Influential The Most Influential Contemporary Minds  

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215 votes 42 voters 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! 

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Elon Musk is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Elon Musk Businessperson, Investor, Entrepreneur Elon Reeve Musk is a South African-born, Canadian-American entrepreneur, engineer, inventor and investor. He is the CEO and CTO of SpaceX, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors, and ...more

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Noam Chomsky is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Noam Chomsky Linguist, Cognitive scientist, Historian Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician, political commentator, social justice activist, and anarcho-syndicalist advocate. Sometimes described as ...more

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Neil deGrasse Tyson is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Neil deGrasse Tyson Astrophysicist, Author, Actor Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. Since 1996, he has been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose ...more

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Ta-Nehisi Coates Author, Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is an American writer, journalist, and educator. Coates is a senior editor for The Atlantic, and blogger for that publication's website where he writes about cultural, social ...more

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Paul Krugman is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Paul Krugman Commentator, Journalist, Professor Paul Robin Krugman is an American economist, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary ...more

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Martha Nussbaum is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Martha Nussbaum Professor, Philosopher Martha Craven Nussbaum is an American philosopher and the current Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, a chair that includes appointments ...more

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Sam Harris is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Sam Harris Neuroscientist, Author, Science writer Samuel B. "Sam" Harris is an American author, philosopher, neuroscientist, and the co-founder and chief executive of Project Reason, a non-profit that promotes science and secularism. ...more

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Novelist, Author, Writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist and short story writer. She has been called "the most prominent" of a "procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors ...more

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Naomi Klein is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Naomi Klein Journalist, Political writer, Author Naomi Klein is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of corporate capitalism. She is best known for No ...more

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Ronan Farrow is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Ronan Farrow Commentator, Journalist, Official Ronan Farrow is an American activist, journalist, lawyer, and former U.S. government advisor. He is the son of actress Mia Farrow. He is also the legal son of filmmaker Woody Allen but may ...more

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Alison Bechdel is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Alison Bechdel Novelist, Cartoonist, Author Alison Bechdel is an American cartoonist. Originally best known for the long-running comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she came to critical and commercial success in 2006 with her graphic ...more

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Fareed Zakaria is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Fareed Zakaria Editor, Commentator, Journalist Fareed Rafiq Zakaria is an Indian-born American journalist and author. He is the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post. He has been a columnist for ...more

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Richard Dawkins is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Richard Dawkins Evolutionary Biologist, Professor, Screenwriter Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL is an English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and writer. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford's Professor for ...more

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Roxane Gay is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Roxane Gay

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Sheryl Sandberg is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Sheryl Sandberg Businessperson, Entrepreneur Sheryl Kara Sandberg is an American technology executive, activist, and author. She is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. In June 2012, she was elected to the board of directors by the ...more

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Jeffrey Sachs is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Jeffrey Sachs Professor, Scientist, Author Jeffrey David Sachs is an American economist and director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. One of the youngest tenured economics professors in the history of Harvard University, ...more

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Arianna Huffington is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Arianna Huffington Editor, Commentator, Politician Arianna Huffington is a Greek-American author and syndicated columnist. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. She was a popular conservative commentator in the ...more

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Michael Kimmelman is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Michael Kimmelman Journalist, Pianist, Screenwriter Michael Kimmelman appeared in the 2007 documentary film My Kid Could Paint That.

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Thomas L. Friedman is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Thomas L. Friedman Commentator, Journalist, Television producer Thomas Friedman appeared in The Revenge of the Electric Car documentary film.

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Steven Pinker is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Steven Pinker Linguist, Cognitive scientist, Professor Steven Arthur Pinker is a Canadian-born American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist, and popular science author. He is a Harvard College Professor and the Johnstone Family ...more

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Daniel Dennett is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Daniel Dennett Cognitive scientist, Professor, Author Daniel Clement Dennett III is an American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist whose research centers on the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and philosophy of biology, ...more

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Michelle Alexander is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Michelle Alexander Professor, Author Michelle Alexander is an associate professor of law at Ohio State University, a civil rights advocate and a writer.

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Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah

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Malcolm Gladwell is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Malcolm Gladwell Journalist, Screenwriter, Author Malcolm T. Gladwell, CM is a Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He has written five books, The Tipping Point: How ...more

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Jake Halpern is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Jake Halpern Radio producer, Commentator, Journalist Jake Halpern is an American writer, commentator, and radio producer. He was born in Buffalo, New York, where he attended City Honors School. Halpern later attended Yale University, where he ...more

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Michael Pollan is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Michael Pollan Journalist, Author, Science writer Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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Peter Singer is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Peter Singer Professor, Philosopher Peter Albert David Singer, AC is an Australian moral philosopher. He is currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and a Laureate Professor at the Centre for ...more

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Andrew Ng is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Andrew Ng Professor, Computer scientist Andrew Y. Ng is Chief Scientist at Baidu Research in Silicon Valley. In addition, he is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical Engineering ...more

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Lindy West is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Lindy West Writer Lindy West is an American writer and film criticism editor. West won the 2013 Women's Media Center Social Media Award.

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Reza Aslan is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Reza Aslan Professor, Author, Writer Reza Aslan is an Iranian-American writer, scholar of religious studies and a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. He is a member of American Academy of ...more

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Masha Gessen is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Masha Gessen Maria Alexandrovna Gessen, better known as Masha Gessen, is a Russian and American journalist, author, and activist noted for her opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gessen ...more

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Kate Moore is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Kate Moore Kate Moore was an American lighthouse keeper noted for the longevity of her tenure. The daughter of Stephen Moore, keeper of the Fayerweather Island Light in Connecticut since 1817, she ...more

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Niall Ferguson is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Niall Ferguson Historian, Professor, Author Niall Campbell Douglas Ferguson is a British historian from Scotland. He is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus ...more

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Orhan Pamuk is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Orhan Pamuk Novelist, Writer Ferit Orhan Pamuk is a Turkish citizen who born to Circassian parents novelist, screenwriter, academic and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. One of Turkey's most prominent ...more

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Francis Fukuyama is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Francis Fukuyama Historian, Political scientist, Philosopher Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama is an American political scientist, political economist, and author. Fukuyama is known for his book The End of History and the Last Man, which argued that the ...more

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Rebecca Solnit is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Rebecca Solnit Author, Essayist, Writer Rebecca Solnit is a writer who lives in San Francisco, California. She has written on a variety of subjects, including the environment, politics, place, and art. Solnit is a contributing editor ...more

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Joan Didion is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Joan Didion Memoirist, Novelist, Author Joan Didion is an American author best known for her novels and her literary journalism. Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the ...more

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Judith Butler is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Most Influential Contemporary Minds
Judith Butler Professor, Writer, Philosopher Judith Butler is an American philosopher and gender theorist whose work has influenced political philosophy, ethics and the fields of feminist, queer and literary theory. Since 1993, she has ...more