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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: What questions do you ask yourself?

Laurence Tribe: Well the question, “What’s it all about?”  What’s it all for?  Is there some larger purpose?  Is this some accident that I exist just an accident?  Or is there something that it can contribute to?  And I mean I ask that, but I have no hope of getting an answer. “How can I be a better person?”  I ask that question a lot.  How can I get less frustrated, less angry with people?  How can I get more out of the time that’s left?  Because it’s kind of a waste to spend it being frustrated, angry, you know.  The notion that we only do this once, that it’s not a dress rehearsal – how can I translate that into leading a better life and doing more for people that I care about?  I mean I do ask that a lot, but it’s very hard to think that . . . that one will ever get answers to questions like that.

Because that’s what the human spirit is about – asking questions.  I guess if one stopped asking questions . . . I mean I want to know what will the world be like in 10 million years.  You know I want to know what will the first people who encounter intelligent life elsewhere think.  Will we be consumed by that intelligent life, or will we be enhanced by it?  Questions like that make life worth living.  Will anyone ever prove this or that conjecture?  Is there something as wonderful as Fermat’s last theorem that has yet to be proved that will be proved in my lifetime?  Will it be proof that I’ll be able to understand?  Questions like that are sort of at the core of existence.  The complacency of the graveyard.  No questions.  It’s all over.  It’s all finished.  Nothing to know, nothing to wonder about is almost the definition of death for me.

Question: What should we be asking ourselves?

Laurence Tribe: Well I suppose it’s fairly straightforward.  It’s “How can I do and be better?”  How can I make the world better than I’m making it now?  What can I do that contributes more?  How can I give back more of this extraordinary good fortune that I’ve received?


Laurence Tribe: What's Your...

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