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 is the struggle of what you do?

Peter Beinart: I think the struggle in what I do is . . . is . . . is the struggle of trying to impose analytical or intellectual order on . . . on . . . on human events, or trying to understand them. That’s the struggle . . . I think it’s the struggle for any commentator, which is to say we need to talk in terms of patterns, and understandable motives, and predictable behavior. And yet a nation, like individuals, to some degree has depths that are unknowable. You can’t truly under . . . You can’t truly understand. And so I think the struggle for me is to do my best to try to understand why America behaves the way it does, but to recognize that to some degree, as with all human behavior, there are things that are just inexplicable. It’s not like studying . . . being in a lab and looking at test tubes; that human beings and even nations have motivations that are . . . that . . . that lie deep below the surface, and that are not fully . . . cannot be fully understood in a rational way.

Question: Was it intimidating to join The New Republic as an editor at such a young age?

It was a somewhat intimidating experience. I think it was made a little bit easier by the fact that the magazine had had young editors before, one of whom, Andrew Sullivan, I had worked under; and another one, Michael Kinsley, I knew a bit. So I had . . . those . . . They were remarkably talented people. I certainly wasn’t sure that I was as talented as them; but I had seen them go through it, and I had worked at the magazine under a few different editors. So I had watched the process. So I knew the publication well. And . . . and I figured that the best thing I could do was not to worry about what age I was, but simply to do the best job that I could and kind of let things fall where they fell.

Question: What inspired your interest in liberal foreign policy?

Well liberalism is the tradition with which I’ve always identified myself. And I think that I was particularly troubled by the inability of John Carey in 2004, and liberals and Democrats more generally to respond to George W. Bush’s vision that he laid out of America’s role in the post-9/11 world in a way that seemed to me coherent and compelling. And I wanted to explore that, since I felt that while I disagreed with the narrative that Bush and conservatives had laid out, I admired its coherence; and I admired the degree to which conservative . . . it was rooted in a conservative tradition of which conservatives, I think, were fairly self-aware. And I didn’t feel that there was that same sense of awareness of liberalisms and intellectual traditions. And I wanted to sort . . . I wanted to think about our traditions and try to think about how you might bring them to bear today.

Recorded on: 9/12/07







The Struggle of Writing

Newsletter: Share: