Influential
115 voters

The Most Influential Contemporary Minds

Updated October 13, 2018 1.2k votes 115 voters 1.1k views38 items

List RulesVote 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! 

...more
  • 1
    Richard Dawkins
    43
    19

    Richard Dawkins

    Evolutionary Biologist, Professor

    Age79

    BirthplaceNairobi, Kenya

    Clinton Richard Dawkins, (born 26 March 1941) is an English ethologist, evolutionary... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Neil deGrasse Tyson
    38
    27

    Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Astrophysicist, Author

    Age61

    BirthplaceManhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America

    Neil deGrasse Tyson (; born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist, author, and... more on Wikipedia

    More Neil deGrasse Tyson 

    21 Films Neil deGrasse Tyson Loves (Or Really Hates)#18 of 170 The Best Hot Ones Guests Ever

  • 3
    Lindy West
    26
    15

    Lindy West

    Writer

    Age38

    Lindy West is an American writer and film criticism editor. West won the 2013 Women's Media... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
    29
    18

    Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah

  • 5
    Naomi Klein
    30
    19

    Naomi Klein

    Journalist, Political writer

    Age50

    BirthplaceMontreal, Canada

    Naomi Klein (born May 8, 1970) is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Elon Musk
    36
    27

    Elon Musk

    Businessperson, Investor

    Age49

    BirthplacePretoria, South Africa

    Elon Reeve Musk (; born June 28, 1971) is a technology entrepreneur, investor, and engineer.... more on Wikipedia

    More Elon Musk 

    24 Surprisingly Funny Elon Musk Tweets That Prove Billionaires Can Be Trolls TooThings You Didn't Know About Elon Musk

  • 7
    Noam Chomsky
    34
    26

    Noam Chomsky

    Linguist, Cognitive scientist

    Age91

    BirthplaceEast Oak Lane, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Daniel Dennett
    18
    10

    Daniel Dennett

    Cognitive scientist, Professor

    Age78

    BirthplaceBoston, Massachusetts, United States of America

    Daniel Clement Dennett III (born March 28, 1942) is an American philosopher, writer, and... more on Wikipedia

    More Daniel Dennett 

    #81 of 87 People Who Made The World A Better Place#22 of 75 70+ Atheist Philosophers

  • 9
    Peter Singer
    17
    10

    Peter Singer

    Professor, Philosopher

    Age74

    BirthplaceMelbourne, Australia

    Peter Albert David Singer, AC (born 6 July 1946) is an Australian moral philosopher. He is the... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Kate Moore
    21
    15

    Kate Moore

    Katie or Kate Moore may refer to: Katie Moore, Canadian singer-songwriter Katie Moore (model)... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Sam Harris
    31
    28

    Sam Harris

    Neuroscientist, Author

    Age53

    BirthplaceUnited States of America

    Samuel Benjamin Harris (born April 9, 1967) is an American author, public intellectual,... more on Wikipedia

    More Sam Harris 

    #1140 of 1,172 The Best Writers of All Time#27 of 133 The Best Joe Rogan Podcast Guests

  • 12
    Arianna Huffington
    15
    13

    Arianna Huffington

    Editor, Commentator

    Age70

    BirthplaceAthens, Greece

    Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington (born July 15, 1950) is a Greek-American author, syndicated... more on Wikipedia

    More Arianna Huffington 

    #50 of 160 The Most Ridiculous Political Pundits#130 of 319 The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models

  • 13
    Ta-Nehisi Coates
    20
    19

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Author, Writer

    Age45

    BirthplaceBaltimore, Maryland, United States of America

    Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates ( TAH-nə-HAH-see KOHTS; born September 30, 1975) is an American author... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    21
    21

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Novelist, Author

    Age43

    BirthplaceEnugu, Nigeria

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ( (listen); (born on 15 September 1977 in Enugu, Nigeria) is a... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    Steven Pinker
    14
    12

    Steven Pinker

    Linguist, Cognitive scientist

    Age66

    BirthplaceMontreal, Canada

    Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist,... more on Wikipedia

    More Steven Pinker 

    #1568 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time#1048 of 1,357 The Greatest Minds of All Time

  • 16
    Martha Nussbaum
    15
    14

    Martha Nussbaum

    Professor, Philosopher

    Age73

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    Martha Craven Nussbaum (born 1947) is an American philosopher and the current Ernst Freund... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Fareed Zakaria
    14
    15

    Fareed Zakaria

    Editor, Commentator

    Age56

    BirthplaceMumbai, India

    Fareed Rafiq Zakaria (; born January 20, 1964) is an Indian-American journalist, political... more on Wikipedia

    More Fareed Zakaria 

    #14 of 36 30+ Famous People of Indian Descent#11 of 53 53 Celebrities with Honorary Degrees from Harvard

  • 18
    Niall Ferguson
    10
    10

    Niall Ferguson

    Historian, Professor

    Age56

    BirthplaceGlasgow, United Kingdom

    Niall Campbell Ferguson (; born 18 April 1964) is a Scottish historian and works as a senior... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Paul Krugman
    16
    20

    Paul Krugman

    Commentator, Journalist

    Age67

    BirthplaceAlbany, New York, United States of America

    Paul Robin Krugman ( (listen) KRUUG-mən; born February 28, 1953) is an American economist who... more on Wikipedia

    More Paul Krugman 

    #60 of 105 The Most Influential Contemporary Americans#9 of 23 The Best At What They Do

  • 20
    Rebecca Solnit
    10
    12

    Rebecca Solnit

    Author, Essayist

    Age59

    Rebecca Solnit (born 1961) is an American writer. She has written on a variety of subjects,... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Michael Pollan
    7
    8

    Michael Pollan

    Journalist, Author

    Age65

    BirthplaceLong Island, New York, United States of America

    Michael Aaron Pollan (; born February 6, 1955) is an American author, journalist, activist,... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    Alison Bechdel
    11
    15

    Alison Bechdel

    Novelist, Cartoonist

    Age60

    BirthplaceLock Haven, Pennsylvania

    Alison Bechdel ( BEK-dəl; born September 10, 1960) is an American cartoonist. Originally best... more on Wikipedia

    More Alison Bechdel 

    #118 of 250 The Best Gay Authors#18 of 28 28 Celebrities with Gay Parents

  • 23
    Michelle Alexander
    6
    11

    Michelle Alexander

    Professor, Author

    Age52

    Michelle Alexander (born October 7, 1967) is a writer, civil rights advocate, and visiting... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Ronan Farrow
    10
    17

    Ronan Farrow

    Commentator, Journalist

    Age32

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

    Satchel Ronan O'Sullivan Farrow (born December 19, 1987) is an American journalist, lawyer,... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    Orhan Pamuk
    4
    8

    Orhan Pamuk

    Novelist, Writer

    Age68

    BirthplaceIstanbul, Turkey

    Ferit Orhan Pamuk (generally known simply as Orhan Pamuk; born 7 June 1952) is a Turkish... more on Wikipedia