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

Watch Out Putin, Spring Is Coming

May 8, 2012, 5:47 PM

What is the Big Idea?

Vladimir Putin is officially back for his third term as president of Russia, but this time he faces a different political climate than he did in his first two stints, writes former Belgium prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, for The New York Times

"Even he cannot prevent the arrival of a Russian Spring if reform is permanently stifled," said Verhofstadt. "The West must also be ready and willing to play its part in pressing for change."

So how does this Russia differ from the one he handed over to Dmitri Medvedev in 2008?

  • Promises of modernization and a rule of law were empty gestures as the already crumbling political system, corrupted to its core, continued to falter.
  • A stagnant economy, an uncertain business climate, degraded infrastructure and social sector, an unrealistic and inflationary budget and a pension system funded largely by exorbitant oil prices do not constitute a solid basis to advance the country in a sustainable way.
  • There is now a revived civil society, a vibrant Russian middle class, educated Muscovites and a political opposition from left to right that refuses to remain passive.

What is the Significance?

Russia is long overdue for change and it is as much in the interest of the West as of Russia itself, says Verhofstadt. But the West can only do so much. 

"Russia needs a complete reboot of the system," he writes. "But the changes need to come from within, and they will only be credible if they are legitimate in the eyes of the Russian people."

Russia needs access to and respect from the outside world. The European Union and the United States needs a united front to leverage their power and push the country towards reform, fair elections and real political competition. 

So what can they do to push Russia in the right direction?

  • There should be no more summits that discuss modernization without discussing democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
  • The adoption of similar laws on both sides of the Atlantic to block visas and freeze the assets of those Russian officials, and their immediate families, involved or complicit in the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer who died in jail after alleging widespread tax fraud by officials, would have a sobering effect.
  • Reviving the Helsinki process for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Russia could be an effective tool to promote change. Based on the Helsinki accord of 1975, the international community should unite in its efforts to support Russian civil society.

"Russia is a proud country with a proud people," says Verhofstadt. "The international community should speak out plainly and act firmly. But ultimately change must and will come from within."

Photo courtesy of Mark III Photonics/Shutterstock.com


Watch Out Putin, Spring Is ...

Newsletter: Share: