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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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Today's Big Idea: Brain Power

The Big Idea for Sunday, July 15, 2012

The cognitive science revolution of the past two decades has given us the technology to see what is happening in the human brain in real time and the philosophy to interpret it. 

It's an exciting time to be studying human nature. Daniel Dennett is a philosopher who takes a reductionist approach to understanding human consciousness, arguing that it is not an impenetrable mystery, and that the same methodology used in other areas can be applied to Big Questions such as How does thought arise from matter? "For as long as I can remember, I’ve been puzzling about how consciousness could work," he recalls. "What can be going on in between one’s ears that could explain all of the things that happen?" If we break down the hard problem of neuroscience, we can begin to build up a sense of all the things that need to go on for us to be conscious, says Dennett.

Philosopher Alva Noe, on the other hand, believes that consciousness is not something that occurs "between one's ears." In fact, it is not an internal thing at all. According to one Noe, one's sense of self does not arise solely from cellular and neurological interactions in the brain, but rather, from a complex composite of experience, time, and presence.

 

Perspectives

  1. 1 The Ghost in the Machine: Unraveling the Mystery of Consciousness
    Megan Erickson Think Tank
  2. 2 The Mechanics of Studying Consciousness
    Daniel Dennett
  3. 3 Consciousness: The Black Hole of Neuroscience
    Megan Erickson Think Tank
  4. 4 Thinking Your Way to a Better Brain
    Maria Konnikova Artful Choice
 

Today's Big Idea: Brain Power

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