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


Topic: Mitchell Joachim’s Soft Car 

Mitchell Joachim: Well at MIT part of my dissertation was to rethink automobiles. In fact, we were charged with making the car of the future. We thought that was a bit boring and we knew that in about five years it would be a really anachronistic object. Every car of the future becomes really dull as time goes by. Instead, we thought of thinking of many discreet inventions that would fit into vehicles in the future. That would rethink mobility in the future through many concepts or kind of a lexicon of ideas.

If you think of the airbag, which was also invented at MIT, the airbag doesn’t belong to any one company or any one model of vehicle. It goes in every kind of car that wouldn’t necessarily belong to every kind of company or any company. So one umbrella thought was changing the bodies of vehicles to soft materials. Materials that were more social, materials that were scuffable, self healing, and more about pleasured motion and spaces of event instead of what we have today which is shiny, metal, precious boxes, which say don’t touch me when I’m in one. Don’t look at me.

These things get really hot and I’m stuck in traffic and there you go. We were thinking that when we’re in the future when we have about 2.4 billion [new] people on this Earth, coming in about 30 years, cities are going to be awfully congested. So we want to think of a gentle congestion. Vehicles where people could move in dense packs or herds or flocks of smart vehicles linked to an intelligent network where the body of the car accepts occasional bumping; accepts an occasional chow, how’re you doing? I’m in a Nerf-like automobile.

These are concepts that you would be fired if you were an engineer at General Motors and produced something like this. But they came, the soft car, came from the principle that no one will ever die in a car accident again. So let’s rethink everything we can think about the car to make sure that no one could possibly get hurt in them. So we had to slow them down. We had to certainly change their materials. Then we had to think of many layers of safety from brakes that replaced the contact patch with the actual belly of the car to thinking of the streets themselves in constant communication with the vehicles and the wheels and the cars behind them. So we rethought the entire system based on this principle of not only would it be good for the environment but no one will ever die in a car accident again. And that’s kind of how the soft car reified itself. That’s how it came about

Recorded on: September 11, 2009



More from the Big Idea for Monday, August 02 2010


The Soft Car

Newsletter: Share: