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.

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Question What forces have shaped humanity most?

Jim Barksdale: The stirrup led to the fact that riders could get more leverage so they could carry a lance.  The lance led to having the long bow.  The long bow led to armor.  The armor led to the manufacturing process.  The manufacturing process led . . .  All of these things.  There’s a marvelous book called “Pinball Effect”.  If we go back and try to train . . . change or try to understand all of the consequential effects of the many things that have happened in humankind, we can always find good things that led to others.  And we can always find bad things that led to more bad things.  There’s a constant battle between invention and need; but I do know one thing.  Necessity is always the mother of invention.  And you can trace the beginning of the porcelain industry in China and the soap trade to the modern day microchip and the silicon processing capabilities.  All of these things lead to each other.  And great organizations came from other needs that translated to others.  The need for deep well pumping systems led to the Watts steam engine; which led to new forms of travel; which led to new forms of communication.  I love to read about inventions – who invented what.  And I believe that the unintended consequences of so many things that happen every day in our lives – and the Internet is a great example – are almost unpredictable in their nature.  They are unpredictable, but they’re the great excitement of human learning and discovery.


Recorded on: 7/5/07


Technology in Perspective

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