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

Question: Since 9/11, has America adopted wise short-term and long-term policies in the war on terror?

Robert Wright: Well I am much more pessimistic about the chances of our – I guess I’m more pessimistic about the outcome on the so-called war on terror now than I was shortly after 911. And I would say the mistake I think we’ve made is to overestimate the near term threat and underestimate the long-term threat. So, the big threat is still years off when you might have terrorist groups truly in possession of nuclear weapons, or truly devastating biological weapons. And I don’t mean anthrax, which is not – doesn’t leave anything contagious. But truly devastating biological weapons. That’s the thing to worry about. And the trouble is that if you get scared about the short term and start overreacting to that threat by doing thing like invading countries, what you wind up doing is making it more likely that the long-term threat will be realized because you increase the number of people who hate you and you kind of help do the job of terrorist recruiters for them. And just little things like reacting to a failed attempt to bomb an airplane by saying, “Well, maybe we should start doing ethnic profiling in airports and stuff.” I mean, if you don’t think Osama Bin Laden would love to see us do ethnic profiling, then I think you really don’t understand what he’s after. I mean, that’s exactly playing into his hands. And so, I just think that’s the sense in which – one of many in which being kind of panicked about the short term, when in truth, there aren’t any massive short-term threats out there, is making it more likely that the more apocalyptic scenario in the long-term could unfold. I think that’s the big mistake we’ve made is to just not realize that hatred will be increasingly lethal as time goes on, so it’s better to generate less of it than more.

Question: If the US were to start over in its strategy in the war on terror, what would you advise?

Robert Wright: I would say, first of all, think about establishing structures of international governance that would effectively police weapons of mass destruction. And we haven’t made any, if much, progress on that front since 911. And don’t be distracted from that by short-term adventures that are kind of focused on a single seeming manifestation of the same threat. Like in Iraq. I mean, we actually knew there were no – no one thought there were actual nuclear weapons, per se, in their – or truly contagious biological weapons for which we lacked a vaccine or anything like that. So, we should not have gotten sidetracked by these various things. And I think what that would call for is a president who really gave the “nothing to fear but fear itself” kind of sermon in an inspirational way. In other words, that irrational fear is the greatest enemy. It’s going to lead us to play into their hands.

Recorded on February 12, 2010

Interviewed by Austin Allen

 

How the US Plays Into Bin L...

Newsletter: Share: