A few of you have been demanding this, here are those who come to mind, note that “influence” does not have to mean I agree with them. And I am sticking with the West, otherwise Uncle Xi wins hands down. In no particular order:
1. Jordan Peterson
2. Catherine Mackinnon
3. Ta-Nehisi Coates
4. Charles Murray
5. A composite alt-right thinker, mixing features of Curtis Yarvin, Steve Sailer, Steve Bannon, and a bunch of others.
In the fairly recent past, both Andrew Sullivan and Peter Singer would have been on this list, but not in 2018. I would cite Michel Houllebecq as a figure who is important, and relatively influential, but more important than influential and thus not in the top five. I am not sure if religious figures should qualify for this designation, for the time being I have not considered them. Obama has a good claim, but adding elected leaders only confuses the matter, relative to what people are asking me for.
One list I saw, which I can no longer find through Google, had on it Peterson, Cass Sunstein, and Samantha Powers, plus two other names I forget.
Arguably a tech person should be on the list, but neither Elon Musk nor Peter Thiel have much written output, nor is either representative of the tech world as a whole. Maybe a kind of composite tech CEO? Bill Gates is also a plausible pick, even though to many intellectuals his ideas seem to be quite mainstream. The mainstream, by definition, is highly influential!
An alternative list could be, again in no particular order:
1. Bill Gates
2. Mark Zuckerberg
3. Jeff Bezos
4. Peter Thiel
5. Brin and Page
6. Elon Musk
7. Jack Dorsey
How’s that? Better?