people respond to incentives, and therein lies Wagner's solution for solving some of our most vexing environmental challenges. One example that Wagner tackled in his book and fleshed out in a recent interview with Big Think, is the public cost of traffic congestion.

Watch the video here:

What's the Significance?

What is the public cost of a private decision? When it comes to driving, Wagner says "you wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t make sense to you. Your benefits are greater than your personal costs."

And yet, there are public costs such as pollution and congestion. Here is how Wagner describes the cost of congestion: "You driving on that bridge prevents someone else of being in that same spot as you are."

So, what to do? 

Economic regulations such as so-called "Congestion Pricing" attempts to incorporate these costs and "tries to make you personally incorporate the costs of your decision to get up, get into your car" and then look at "the true dollar value of the cost of driving and say, “Well, it still makes sense to me because the benefits are more than the costs.""

Or, on the other hand, you may decide to take the subway instead of driving in a congested area like New York City. That is because if the costs have changed individuals have been incentivized to take public transport "as opposed to sitting in a car idling and causing that pollution damage, causing that congestion cost, shoving that off onto everybody else." 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan

 

More from the Big Idea for Tuesday, November 26 2013

Energy Consciousness

Thank goodness we all don't have to rub sticks together to start a fire these days. All we have to do is flick a light switch or an oven to get the desired result. However, as Jeremy Shere points ... Read More…

 

The True Cost of Congestion

Newsletter: Share: