Friday, February 02, 2018

The world most influential thinkers - some old chestnuts and some surprises

I recently came across the Global Thought Leader Index an annual index compiled by the Swiss think-tank Gottlieb Duttweiler Institut (GDI).
It purports to rank that elusive concept, the most influential thinkers in the world. This is not the same as the most influential people, so there is no Vladimir Putin, no Lady Gaga, no Warren Buffett, and no old dead guys like Aristotle or Descartes. Neither does it include (in the main) active politicians or entrepreneurs, whose influence stems mainly from their actions rather than their ideas. The thought leaders considered are those living individuals whose work is considered to be mainly as a "thinker", and whose ideas are known and influential beyond their own field.
From a selected pool of 600-odd such people, GDI then measures their "weight" in terms of global public discourse on the Internet, Wikipedia, Twitter, etc, using sophisticated software that measures their mentions, likes, followers, and the strength of relationships between them, to come up with an influence ranking. It's not a perfect recipe, but it nevertheless makes for interesting reading.
The top 20 for 2018 are:
  1. Pope Francis (religion)
  2. Noam Chomsky (linguistics)
  3. Stephen Hawking (physics)
  4. Richard Dawkins (evolutionary biology)
  5. Al Gore (ecology)
  6. Henry Kissinger (politics)
  7. Bill Gates (entrepreneur)
  8. Dalai Lama (religion)
  9. Desmond Tutu (activist)
  10. J.K. Rowling (novelist)
  11. Pope Benedict XVI (religion)
  12. Pedro Almodovar (artist)
  13. Joseph Stiglitz (economist)
  14. Kofi Annan (politics)
  15. George Lucas (artist)
  16. Richard Stallman (activist)
  17. Orhan Pamuk (novelist)
  18. Edward Snowden (politics)
  19. Tim Berners-Lee (computer science)
  20. Slavoj Žižek (philosophy)
Other than the question of just how Henry Kissinger got in there in the Top 10 in 2018, I was surprised by the number of novelists in the list - e.g. J.K. Rowling (10), Orhan Pamuk (17), Salman Rushdie (26=), Mario Vargas Llosa (26=), Paulo Coelho (33) - and not perhaps the most obvious or expected ones either. Also, surprising to me is the number of names with which I am just not familiar - e.g. Slavoj Zizek (20), Amartya Sen (22), Daniel Kahneman (31), Muhammad Yunus (40) - many of whom appear towards the top of this list year after year. Slavoj Žižek, for example, is a Slovenian post-structuralist philosopher, who has been called "the Elvis of cultural theory" and "the most dangerous philosopher in the West". Who knew? Well, obviously a lot of people know, and I am just exhibiting my own woeful ignorance here.

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