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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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Today's Big Idea: Manufactured Demand

The Big Idea for Monday, September 10, 2012

America's consumer economy is based on a lot of people buying a lot of things they don't need very often. In order to grow revenues, companies turn to advertising to create the desire for products that people otherwise wouldn't buy. This is called Manufactured Demand.

Allain de Botton, a prominent atheist writer and a co-founder of The School of Life, poses this question to Big Think: What if we were able to take the tools of advertising and marry them with virtues that are worth promoting in our world today? This "Ethical Advertising Agency," as he deems it, would be able to nudge us to be our best selves.

So let's get started. What are the six virtues worth promoting in 2012?


  1. 1 Alain de Botton: Imagining Advertisements for Things We Really Need
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 How to Get Ahead in Chinese Advertising
    Jason Gots Think Tank
  3. 3 How Classic Advertising Teaches us About America
    Tal Pinchevsky Trend World
  4. 4 Nina DiSesa: Does advertising manipulate?
    Nina DiSesa

Today's Big Idea: Manufactu...

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