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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.

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Question: How did you become who you are?

Laurence Tribe: You know I still think of myself as an artistic kid who loves math.  I saw somebody with a teacher the other day that said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”  And I still feel very playful in what I read, in the novels I read, and in the mathematics I try to keep up with.  I still do portraits, and landscapes, and seascapes, and rockscapes with pastels from time to time.  So I don’t see myself as very different.  I do see myself as happier, I think, than I was when I was growing up.  I have a different kind of self-doubt.  I think I use to doubt that I would succeed at various things.  Now I doubt that the success I had was deserved.  I used to … I used to doubt that my kids would be safe and I always worried.  Now I see them as wonderful parents in their own right and feel terrific about that.  But I doubt that I’ll be able to be as helpful to them as I would love to be still.  You know like all people they have problems.  They have issues.  They have things that they would like to have different in their lives.  My son teaches at Brown, but also lives with his wife and baby daughter in Manhattan.  It’s not easy to have a life like that.  So I still worry about things as I always have.  But I don’t recognize in my life some dramatic transition from someone who was the way that you described.  How old was I when I said that?  What year was that?


Laurence Tribe on His Identity

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