Future Top 30 Addition: Elon Musk

In 2021, I wrote a book, a fact which, judging by sales, remains a well-kept secret. It’s called “Who Made the West: A Ranking of the 30 Most Influential Figures in Western History.” You should buy it.

When I’m asked about the book, questions usually come in one of several forms:

  1. How are sales?/How many books have you sold?
  2. How did you get the idea?/Why 30 people?/Why just the West?
  3. Is anyone alive on the list?/What living person could make a later edition?

My answer to the first question is “I don’t care about the damned sales!” and my answer to the second question is “Read the damned foreword!” I can’t imagine why I don’t sell more books.

The third question, however, is an interesting one. As a result of rules made totally by myself, no one living was eligible for the Top 30. That said, there are a dozen or so living people that I can project would be considered for such a future list were I, despite the popular will, to write a sequel decades from now. Names to monitor include tech giants Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs (who passed away after I settled on the list) and Mark Zuckerberg; politicians Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump; and scientists Jennifer Doudna, Geoffrey Hinton, and Katalin Karikó.

When considering these names, however, we have to be cognizant of recency bias. If we jump, say, a hundred years into the future, not only do we not know if the people of 2122 will care about Bezos and Trump that much more than we care about Andrew Carnegie and Calvin Coolidge — two important figures, of course, but not really “Top 30” worthy — but we also don’t know what big names will have filled the hundred years in between. Some of the most influential names of 2122 haven’t been born yet. Further, there may be some unknown names of today that take the path of Gutenberg and Shakespeare, their influence felt well after their deaths.

And yet, despite our clouded vantage point, I do feel strongly that one particular living person will, a century from now, be ranked among history’s most influential people. This person will not only be Top 30 worthy in a century’s time, but Top 10. Maybe even Top 5.

That name is Elon Musk, the most influential living figure of the world’s future.[1]

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