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


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

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


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

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


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
With rendition switcher


Sam Wang: So there are two kinds of ways that neuroscience may be transforming. One that’s internal to the field, another that perhaps links to the rest of society.

So let’s start with neuroscientists. One thing that neuroscientists are very interested in right now is understanding how genetics and development can lead to the wiring of a brain. And one thing that’s become very big in the last few years is the idea that we may start having enough technology to be able to completely map out a fairly advance piece of tissue, like part of our brains, or part of the brain of a mouse. And technologies are being developed to basically give us the circuit diagram.

So everyone’s heard of a human genome project in which you sequence the entire genome of, say, a human being. There’s something that is jokingly called the human brainome project, which is to come up with something analogous in terms of mapping a human brain both for long distances and also in detail. And I think that technology has a potential to be transformative to how neuroscientists think about the problems that they’re working on.

Now, there’s another aspect to that question, which is how neuroscience is going to transform or interact with the rest of society. And there’s two ways that that can happen.

One way is, I think, the medical way, which we all are thinking about. You ask me before about Alzheimer’s disease. As we start beginning to understand the brain as a biological organ, we can start addressing neurological diseases like autism, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s. And I think that’s something where there’s going to be huge advances.

And then, there’s this other kind of thing that’s not medical. Let’s call it philosophical. The idea that our brains underlie a wide variety of human experiences. So, for instance, criminality. What does it mean to be criminally capable? Economic behavior, what is it that causes an economic bubble? Why do bubbles form and why do they burst? What is it that makes us fall in love? What is it that makes us form friendships? Why do we declare war on people we’ve never met?

And all of these things are aspects of human experience. And, I guess, what I’m claiming here is that as neuroscience advances, we’re going to start understanding all of these things in terms of brain mechanisms. And I think that all these things are old things that have been with us for… from time immemorial. But, I think, that as neuroscience advances, they’re all going to look a little bit different.


If people are interested in the brain, I mean, at a very basic level, I think our book, “Welcome to Your Brain”, is something that’s fairly introductory for people who have knowledge at all.

I think that one thing that people read if they want to keep up with current discoveries that’s always fun to read is the magazine “Scientific American Mind.” I know that I’m always learning new things from that. It ranges from discoveries that my colleagues are making about, say, how wheels work or how neuroplasticity may work to things that are very much concerns in everyday life like why is it that we are unable to imagine death or why do we procrastinate.

I find that that magazine is a great resource for people at all levels, both introductory and also very expert.


Recorded on: April 24, 2009.



Exploring the Latest Trends...

Newsletter: Share: