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Are Sheryl Sandberg and Nate Silver America's greatest thinkers?

March 13, 2013|By Hector Tobar
  • Facebook executive and author Sheryl Sandberg, along with statistician Nate Silver, were among the Americans nominated as "great thinkers" by the U.K.-based magazine Prospect.
Facebook executive and author Sheryl Sandberg, along with statistician… (Peter Foley / Bloomberg;…)

Who are the great thinkers in the debate about our world and its future? The U.K.-based magazine Prospect invites you to answer that question, and it has nominated 65 public intellectuals for you to choose from.

There are plenty of Americans on the list -- Katherine Boo, for example, a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum” and Nate Silver, the statistician who correctly predicted the outcome in all 50 states in last year’s presidential election and who wrote “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Prediction Fail -- but Some Don’t.”

Also included are New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and authors Oliver Sacks and Jared Diamond.  

Among the entrepreneurs (and one of 15 women on the list) is Sheryl Sandberg, the top executive at Facebook, whose first book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” was published this week. Reviewing "Lean In" for The Times, Rebecca Traister called it "a muscular manifesto on the gender inequities of the professional world."

Most of the 10 members of the panel that selected the “longlist” of world thinkers are from the U.K. and the U.S., so it’s little surprise that British and American intellectuals make up the bulk of the list.

But the list also included the Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, director and writer of the Oscar-winning drama “A Separation.” Among the handful of Latin American thinkers on the list is Roberto Unger, the Harvard law professor who’s been sharply critical of his former pupil, Barack Obama.

“Candidates have to be alive and still active in public life,” the Prospect’s editors wrote. “They must be distinguished in their field and have influence on international debate. We gave credit for the currency of the candidates’ work — their influence over the past 12 months and their continuing significance to this year’s biggest questions.”

The Guardian went through the list and counted 26 thinkers from the U.S., nine from the U.K. The Guardian also listed several names that had fallen off the Prospect’s previous lists — including Salman Rushdie, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein — saying that the feature “mercilessly exposes who has fallen out of the reckoning, like golf or tennis stars dropping down the rankings.”

What other great contemporary thinkers did they miss?


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