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

James Gleick: Humanity has always been readjusting to developments in the flow of information.  Printed books appeared in Europe.  People had to readjust their thinking.  The telegraph made it possible to send instantaneous messages from one place to another place 100 miles away.  People had to readjust and they weren't always aware of the ways in which they were readjusting.    

One of the ways the telegraph changed us as humans was it gave us a new sense of what time it is.  It gave us an understanding of simultaneity.  It gave us the ability to synchronize clocks from one place to another.  It made it possible for the world to have standard time and time zones and then Daylight Savings Time and then after that jetlag.  All of that is due to the telegraph because, before that, the time was whatever it was wherever you were.  It was only when the telegraph made it possible to synchronize human activity across great distances that we needed to understand time in what, I think it’s fair to say, the modern way we understand it now.  

Well, how is the Internet going to force us to readjust?  Certainly in ways that we can't yet guess because these are early days for the Internet and just as certainly in ways that we’re beginning to get a glimmering of.  We already, I think, are familiar with this syndrome of being at a dinner party and hearing an argument break out about who was the star of that movie five years ago. . . . You reach for the device in your pocket because you know that, even if you don't know the answer, the answer is a thumbs-length away.  That changes us.  I mean, it makes the conversation seem pointless, boring.  I don't know.  Choose your poison.

We humans are information-seeking creatures.  Information is what we love.  Information is what we live by, and it’s always been that way.  We have always been walking on thin ice.  Every time a new technology comes along, we feel we’re about to breakthrough. . . . 

We have all these new information organizers.  We have Wikipedia, which is a successor to the encyclopedias that began spreading across Europe and China hundreds of years ago.  These old information organizers were attempts to make sense of a confused new world.  The more knowledge spread, the more people needed to create categories, to create filing systems.  Alphabetical order had to be invented to help people organize the first dictionaries.  On the other hand, we may have reached a point where alphabetical order has gone obsolete.  Wikipedia is ostensibly in alphabetical order, but, when you think about it, it’s not in any order at all.  You use a search engine to get into it.  The fact that G’s come after the F’s don't make any sense.  So sure, that's part of the evolution of the species.  

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

More from the Big Idea for Tuesday, February 11 2014

Information Theory

One of the paradoxes of information theory, as James Gleick points out in today's lesson, is this: Information, such as a string of English text, has organization in it and the organization all... Read More…

 

Human Beings Are Informatio...

Newsletter: Share: