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

Vali Nasr: American academia provides a lot of support for professors for researchers to travel outside of the United States, to focus on the countries that they are interested in, go there, spend time.

There are yearly scholarships like Fulbright that are a much shorter run scholarship.

The problem of knowing the country you’re working on, unless it’s a country like Iran or North Korea, is not really a problem in the United States. There’s ample funding and opportunity to travel.

The problem is not to get bogged down in the trees, and to keep a perspective about the forest; to have a broader perspective of where does your little country or your little area fits in much broader trends in the world.

And at the same time, also it’s a challenge for American academics to remain relevant. Because I think American society is not a society that values intellectuals. It’s not like France. Intellectuals are not a cherished aristocracy within [American] society. They are sort of isolated within their own ivory tower, and it’s very easy for them to just to talk to one another through their own lectures, through their own books, through their own mediums and lose sight of what is the relevance of what I’m doing for the broader public, for American foreign policy.

We often hear this complaint that, well, the United States is planning all these grand things to do in the Middle East. And here are all these experts sitting at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UCLA, etc., and they actually have no input into policymaking. Nobody asks them questions.  That’s a huge challenge that I think is structural to the United States. It’s structural to the way in which the establishment in America – foreign policy establishment, business establishments in New York – really don’t take American intellectuals seriously. University is for education. And then after that, the professional lives don’t really interact with academia very effectively.

Recorded on: Dec 3, 2007

 

Vali Nasr: How do you break...

Newsletter: Share: