R. Buckminster Fuller (b. 1895, d. 1983)
“Bucky” Fuller believed technology could be used to improve the life of everyone on “Spaceship Earth.” A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Bucky spread the idea that given Earth’s limited resources, humanity could make significant positive, eco-conscious impacts. Fuller is also renowned for inventing the geodesic dome, sometimes referred to as a lattice-shell dome.
Alvin Toffler (b. 1928, d. 2016)
Alvin Toffler coined the phrases “information overload” and “future shock.” Toffler’s reach was worldwide, even identified by China’s People’s Daily as one of the 50 foreigners who shaped modern China. His first major book about the future, FUTURE SHOCK, was a worldwide best-seller, selling 6 million+ copies.
Ray Kurzweil (b. 1948)
Ray Kurzweil’s work emphasizes the future integration of biological and non-biological intelligence and technology. Kurzweil co-founded Singularity University with Google and NASA Ames Research Center. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002.
Herman Kahn (b. 1922, d. 1983)
Herman Kahn’s work focused on national security and public policy, especially the application of game theory to thermonuclear war. Kahn believed that nuclear war could be won rather than viewing it as a lose-lose situation. Kahn founded the Hudson Institute think tank with former colleagues from the Rand Corporation. At the time of his death, Kahn was working on an educational program designed ''to redress the imbalance of unrelenting negativism'' in public school curricula on the future.
Al Gore (b. 1948)
Former Vice President Al Gore is an environmental activist and advocate with a track record of supporting robotics and biotech, among other advanced technologies. He is credited with popularizing the phrase “information superhighway” and is perhaps the most famous of the Atari Democrats, so called because of their commitment to tech as a job creator and economy driver.
Peter Drucker (b. 1909, d. 2005)
Peter Drucker, who has been called the “founder of modern management,” advocated that private corporations had as much responsibility to society as the public sector. He presented the concepts of management in corporations with a focus on workers over profit and production. Drucker saw human capital as key.
Carl Sagan (b. 1934, d. 1996)
Well known for his research on and search for extraterrestrial life, Carl Sagan was deeply involved in the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, messages sent into space as outreach to other life forms. The majority of his career was spent at Cornell University, where he was a Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies. Sagan’s show Cosmos has been viewed by 500 million people worldwide.
Margaret Mead (b. 1901, d. 1978)
Margaret Mead is best known for her work in cultural anthropology, particularly in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia. Mead’s work was controversial, drawing criticism from both sides of the nurture vs. nature debate. Mead’s “nurture over nature” work impacted feminism and the 1960s sexual revolution.
Gene Roddenberry (b. 1921, d. 1991)
Perhaps best known for his role creating the Star Trek television series, Roddenberry also flew numerous combat missions during World War II, flew commercial flights for Pan American World Airways, and worked in the Los Angeles Police Department.
Gerald Ford (b. 1913, d. 2006)
President Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States upon the resignation of Richard Nixon; in fact, he had become the 40th Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned.
Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. 1958)
Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium (which he also visited as a child) at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City, a part of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson, an astrophysicist, also hosted a Cosmos television series, a successor to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
Sir Arthur C. Clarke (b. 1917, d. 2008)
Sir Arthur C. Clarke was co-writer on the screenplay of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke was a prolific science fiction and nonfiction author, as well as an experienced scuba diver who made several underwater discoveries. Clarke served as the first Chancellor of the International Space University.