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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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Audience member: One of you mentioned some of the clinical challenges of pandemics, and about how the healthcare system isn’t quite ready to handle a huge pandemic. How might the current healthcare reform present challenges and opportunities for pandemics in the future?


Jeff Koplan: Oh you’ve hit the nail right on the head. When we talk about being prepared, that area we are least prepared with, is taking care of people at the early stages of their illness, because of the large number of people who won’t come in because they’re uninsured or underinsured.

And people tend not to think of the healthcare system as an element of this problem in being prepared. But the speed with which we recognize new cases in any outbreak, not just influenza, but an anthrax attack, bio-terrorism event, SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome], it’s extremely important in control measures. And the longer you get significant pockets of population not coming for care when they become ill is a serious problem for these type of pandemics.

So I think healthcare reform that provides some level of universal coverage with people, and encourages them to come in when they’re sick at early stages, is extremely important in these control areas.


Preventing Future Pandemics...

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