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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.

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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: Linguistic imperialism

The Big Idea for Saturday, September 22, 2012

One-fourth of the world's population can communicate in English with some level of proficiency. English has also emerged as the dominant language of academics. It is the dominant language of the Internet. It is indeed the dominant language of the knowledge economy. If you are an educated person in the 21st century, you speak English.

In other words, English plays the same functional role that Latin once did before it became essentially a dead language.

So what is the outlook for English as the globally dominant language? We asked the Princeton University language expert and translator David Bellos that question in a recent interview.



  1. 1 Will English Go the Way of Latin and Sanskrit?
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 How Many Words Do We Have For Coffee?
    David Bellos Experts' Corner
  3. 3 How Children Learn Language
    Steven Pinker
  4. 4 The Decline of the West?
    Niall Ferguson

Today's Big Idea: Linguisti...

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