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


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


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
With rendition switcher


Question: What is the meaning of Barack Obama’s election to Africans?


Richard Dowden: The initial one was just huge. I had so many African friends e-mailing me, just saying, isn’t this absolutely wonderful? I was trying immediately to dig a little deeper, thinking, do you think he will make a difference in Africa? And then, I got a much more mixed reaction. It might be just the opposite because he may reading dreams from my father, suggest that he kind of gets it. Well, he’s caught up in it.

I mean, there’s terrible family feud with his own family and not knowing how he should really respond to it. And I just wonder whether he might say, almost because of my African parentage, I’m going to leave this to others.

On the other hand, I think what he could do is pick up the phone to African leaders in a way others could not and say, “This is the president of the United States speaking, and don’t forget I’m an African leader. I know you, you know. I know what you’re about.”

And be able to really talk directly and powerfully to people who he wants to persuade. I hope he’ll do that because, I think, he will make an impact. But, yes, elsewhere, among ordinary people, I think it’ll give a huge, huge boost to African self-confidence. And that is so important.


Question: Will Africa ever have its own Obama?


Richard Dowden: The extraordinary thing at the moment is that there isn’t a continent-wide leader at the moment. I think the last one who clearly qualified for that is Nelson Mandela. And since then, it’s all been a bit messy.

And I notice that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which gives this annual prize for leadership in Africa, I think this year, they’re going to have a difficulty in finding a candidate. Which will probably be quite a good thing. What they had in the past, they had Chissano of Mozambique, before that. Yeah, okay. And I just wonder whether they will find someone this year.

I don’t think, at the moment, we’re at that stage. It’s still at a rather messy, the long march stage where there’s going to be nobody that the rest of the world recognizes as a the leader of Africa.

And it’s a shame because there are so many things they could do at the moment if you had someone really powerful.

Before, when you had President Mbeki in South Africa, President Obasanjo in Nigeria, the two of them, between them, could sort out a lot of the problems in the continent. And I think the reason those wars that were being fought in the ‘90s in Africa came to an end was largely the efforts supported by the international community, but Mbeki and Obasanjo did a lot of work on sorting them out. There is no one of that weight at the moment. And maybe one of the reasons is that they do like to stay on. And the longer they stay on, they worst they get. Instead of leaving after two terms and then becoming an international statesman and creating, what I would think of as a sort of council of elders of ex-president who could go around in some, smack-down to war and they move in and they get in and; I think that would be terrific.

But it’s not happening. It’s not happening.


Recorded: March 16, 2009



Richard Dowden Considers Ob...

Newsletter: Share: