Sunday, February 08, 2015
Who do I admire most?
After the most recent results of Gallup's traditional "most admired" poll turned up some odd answers (Vladimir Putin??), Tyler Cowen asked his readers to identify their most admired living individuals. Well, there's little I like better than a good hagiography, so here's my list, in no particular order. Note that these are people I admire for what they're doing now. And of course the list is heavily weighted toward people in the media (and people I know); there are people working to take out terrorists, or discovering the technologies for better batteries, or working on cancer cures whom I would admire if I knew their names. With those caveats, here is the list:
1. Elon Musk
An obvious choice. But what other individual has the chance to singlehandedly save the world? Not only would electric cars help bring down oppressive petro-regimes all over the planet, but cheap batteries for cars and houses would be a huge help in the fight against global warming. Musk is the most important individual working to make those technologies happen.
People I admire for similar reasons: Danielle Fong, Lyndon Rive
2. Kathy Matsui
As you all know, women's equality in Japan is a big issue I care about. I'm also of the school that thinks that economic equality is a prerequisite for social equality. No one has done as much to promote the idea of "womenomics" as Kathy Matsui. Many of the changes we are seeing in Japan originated from the ideas of Matsui.
People I admire for similar reasons: Sayaka Osakabe, Akie Abe
3. Elizabeth Warren
I don't agree with Warren on every issue, not by any means. But no other person in the United States has been as tireless and effective about fighting the excesses of the 2000s-era industrial policy. Just pushing through the CFPB would be heroism enough for one lifetime. Warren will probably go down in history as the most important reformer of the current period.
People I admire for similar reasons: Paul Volcker
4. Shinzo Abe
I was once about as big an Abe detractor as you could find, back in 2006 when it seemed like he was undoing everything Junichiro Koizumi had accomplished. But then Abe transformed himself into the super-Koizumi, with some help from his wife and his economic advisers, made a stunning comeback, and is now transforming the Japanese economy and society in ways that will be mostly good.
People I admire for (somewhat) similar reasons: Koichi Hamada, Joko Widodo
5. Steve Chu
The energy crunch is humanity's biggest challenge, and it will take both government and the private sector to beat it. On the private sector Elon Musk is the icon, but in the government sector, Steve Chu is the biggest hero. Chu worked tirelessly to create a sensible energy policy that was diversified and that balanced the need for boldness with the fear of waste.
People I admire for (somewhat) similar reasons: Barack Obama
6. Marc Andreessen
Putting Marc on this list will cause me some embarrassment next time I see him on Twitter, but there's no way I could leave him off. Well of course he did kind of invent the Internet, but remember that this list is about current activities. Nowadays, as a venture capitalist, he's A) funding neat stuff, while B) working to define the culture of Silicon Valley in a positive way. Many other people do (A); few other people of such prominence do (B). Along with his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, he's working to increase women's participation in the IT industry.
People I admire for (somewhat) similar reasons: Bill Gates
7. Jim Pethokoukis
Yes, this is a repeat from the "heroes of blogging" list, but oh well. Transforming one of America's two dominant political ideologies is a tall, tall order. Of all the people in the "reform conservative" movement, the one with the best vision and message is Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute. See here, here, and here for his attempts to grab the tiller of the conservative ship and steer it in a more rational, forward-looking direction.
People I admire for similar reasons: Michael Strain
8. Jon Stewart
There was a moment, sometime in 2005, when it seemed like Jon Stewart was the only sane man in America. American politics was still in a fever from 9/11, and the Iraq War and the second Bush election certainly didn't help. I still feel like the turning point, for some reason, was when Stewart destroyed the moronic show Crossfire on live TV. More importantly, Stewart has worked tirelessly for over a decade to expose the hyper-partisanship of our era for the joke it is.
People I admire for similar reasons: Stephen Colbert, John Oliver
9. Terence Tao
It's one thing to be the smartest human on the planet. It's another thing to be both the smartest human on the planet and a nice, well-adjusted person. We are raised on archetypes of the crazy smart guy - Isaac Newton slurping mercury, Grigori Perelman turning down a million dollars and living off of his mother's pension. Of course, it's not those guys' fault that they are oddballs, but symbolism is important. Tao is a new model of hypergenius - a well-adjusted guy who shares his work on his blog, collaborates with everyone, and just has fun.
People I admire for (somewhat) similar reasons: Jim Simons
10. My "heroes of blogging": Brad DeLong, Annalee Newitz, Ramez Naam, Devin Stewart, Cory Doctorow, Phil Yu, Richard Florida, Paul Krugman, Barry Ritholtz, Mark Thoma, Miles Kimball, Justin Wolfers, and more!
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. But I'm exhausted now, in any case.
Tyler Cowen posted his own "most admired" list, mostly consisting of everymen/everywomen in various important or dangerous positions. Good point - it's easy to forget the quiet heroism of normal people.