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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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Nicholas Lemann: Well I can tell you specifically. I mean it’s sort of hard to say. I didn’t know any journalists when I was growing up or anything, and I just . . . I was very much drawn to it for some reason. So the way I got into it specifically was, you know, other than working on school papers and so on, when I was a . . . I guess the ‘60s came to New Orleans in the early ‘70s when I was finishing high school. And the sort of center of that culture was down in the French Quarter, so there started to be some underground and alternative newspapers in New Orleans. And one of them I particularly liked called the ... Courier. It no longer exists. It had started in the early ‘60s as an architectural preservation publication. It sort of morphed into our first weekly. So I, you know, had decided that I was really interested in journalism. I liked this paper, and one day when I was a senior in high school, I just kind of screwed up my courage and went to their office and said I wanted to write for them. And we made an arrangement where, if I would agree to be the person who took all the papers when they came out and put them in the coin boxes and emptied the coin boxes, they would let me write an article. So I took that deal. So then I started, you know, emptying coin boxes and writing for them. And I wrote for them through, you know, the sort of spring and summer when I was finishing high school. And then went off to college and came back and worked for them again the next summer, and then sort of was off to the races from there.


Recorded on: 11/30/07






Nicholas Lemann: How did yo...

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