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The World's Top Thought Leaders

By Ross Pomeroy

The world's most influential thought leader is Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist and current professor at the University of Toronto, according to a new set of rankings compiled by Karin Frick and Detlef Guertler of the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and Peter Gloor of MIT.

Thought leaders are thinkers whose ideas are shaping current discourse on the present and future states of business and society.

To organize the list, the trio of researchers used the computer program Condor -- a network-analyzing algorithm. Condor was set to scour the entire Internet for references to members of a predetermined list of one hundred thinkers in the fields of philosophy, sociology, economics, and the “hard sciences." It also gauged their citations, mentions, and links within the blogosophere. Since the researchers were looking to rank current thought leaders, the algorithm was made to be time-sensitive. (Below: a selection of the thought-leader map created by the algorithm.)

Second on the list was Thilo Sarrazin, an influential, yet controversial German economist and politician. Sarrazin sparked an enormous debate in his home country in 2010 with the release of his book Germany Is Abolishing Itself. In the book, he contentiously advocated reducing welfare benefits and restricting immigration to only the most skilled people.

Third place went to the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. He literally wrote the book on how humans think.

Overall, the authors noted that no thinkers really dominated the landscape.

"Instead of a handful of key thinkers, we see a broad spectrum of specialists," they wrote. "Attention is no longer focused on the next big idea or the next Einstein, but is now increasingly divided up among many small-scale ideas."

Other thought leaders who cracked the top fifty were evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker (5th), futurist Ray Kurzweil (11th), British scientist and journalist Matt Ridley (13th), argumentative atheist and prominent biologist Richard Dawkins (29th), theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking (34th), and economist Paul Krugman (38th).

The rankings were published Wednesday to the online archive arXiv. Frick, Guertler, and Gloor intend to refine their methods and re-issue the rankings periodically.

Source: Frick, Guertler, Gloor (2013) Coolhunting for the World's Thought Leaders. http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1308/1308.1160.pdf

Steven Ross Pomeroy is the assistant editor of Real Clear Science. Follow him on Twitter @SteRoPo.

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