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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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Question: What forces have shaped America?

Richard Meier: My mother’s mother, who lived in Newark, had a boyfriend who she was deeply in love with. And he decided in 1865, I believe it was, to go to California to seek his fortune by finding gold. He left and went to California, and some months later she got on a covered wagon and went to California to meet up with him. Well it didn’t work out for reasons that I don’t know. She got back on a covered wagon and came back across the country to Newark. That’s always been an inspiration to me – to be able to go across the country, through the wild, at that time being shot at or God knows what, and yet have that sense of adventure. Not adventure, but a sense of purpose that no matter what happens, it’s worth seeking that which you wish to have.I think that that feeling of going after something, doing something; the possibility that you can do it is very much an American ideal.


Recorded on: September 17, 2007.



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