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

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

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
Close
With rendition switcher

Transcript

David Dollar: Well when I first went to college I started studying the Chinese language, and I took different kinds of courses that had to do with Asia. Some dealt with Asian religion and philosophy, some with more contemporary politics and history. As I said, the Vietnam War was past its peak by 1972, but it was still going on. I remember going to antiwar demonstrations in 1973, and 1974, and 1975. So I think those contemporary events were very much in people's minds. When China first started opening up, I think there was a lot of fascination with what had been a very closed society. And frankly a lot of academics in the west initially were quite attracted to what seemed to be the lifestyle in China. There seemed to be good things about Chinese communism in terms of bringing literacy to the broad mass of the people, and in creating a society where there was very little crime. So I think there was a certain romance that western academics felt toward China. Probably some people were smarter than me and they did not buy into that; but I think quite a few people initially were attracted to what had been achieved by Chinese communism. And then frankly, as I've spent more time getting to know China and read different things, I've come to see that there were a lot of terrible things that were happening during the Mao period in China. So I think for me personally, the lifetime experience has been kind of getting a more and more real understanding of what's going on in China, and having a more mixed or more complex view of both the past and the present. When I was in college I studied Chinese language, and Chinese history, and Vietnamese history; but I didn't study any modern economics at all. And then I had a chance to live in Taiwan for a year, in 1975-76, and I lived with a Chinese family. I studied Chinese. I bought a motorcycle and traveled all around the country. And that had a very profound effect on me. Taiwan was growing very quickly. It had embraced globalization and adopted an export oriented strategy. I lived with a family of intellectuals, but my American buddy lived with a family that ran a textile factory. And just seeing how things actually worked on the ground had a very striking affect on me. So my initial thinking that this process of integration was good for developing countries, that first started living in Taiwan as a 20 year-old, and not having any economics background just observing what was happening in a textile factory, observing what was happening with development in Taiwan. So later when I chose to study economics and I started studying theory, I had that in my mind  what had happened in Taiwan. So then I saw academics debating different strategies for development. You know, is it good to protect domestic industry, or is it good to open up to world economy? I initially approached that from the point of view the manufacturers in Taiwan what had been their experience, what had been their success. And I found that experience a lot more convincing than any economic theory.

Recorded on: 7/3/07

 

 

 

 

Understanding China

Newsletter: Share: