Top ten, and Top 100 lists are ubiquitous these days, but what do they mean? It is totally dependent upon how the creator goes about defining the qualities which are being measured. Whoever chooses the measure, and its definition determines the results. The May 12, 2008 issue of TIME magazine came out with its 100 most Influential People in The World, but without any other definition than the title, which gives them plenty of latitude to pick whomever they feel like. Their list is interesting, and certainly most of the people have clout in some particular way but what struck me was how temporary the clout will prove to be. When one comes to this list and asks the question, “Will this person be important a thousand years from now?” the results change dramatically, and very few if any of them will pass that test. There were a lot of cool actors, and such but will they be as famous as Sophocles or Shakespeare? There are a lot of powerful politicos like Putin and Bush, Obama, Clinton and McCain but will they be as famous as Caesar or Mao? Sure the Dalai Lama, and Bartholomew Ist are really cool guys but certainly they have done nothing to be remembered a thousand years from now. Brad and Angelina, Oprah and Mia are doing politically correct good deeds and Armstrong and the Wrights are leading the way in health issues which desperately need to be done. Their efforts may still be effective thousand years from now but will their names be remembered? Blair, Kyi, Mitchell, Bloomberg, all very worthwhile but … ?
Finally on page 80 there is Craig Venter who has a real shot at being remembered forevermore – cracking the human genome, creating life, solving the energy problem. Each of those things will grant him a potential place on that pedestal. Jill Taylor and Larry Brilliant may prove exceedingly successful at eliminating various diseases, but as soon as the disease is cured they will be forgotten, and so are the researchers who discover these things, and their sponsors. Chivian and Cizik got a Nobel for stopping nuclear war, and global warming, but a thousand years from now their efforts will, almost without doubt, prove far too feeble. Jepsen’s $100 computer is wonderful, but in that time frame they will be ho hum, and people will say, why didn’t she … ? … it was so obvious. Allen’s and Schiff’s work on brains is great and so is Zuckerberg’s Facebook, but the way science, and technology advance their current works will be superseded very soon. Yamanaka and Thomson’s embryonic stem-cell work is profoundly important, but their names will probably be lost in a sea of other people’s work, even if it is dependent upon theirs. Griffin, if he is successful in returning man to the moon, will be overshadowed by the first-person halo of remembrance, and Armstrong will forevermore have the title. The SETI project when successful will garner a place, but who will get the credit? Probably the person in charge of the lab that night. Solomon and Berzin are fixing the planet, and we must do everything possible, and even impossible to help them succeed, but a thousand year memory of them is doubtful unless they succeed in some specific way.
The Artists and Entertainers are wonderful, but one must expect their work to be as interesting to people a thousand years from now as we are interested in the troubles of hunters of the Pleistocene or their petroglyphic depictions of their problems. The current crop of builders, titans and moguls will garner the same ho hum respect as our antiquated hunters.
So, by my criterion of being influential a thousand years from now, only Craig Venter stands out of the list that TIME created as having much of a chance from the year 2008. You might ask, who would you pick? Well, the person who gets credited with triggering the Doomsday catastrophe is sure to be remembered if there is anyone to do the remembering. Of course that person will be a super villain far more odious than Hitler is presently considered. Oppenheimer and Einstein will probably get that mantle also and possibly Ken Alibek if his biological efforts pan out. Probably, Alibeck’s work will fade away, and be forgotten as immunities evolve, but a background radiation from an atomic war will last forever, at least in perception, and memory whenever anyone gets a cancer. One of the robot creators like Helen Greiner might come up with something infinitely memorable, and hopefully more positive than the bomb although her efforts are not even close just yet. A robot, unless it is very unique, and personal, and lasting and named, will be forgotten. I haven’t any idea who created all of the industrial robots that make modern living so easy. One group of people will be remembered a thousand years from now, and that is that those who set up the Lifehavens. After the current problems resolve themselves into a Doomsday catastrophe, human life, and civilization will spring from a very small base, and those few people who provide that base will be fondly remembered a thousand years from now. You can be among that small number. Support the Lifehaven Strategy.
— The time is ripe for Doomsday —