Influential

The Most Influential Contemporary Minds 

Ranker News
Updated October 13, 2018 905 votes 111 voters 1k views 38 items

List Rules Vote up the thinkers and influencers who you think are most leaving their mark on the world.

With major threats to world stability like climate change, nuclear war, and mass extinction mounting, the world needs public intellectuals more than ever. World thinkers help guide the public in the right direction by illuminating problems and proposing viable solutions. Whether they work in technology, philosophy, art, or literature, the great thinkers of today are vital to our future. Who is the most influential contemporary mind? Help decide below! 

As issues like racism, sexism, and systemic oppression in general continue to be topics of public concern, there are many invaluable living intellectuals that contribute to that conversation. Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie provide nuanced takes on such issues in their acclaimed writing, for example. Famous modern philosophers, like Noam Chomsky and Martha Nussbaum, encourage critical thinking on a wide array of topics. Given modern concerns about the health and sustainability of the planet, scientiests and engineers like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Elon Musk are incredibly important public figures. Vote up the most influential contemporary minds below and feel free to add any great thinkers you feel are missing! 

list ordered by
1
Richard Dawkins is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Evolutionary Biologist, Professor, Screenwriter

Age: 77

Birthplace: Nairobi, Kenya

Clinton Richard Dawkins, (born 26 March 1941) is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford's ...more

More Richard Dawkins 

The Best Richard Dawkins Books #664 of 2,437 The Most Influential People of All Time #286 of 1,344 The Greatest Minds of All Time

2
Neil deGrasse Tyson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Astrophysicist, Author, Actor

Age: 60

Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America

Neil deGrasse Tyson (; born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at ...more

More Neil deGrasse Tyson 

21 Films Neil deGrasse Tyson Loves (Or Really Hates) #25 of 243 Celebrities Who Should Run for President #270 of 438 Famous Men You'd Want to Have a Beer With

3
Elon Musk is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Businessperson, Investor, Entrepreneur

Age: 47

Birthplace: Pretoria, South Africa

Elon Reeve Musk (; born June 28, 1971) is a technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer. He holds South African, Canadian, and U.S. citizenship and is the founder, CEO, and lead designer of ...more

More Elon Musk 

32 Funny Memes About Elon Musk And Grimes Possibly Naming Their Baby 'X Æ A-12' #35 of 243 Celebrities Who Should Run for President #172 of 438 Famous Men You'd Want to Have a Beer With

4
Noam Chomsky is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Linguist, Cognitive scientist, Historian

Age: 90

Birthplace: East Oak Lane, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called "the father of ...more

More Noam Chomsky 

The Best Noam Chomsky Books #330 of 1,173 The Best Writers of All Time #71 of 151 The Most Ridiculous Political Pundits

5
Sam Harris is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Neuroscientist, Author, Science writer

Age: 51

Birthplace: United States of America

Samuel Benjamin Harris (born April 9, 1967) is an American author, public intellectual, blogger, and podcast host primarily known for his criticism of religion, and Islam in particular. His ...more

More Sam Harris 

#1,168 of 1,173 The Best Writers of All Time #1,072 of 1,344 The Greatest Minds of All Time #17 of 133 The Best Joe Rogan Podcast Guests

6
Ta-Nehisi Coates is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Author, Writer

Age: 44

Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America

Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates ( TAH-nə-HAH-see KOHTS; born September 30, 1975) is an American author and journalist. Coates gained a wide readership during his time as national correspondent at The ...more
7
Peter Singer is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Professor, Philosopher

Age: 72

Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia

Peter Albert David Singer, AC (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher. He is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and a Laureate Professor at the ...more
8
Daniel Dennett is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Cognitive scientist, Professor, Author

Age: 76

Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America

Daniel Clement Dennett III (born March 28, 1942) is an American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and ...more

More Daniel Dennett 

#1,014 of 1,344 The Greatest Minds of All Time #80 of 87 People Who Made The World A Better Place #22 of 75 70+ Atheist Philosophers

9
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie... is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Novelist, Author, Writer

Age: 41

Birthplace: Enugu, Nigeria

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ( (listen); (born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria) is a Nigerian novelist as well as a writer of short stories and of nonfiction. Adichie, who was born in the ...more
10
Martha Nussbaum is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Professor, Philosopher

Age: 71

Birthplace: New York City, New York

Martha Craven Nussbaum (born 1947) is an American philosopher and the current Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, where she is jointly ...more
11
Fareed Zakaria is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Editor, Commentator, Journalist

Age: 55

Birthplace: Mumbai, India

Fareed Rafiq Zakaria (; born January 20, 1964) is an Indian-American journalist, political scientist, and author. He is the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly column for The ...more

More Fareed Zakaria 

#14 of 36 30+ Famous People of Indian Descent #5 of 33 Famous Scroll and Key Members #11 of 53 53 Celebrities with Honorary Degrees from Harvard

12
Steven Pinker is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Linguist, Cognitive scientist, Professor

Age: 64

Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author. He is Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of ...more

More Steven Pinker 

#904 of 2,437 The Most Influential People of All Time #979 of 1,344 The Greatest Minds of All Time #56 of 133 The Best Joe Rogan Podcast Guests

13
Paul Krugman is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Commentator, Journalist, Professor

Age: 66

Birthplace: Albany, New York, United States of America

Paul Robin Krugman ( (listen) KRUUG-mən; born February 28, 1953) is an American economist who is Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, ...more

More Paul Krugman 

#89 of 151 The Most Ridiculous Political Pundits #50 of 105 The Most Influential Contemporary Americans #20 of 23 The Best At What They Do

14
Niall Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Historian, Professor, Author

Age: 54

Birthplace: Glasgow, United Kingdom

Niall Campbell Ferguson (; born 18 April 1964) is a Scottish historian and works as a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Previously, he was a senior research fellow at Jesus College, ...more
15
Lindy West is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Lindy West Writer

Age: 36

Lindy West is an American writer and film criticism editor. West won the 2013 Women's Media Center Social Media Award.
16
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
17
Rebecca Solnit is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Author, Essayist, Writer

Age: 57

Rebecca Solnit (born 1961) is an American writer. She has written on a variety of subjects, including feminism, the environment, politics, place, and art. Solnit is a contributing editor at ...more
18
Alison Bechdel is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Novelist, Cartoonist, Author

Age: 58

Birthplace: Lock Haven, Pennsylvania

Alison Bechdel ( BEK-dəl; born September 10, 1960) is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she came to critical and commercial ...more

More Alison Bechdel 

#253 of 319 The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models #119 of 250 The Best Gay Authors #18 of 28 28 Celebrities with Gay Parents

19
Naomi Klein is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Journalist, Political writer, Author

Age: 48

Birthplace: Montreal, Canada

Naomi Klein (born May 8, 1970) is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of capitalism. On a three-year ...more

More Naomi Klein 

#498 of 1,173 The Best Writers of All Time #208 of 319 The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models #122 of 232 The Best Female Authors of All Time

20
Michael Pollan is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Journalist, Author, Science writer

Age: 64

Birthplace: Long Island, New York, United States of America

Michael Aaron Pollan (; born February 6, 1955) is an American author, journalist, activist, and the Lewis K. Chan Arts Lecturer and Professor of Practice of Non-Fiction at Harvard University. ...more
21
Kate Moore is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Kate Moore

Age: Dec. at 105 (1795-1900)

Katie or Kate Moore may refer to: Katie Moore, Canadian singer-songwriter Katie Moore (model) (born 1997), American fashion model Kathleen Moore (1812–1899), American lighthouse keeper Kate ...more
22
Ronan Farrow is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Commentator, Journalist, Official

Age: 31

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

Satchel Ronan O'Sullivan Farrow (born December 19, 1987) is an American journalist, lawyer, and former government adviser. Farrow is the son of actress Mia Farrow and Woody Allen. In late 2017, ...more
23
Arianna Huffington is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Editor, Commentator, Politician

Age: 68

Birthplace: Athens, Greece

Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington (born July 15, 1950) is a Greek-American author, syndicated columnist, and businesswoman. She is the founder of The Huffington Post, the founder and CEO of ...more

More Arianna Huffington 

#152 of 319 The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models #26 of 151 The Most Ridiculous Political Pundits #62 of 266 The Most Powerful Women Of All Time

24
Michelle Alexander is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Michelle Alexander Professor, Author

Age: 51

Michelle Alexander (born October 7, 1967) is a writer, civil rights advocate, and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary (New York City). She is best known for her 2010 book The New ...more
25
Orhan Pamuk is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Novelist, Writer

Age: 66

Birthplace: Istanbul, Turkey

Ferit Orhan Pamuk (generally known simply as Orhan Pamuk; born 7 June 1952) is a Turkish novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. One of Turkey's ...more