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: Why are teenagers the most prone to recklessness?

Laurence Steinberg: Well, I think you can answer that question on different levels, so let's give it a shot. Think about adolescence from an evolutionary point of view, all right? I mean, adolescence is really the beginning of when we're supposed to be reproducing. And if you look at other species, at puberty the juveniles -- and because some viewers might not realize this, all mammals go through adolescence, and we can measure when they are in the adolescent period in terms of the puberty hormones -- so if you look at what happens at puberty in other species, the juveniles leave the home. And that is, you know, designed so that they don't mate within their family. But now, leaving the home is a very risk proposition. It's dangerous to leave the protection of the older animals that have raised you and protected you. I think that that's why risk-taking is built into adolescence as a part of the repertoire of behavior that's good, that's important and that's necessary for evolution.

Now, the conditions under which we evolved are not the same as the conditions that exist today. And so this general inclination for risk-taking, which may be an inherent feature of adolescence, may lead kids into difficult and dangerous situations now that didn't exist when we were evolving, although it was a pretty dangerous time to be a human being when we were evolving as well. And I think that this then helps to explain why the brain changes the way it does during adolescence, why you have this increase in novelty-seeking that is linked to the sexual changes of puberty. And this then encourages kids to pursue rewards and to engage in pleasurable and exciting behaviors like having sex. And I think that if -- that by the same token, you know, the brain's self-regulatory systems are still developing then, and they come online in adulthood, which is when, evolutionarily speaking, we need that because that's when we're raising the children that we have produced during the adolescent years, after we become fertile. So I think it makes a lot of sense, and that's why I think that it's probably futile to try to stop kids from being the way they are. I think it's good to educate them; they need to understand the potential harms and dangers that are out there. But I think we need to recognize that education alone is not going to prevent adolescent risky behavior.

More from the Big Idea for Friday, August 30 2013

The Rules of Power

This summer has witnessed some spectacular falls from grace, from Anthony Weiner to Alex Rodriguez to the hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.  What these three fallen heroes have in common is they... Read More…


The Evolution of Recklessness

Newsletter: Share: