Great Modern Thinkers

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5to9
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Great Modern Thinkers

Post by 5to9 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:38 am

There was a comment in the discussion of Peter Thiel's new book where Dragline said:
Dragline wrote:I think Thiel is very interesting and unusual, which is why I'm generally interested in what he has to say even if I might disagree with it.
This, combined with the fact that I have lately had an overflowing queue of blog posts, podcasts, books, and other material that I can't possibly all consume has me thinking about how I can trim things down to find the people who are most likely to open me to new ideas, and new ways of thinking.

So I'm looking for inputs. Who are the people out there today that you feel are most worth paying attention to? Besides the obvious choice of Mr. Jacob Lund Fisker :)

A few that I'm considering, to seed the list:

Bill Gates
Elon Musk
Nassim Taleb

henrik
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by henrik » Thu Oct 16, 2014 2:43 pm

Alain de Botton

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Dragline
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Dragline » Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:20 pm

If you include the relatively recently departed, I would say Benoit Mandelbrot, whom I consider to be the greatest thinker of the 20th Century. [Hint: Everything Taleb says is based in Mandelbrot.] His autobiography is a triumph over first chaos and then idiocy. Truly heroic in fact.

Alive -- Daniel Kahneman is the first to mind.

Contrast Richard Feynman, whom I would consider extremely clever but not great. I think greatness means implications in multidisciplinary fields.

Of the ones above, I would say Gates -- no, Musk -- we don't know yet, Taleb -- kind of but derivative, and Botton yes, but only his earlier work. His most recent efforts are not very good unless you really like art.

Not that I would really fault any of these people. ;-)

borisborisboris
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by borisborisboris » Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:34 pm

I feel like this question is surprisingly hard to answer. I put some ideas down, but don't feel great about any of them...

First, here are some lists: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FP_Top_100_Global_Thinkers
Dragline wrote: Alive -- Daniel Kahneman is the first to mind.
Kahneman - I know he figured out some cool stuff about how your brain works. Great indeed, but maybe Steven Pinker fits better into this list? I thought Joshua Greene's book on the moral implications of cognitive psych research deserves a mention.
Dragline wrote:Botton yes, but only his earlier work. His most recent efforts are not very good unless you really like art.
I liked 'Art as Therapy' and I don't know much about art! I would put him on the list.

I would also put NNT on there. Granted that Mandelbrot got there first, but Taleb got the ideas out there for the public to digest. I have read some of Mandelbrot's general audience writing and think Taleb is better. Not a better thinker, but a better "public thinker" if you will.

I guess my thoughts are around those who have important ideas and are also able to bring them into the public conversation through NPR appearances, NYT/WSJ columns and New Yorker articles.

Others that come to mind for me:
-Susan Sontag would probably make most versions of this list, although deceased 10 years
-David Foster Wallace, in addition to his novels, was an excellent essayist that helps humanize the modern experience a bit

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Dragline
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Dragline » Fri Oct 17, 2014 4:27 pm

Amusing that you include both Pinker and Taleb -- their caustic discourse against each other has become legendary (and makes them both seem a little petty sometimes). See http://www.valuewalk.com/2012/11/nassim ... en-pinker/

I don't think I would necessarily factor "great at communicating ideas" into the "great thinker" equation. But great communicators usually rely on great thinkers as source material.

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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by jacob » Fri Oct 17, 2014 6:04 pm

Original ideas are hard to come by (I've had about three(*) in my life which did not turn out to have been invented by someone else already---I reinvent the wheel on a regular basis though, because why spend 30 minutes in the library when you can spend 30 days in the lab? :P ). Mostly people who are full of ideas import them from other fields which is why interdisciplinary people and particularly those who read a lot [so I don't have to] are the ones I pay attention to. I'd add my friend Miguel (an ERE guy I know IRL although he's not on these boards) to the list

http://www.simoleonsense.com/

Dude subscribes to something like 800 RSS feeds(!)

(*)
1) Some clever numerical discretization technique for dealing with precision when it matters and ignoring it when it doesn't using the same equations. Never published by the way.
2) Various theories that relate astronomical observations to specific nuclear reactions, i.e. if you see this in the telescope, you should measure that in your laboratory.
3) Systems theory applied to personal finance. (Maybe more a case of interdisciplinarity)

PS: If you're interested in lateral thinking, I suggest paying close attention to the investment industry as well as people who have moved back AND forth between academia and industry.

PPS: The amounts of insights that are lost because a few well-promoted people get most of the credit really bothers me. That is, I find that if someone is famous whatever they have to say is rarely that interesting to me. I want to hear from people who are published in N>3 fields. Not people who have published a lot in just one field.

PPPS: And if I may ... I have NEVER had my mind blown by a TED talk ;-P

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Dragline
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Dragline » Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:45 pm

Well, you're ahead of me. I don't think i've ever had an original idea. Which is why I stopping trying to come up with original ideas and started mining them in books. What you are always looking out for is that same idea that is expressed in two completely different fields or is applicable in more than one, or that you find in really old books AND really new ones. Those are the powerful ideas.

I think Charlie Munger is one of the best practical idea aggregators. His concept -- that one ought to learn the "Big Ideas" from many different disciplines and then approach practical problems by applying them -- "what if we thought of this as a physics problem? Or biology? Or accounting?" -- is a really good one.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:23 pm

Dragline said: or that you find in really old books AND really new ones. Those are the powerful ideas.
True. OTOH, I find it interesting how often seriously weak, yet very popular new new books will be based on the ideas to be found in a much superior older work. Like an episode of Gilligan's Island based on the plot of Macbeth.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Oct 22, 2014 7:37 am

Depends on what you mean by modern. Some paradigm-shifters who have changed my mind would be:

Antonio Damasio
David Schnarch
Lewis Lapham
Jorge Luis Borges
Diane Johnson
Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi
Candace Pert

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Chad
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Chad » Wed Oct 22, 2014 7:50 am

Does someone qualify as a "great thinker" only because they have original thoughts? I'm not so sure the bar should be that high.
Dragline wrote:Amusing that you include both Pinker and Taleb -- their caustic discourse against each other has become legendary (and makes them both seem a little petty sometimes). See http://www.valuewalk.com/2012/11/nassim ... en-pinker/
Is Taleb ever not petty?

5to9
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by 5to9 » Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:23 am

I am personally not too interested in a strict definition of the category. Honestly the idea of this thread was more of a first order filter helping me find a higher concentration of worthwhile reading material. I care about finding the ideas, the thinkers are just a means to that end.

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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by jennypenny » Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:23 am

Am I allowed to add George Carlin to the list? He was funny, but would also toss in material like The American Dream and Saving the Planet. (it's Carlin, so NSFW)

Correct links:
American Dream https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-14SllPPLxY
Saving the Planet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tncnWp67wQI
Last edited by jennypenny on Wed Oct 22, 2014 10:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Chad
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Chad » Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:42 am

jennypenny wrote:Am I allowed to add George Carlin to the list? He was funny, but would also toss in material like The American Dream and Saving the Planet. (it's Carlin, so NSFW)
I vote yes.

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Dragline
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Dragline » Wed Oct 22, 2014 10:20 am

Yeah, I would too -- his monologue on "stuff" is what I always thing of when the topic of consumerism arises:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

Much more persuasive than most of our appeals to stop consuming so much, too.

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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Stahlmann » Mon Nov 26, 2018 5:36 pm

I'd add my friend Miguel (an ERE guy I know IRL although he's not on these boards) to the list

http://www.simoleonsense.com/

Dude subscribes to something like 800 RSS feeds(!)
If may ask... what happened to this guy? I see he's highlt interested in non-profit orgs in USA. How about rest of his lattice models/knowledge?

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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Jason » Mon Nov 26, 2018 6:52 pm

I read two headlines today with Elon Musk in them: "Elon Musk Planning to Move To Mars" "Elon Musk thinks without robots people will turn into monkeys." I think he's turning into his generation's Howard Hughes except he likes being a public figure. It's good because he's rich and crazy enough to do completely wackadoodle shit.

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Jin+Guice
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Jin+Guice » Tue Nov 27, 2018 11:07 pm

He also dated/ is maybe still dating Grimes. I'll add Grimes to the list. Alright, maybe great thinker is a little heady for a 30 year old celebrity artist, but she is very talented in a multidisplinary (artistic) way and shows great promise.

NNT is great at being petty. Maybe we put him on the list just for that.

To the Alain De Botton people, what Alain De Botton work(s) make you put him on this list?

I'm really stream of conscioussinging this, but, speaking of Alain De Botton and JLF, how about Wringham? I think NE was pretty brilliant.

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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by onewayfamily » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:23 am

I agree on Musk, Taleb and de Botton.

I'll add:
Sam Harris
Yuval Hoah Harari
Tyler Cowan

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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by Lillailler » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:26 am

Eli Goldratt
Goldratt started off as a physics professor, and then got involved in business, in due course developing a set of thinking tools for business (known as 'Theory of Constraints' or TOC), which have turned out to be widely applicable, not just in business. For example, I use the 'Cloud' method for analysing and creatively resolving conflicts a lot, and actually I think I should use it more. Goldratt, then, is a bit of a hedgehog, he knows a few things and knows them well, or rather for us readers, we can learn a few things from him, but the things we can learn are very useful.

Sadly he died a few years ago, but the last book he wrote, actually with his daughter, is called 'The Choice', which will give you the flavour of the man.

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vexed87
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Re: Great Modern Thinkers

Post by vexed87 » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:27 am

I'll plug the late David Fleming, author of Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It and its reformatted linear reading version, Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy. An early peak oiler, a (systems) thinker on community, economy, and energy. Apparently he heavily influenced Rob Hopkins (also of note) the author and founder of the transitions town movement.

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