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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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Question: When you read the newspaper or watch the news, what issues stand out for you?

Walt Mossberg: Well I mean look. I’m not a policy person. And not only that. As a journalist I’m not really free to express opinions on a lot of things. But it’s perfectly obvious that climate change is an enormous issue for everyone on the planet; that every kind of personal, and governmental, and commercial, and industrial activity on the planet is gonna have to change so that we don’t destroy the planet. Climate change, environmentalism, the whole green thing in general . . . And you can already see a lot of the same venture capital and investment money that was the lifeblood of high tech, some of that money now going to projects that are an attempt to apply technology to making the world cleaner and being greener. So I think, you know, that’s a huge thing. We obviously still have no idea just what the rise of China and India means. You know they have enormous economic potential, including, by the way, a significant high tech potential. And I’m not just talking about call centers. They have the potential to invent and develop things that we have become accustomed to seeing invented and developed here. And from the point of view of the United States as a country, it would be very interesting to see what happens in those countries. Because while they do have these concentrations of educated people, and middle class, and people who are even wealthy and entrepreneurial, they also still are, in the majority, full of extremely poor, uneducated people who . . . who have a right to a future. And how they distribute their wealth, and how they go about taking care of their whole populations – particularly in the case of China which is, of course, not a free country – is gonna be a fascinating situation. And then I think we have this . . . And here I’m drawing on both my many years covering foreign policy and my more recent history covering technology. But we have this bizarre, I think, counter-intuitive situation in which the following is happening. As I’ve already said twice, I think people now have access to more accurate, real information about the world than they have ever, ever had. You could be sitting in the middle of, you know, Siberia or, you know, Alberta or Patagonia; and if you have a computer connected to the Internet you can know a tremendous amount about what’s going on in the world. And yet at the very same time we have this rise in fundamentalism in all religions – not just Islam – in which people are rejecting science, becoming wedded to conspiracy theories instead of what’s really happening, and I think kind of retreating from the complexity all around them. You know there’s this fire hose of information out there and people . . . some people. Not everyone, but some people’s reaction is to say, “I can’t deal with it. I don’t trust it. It must not be true. I’m going back to believing these . . . whatever this guy who is my follower . . . or leader says.” It could be a religious leader, a political leader or whatever. This is what they’re believing. One aspect of that, Islamic terrorism, is especially dangerous because even though it doesn’t represent most of Islam, it is unlike most of the other fundamentalists. It’s armed. It runs some countries, and it has managed to kill a lot of people, both its own . . . both their own people and people here in our country, and elsewhere in the west. So it’s easy to conceive a situation where you get into chaotic, military, and conflict situations that could kind of put at least a temporary halt to progress in education, and technology and other things. And I worry about that.




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