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: What are the forces that have shaped who we are today?

Laurence Tribe: You know I wish I had the depth to say something that felt meaningful about that.  I mean I think of human history as such a small piece of a galaxy that is so vastly beyond our comprehension.  I marvel all the time that we can figure out with some sense of certitude when the Big Bang occurred; that we can have theories about why there might be similar creations going on in parallel universes all the time – how the human mind can mange to think that. And when I think about those large things of which the human brain is somehow capable, and recognize that brain has evolved over time, I think that the possibilities are limitless.  That is the idea of collective intelligence, of intelligence that is no longer bound by the limits that flesh is heir to, but is in software and disbursed in the universe.  The possibilities are so endless.  And the slice of it that we have seen in our . . . not only our personal experience but in our sense of the last several thousand years of history is so short, that one really has to hope rather than understand.  I mean my hope is that in the great privilege of experiencing life, each of us has been a kind of wave on a great sea of progress; that in fact in some … way it’s moving in a positive direction.  It’s not so much the … omega point.  It’s something that I have to admit I can’t possibly understand.  Our capacity to encompass it all is so limited.  Then I come back really just to the privilege of existing.  I mean you think about the probabilities.  I mean what’s the likelihood that you or I would exist in this universe?  If someone had had a drink of water in a different time of night when we were conceived we wouldn’t be here. The fact that we have this enormous privilege for a finite time of experiencing this tiny window of something so vast; and the fact that we can’t know where humanity is going, where history is going, why it’s gone this way rather than that, whether we are one of only an infinite number of parallel possible paths; the fact that we can’t know that could be a source of enormous fear and despair.  Or it could be a source of awe and wonder.  For me it’s the latter.  I think I said that for me amazement is the central human experience.  Being amazed at discovery, at understanding; to be part of the human experience and to experience the amazement of existence; to know that we have only a very short time here; that we’re simultaneously like a star and a snowflake, I mean, is an enormous amount to take in.  It makes one feel . . .  It makes me feel that in the finite time that’s left, one really has to do all one can.  And that doesn’t mean write all the books you can.  It doesn’t mean litigate all the cases you can.  It may mean hug your grandchildren a little more.  It may mean feel grateful for how the kids you raised are being wonderful parents.  It may mean making a connection with that one student who seems to be hopeless and showing that student that she can really maybe make a difference.  You know I’m sure I haven’t answered the question of how we got here or where we’re going; but I think it would be false to who I am for me to pretend, “Oh, I see the trajectory.  And I know where it’s going and how it got here.”  Because the fact is I don’t.

 

 

Laurence Tribe's State of t...

Newsletter: Share: