What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

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.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

Slaughter:    Well, the first thing to say about being in China is it’s breathtaking.  I remember coming to New York as an undergraduate for the first time and feeling like the energy was just, perhaps it’s kind of coming up through the pavements.  It was like an electric jolt.  And that’s what being in China is like today, being in Shanghai, being in Beijing, even being in many of the interior cities.  The place is growing so fast and there are so many changes and cultures colliding and ideas colliding and young people living completely different lives than their parents that there’s this palpable sense of energy and change.  And that’s, of course, drawn young people and older people from all over the world who feed off that kind of energy, which, of course, just increases it.  So, China is like a year-long buzz in the sense of being energized in many ways.  That’s the first impression and that’s the impression that most people who go for a couple of weeks or even a month come back with and they say, as my mother has said, “They’re going to bury us.”  You know, when you look at how fast their infrastructure is being built and you come back to New York and you realize, you know, their projects that have been ongoing for 5 or 10 years or in Europe.  But if you’ve been there for a while, you actually see a quite different picture, because that change is definitely there, the development is extraordinary, but it creates a very fragile society, and I think a fairly fragile polity.  Susan Shirk has this great book where she talks about China: Fragile Superpower, and what she’s talking about is anytime you uproot a culture as dramatically as this one has been uprooted and changed, you have a lot of people who are not connected to their village, to their traditional social structures who have very high expectations.  These kids who come in from their villages to go to [Szechuan] or any of the big cities, they’re expecting a better life.  They’re expecting a dream life where they are going to have a car and an apartment.  Those expectations are hard to satisfy.  And when things go wrong, you don’t have a lot of traditional structures to ensure order and to ensure taking care of people.  So, in many ways, it’s as if the Chinese government is surfing on a huge wave, you know, constantly hoping it’s not going to break over and constantly hoping it can stay ahead of these forces that are being unleashed.  What that means is China is very focused, it’s looking inward, not outward.  I mean, of course, it wants to announce to the world that it’s arrived and the Olympics did that without question.  But, what it really wants is stability and continuing economic growth, because the minute economic growth drops, you know, for us economic growth drops we’re talking 1%, 0.5%, they’re talking anything below 6% is trouble.  They then have got lots of problems.  So, I came back actually looking at us, we have plenty of problems, but we’ve got layers of infrastructure, both physical infrastructure but also social and economic infrastructure, and that is a tremendous bulwark when we’re going through so much change, and it also gives us the foundation to reinvent ourselves in a less fragile way.

 

Anne-Marie Slaughter on the...

Newsletter: Share: