21. GEORGE SOROS
For telling Europe the ugly truth.
Philanthropist, investor | New York
As Europe’s crisis rages on, don’t expect reassurance about the future of global capitalism from this Hungarian-born hedge fund billionaire and market guru. At a June speech in Italy, George Soros argued that the financial crisis represents a failure of economic theory “more profound than generally recognized” and decried the austerity-promoting policies of European governments, arguing that they “cannot reduce the debt burden by shrinking the economy.”
Soros has been particularly withering in his assessment of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s (No. 12) response to the crisis. In a widely discussed New York Review of Books essay in September, he made the case that penny-wise, pound-foolish Germany, not Greece, is the country most at fault in the crisis. Germany must either lead Europe out of the crisis or leave the eurozone, he argued, which would limit the fallout of the crisis and allow smaller countries to return to growth with a devalued currency. Shortly thereafter, Merkel reversed course and supported the European Central Bank’s plan to buy Spanish and Italian bonds — so perhaps Berlin was listening.
Soros, often the object of conspiracy theories for his support for liberal groups in the United States, dialed it back a little this election year — even going so far as to say that there “isn’t all that much difference” between President Barack Obama and contender Mitt Romney. An investor as shrewd as Soros knows it’s always wise to hedge.
22. JOYCE BANDA
For stepping in — and up — to fix a broken country.
President | Malawi
When Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika died of a heart attack in April, it wasn’t immediately clear what would become of his vice president, Joyce Banda. The two had fallen out in recent years, with the increasingly autocratic president booting Banda from his political party in 2010. Even Mutharika’s wife publicly derided the smalltown veep — a longtime grassroots advocate for women, children, and the poor — scoffing, “She will never be president. How can a mandazi [fritter] seller be president?” After a tense two days in the wake of Mutharika’s death, however, Banda proved the first lady wrong, becoming Africa’s second-ever female president.
Governing Malawi — where an estimated 75 percent of its more than 15 million residents live on $1 or less a day — presents enormous challenges, to be sure. But in just seven months Banda has largely thrown out her predecessor’s playbook, showing the world how to take charge and work to turn around a troubled country. Within days of taking office, she dismissed key members of Mutharika’s administration, including the police chief in power when 19 Malawian demonstrators were killed at a 2011 opposition rally, and in May, amid rising persecution of gays in Africa, she vowed to repeal Malawi’s laws against homosexuality. By devaluing the Malawian currency by more than a third, a move Mutharika had long refused despite the IMF’s urging, Banda also secured a much-needed $157 million IMF loan in June — a first step toward rebuilding Malawi’s debilitated economy.
Her work is cut out for her. So far, however, all signs suggest Banda could become a new model for African leadership — shedding the strongman syndrome and getting down to business to help the poor. To prove it, she has cut her own salary by 30 percent and put her predecessor’s $12 million presidential jet and most of his fleet of 60 luxury cars up for sale. “I can as well use private airlines,” she said. “I am already used to hitchhiking.” But it’s more than that: “I must demonstrate to Malawians that we are in this together,” she explained to Al Jazeera. “I must be the first person to set an example.” For Malawi, and the world over.
23. ED MORSE
For proving that energy independence is no fantasy.
Economist | New York
In March, Ed Morse and several Citigroup colleagues published a 92-page report with a provocative thesis upending the conventional wisdom on global energy scarcity. North America, they said, is hurtling toward energy independence on the strength of shale, oil sands, and deepwater output in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. By 2020, booming energy production and declining consumption could have a transformative impact on the sluggish U.S. economy, goosing GDP by more than 3 percent, reducing the current account deficit — the balance of imports and exports — by 60 percent, and creating nearly 4 million new jobs. The continent, in short, could become the “new Middle East” in less than a decade.
The study has already had a far-reaching impact, encouraging both U.S. political parties to revamp their energy strategies and focus not on the dangerous U.S. dependence on Mideast oil but rather on the country’s potential to supply its own energy needs and the many benefits that come along with doing so. When Republican Mitt Romney announced a plan to achieve energy independence by 2020, his presidential campaign’s white paper cited the Citi report eight times. Barack Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, touted the president’s commitment to reducing “our dependence on foreign oil” through “an all-of-the-above approach to developing all our energy resources.”
Morse, Citi’s global head of commodities research, argues that the United States’ new role as a net petroleum-product exporter could reshape the geopolitical landscape by weakening OPEC countries and insulating North America from oil price spikes. “We will no longer be kowtowing to despotic rulers and feudal monarchs whose oil supply lines are crucial to other aspects of foreign policy,” he recently predicted. And the effects could be even more profound if a more inward-looking United States decides it no longer needs to play the country’s post-World War II role as the guarantor of global supply lanes and protector of Gulf sheikhdoms. As for Romney’s plan? “I think they have the basic story absolutely correct,” Morse told the Atlantic. And he should know. After all, he wrote it.
24. THOMAS PIKETTY, EMMANUEL SAEZ
For making the graph that Occupied Wall Street.
Economists | France; Berkeley, Calif.
Jabs at the “1 percent” became the battle cry of disgruntled Occupy Wall Street protesters and the subtext of much of the U.S. presidential campaign this year, but they were hardly the first to draw attention to the outsized wealth of America’s top earners. Much of the credit should go to Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Armed with a century’s worth of hard data, the two French economists have revealed just how acute income inequality has become in the United States. And the disparity, their research found, has recently reached levels not seen since the eve of the Great Depression.
Piketty, at the Paris School of Economics, and Saez, at the University of California/Berkeley, started their income-tracking project two decades ago. Their deep dive through U.S. Internal Revenue Service tax returns dating to 1913 resulted in their signature paper, first published in 2003 and recently updated. The study’s centerpiece is a stark, U-shaped graph showing the top 1 percent’s share of total U.S. income bottoming out after World War II, rising after the 1970s, and, by the mid-2000s, nearly matching the record set back in 1928. (After the financial crisis, guess which group recovered fastest — and most robustly?) Today, that squiggle has become a favorite smoking gun of left-leaning intellectuals who argue that the rich should bear much more of the U.S. tax burden. Piketty and Saez’s work is cited in White House budget documents and “helped to point the way for the administration in its pledge to rebalance the tax code,” according to Peter Orszag, President Barack Obama’s first budget director.
The French duo’s suggested remedy is something they say is as American as apple pie: higher income taxes on the very richest. They recommend a rate as high as 83 percent for the top bracket of earners — much higher than the 30 percent of the proposed “Buffett Rule” and even more than French President François Hollande’s proposed 75 percent top tax rate. Piketty, who calls the level of U.S. income inequality today “completely crazy,” argued this year that the United States is switching places with Old Europe. “Inequality of wealth and income used to be much larger in France,” he told the New York Times. “And very high taxes on the very rich — that was invented in the United States.”
25. NADIM MATTA
For showing that everyone needs a 100-day plan, not just presidents.
President, Rapid Results Institute | Stamford, Conn.
We all know the effect of a deadline when it comes to a project at work or paying a bill. Nadim Matta sees this power as something much more consequential. Matta is the head of the Rapid Results Institute, a nonprofit that helps poor communities around the world set ambitious goals on timelines so short that they seem unreasonable — just 100 days. Rapid Results then moves in to train locals, who coach their peers to meet the targets: build a school in a Sudanese village, get 700 people tested for HIV in Addis Ababa, double the number of attended births in a Rwandan town. The driving idea behind the method, Matta believes, is that an often overlooked barrier to development is motivation — that final push to get over the finish line. The work Rapid Results does, he says, is about stepping in and “unleashing local capabilities.”
This deadlines-driven approach, developed four decades ago at the management consultancy where Matta also works, was originally applied to Fortune 500 companies. It was Matta who adapted the method for the realm of development — and with impressive results. Since its founding in 2007, Rapid Results has set down roots in more than half a dozen sub-Saharan African countries. Nearly all of Kenya’s government ministries, as well as the World Bank, have adopted the method, and this year in the United States, it’s helping provide housing to tens of thousands of homeless people. “The biggest issue is that people don’t actually mobilize.… The last mile is where solutions need to come together in specific ways,” Matta explained. “We think we have part of the answer to the last-mile problem.”
26. AI WEIWEI
For turning his confinement into art — and protest.
Artist | China
It has been a year of shrinking horizons for China’s best-known artist turned dissident, but as he has throughout his career, Ai Weiwei has turned his difficult circumstances into living performance art, exposing just how petty and paranoid even the most seemingly impregnable authoritarian system can be. Ai was released from prison in July 2011 after being held for three months on trumped-up tax-evasion charges. Once a source of pride for the Communist Party as a designer of the Beijing Bird’s Nest stadium, he got on the government’s bad side after ripping into its response to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In September he lost his final appeal and was ordered to pay $2.4 million in back taxes; he’s still not allowed to leave the country. (Many of Ai’s supporters folded money into paper planes and flew them over the walls of his home to help him cover his bill.)
But Ai has found ways to occupy his time. When one of his Twitter followers asked in May whether he was working on any new artwork, Ai tweeted back, “I am the artwork.” In April, he set up cameras throughout his house, providing a live feed on his website and to his 170,000 followers. (“Twitter is my city, my favorite city,” he told FP this year.) The authorities soon pressured him into removing the cameras, evidently preferring that they be the only ones to watch the rotund 55-year-old work on his computer and play with his cats.
But make no mistake — this performance art is deeply political. Throughout his career Ai has insisted that artists have a duty to humanity that outweighs the obligations of nationalism. Even declaring one’s opposition to “trafficking children, selling HIV-infected blood, [and] operating slave labor coal pits” is enough to get branded as “anti-China” in today’s political climate, Ai once noted on his blog, asking, “If we aren’t anti-China, are we still human?”
In October, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington presented the first major U.S. retrospective of Ai’s work. The artist was not in attendance.
27. CHRISTINE LAGARDE
For investing in the Middle East when others would not.
Managing director, International Monetary Fund | Washington
While members of the U.S. Congress were threatening to cancel $450 million in emergency aid promised to Egypt, the IMF’s Christine Lagarde was meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council representatives and laying the groundwork for a $4.8 billion loan to rescue Egypt’s damaged economy. In the wake of the Arab Spring, which slashed growth rates across the region as political instability overwhelmed already fragile economies and left nascent democracies struggling to provide basic services like water and sewage treatment, the former French finance minister — who replaced the scandal-ridden Dominique Strauss-Kahn midway through the 2011 uprisings — has set about filling the void.
The Middle East’s destiny “lies ultimately with the region itself, but the international community also has a responsibility to help,” she said one year after the protests began. Neither Washington nor Brussels has really answered the call, so Lagarde’s IMF has approved $2 billion in loans for Jordan and a $6.2 billion liquidity line for Morocco, not to mention helping Tunisia improve its financial sector, Libya revamp its government payment system, and Egypt make its tax code more equitable. In total, the IMF has pledged $35 billion to the countries affected by the uprisings. U.S. President Barack Obama’s funding request for Arab Spring states this year, by comparison, totalled just $770 million — and Congress rejected it. If the Middle East ever emerges from its economic morass, Lagarde and her foresight will deserve more than a little of the credit.
28. AHMET DAVUTOGLU, RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN
For leading from the front.
Foreign minister, prime minister | Turkey
It wasn’t a reference you’ll ever hear in Washington’s corridors of power: “I say it very clearly: What is happening in Syria right now is exactly the same thing as what happened in Karbala 1,332 years ago,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saidthis fall, referring to one of the foundational battles of Islam, which cemented the divide between Sunni and Shiite. The allusion to sectarian bloodshed may have made some Western leaders cringe, but it also showed why Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership has emerged as the Middle East’s indispensable power, grappling with the region’s struggles over identity and religion in a way no American politician ever could. With the Arab world in disarray and the United States criticized for “leading from behind,” Turkey has taken on an increasingly prominent international role, fueled by a belief that its unique culture and history make it an ideal bridge between East and West.
But as Erdogan and his cerebral academic turned foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, are discovering, that new leadership comes at a price. Their opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — Erdogan blasted his old friend as presiding over a “terrorist state” — has created new security threats in Turkey’s southeast, while the flood of more than 100,000 Syrian refugees into its territory has stretched Ankara’s resources to the breaking point. Now, Erdogan and Davutoglu face a dilemma on Syria that is all too familiar in Washington: stay on the sidelines or go it alone. The premier has blasted Assad’s “attempted genocide” and ordered Turkey’s relentlessly globe-trotting top diplomat, the intellectual architect of the country’s newly assertive foreign policy, to rouse the world to action. As Davutoglu put it before the U.N. Security Council, “How long are we going to sit and watch while an entire generation is being wiped out by random bombardment and deliberate mass targeting?”
29. WILLEM BUITER
For warning of the Grexit.
Economist | Britain
Willem Buiter, Citigroup’s chief economist, relishes a good intellectual dust-up, especially if it involves debunking an economic conventional wisdom or two. “I like saying things that drive people around the bend,” he recently told the Wall Street Journal.
When it comes to Europe’s monetary union, Buiter has been doing just that for quite some time. In 1999, the Dutch-born economist published a paper, “Alice in Euroland,” arguing that the European Central Bank (ECB), created a year earlier, was so flawed it could threaten not just the embryonic common currency but the “continued success of the post Second World War European integration process.” At the time, it seemed an unlikely critique; today, it seems like gospel. Buiter is Europe’s prophet of doom. Ever since the European debt crisis broke out in 2009, he has considered whether debt-hobbled, bailout-bound Greece will exit the eurozone — a prospect so often discussed that Buiter and a colleague coined a word in February to describe it: “Grexit.” The term went viral by May as political instability rocked Athens and the media embraced the year’s catchiest eurocrisis shorthand. By September, even Greece’s beleaguered prime minister was using it, as in: “What they call ‘Grexit’ is not an option for us — it would be a catastrophe.” Buiter isn’t done prophesying. In September, his team challenged the conventional wisdom that an ECB bond-buying program marked a turning point in the debt crisis, arguing that the plan made a Greek departure from the eurozone “more manageable” and estimating the probability of a Grexit in the next 12 to 18 months at 90 percent. The news isn’t good for Europe either. The eurozone could be in “cardiac arrest” for at least two to three more years, he informed clients that same month. That’s plenty of time to drive more euro-optimists around the bend.
30. ELON MUSK
For putting his money where his mind is.
Entrepreneur | Los Angeles
Look closely during a party scene in the blockbuster Iron Man 2, and you’ll see eccentric playboy billionaire Tony Stark shaking hands with Elon Musk, the real-life model for Robert Downey Jr.’s update of the comic-book superhero.
He may not be able to fly — yet — but at 42, Musk’s way-outside-the-box ideas of how to make the world a better place have resulted in the creation of not one but four of America’s most innovative companies. Shortly after college, Musk and fellow future billionaire Peter Thiel founded the online payment system that eventually became the now-ubiquitous PayPal. After selling it for $1.5 billion in 2002, Musk started SpaceX, the private spaceflight company that in 2008 won a NASA contract to take over cargo transportation to the International Space Station from the now-defunct space shuttle. This May, SpaceX launched the first-ever commercial flight to the station. Musk is also co-founder of Tesla Motors, which stands a real chance of producing the first economically viable all-electric cars. And his latest passion project is SolarCity, an innovative energy company that provides low-cost solar services to businesses and is working to build electric car-charging stations in California — a business idea that came to Musk during a road trip to Burning Man, the annual hippie-meets-Silicon Valley extravaganza.
He isn’t done yet. Other plans include the “Hyperloop,” a tube-based “fifth mode of transportation” that he claims will one day be able to take passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 30 minutes, and an idea to build a Mars lander that can create a mini-greenhouse to grow crops and set the stage for eventual human habitation of the red planet. “I would like to die on Mars,” Musk has said. At this rate, it would be foolish to bet against him.
31. MARISSA MAYER, SHERYL SANDBERG
For having it all.
President and CEO, Yahoo!, COO, Facebook | Silicon Valley, Calif.
In 2012, a record-breaking number of women reached the top of America’s Fortune 500 companies. The number that broke the record? Twenty — just 4 percent. As more and more women enter the workplace but remain stubbornly absent from the corner offices, the conversation about female titans of industry has taken on a new urgency, and former Google executives Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg are at the center of the storm.
Sandberg, now chief operating officer of Facebook, had a roller-coaster year when the company’s much-touted stock offering turned into a flop. But it was her comments on why there are too few women in the workplace that helped transform her into a controversial feminist icon for the tech era. In a series of widely discussed talks, Sandberg urged women to close the “ambition gap” — a tendency to defer to men in the workplace so as to not appear “bossy” or in anticipation of leaving to start families. The predictable raging dispute ensued — and is sure to flare back up when she publishes a book on the subject in 2013 — but through it all Sandberg has stuck to her pragmatic approach to how women can help themselves get ahead while still getting home for dinner with the kids (at least occasionally). Sandberg is certainly leading by example: The mother of two young ones holds dual degrees from Harvard University, cut her teeth at the U.S. Treasury Department as Lawrence Summers’s chief of staff (before his comments implying women are innately less capable at the sciences than men), and tirelessly campaigns for other women to fight for having it all as well.
For her part, Mayer announced this summer both that she was pregnant and that she was taking the helm of troubled tech behemoth Yahoo. Disapproval rained down from business elites, who accused her of compromising the health of her company, and from mothers, who accused her of compromising the health of her baby. But Mayer, a Stanford University-educated engineer who rose from one of Google’s earliest employees to a vice president, refused to be cowed, and Yahoo agreed. Two weeks after giving birth to a boy in September, she tweeted that she was back in the office full time and announced a new COO to boot.
Between the two execs, the endless compromises and contradictions of the modern working woman were laid bare, prompting a searingly honest debate about women in power at a time when only a handful have made their way to its most exclusive corridors. Maybe the world is finally beginning to realize that a generation of mothers is going to need to figure out how to get to the top — and stay there.
32. ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER
For arguing that women can’t have it all — and explaining why we’d be better off admitting it.
Political scientist | Princeton, N.J.
Anne-Marie Slaughter has been a dean at Princeton University and a top official at the U.S. State Department, where she oversaw the first-ever attempt to review and rationalize the sprawling bureaucracy’s overseas priorities. She has been a passionate advocate for intervention in Syria. And she is an innovative and prolific scholar, arguing in numerous books and articles that the stodgy foreign policy of old is being transformed by the new realities of a networked world. But it was in another role — as a mom and disaffected global policymaker — that she catapulted herself into the public eye this year.
Slaughter’s summer cover article in the Atlantic, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” chronicles her two years juggling her high-level Washington job with the needs of two teenage boys back in New Jersey — a balancing act she concluded “was not possible.” At more than 12,500 words, her essay on the inflexible work environment for even the planet’s most successful women sparked a viral debate about the harsh reality of the glass ceiling in the U.S. workplace and around the world. Her critics zeroed in on the phrase “having it all” as implausible or even indulgent, and even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded that while “some women are not comfortable working at the pace and intensity you have to work at in these jobs.… Other women don’t break a sweat.” But Slaughter said her hope is ultimately to make it easier for ambitious women to balance their family and professional lives — an urgent necessity given that fewer than 20 women lead countries in the world today, 80 percent of all parliamentary seats are held by men, and a grand total of 17 percent of the world’s government ministers are women.
“I think if I had an absolutely accurate title, it would be ‘Why Working Mothers Need Better Choices to Be Able to Make It to the Top,'” Slaughter later said. But then again, “I’m not sure a million people would have read it. And I wanted to start a conversation. And we’ve started a conversation.”
33. SALMAN RUSHDIE
For defending free speech as if his life, and ours, depended on it.
Writer | New York
More than two decades before U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East were overrun by rioters angry about a crude anti-Islamic video and more than a decade before the 9/11 attacks, Salman Rushdie received the phone call that changed his life forever when a BBC reporter asked him, “How does it feel to know that you have just been sentenced to death by Ayatollah Khomeini?”
This year saw the release of Rushdie’s astonishingly well-timed memoir, Joseph Anton, which describes his life in hiding after the 1989 fatwa condemning him to death for The Satanic Verses, a book that fundamentalists deemed offensive to the Prophet Mohammed. The title of Rushdie’s memoir comes from the pseudonym — composed of the first names of his favorite authors, Conrad and Chekhov — he adopted while underground. The book’s release took on added political significance amid anti-American riots across the world this fall provoked by the online video Innocence of Muslims. “I always said that what happened to me was a prologue and there will be many, many more episodes like it. This is one of those,” Rushdie said. “The correct response would be to say it is garbage and unimportant,” he said of the video. “To react to it with this kind of violence is just ludicrously inappropriate.”
Through it all, Rushdie has continued to make a powerfully personal case for freedom of expression, writing that the fatwa was “a violent attack not on the novel in general, or on free speech per se, but on a particular accumulation of words, and on the intentions and integrity and ability of the writer who had put those words together.”
34. PAUL KRUGMAN
For wielding his acid pen against austerity.
Economist | Princeton, N.J.
To hear Paul Krugman tell it, the U.S. economic crisis is Americans’ own damn fault. “The depression we’re in is essentially gratuitous: we don’t need to be suffering so much pain and destroying so many lives,” he wrote recently. Washington’s obsession with austerity is to blame, he rails; what is needed is an aggressive, deficits-be-damned stimulus package to jump-start the economy and get Americans working again.
The Nobel Prize-winning Princeton University economist’s prescription for the U.S. economy is actually fairly simple: Inject cash into it, and fast. He has suggested boosting federal aid to state and local governments, providing assistance to homeowners struggling with the deflation of the housing bubble, and having the Federal Reserve buy up government bonds to reduce long-term interest rates. While those ideas make Krugman anathema to those on the right, his New York Times column is required reading by conservatives and liberals alike — and his insistence on providing help for struggling American families is a welcome antidote to the Washington establishment’s relentless focus on budget cuts. “Tens of millions of our fellow citizens are suffering vast hardship, the future prospects of today’s young people are being eroded with each passing month,” he wrote, “and all of it is unnecessary.
Thanks to his academic bona fides and slashing style, Krugman — who this year also published a pro-stimulus book, End This Depression Now! — has become a sort of folk hero among liberals and a scourge of both Republicans and moderate Democrats. One safe prediction for 2013: He’ll keep on being a thorn in the side of the powers that be, whichever way the political winds blow.
35. NOURIEL ROUBINI
For being not just gloomy, but right.
Economist | New York
As far back as 2005, Nouriel Roubini saw dangerous speculation in the housing market for what it was: a harbinger of financial Armageddon. At the time, as Paul Krugman (No. 34) later noted in Time magazine, “the likes of Alan Greenspan were dismissing concerns about excessive home prices and declaring that banks were stronger than ever.”
Since then, Roubini has hardly had time to gloat; he has been too busy warning that the worst isn’t over. In 2006, he speculated about a eurozone breakup at a time when it seemed outlandish, and in 2008 — when most economists were throwing around numbers in the hundreds of billions — Roubini warned that bank losses would total more than $2 trillion. (It turns out he was close but if anything too cautious: The IMF’s 2010 estimate was $2.28 trillion.) He was also ahead of the curve in identifying the global reach of the subprime-mortgage crisis and has repeatedly warned against rosy predictions of recovery. In 2010, when the stock market appeared to be turning around, Roubini — dubbed Dr. Doom by the financial press — asserted: “The crisis is not over; we are just at the next stage.”
Lately, Dr. Doom has taken to warning of a “perfect storm” in which the “slow-motion train wreck” in Europe, along with the cooling Chinese economy and sluggish U.S. recovery, coincides with a war between Israel and Iran that inevitably drags in the United States. But Roubini is more than just a bearer of bad news: He has become the gloomy bard of this age of financial upheaval.
36. SHAI RESHEF
For giving the world a shot at the Ivy League.
Founder, University of the People | Pasadena, Calif.
Every year in Nigeria, roughly 1.5 million students would like to go on to college, but because of limited university space, only a few hundred thousand can. That means some 80 percent of Nigerians hoping to pursue higher education are simply out of luck. Enter Shai Reshef, an Israeli-born entrepreneur whose online education NGO, University of the People, promises to grant bachelor’s degrees to the poor around the world — essentially tuition-free. Reshef’s idea piggybacks on the growing migration of world-class university lectures to the Internet, where students from any country can now have access to the best international minds and at least a virtual slice of the Ivy League educations that for so long were the preserve of a small elite. But his project goes a step further, offering a full, four-year college education to “anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection,” as he told the New York Times. His audacious goal is nothing less than to change how the world learns.
Reshef, who made his fortune in for-profit supplementary education, does not draw a salary from the university, which has only 10 paid employees; the professors are all volunteers, many from top universities around the world. Although 1,500 students in 135 countries have been admitted to University of the People, which Reshef founded in 2009, the program is still in the process of applying for accreditation from the U.S. government. But partnerships with heavyweights like Yale Law School, New York University, the Gates Foundation, and the Clinton Global Initiative hint at the outsized impact his idea is likely to have on the world of higher ed. Reshef says University of the People plans to increase enrollment to 5,000 students by 2015 — and then grow indefinitely. With 3,000 volunteers now working toward that goal, “we don’t know what to do with them,” Reshef recently told the Washington Post.
37. DAPHNE KOLLER, ANDREW NG
For working to make education a human right.
Computer scientists | Palo Alto, Calif.
Since 1980, tuition increases at U.S. universities have outpaced the consumer price index, inflation, and even the housing bubble that precipitated the current financial crisis. But with the arrival of companies like Coursera, an online educational consortium founded by Stanford University computer scientists Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, higher ed is reaching far beyond the privileged few in the ivory tower. Through Coursera, anybody with an Internet connection and the desire to learn can log on and tune in to courses at the world’s leading research universities — and for now at least, it’s free. “We have the incredible opportunity to make education what it should be,” Koller and Ng write, “a fundamental human right.”
Several similar programs offering “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs — most prominently Sebastian Thrun’s (No. 4) Udacity and edX, a Harvard-MIT joint venture — have helped online education flourish in recent years. Coursera alone is partnered with more than 30 brick-and-mortar universities, including Stanford, the University of Michigan, and Princeton University, and it offers a wide range of courses in engineering, computer science, math, and, increasingly, the humanities. As of August, it had enrolled more than 1 million students from 196 countries. The for-profit tech company has no immediate plans to offer degrees, but its course-by-course certification scheme is already advancing students’ careers. This year, for instance, a 22-year-old computer science student from Kazakhstan scored a job at Twitter — after taking an artificial intelligence course at Stanford through Coursera.
38. DICK and LIZ CHENEY
For keeping the neocon flame alive.
Former vice president, director of Keep America Safe | Washington
If scaring us silly were a religion, Dick Cheney would be its high priest. The most powerful vice president in U.S. history is still waging a campaign, even after a heart transplant in March, to convince us that the dark side of terrorists and rogue states is out there and must be defended against at all costs. An unrelenting critic of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, Cheney has called the president’s efforts to portray himself as strong on national defense “hogwash.” In the wake of the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in September, Cheney framed the administration’s confused response to the attack as symptomatic of a larger failure of leadership. “They refuse to recognize the situation we are in, and that’s the first step towards ultimate failure and ultimately the future terrorist attacks,” he said on the Sean Hannity Show.
But it may be daughter Liz, a former official in George W. Bush’s administration who founded the advocacy group Keep America Safe in 2009 and co-wrote her father’s bestselling 2011 memoir, who has emerged as the most influential and outspoken member of the Cheney family, arguing for a more imposing U.S. presence abroad. “In too many parts of the world, America is no longer viewed as a reliable ally or an enemy to be feared,” she recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal. The younger Cheney, a Fox News political analyst, raised funds for Mitt Romney’s campaign in her home state of Wyoming, and there’s speculation she may be planning her own run for office.
Following the Bush administration’s foreign-policy controversies, many believed the Republican Party would move away from its more pugnacious recent past. Some, like Condoleezza Rice (No. 39), maintain a sunnier optimism about American power. But given the hawkish rhetoric and hard-line advisors of Romney’s campaign, it seems that Cheneyism is alive and well in today’s Republican Party.
39. CONDOLEEZZA RICE
For updating Rockefeller realism for the Tea Party era.
Former secretary of state | Palo Alto, Calif.
Condi Rice has long dismissed the terms “idealist” and “realist” as meaningless academic distinctions. An expert on the Soviet Union whose worldview shifted dramatically with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the woman who became George W. Bush’s national security advisor and secretary of state is at once both and neither. More than anything (and very much unlike her dark-side-minded rival, No. 38 Dick Cheney), Rice is an optimist whose faith in historical progress — and America’s role at its forefront — has been likened to “theology.”
This unwavering belief in American indispensability guided her principled critique of Barack Obama’s administration this year, when she re-emerged into the Republican spotlight with a starring role at the Republican National Convention. “Where does America stand?” Rice asked emphatically in a speech that drew praise from both sides of the aisle and stirred rumblings of “Condi 2016.” Without robust American leadership, she warned, chaos will ensue — “or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values.” And Rice, rarely a partisan warrior, made a pointed jab at Obama, saying, “We cannot be reluctant to lead, and you cannot lead from behind.”
Unlike much of candidate Mitt Romney’s foreign-policy team, however, Rice would have America lead the world in a decidedly moderate direction. There is considerable continuity between the foreign policy of Bush’s second term — when Rice was secretary of state — and that of the Obama administration. But Rice, though she has largely escaped public blame for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is no dove — “Peace really does come through strength,” she reminded the audience in Tampa. Still, rebuilding America’s alliances, so that friends and partners know the United States is “reliable and consistent and determined,” and expanding free trade top Rice’s priority list, as do “sensitively” developing America’s oil and natural gas reserves and coming up with new immigration laws that “show that we are a compassionate nation of immigrants.” In a party increasingly dominated by its spoon-banging right wing, Rice has emerged as an important voice in favor of tough, but smart, foreign policy.
40. EUGENE KASPERSKY
For decoding the secrets of cyberwar.
Computer security expert | Russia
Boasting hundreds of millions of customers for his company’s anti-virus software, Eugene Kaspersky is one of the leading global authorities on cybersecurity. So when he warned executives at a technology conference this spring that “cyberweapons are the most dangerous innovation of this century,” the tech world took notice.
After all, Kaspersky was among the first to publicly document the state-sponsored use of cyberweapons, signaling the advent of a new era of war. His company, Kaspersky Lab, alerted the world to the danger posed by the Stuxnet worm — reportedly developed by the U.S. and Israeli governments — that attacked the Iranian nuclear program before spilling out into the wider web, as well as the Flame virus that infected thousands of computers, mostly in the Middle East. He has also provocatively called for Internet users to be issued online virtual “passports” that would work like driver’s licenses in the offline world.
Kaspersky is no stranger to controversy. Before co-founding Kaspersky Lab in 1997, he was educated at a technical school sponsored by the KGB, and he spent time working for the Russian military. He has refuted allegations that he still has ties to Russian security services and was working on their behalf to expose U.S. cyberweapons. “I’m just a man who’s ‘here to save the world,'” he wrote in a rebuttal to a negative profile in Wired.
Kaspersky’s Hobbesian view of cyberspace might be discomfiting for people used to thinking of the Internet as a place of cute cat videos and anodyne status updates, but it’s becoming clearer and clearer that we can no longer afford to ignore his warnings.