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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.

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.

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Predictive Analytics

The Big Idea for Saturday, January 11, 2014

We have generated a huge amount of information, which is very cheap to collect. But we are now able to see patterns and develop a new understanding of data. This gives us the potential to change our behavior.

As 80 percent of all humans own some sort of mobile phone, the amount of data we are creating is exploding. This so-called data exhaust can be just that -- exhaust and noise -- but it can also be collected and analysed, and then utilized as one of the most powerful assets in the 21st century economy. 

That's the view of tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, and organizations such as the World Economic Forum. Big Data is becoming as powerful an asset as oil, and it will be the source of many high quality jobs in the near future. There is also a dark side of Big Data, of course, as it can be seen as a threat to our privacy.

As we explore in today's lesson, Big Data can also be seen as a threat to free will. If predictive analytics can be used to pinpoint our behavior, even before we have purchased a product or committed a crime, how does that impact our understanding of free will and how we treat individuals accordingly?


  1. 1 Will Big Data Make Free Will Irrelevant?
    Big Think Editors Big Think TV
  2. 2 The Power to Predict, and Influence, the Future
    Eric Siegel
  3. 3 Big Data is Neutral: A Tool for Both Good and Evil
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  4. 4 You Are So Predictable: The Explosion of Predictive Analytics
    Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd Big Think TV

Predictive Analytics

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