When I was a kid I would go to the library to read only what I liked to read; books like The Greatest scientists of the 21st century, American artists, History of the European renaissance. To be honest, I was a bit of a nerd. When everyone was playing games after class and doing chores, I found it way cooler to immerse myself in books about great people who wrote even greater books. Funnily enough, I don’t recall ever getting down to reading any of these great books written by the great people. I found it even harder to read actual school books from class. Those books about great people always inspired me to gain knowledge and come up with something new for the world to marvel over.
So far the something new part hasn’t really manifested itself but I believe one day it will. However, to date I still look around for these bright minds in our modern world. I often wondered why the new guys aren’t hyped up as much. Well that’s because the new guys are always out and about hyping themselves up – trying to sound like the best minds with book titles like ‘The greatest sales rules on earth’ and ‘The only business model for the 21st Century or I will make you rich. I was looking for something original, something that was more than just a compilation of previously acquired ideas reworded in a way that will make them sound more spectacular. In today’s world everyone seems to believe that they are great oracles of some sort and the ever-elusive advertising of new ideas through books will easily keep more prominent inventions and discoveries hidden from our eyes.
But, that’s was before I came across the T.E.D community and a number of other such like sites which I listed on a previous post here. At TED I unlocked a world of amazing thinkers gathered at one portal. So today I’ll share my reasons as to why the following 5 people are by far some of the greatest minds of our age. And by our age I mean people who were still alive in the 21st Century. I can’t call them the greatest thinkers because greatness can be relatively debated. Sure you know all about Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg and the likes of Page but aside from the small league of famous market friendly innovators we have a breed of independent minds whose approach is definitely fresh and intriguing.
Jacque Fresco – Society and Economics
Jacque is the team leader of the Venus project. And what is the Venus project you might ask? The Venus project is a global endeavor that aims to introduce a whole new socio-economic structure. Forget capitalism, forget communism and disregards socialism. Venus project does not support any of these ideals. The core principle that the Venus project works on is a resource based economy. This is an economy in which money does not exist at all. We have heard about sustainable energy and we are all aware of the great possibility that modern science promises to deliver in terms of technological advancement. The Venus project hopes to combine these two to create an economic model where people will hand over menial routine tasks to computerized systems and focus on developing their efficiency. This way no one has to do anything he does not like to do. The labour market becomes free and so do goods and commodities. Everything essentially will become available to anyone and this will eradicate negative social, political and economic divisions amongst mankind.
Fresco developed this idea in the 70s and has since received support from various key figures including Larry King. Being an industrial structural designer and social engineer, he has adequate experience when it comes to industry specific inventions. He has worked in the aircraft business, housing and even the film industry. If there is anyone who is right for this job it’s him.
Stephen Hawking – Astronomy and Physics
To me Hawking is like a direct descendant of Einstein. This guy has more academic titles after his name that the President of the United States. He is a very handicapped man in terms of his physique but his brain is astronomically powerful. Speaking of astronomy, back in high school, I had the chance to peruse through his books on the subject. These included A Brief History of Time, The Universe in a Nutshell, A Briefer History of Time and the Grand Design. The fact that despite his physical disabilities, he still had the mental stamina to write all these books and capture his ideas perfectly is really something to behold.
Hawking’s main focus is exactly what most scientists would prefer to avoid – Metaphysics. He speaks about the origin of the universe in a purely intellectual level quoting physical laws and rationalistic arguments that are deeply profound. The amount of knowledge one has to pack up in order to drive through his ideas is colossal. Nevertheless, the publishing market does not recognize intellectualism and scientific correctness alone. It is driven by one word – Sales. A number of editors and writers have therefore helped Hawking’s works become digestible for a mass audience by toning down the literature to easily convey the ideas put forward. It was because of this that lesser minds like mine were able to even read and comprehend his stuff. So if you haven’t taken a look at any of Hawking’s books, you should make a note to grab one soon and be blown away by the secrets of the universe.
Seth Godin – Marketing and Business
Seth is a marketing guru. He is one blogger who I believe comes up with the most ideas in a day. Every blog post he issues is based on a fresh idea. He is also an accomplished writer having written over ten books to date. He believes in the power of ideas to change the world. One world he has certainly devoted himself to change is the world of business. His ideas are profoundly insightful for both the big corporate guy and the little start up entrepreneur. Having embarked on a few start-up investments of his own, he knows the rules of the game when it comes to making bank through enterprise.
He is also a great advocate for generous productization – the idea that we can make products for free just so that a change can be realized based on those products. Because of this, some of his works are easily available as manifestos. One manifesto that truly influenced me was Brainwashed – A pdf format manifesto that you can download at his site. It is basically a guide to reinventing yourself so that you can fully realise the influential person that you want to become.
Steve Wolfram – Mathematics
Wolfram is a scientist and a businessman. He is the modern day genius of the numbers world. So great are his ideas that you would also have to rank high on the intelligence scale to actually understand what they are all about. But from these ideas, he has managed to create informational tools that can help any average guy work with numbers. One of his main products is the Wolfram Alpha computational machine.
Wolfram alpha is a site much like Google except that it’s customized for numerical results. Google gives you words, alpha gives you numbers. If you want to know how large Hawaii is. You just need to type in, ‘How large is Hawaii’ and the results will come with precisely that plus all other related figures that may also interest you.
Aside from that, Wolfram has a site that contains just about every piece of knowledge that constitutes the field of mathematics. To say that this guy is a little wild about numbers is quite an understatement.
Cynthia Breazeal – Artificial Intelligence
She is bringing to life something we could only expect to see in movies. If you have watched the movie A.I (Artificial intelligence) and Minority Report then you will be quite convinced that Steven Spielberg isn’t the only person in the world who can produce humanoid robots. Cynthia Breazil’s robots have the capability of conversing with humans on a level that is almost completely unpredictable.
She is steering forth concepts of human-machine interaction that most people may argue to be make belief. If you thought it was impossible to have a social interaction with a machine then you need to watch Cynthia’s video demos of early stage social robot prototypes. Although her current models are not intelligible enough to produce actual language based speech, they are signs that a major breakthrough in artificial intelligence is not that far off.