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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: Humanizing Technology

The Big Idea for Saturday, June 23, 2012

100 years ago today Alan Turing was born. As scientists everywhere celebrate the achievements of this pioneer in the fields of computing and artificial intelligence, we are taking a closer look at his life and what both his triumphs (helping to win the Second World War) and his suffering (subjected to torturous treatment by his own government for being gay) can tell us about the impact of technology on our lives.

Turing invented the famous "Turing Test" toward the end of his life, which ended in suicide. This test was designed to differentiate humans from computers. Some scientists speculated that a computer would be able to past this test some time in the 1950s, but they were far off the mark. So how far have we come today, and how can our technological progress be measured terms of the life horizon of one of the 20th century's greatest innovators?

There is also a serious moral and ethical question for us to contend with as well. As we integrate technology more and more into our lives, is it making it more or less human? After all, as Jaron Lanier tells Big Think, Turing's test represented both a defense of life, and a flight from life. 


  1. 1 In Defense of Life: Alan Turing, the Original Hacker.
    Daniel Honan Humanizing Technology
  2. 2 What Went Wrong With AI?
    Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd Big Think TV
  3. 3 How Close is the Turing Test to Being Beaten?
    Nicholas Clairmont Humanizing Technology
  4. 4 A Computer Walked into a Bar: Take the Turing Test 2.0
    Daniel Honan Think Tank

Today's Big Idea: Humanizin...

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