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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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At the end of the day I’m an optimist, because I believe that the power of the ideas of individual freedom, of democracy, of free markets, that those are such powerful ideas and they’ve worked so well for so many people for so long, that I think those ideas will carry the ­­­day. Because they are so much better ideas than the other ideas of nationalism, and socialism, and fascism, and fundamentalism and the other ideas that just keep people in misery. So I think that the war of ideas will be won eventually. And I hope they will be won not only in the rest of the world but also back here in the west. That we will return to our founding values and respect other people’s liberties just as much as we value our own liberties.Technology is something that is very seductive to a lot of people. They too quickly jump to the conclusion that, oh, “We have all this great technology now. So the answer to all the world’s problems of war, and poverty, and disease and everything is just technological.” Just apply the right technology version 7.0 and you fix problem. Well that’s not how problems actually get solved – by technology. The technology only works when it’s embedded in the actions of, guess again, free individuals operating in free markets that have the incentives to find the right technology to solve the problem at hand. Or democratically accountable governments that have the incentive to find the right technology to solve the problem at hand. Technology is not a disembodied force that will solve problems on its own. It requires human beings to solve problems. So I don’t buy into this kind of Thomas Freedman worldview that we have this great technology, and all you have to do is sort of plug into the Internet, and globalization will take over and solve all the world’s problems. I don’t think things work that way. I think they require lots and lots of supporting human institutions that respect individual rights, free markets, democracy. These things unfortunately build up more slowly than technological quick fixes. They only evolved over a couple of centuries in the west, and they’re evolving slowly in the rest of the world now too. Recorded On: 7/6/07

 

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