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71. Ray Kurzweil
for advancing the technology of eternal life.
Futurist | North Andover, Mass.
By 2045, the differences between men and machines will be negligible, or so Kurzweil believes. Humans will back up their memories and skill sets on hard drives, to the extent that they become virtually immortal, while robots will be endowed with consciousness -- a turning point he refers to as "the Singularity." Before he cemented his fame as a leading -- and sometimes wacky -- futurist, Kurzweil worked on artificial intelligence, including inventing the first text-to-speech software. Recently, Kurzweil has turned his attention to how software and medical technology could help people extend and ameliorate their lives. "The future is going to be a very exciting place, and that's why I'd like to stick around to see it," he says.
Wants to visit: China
Best idea: Ideas for applying nanotechnology to renewable-energy technologies, especially solar (given that we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to meet all of our energy needs).
Worst idea: That we are running out of resources -- we in fact have plenty of energy, water, food, and space once we can apply emerging technologies to transform their availability, which will be soon.
Gadget: Twitter and BlackBerry.
72. Jamais Cascio
for being our moral guide to the future.
Futurist | Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies | San Francisco
Climate change is coming, and geoengineering -- the prospect of artificially manipulating the world's climate -- may seem like an easy save. But in fact it's threatening and ethically complex, putting a literally earth-shaking power in the hands of a few, says Cascio in his new book, Hacking the Earth, the most subtle analysis so far on the subject. This year, Cascio, guru of all things on the horizon and founder of the website Open the Future, agitated to strengthen the global financial system through decentralization; argued passionately that resilience, not sustainability, must be the new goal of environmentalists; and has become a leading thinker on robot ethics.
Wants to visit: Antarctica. It's a "see it while you still can" location.
Best idea: Work done at the Scripps Research Institute by Carlos Barbas on creating self-assembling molecular antibodies that can provide instant immunity to infectious diseases (and possibly even cancer).
Worst idea: 2009 seems to have been the year that global warming deniers shifted from claiming that climate disruption is a hoax to claiming that climate disruption is too big and too far along to stop, so there's no point in doing anything about it. Wrong on both counts!
Gadget: Twitter and iPhone.
73. Nick Bostrom
for accepting no limits on human potential.
Philosopher | Oxford University | Britain
Bostrom, director of Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute, thinks that one day, technology could allow us to upload human minds onto computers, preserving our every memory for posterity and allowing people to speed up their thoughts by installing faster software. He's a transhumanist, a leader in a broad movement that believes humans should improve themselves through technology, eventually reaching a point that can be defined as "posthuman." As scientific advances continue to upend our ethical views and technological enhancements challenge our ideas of equality, Bostrom has emerged as a leading voice on the changes humankind will experience in the generations to come, which, he believes, will be many. "If we survive intact for 500 years, then we might well survive for billions of years," he says.
Reading list: Military Nanotechnology: Potential Applications and Preventive Arms Control, by Jürgen Altmann; Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, by Margaret MacMillan; Hamlet, by William Shakespeare.
Worst idea: Somebody suggested that we guilt-trip artificial intelligence to respect us as its parents. That's bad on so many different levels.
74. Gordon Brown
for his leadership during the financial crisis.
Prime Minister | Britain
Brown will very likely not be prime minister of Britain for much longer. The Labour Party will almost certainly suffer ignominious defeat in a national election sometime by mid-2010. The prime minister, who as chancellor of the exchequer under Prime Minister Tony Blair oversaw the inflation of massive housing and financial bubbles, will be known by his caricature in the British press, as a paranoid, bellowing, and incompetent leader. But even if Brown did not do enough to stop the bubbles from developing, he proved one of the world's most courageous leaders after they had burst. His government may not have quite "saved the world," as he claimed to much derision last December, but in acting immediately and forcefully to prevent disaster by nationalizing failing banks, pushing through massive stimulus measures, and urging his counterparts to do the same, he just may have saved his reputation.
75. Richard Haass
for injecting a necessary note of caution about what is necessary for a superpower at war.
President | Council on Foreign Relations | New York
Haass has a résumé that any foreign-policy hand in Washington would drool over: National Security Council, Brookings Institution, State Department, and now the Council on Foreign Relations. But he's not resting on his laurels. This year, he published War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars, in which he sketched the differences between 1991's invasion of Iraq and the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He sees "wars of necessity," such as Operation Desert Storm, as interventions to protect vital U.S. national interests when all other options have failed. In August, Haass made a splash when he argued that, pace Obama, Afghanistan no longer fits this criterion. With the U.S. administration ideologically inclined toward Haass's cautious realism, there should be no doubt that his words resonate in the highest reaches of the White House.
Reading list: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World, by Liaquat Ahamed; The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, by Edward N. Luttwak; Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.
