Big Think – Crowdsourcing Community and A Diffusion of Authority

Posted on March 16, 2009


Discovered this site today. It has been called the “Intellectual YouTube”:


Screenshot, 2009-03-15

The gist? From the “About” page:

In the global digital age, there is a glut of accessible information. And while this information empowers you, the citizen-consumer, the only way to make any sense of it, is to begin an interactive relationship with the global thought leaders who can deliver the best news and analysis on the Web. Welcome to Big Think.

Additional information is at their About page. Some excellent content to date, though they have a long way to go. Regardless, an amazing idea and development, similar to TED, yet with its own unique brand and concept.

— VIA —

Two main observations and comments:

First, this is a fantastic case of “Crowdsourcing.” In this information and connectivity age people are able to form community…

a) through shared interests and commonalities,
b) in a virtual world with instantaneous access,
c) in a vast array of diverse expressions, no longer confined to strict “tracts,”
d) in a more interactive conversant relationship, very dialogical,
e) with more and better information and education due to the ubiquity of data, and the immediacy of primary sources.

Second, I cannot help but muse about the Diffusion of Authority in our world, and what that will ultimately mean for epistemology, and existential praxis. Fancy words to simply say, how in the world is our world really going to work now that the definitions of “knowledge” are blurred?

It is fascinating to watch and be a part of, as much of my personal growth and development comes, not from the old forms of hierarchical information transferrence (that teachers have what students don’t), but from two main places. 1) Personal engagement with a wide variety of communities through virtual networks such as TED and now 2) Through personal experience. No longer is it absolutely true that my professors have information that I don’t, but now I have information that they don’t, and the information they have is often irrelevant or out-dated to the current trends and applicable education that is needed for contemporary life. The base of authority is shifting, if not diffusing among us.

I propose a few implications to the two points above, that communities are forming fast and furious around a variety of new contexts, and that authority in society is diffusing.

1) Education, at all levels (elementary through graduate) will have to dramatically adjust and shift in order to remain viable for society. While general education will still be necessary and applicable, we will no longer train our students just in what they need to learn, but how they need to find what is necessary, and most importantly what/who to trust as reliable sources of information.
2) Hierarchical power structures will no longer drive industry and society. has already done this to a large degree, offering their site as an avenue for their competitors. This step will prove only to be the first in a long line of successive co-operations. Community and commerce will have to go hand in hand.
3) Paradoxically, as information becomes more ubiquitous, values will also become more diffused. As anyone is now able to access the information they already have an affinity towards, the need to connect to other affinities is lessened, if not eliminated. Engaging in various value-driven causes or ethics is then also eliminated. Now, I believe there is a counter-balance to this called the human soul, however, we will have to struggle with the tension of “because-everything-is-important-nothing-is” throughout this age and era.
4) Postmodern existentialism will ultimately win. I don’t foresee much of the value for personal and esoteric phenomenology to wane. On the contrary, I see it growing, and it will affect epistemology more than I think we realize.

IF I MAY PROPOSE… So, here are my ideas that perhaps I would one day promulgate.

1) In order for our society to reach its maximum potential, we MUST value the young. If you want to change the world, change the world’s children. If we poured our resources into our children/youth, and believed that potential is intrinsic, and that it is our job to provide an environment in which their greatness can thrive, I believe greatness happen for our future. However, I see neglect, and abandonment, and I am concerned that our futures may be greatly compromised because of our lack of long-term foresight in our youth.

2) Along the same lines, let us rid ourselves of Adolescence (not “adolescents”), and return to an apprenticeship model for education. Perhaps not in full, but maybe as an augmentation to our current educational system and philosophies. And start young. Real young. Like, as soon as kids can walk, talk, and manage general dexterity. Humans are wired for learning, growth, discovery, curiosity, solutions, service…etc. We only kill it in our young as they grow older. Instead of killing those values, let’s cultivate them early on, and watch them thrive through their lives. And, societally, we will reap the benefits.

I may have others, but that’s it for now. Thanks,, for providing this resource, and prodding my brain.