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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's in your personal literary cannon?

DoveyI would say “Waiting for the Barbarians” by Coetzee. I would say . . . It’s not fiction, but I would say “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” by Joan Didion. I would say . . . I don’t know if it’s a great . . . but “My Life as a Man” by Phillip Roth. I would put that in my canon. And anything by Margaret Atwood maybe. I’m trying to think of a fifth one. Maybe ____________ the periodic table. I’d put that in there. I guess there’s nothing really in common with all of them except that they all, to me, succeeded in making the novel what it is meant to be, which is an objective form of communication that I think, when done really well, actually builds empathy in the world, and a kind of compassion, and a sort of imaginative compassion. And there’s a kind of humility to them as well in the sense that they accept their own limitations as works of art that, as again, sort of honest about the . . . this weird creative process.

Recorded on: 12/6/07


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