Wants to visit: Indonesia
Best idea: Creating a large pool of money to discourage deforestation.
76. George Ayittey
for pushing policymakers to let Africa help itself.
Economist | American University | Washington
Ayittey, a Ghanaian economist and head of the Free Africa Foundation, has spent his career trying to convince the world that Africans, not aid workers, will set Africa right. Enough already with the victim complex, he argues: Let's get to work. That philosophy has never been more relevant than in 2009, when the debate over international assistance kicked into high gear. If it were up to Ayittey, the world would go beyond reforming the distribution of aid and gradually do away with handouts altogether. Aside from charity's ineffectiveness, he notes, "[T]he presumption that Africans don't know what is good for them and that Americans or other foreigners know what is best for Africans is extremely offensive."
Best idea: Rotate the U.N. General Assembly meetings. Hold the next one in Iran, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, or Zimbabwe.
Worst idea: The gift of an iPod by President Obama to the Queen of England.
Gadget: Twitter and iPhone.
77. Amory Lovins
for the intellectual marriage of economics, efficiency, and the environment.
Scientist | Rocky Mountain Institute | Snowmass, Colo.
For more than three decades, this man once described as a "Johnny Appleseed of ideas" has been a dogged evangelist for the notion that conservation isn't just virtuous -- it's profitable. Lovins's basic premise is that it's much cheaper to save energy than to generate it. Measuring success in "negawatts" (units of energy conserved), he has worked to convince numerous clients, including giants such as Wal-Mart and the Pentagon, that small, common-sense tweaks in the way they consume energy can prevent millions of dollars of unnecessary consumption. "I don't do problems," he told an interviewer. "I do solutions."
Wants to visit: Chilean Patagonia
Best idea: PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) bonds to finance efficiency-and-renewables retrofits of buildings -- ultimately perhaps all U.S. buildings.
Worst idea: Expand nuclear power.
78. Bill McKibben
for making global warming a people's cause.
Environmentalist | 350.org | Ripton, Vt.
The End of Nature, McKibben's seminal 1989 book, introduced many to the novel scientific idea of climate change. The prolific author and long-time environmentalist has since made it his mission to serve as a conduit between scientific discovery and political action. The success of a small protest he organized in 2006 made him realize that the weakness of the anti-global-warming movement was that it had failed to capture the popular imagination. So he co-founded 350.org, a campaign to popularize the view that the best target for atmospheric carbon dioxide is 350 parts per million. On Oct. 24, the group sponsored an International Day of Climate Action, which included more than 5,000 events in 181 countries and was the largest ever coordinated global rally of any kind.
On bridging the gulf between rich and poor countries: One of the great problems in dealing with the climate is that we have this enormous gulf between rich and poor around the world and that the energy future looks different to people on different sides of that gulf. Over the years, that's stymied progress. What 350.org has done to try to change that is bring citizens to bear on this -- people all over the world who understand now just how dire this emergency is, who understand that there is no such thing as development in a world that's warming fast.
On climate good guys and bad guys: The U.S. is responsible more than any other country for the historical carbon burden in the atmosphere, and the average American still uses around four times as much carbon every day as the average Chinese. China is now deploying renewable energy faster than any place on Earth. Blaiming China is just the talk of people who don't want to change and are looking for an excuse.
79. Anne-Marie Slaughter
for helping transform Foggy Bottom from the inside out.
Director, Policy Planning | State Department | Washington
This year, Slaughter left her position as the dean of Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School to head the U.S. State Department's internal think tank and advise Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (No. 6). In articles and, more recently, policy briefs, she has stressed the importance of recognizing that the United States is an actor in a networked and disaggregated world, which needs to reach out to everyone from businesses to splinter groups -- not just other countries -- to succeed and prosper. In a lauded Foreign Affairs article, she explained, "In this world, the state with the most connections will be the central player, able to set the global agenda and unlock innovation and sustainable growth." At the State Department, she is also heading Clinton's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, a reform initiative meant to transform the department into a 21st-century diplomatic force, and devising "smart power" strategies for Clinton's signature issues.
80. Samantha Power
for moving from moral authority to government authority on human rights.
White House special assistant | National Security Council | Washington
Six years after penning her Pulitzer Prize-winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, Power has gone from the outside in: from critic of government inaction during humanitarian catastrophe to advisor in the Obama White House, where she works on, among other things, peacekeeping programs and resettling Iraqi refugees. Advising Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, Power's big idea was for the president to embody a new kind of strength: She thinks it is more difficult "to be in a room with Ahmadinejad than lobbing verbal hand grenades against him from 5,000 miles away." She brings to her post not just the convictions of an activist scholar, but also another critical asset: the ear of the president.