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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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Question: What inspires you?

Walt: At the risk of . . . This is like self-analysis I suppose. I do find a lot of these problems just genuinely fascinating. It doesn’t take much to get me out of bed in the morning because I . . . I like what I do. I’m often inspired by what I perceive as either the misuse of power or abuses of power. If I sort of look back through my career and also, I think, sort of my work as an administrator and in other realms of life, I’m often sort of infuriated when I see powerful actors doing things that harm others; doing things that are not smart; doing things that involve sort of taking advantage of those who are weaker. I think I have a strong sort of sympathy for the underdog if you will. And then in a lot of my work, because it’s involved American foreign policy, has been trying to figure out how can the United States use the power at its disposal; the influence it has; the assets we have acquired over time – I mean we’re a very lucky country in that regard – how can we use those intelligently? How can we use those in ways that are good for Americans, but also good for the rest of the world as well? And the things that drive me crazy are when I see our country doing something stupid, or when I see us helping others do something stupid. And you know that’s . . . that’s a pretty powerful motivating factor.

Recorded on: 10/8/07







What inspires you?

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