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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.

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Terry Young: When you’re trying to predict a future trend you need an organizing principle. And what we have done is created 60 macrotrends. We believe that these are living organisms and that they shift and they shape and they’re dynamic in nature, almost like a neuro network exists under each macrotrend. So if I threw out the macrotrend like superhuman or robo apocalypse or living matter, we track on a daily basis all of the little subtle movements that happen, the shifts in consumer conversations, the shifts in influencers, the shifts in new scientific studies that support that macrotrend. And we score each of those components.

The importance of that is that it allows us to understand the dynamic nature and take – use big data, which feeds in, use real time examples – we connect it into our network of 60 macrotrends and then we use those clusters in order to build content and build relevance for a brand.  

For a macrotrend to be born we have to see X number of manifestations in the marketplace. And it varies by category, but when we have enough activity clustered together we create a new macrotrend. Sometimes these are born from an existing macrotrend, but the things that we watch – there’s a couple of pieces. One is we watch very closely the patterns that we see. The second, we watch for the things that are accelerating the movement.

For every trend there’s an accelerator and there’s a balancer. And the accelerators – if you imagine sensor network, which is the idea of taking small little sensors, embedding them into dumb products and making them smart products, one of the things that is accelerating that is everything that’s happening around robotics, artificial intelligence, everything that’s happening around super human, bionics, singularity movement, so forth and so on. On the flip side, though, we have content networks like digital detox, where people are running away from digital so that they can remove digital from their lives, or incognito, where people are trying to look for ways of masking themselves so that they can have a greater level of privacy, or robo apocalypse, which is the fear that robots are going to take over our world, and you see it manifesting in entertainment, popular culture and books. 

Without organizing principle, basically what happens is this: brands see something that burst in culture and they’re like, “That’s really interesting.” And they do nothing with it. Why? Because anything that bursts in isolation is not useful. It’s just interesting. What makes it useful and what makes it acitionable is when you cluster multiple things that look similar together and you begin to analyze the patterns and you begin to quantify it. 

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd



Using Big Data to Spot Big ...

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