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


Larry Coben:  Any time you’re looking to achieve a goal you need to look at the risk/reward calculus.  I can certainly preserve any archeological site in the world if you give me enough money. I'll build Fort Knox around it and make sure that no one gets in, but that’s hardly a good risk/reward calculus.  I’d be spending a ridiculous amount of money for very little preservation and no community benefit. 

In this particular case we were able to spend very little money, enhance preservation and create an enormous community benefit. The site was called Inca Yocta.  It’s located about 100 miles east of Cochabamba, Bolivia, which is the third largest city there, so it’s truly in the middle of nowhere at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. I would talk to the community time and time again about not growing crops on this site and not grazing cattle at this site, not playing soccer at this site and I was not able to stop them.

Out of desperation I put up a gate five miles away from the site in consultation with the local community. I said to the community if a Bolivian comes through, charge them nothing, but if a foreigner comes, charge them $10 and this is an area where the per capita income was probably $100 per year and they looked at me like I was crazy, that nobody would pay $10 to look at these rocks, but I knew that a tourist who had rented a guide and a taxicab or a car and had driven 200 miles,  would certainly pay $10, and I said I will even pay for the gate.  It cost $50 and we put the gate up and the first week four tourists came, so we collected $40. 

The next week four more came, so we actually had a complete return on investment in a week and a half.  I wish I could do that with all of the transactions in which I enter. More importantly, the community began to look at the asset differently. They stopped growing crops and paid people not to grow crops there. They stopped grazing and using it. It became not just an important part of their past and history, which they knew, but this site had relevance to their daily lives, not just intangibly, but tangibly a real economic benefit. As a result I formed the Sustainable Preservation Initiative to try to change the paradigm of the way archeologist deal with communities and preserve their sites.  Traditionally it has been about repairing walls and consolidating them and it’s to change the attitude to focus on people and not stones.


Teaching Risk and Reward in...

Newsletter: Share: