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: How do you define elitism?

Chuck Close: I am an elitist, proudly and elitist.

I think it’s real interesting, in the [2008 US] presidential campaigns that it was not possible to suggest that even though all the candidates were Harvard educated and had gone through the most prestigious private schools; that they had to identify themselves as strictly populist.

I would like to know why, to be a real American, you have to be a bible-thumping, rifle-toting, shot in the beer American, to be really considered an American.

The thing I love about our country is that you have the opportunity to be an equal opportunity elitist. We don’t have a class system or something that doesn’t allow someone to move from one set of issues to another freely. Anybody who wants to become part of the elite, that is the intelligentsia, the people who are concerned with the most rarified kinds of issues, has an opportunity to do it. We’re not stuck in a cast system.

For me, a kid from a poor white trash mill town, I had the opportunity to better myself and there were no barriers or restrictions in my way, other than my abilities and my ability to navigate the system. So, if you get scholarships, and you do well, and you prove yourself, you can move from here to there and end up in the most elite circles and go through the institutions.

It’s the opportunity that’s important. I do think that there are things that are more noble activities, things that are move important to society than some other things.

I’m not saying that people who don’t do these things, that there is something wrong with them or they’re deficient, or they’re not valuable to our society.

I identify with the worker, and I am a worker. I get up every morning and I go into the studio and I work 365 days of the year.

I love the energy level of the people walking in the streets, people are schlepping stuff, and tearing things down, and building it back up. I’m very much part of that world and that mentality. But I’m also interested in trying to transcend my entrance into this society and have experiences that put me some place else.

I didn’t want to say that it elevated me, because there’s a presumption that you are better than you were elevated above. I don’t think of it as – I just think of movement. You move from where you are to someplace else and you have other experiences; and you can change the kinds of experiences you have and lead a different kind of life.

But it’s not a big “E” elitism, I am better than you; it’s an opportunity to do more than you were originally exposed to.

Recorded on: February 5, 2009


The Self-Proclaimed Elitist

Newsletter: Share: