Illustration by Carlo Cardenas

The World’s Top Thinkers 2024: ideas for a world on the brink

As a planet and a civilisation we are approaching tipping points—some frightening, others freeing—that will transform life as we know it. Here, we present our annual list of intellectuals—from priests and strategists to neuroscientists and historians—who will help us navigate the world in the year ahead
December 6, 2023

Every year, Prospect puts together a list of Top Thinkers—a curated list of people who, through their ideas, are making an impact in the world right now—and asks you, the readers of this esteemed magazine, to vote for a winner. 

This year the Prospect editorial team, together with some of our regular writers and contributors, have chosen 25 people whose work informs us about issues of critical global importance: climate, economics, freedom, geopolitics and technology. 

In the climate category, nominees include experts on disinformation, policymaking, diplomacy and investing. One of the activists on the list marries hard-nosed protest with exuberance, empathy and a compelling case for joy. 

In economics, our thinkers look beyond money and markets to address some of the biggest global trends and transformations. Among them are scholars whose work helps us understand inflation after the Ukraine War, tech’s impact on inequality, Westminster’s obsession with growth and the polarisation that could influence the outcome of the 2024 US election.

On the theme of freedom, our thinkers put forward contentious ideas: that the history of the British Empire is “morally mixed”; that the greatest threat from cancel culture isn’t to freedom of speech; that the left has much in common with the reactionary right; that liberals have paved the right’s way to power; and that homophobia in Uganda, where repressive legislation was passed in 2023, is a political tool used by self-interested politicians. 

On geopolitics, our contributors suggested many worthy thinkers on China and US-China relations. Among these, we’ve highlighted a historian whose account of the influences on Chinese nationalism is essential to understanding Xi’s China, and a US government adviser who is challenging the widely held view in Washington that interactions with Beijing are a zero-sum game. Elsewhere, our thinkers include a historian who has made an enemy of billionaires, an academic who asks whether nuclear disarmament is possible and a strategist who is training Ukraine’s leaders to think creatively about how to win the war—and then rebuild.

Finally, in the world of technology, our nominees span everything from the risks and opportunities of AI to gene-editing, neuroscience and the possibility of a decentralised world wide web.  

A disclaimer: this list is not exhaustive. There are many bright minds who haven’t been featured here—this time. But when you visit our website to vote for your Top Thinker, we hope you’ll take the time to let us know whose ideas, in your view, will change the world in 2024.

Profiles written by Sarah Collins, Alex Dean, Ellen Halliday, Peter Hoskin, Emily Lawford and David McAllister

World's Top Thinkers 2024 is sponsored by Higginson Strategy