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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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An American Idea

The Big Idea for Thursday, July 04, 2013

On July 4, 1776, America boldly declared it independence from Great Britain, and in so doing the founding father's framed the idea of independence in a way that was strikingly original at the time. 

In honor of this anniversary we are examining those ideas that have stood the test of time and which also somehow embody a quality that is quintessentially American. So what does that mean? From the process of compiling this list we have detected a pattern. It is very difficult, after all, to claim that a certain idea -- such as the right to revolution, for instance -- is a wholly original American idea.

What is apparent, however, is that due to its history, its geography, and a host of other factors, America has been throughout its history a great synthesizer of ideas. In other words, all ideas have a history. Many American ideas were imported. And yet, what we see in many cases is how certain ideas were allowed to play out - and ultimately win out - in the American context.

Despite its shortcomings, we see the American context as a solid platform for the synthesis of the ideas of the future, which will no doubt increasingly give the appearance not as distinctly American ideas, but global ideas. 


  1. 1 An American Idea: The Great Synthesizer
    Nicholas Clairmont Think Tank
  2. 2 An American Idea: Public Education
    Jackson Allison Think Tank
  3. 3 An American Idea: The Separation of Church and State
    Nicholas Clairmont Think Tank
  4. 4 An American Idea: Fordism
    Jackson Allison Think Tank
  5. 5 An American Idea: The Blues
    Nicholas Clairmont Think Tank

An American Idea

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