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's your legacy? 

Alan Dershowitz: My current life work has been to try to find the jurisprudence that constrains what I call the “preventive state.” The state now is moving much more from reacting to violence – deterring people from committing violence by punishing those who’ve already done it – to a proactive, preemptive, preventive mode. Moving in. Stopping people from doing it. Preventive detention such as that which exists in Guantanamo [Bay, Cuba] and many other places around the world today. Preventive intelligence gathering. The use of cyberspace and picking up of conversations in space. The use of preventive interrogation, including torture.

All of these things are part of one of the most important and yet unwritten about phenomenon in the world. The preventive state. The state moving in early. Trying to anticipate. The state moving in against sexual predators. The state moving in against potential terrorists.

And what I’ve been trying to do is construct a jurisprudence for that phenomenon. I became interested, for example, in affirmative action. I support affirmative action, but I didn’t like the fact that it didn’t have a jurisprudence.

University admissions officers had too much discretion in how they would formulate programs for admitting minorities, and I was working very hard to try to construct a jurisprudence to constrain that use of power; the use of power to prevent and censor speech which is becoming more and more problematic as the Internet, without publishers, grows.

I am trying to formulate a jurisprudence for that. So my life work has been taking areas of power and subjecting them to regulation and constraint.


Recorded on: June 12, 2007


The Preventative State

Newsletter: Share: