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Vox Announces Inaugural Future Perfect 50 List Honoring Visionary Change Agents

It recognizes visionaries that have made an impact in their fields to improve lives now and in the future.

Rebecca Clarke and Dion Lee/Vox

Today, Vox announced its inaugural “Future Perfect 50” list, highlighting visionaries who are making a difference today and improving the lives of tomorrow. The list honors change agents — from thinkers whose moral imagination pushes the boundaries of what is possible and activists making the world a better, healthier place on the ground to the technologists imagining the future and the ethicists ensuring it doesn’t go awry. The list of visionaries is a distillation of the Vox vertical Future Perfect’s mission to surface the important ideas, policies, and programs bending the future toward a more perfect destination.

“We are thrilled to announce this list of scientists, philosophers, technologists, activists, and writers who are working to build a better future for humanity,” says Vox editor-in-chief Swati Sharma. “As we continue to navigate a global pandemic and face natural and man-made catastrophes, these change agents are taking the lead in tackling our biggest problems. With this project, Vox wanted to highlight those who embody the question Future Perfect asks daily: How do we make the future a better place for everyone?”

The Future Perfect 50 list includes Jennifer Doudna, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped develop the CRISPR gene editing system, and Kevin Esvelt, the biologist designing ways to ensure that we won’t use biotech innovations for harm. Ajeya Cotra is keeping close track of how rapidly machine intelligence may outpace the human kind, while Joy Buolamwini warns us of the bias and discrimination embedded in the AI models of today. The zoologist Lynne Sneddon has discovered that even fish can feel pain — and are worthy of welfare protections — while Isha Datar is building out a “cellular agriculture” industry that could grow meat and seafood without killing a single animal. Richard Fuller works to clean up the forgotten industrial pollution that poisons millions of children in the world’s poorest countries, while Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak is unlocking the secrets to economic development.

Four years ago this month, Vox launched Future Perfect. Since its inception, the section has tackled global poverty, global public health, existential risks to humanity, and animal welfare, among other issues. The Future Perfect 50 list, made possible in partnership with Upwork, has been divided into categories that highlight Future Perfect’s focus areas.

The full list of honorees is listed below.

Confronting humanity’s biggest threats

  • Joy Buolamwini, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League
  • Ajeya Cotra, senior research analyst at Open Philanthropy
  • Kevin Esvelt, director of the sculpting Evolution Group
  • Liu Hongqiao, independent policy consultant and reporter focused on climate in China
  • Jason Matheny, CEO of RAND
  • Ted Nordhaus, executive director of research at the Breakthrough Institute
  • Caitlin Rivers, epidemiologist, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
  • Renee Wegrzyn, director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H)
  • Setsuko Thurlow, nuclear disarmament campaigner and survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

Expanding the rights of animals

  • Isha Datar, executive director of New Harvest
  • Carolina Galvani, founder and executive director of Sinergia Animal
  • Leah Garcés, president of Mercy for Animals
  • Olga Kikou, head of the EU office of Compassion in World Farming
  • Lynne Sneddon, director of Bioveterinary Sciences at the University of Liverpool
  • Liz Specht, vice president of Science and Technology at the Good Food Institute
  • Ryan Xue, founder of the China Plant Based Food Alliance

Fighting global poverty and injustice

  • Skanda Amarnath, executive director of Employ America
  • Rayhan Asat, Uyghur human rights lawyer
  • Kanika Bahl, CEO of Evidence Action
  • Chris Blattman, economist, University of Chicago
  • Leah Boustan, professor of economics at Princeton University
  • Rachel Glennerster, associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago
  • Seema Jayachandran, explaining gender inequality in developing countries
  • Jamila Michener, associate professor and co-director of Cornell Center for Health Equity
  • Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, professor of economics at Yale University and co-chair of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab’s Urban Services Initiative
  • Michael Tubbs, founder, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income

Helping us think better

  • Saloni Dattani, founding editor of Works in Progress, science reporter
  • Philipp Dettmer, founder and head writer of Kurzgesagt videos
  • Jennifer Doleac, economist and associate professor at Texas A&M Department of Economics, director of the Justice Tech Lab
  • Julia Galef, cofounder of the Center for Applied Rationality
  • Max Roser, researcher at the University of Oxford and founder of Our World in Data
  • Zeynep Tufekci, sociologist and columnist for the New York Times

Imagining the future

  • Jason Crawford, founder of The Roots of Progress
  • Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Prize-winning scientist who helped develop the CRISPR gene editing system
  • Hilary Greaves, professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford and director of the Global Priorities Institute
  • Demis Hassabis, cofounder and CEO, DeepMind
  • Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
  • Will MacAskill, cofounder, Centre for Effective Altruism, Author of What We Owe the Future
  • Kim Stanley Robinson, novelist
  • Max Tegmark, head of the Future of Life Institute

Working toward a healthier world

  • Josh Morrison, head of 1Day Sooner
  • Leah Utyasheva and Michael Eddleston, directors, Centre for Pesticide Suicide Prevention
  • Jack Rafferty and Lucia Coulter, co-founders, Lead Exposure Elimination Project
  • Abdoulaye Diabaté (Burkina Faso), Fred Aboagye-Antwi (Ghana), Jonathan Kayondo (Uganda), and Mamadou Coulibaly (Mali) — country leads for Target Malaria
  • Richard Fuller, CEO of Pure Earth

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