Top Ten Smartest Living People - Smartest People Alive People
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Top Ten Smartest Living People - Smartest People Alive

Intelligence is a nebulous concept, one that I suspect lacks meaning altogether. Does intelligence refer to brainpower, or to problem solving ability? Is there any difference? Does intelligence perhaps refer to something else, like creativity or intuition? And what do we even mean when we refer to those things? Is intelligence measured by potential or performance? If potential, doesn't this change throughout one's lifetime (if for no other reason than that the physical structure of our brains changes)? If performance, isn't intelligence then nothing more than a statement of historical intellectual triumphs rather than an indicator of future insights? And how do we know that there is even a smartest person alive? Settling on a list of the ten smartest people is probably no less absurd than generating a list of the ten biggest numbers. The concept of intelligence is not clear cut, but this list certainly is.

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    scott aaronson

    There is a saying that the work of ordinary geniuses can be reproduced while the work of exceptional geniuses--magicians--is so dazzling that you can't imagine doing it. Scott calls people who popularize science to their generations "prophets." Scott is a prophet and a magician and this is why he lands on the page of the smartest living people.

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    Political commentator, Keynesian economist, popular pundit, Paul Krugman extracts simplicity from confusion and distills it to a wide audience in terms everyone can understand. Paul Krugman earns his way onto this list of the smartest people alive.

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    Political scientist, intellectual renegade, honest as stone, Norman Finkelstein will not be cowed. He earns a spot on this list of the smartest living people.

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    A cognitive scientist, philosopher and linguist, Steven Pinker has perhaps done more to move these important social sciences into the fold of the hard sciences than any of his peers. While not infallible, he is an exacting, insightful thinker, and for this reason he earns a spot on my list of the smartest people alive.

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    Ed Witten almost became an economist. Thank god he didn't, because physics and mathematics wouldn't be the same without him. With a Feynmanesque explanatory ability and a Penrosian mathematical prowess, this scientist takes names and kicks butt. He fits snugly on my list of the smartest people alive.

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    The irascible Murray Gell-Mann knows so much about so many things that it's hard to exclude him from this list, even if his legendary cantankerousness is not an admirable intellectual trait. Fundamental physics wouldn't be the same without him, and this list of the smartest living people wouldn't either.

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    Glenn Greenwald writes prodigiously on politics and rarely, if ever, does he err. He is one of a kind and sits not at all awkwardly on a list of the smartest people alive.

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    Noam Chomsky may get some things wrong occasionally, but so does everyone else. He is usually correct, almost always insightful, and his incisive thoughts in the hard sciences and the social sciences are irreplaceable. This list of the smartest living people needs Chomsky on it.

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    Terence Tao. To some this name is synonymous with mathematical genius, to others with prodigiousness, and to some with glory. He coauthored a a beautiful proof that there are arbitrarily long arithmetic progressions in the primes, and maintains an extremely popular blog. He is an easy addition to my list of the top ten smartest living people.

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    Paris Hilton. She may or may not be one of the top ten smartest people alive, but I include her on this list to put the seriousness of this whole list in perspective. This list is not a serious thing.

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