About two months ago, I was notified by the editors at Foreign Policy magazine that they had selected me as one of their "top global thinkers," to be announced on November 30. I was asked to not say anything about it until then, and, frankly, I wouldn't have had much to say. A search of the FP archives showed no previous iteration of this list, so I had no idea if it was just a list of people who had interesting articles in an issue over the last year or some such.
So when the new issue of Foreign Policy went live on the web on Sunday Nov 29, I was stunned to discover that it was a list of the 100 "most influential" thought leaders shaping 2009... and that I was #72. Even more surreal was what they said:
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.
"Our moral guide to the future." No pressure.
It's a very odd list, mixing the usual institutional suspects (e.g., Bernanke, Obama, the Clintons, Cheney(!), Petraeus, Friedman) with a much more interesting (to me) group of more obscure scientists, writers, activists and thinkers. It's a list of "most influential," not "best," so there's a healthy mix of "yay!" and "no way!"
As part of the process, FP asked the listed folks to answer a set of questions about the world; about half did so (you can do it, too). The more personal items show up with the entries (and you can read mine there), but the more global issues got added up as survey results. But in the spirit of full disclosure, my answers to those questions can be found the extended entry.
But thank you to the editors at Foreign Policy for putting me on your list. I'll try to live up to those expectations.
In your opinion, is the worst over for the global economy?
If no, how long will it take for the global recession to end?
a) Less than a year b) 1-2 years c) 2-5 years
Global recession: (a) Less than a year (technically)
Structural weakness, leading to further problems: (c) 2-5 years (or more)
2) What is the most significant underreported story from 2009?
Somali pirates consider themselves a “coast guard,” to defend against illegal fishing by non-African states and illegal dumping of toxic wastes in Somali coastal waters. It’s not just a “piracy” story – or, rather, there are two piracy stories there, but only one is being reported.
3) What will be 2010’s “unknown unknown” – in other words, a global game-changer such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or Iran acquiring nuclear weapons?
It’s rarely possible to predict these, but a few plausible candidates:
major (and unusual) weather event in densely-populated area crystallizes public demand for action on global warming;
another pandemic flu, this one hitting even harder than H1N1
violent unrest in China
4) Who are the three most influential global leaders outside the United States?
1. Hu Jintao
2. Kofi Annan
3. Whoever is running Pakistan ISI’s Taliban desk.
5) On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 signifying the highest rating), how would you rate U.S. President Barack Obama as a leader after one year in office?
How would you describe Obama’s contribution to the global marketplace of ideas?
I believe that Obama has been more effective internationally than domestically; he has returned subtlety and strategic thinking to the world of US-led diplomacy. On international issues, he clearly seems to be thinking several moves ahead of most observers (still accustomed to the more blustery Bush admin practices).
6) The future of the world will be better if we listen to what one person's ideas?
Dr. James Hansen, NASA
7) Did anything happen in 2009 that caused you to fundamentally change how you think about the world? If yes, what was it?
Not in 2009, no.
8) What is the most dangerous country in the world? (Pakistan, Somalia, other)
Neither Pakistan nor Somalia can actually threaten the survival of the Earth’s civilization. However, the United States and China each produce enough anthropogenic greenhouse gases individually to tip the planet into a climate catastrophe. India is heading up there, too.
9) Which country will emerge as the world's next powerhouse:
b) India (Arguably, China is already a global powerhouse.)
10) What is the world's most serious military conflict right now: