BigThink is a new social networking web site the brain child of Peter Hopkins with backing from Larry Summers  is a place where ‘leading public intellectuals’ answer questions asked by an unseen interviewer.

From an article by the New York Times:

In June 2006, Peter Hopkins, a civic-minded and idealistic 2004 Harvard graduate, trekked up to his alma mater from New York for a meeting with Lawrence H. Summers, the economist and former Treasury secretary. Mr. Hopkins, who finagled the appointment through his friendship with Mr. Summers’s assistant, had a business idea: a Web site that could do for intellectuals what YouTube, the popular video-sharing site, did for bulldogs on skateboards. (read full)

A critical review of this resource  by John Conroy : has launched with the aim of providing a forum for discussion between ‘thought leaders’ like Richard Branson and Ted Kennedy and us lesser plebs.

The resource provides a platform for ‘the growing global conversation about where we are and where we are headed’, drawing opinions out of big cahunas in every walk of life. It combines journalist-produced interviews with said experts and user-created content.

Content from experts comes in the form of video-logs (vlogs), which can be voted up and down and commented on. So how it works is, you go watch Deepak Chopra talk about great love is, and if you think he’s talking bumkin, you hit the thumbs-down symbol. Just like a Roman emperor at the Coliseum, only without the lions. Unfortunately…

The lineup of experts who have already contributed “Big Thinking” to the site is impressive. John McCain talks about ‘Whether two parties is enough,’ while on the sidebar Mit Romney is just itching to give you his two cents on Mormonism. The combined faculties of Harvard, Yale and Columbia appear to have contributed vlogs, while industry leaders like the former head man at Viacom and the VP at Goldman Sachs talk business.

While laudable in many ways, one questionable implication of a resource such as this is that it grants yet more weight to the opinions of the existing consensus-builders, and indeed grants them the status of ‘Expert’. You may well buy into, say, Mary Robinson’s stance on Human Rights (Robinson is a former President of Ireland and former UN Commissioner). But there again, you might find it laughably cheap and trite.