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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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Brain Power

The Big Idea for Monday, April 21, 2014

"With respect to the development of powers devoted to coping with specific scientific and economic problems," wrote philosopher John Dewey, "we we may say that the child should be growing in manhood. With respect to sympathetic curiosity, unbiased responsiveness, and openness of mind, we may say that the adult should be growing in childlikeness."

The seminal thinker on education in the 20th century, Dewey defined learning as the reorganization of experience into meaning. Human beings must do more than learn; we also learn to learn, he argued. But what? And how?

In her six series on self control in children, Sandra Aamodt, PhD and author of Welcome to Your Child's Brain, explores the development of conscience, empathy, and "theory of mind," or the ability to imagine what other people are thinking and feeling. Aamodt suggests that parents and teachers help children label their emotions at an early age. As kids grow to understand motivation and consequence, they become warmer and more sensitive.

We adults can strive to become more like children by exploring spontaneity and learning how to achieve wu wei--the ancient Chinese practice of "flow," effortless achievement. Success comes with letting go, and letting spontaneity in, which is the focus of Edward Slingerland's critically acclaimed new book Trying Not to Try. Big Think interviewed Slingerland about the power of spontaneity. 


  1. 1 The Dao of Letting Go (and Not Trying)
    Big Think Editors Think Tank
  2. 2 Killing Creativity
    Sam McNerney Moments of Genius
  3. 3 When Does Learning Begin?
    Megan Erickson Think Tank
  4. 4 Social Skills 101
    Sandra Aamodt How to Build Your Child's Self-Control

Brain Power

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