Making a top ten list is an endeavor both silly and useful. It’s silly in that it’s limited and subjective, leaving out a universe of great stuff. It’s useful in that it provides the reader with a quick-and-dirty overview of any given topic. It’s a like offering 4-ounce water bottle rather than a fire hose.
This top ten list is based on two criteria: the number of people following these folks on Twitter and my own sense of who is a “futurist.” By futurist, I’m not just referring to people who give themselves this label but people who spend a considerable amount of their time thinking about where humanity is headed.
There are some excellent and popular thinkers who I’ve left off the list, such as Clay Shirky, Jane McGonigal and Nick Bilton. They didn’t seem quite “futury” enough to me but, as I said, that’s a subjective choice.
In coming months, ForesightR will produce other lists of futurists who may be slightly less popular (in terms of Twitter followers) but who nonetheless have wonderful feeds—folks like David Brin, Estelle Metayer, and Cindy Frewen.
The numbers listed below are, of course, nothing more than a snapshot in time. They change by the minute, which is a feature rather than a bug of any social media site.
|Dr. Michio Kaku
|Theoretical physicist who is also a science populizer and has written some fine books about the future. His Twitter feed contains some future-focused insights but also a lot of promotion in regard to his latest media and/or speaking gigs.|
|Blogger, journalist and science fiction writer who has a smart, quirky set of posts that often point to Boing Boing, which he helps edit and write. Some tweets are about the future but the vast majority fit in with Boing Boing’s identity as a “directory of wonderful things.” True to its zine roots, Boing Boing has an often zany and sometimes dissident take culture, tech, sci-fi and our communal relationship to both past and future.|
|Gibson arguably created the cyberpunk genre with his iconic novel Neuromancer. His tweets tend to be retweets of the interesting, odd, wry, and relevant. The feed includes a lot of current affairs, but there’s sometimes a focus on changing tech or future-oriented social trends.|
|Dr. James Canton
|Futurist and CEO of the Institute for Global Futures, Canton is probably the first person on this list to have what I’d call a “classic” futurist feed, one that doesn’t highlight absurdity or irony. There are links to articles on new tech, research, demographic and social trends. It’s a good place to start for trendwatchers who are just trying to keep up with a fast-moving world.|
|Ito is the Director at the MIT Media Lab, so many of his tweets are about the Lab and the brilliant people working there. Others are about tech in general, especially artificial intelligence.|
|Like James Canton, Ross Dawson has the kind of Twitter feed popular among futurists. That is, it’s focused on developments in high tech, tech-driven social issues, and other “futury” types of trends (e.g., sharing economy, knowledge work, networking). It’s another good place to go for trendwatchers.|
|SingularityHub is the blog and news feed of SingularityU, which refers to itself as a “benefit corporation” that provides, among other things, educational programs. The Hub is focused on tech news, usually with an optimistic slant. SingularityU itself has 65.4 thousand followers. The Hub has a good feed, but I admit to being a bit unsettled by an organization unironically named after the “rapture of the nerds.”|
|Patrick Dixon is a futurist living in London. Like many futurists popular on Twitter, he is also a speaker. His feed is part self-promotion and part excellent trendwatching. Many of his tweets are business related.|
|Gerd Leonhard is a futurist living in Zurich. He describes himself as a “Nowist,” a term I like even if I’d never use it in conversation. His feed often focuses on AI, robotics, IT and the effects of tech on humanity. He covers other topics as well (e.g., solar, innovations, medical tech), and he created the film The Future of Technology and Humanity.|
|Kevin Kelly is one of the great pioneers of tech journalism and currently “Senior Maverick” at Wired magazine. He’s also the author of a number of books, including The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. He is as much a guru as trendwatcher, and his feed contains a lot of fun aphorisms.|
BY MARK VICKERS