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


David Bellos: The situation today with respect to the diversity of language in the world is probably rather special.  It’s probably not got any real historical precedent.  English is the dominant inter-language of the world and it is used and spoken by vastly more people than those who have it as their first or family language.  Maybe up to a billion people speak English in the world who are not English speakers, if you see what I mean, to some level of proficiency.  It’s got nothing to do with the intrinsic qualities of the English language itself.  English is no more simple, no more complicated, no more accurate and no more fuzzy than any other language in the world. 

Although Latin performed a similar functional role for a thousand years between the Roman Empire and the 15th, 16th century as the language of science and as the language of theology and so forth in intercultural communication at a high level, I think English has spread much further both in the sense of the planet, but also much further down in terms of its usages.

This has one obviously negative consequence and that is that the relatively small number of people who speak English as their native tongue, as their dominant tongue and no other are becoming unique.  They are going to be very soon the only monolingual people in the world, lacking that double dimension that having another language always gives you.  So that’s the negative consequence.  

I don’t personally believe that the dominance of English as a global communication device is going to have any impact on the diversity of human languages.  People are going to go on speaking Chinese and French and Arabic and everything else.  Some of those smaller languages will die out, but other dialects and forms of speech will arise.  I don’t think there is going to be a kind of planetary unification of all forms of speech.  It’s not at all likely and nothing to be frightened of because it’s not going to happen.

It produces a sense of inferiority and irritation and annoyance and a degree of anti-Americanism amongst the speakers of those languages that in past centuries held the role of global inter-language, notably French, which was of course the international language for a couple of hundred years, but then so was Latin and so was Greek and so was Syriac and so was Arabic and so was Chinese.  I mean many languages have had this role and they’ve lost it.  After all Sumerian, remained a written language for a large part of the Middle East of the Assyrian sphere of influence for many centuries and the last uses of Sumerian for ceremonial and religious purposes date from the third century Common Era.  It had a run of 3,000 years.  Now English as a global language has had a run of, I don’t know, less than 50 years really, so we’re early days yet and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but the one thing I'm sure of is that nothing lasts forever.  

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


How Long Will the Global Do...

Newsletter: Share: