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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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The Big Idea for Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Why do bad things happen to people? In the case of natural disasters, most people would agree that if a hurricane destroys your house, you did nothing to deserve it. If you live in a city that was affected by such a natural disaster, citizens in other parts of the country should rightly be compelled to help you out.

But what if disaster strikes your city in a different form -- mismanagement? The idea that you are therefore less deserving of help, Steven Mazie argues in today's lesson, "is the crassest version of the luck-egalitarian idea that while the government should help you out if you fall ill or suffer a freak accident through no fault of your own, you should be held responsible for the consequences flowing from your consciously undertaken decisions."


  1. 1 Should the Federal Government Bail out Detroit?
    Steven Mazie Praxis
  2. 2 If De Tocqueville Could See Us Now
    Ian Buruma
  3. 3 Detroit: The Next American Ghost Town?
    Richard Florida
  4. 4 What the Fortunate Owe the Rest of Us
    Steven Mazie Praxis


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