Who From Our Modern Era Will Be Universally Known in the Year 4015?

This is a Dinner Table post. If you’re not sure what the Dinner Table is, you can learn here.

It’s 2015, and this AD thing we’re doing has been going on for a while. Which makes it pretty impressive when someone born before AD is not only known to us, but universally famous—over 2000 years after they were alive. To name a few: Buddha, Confucius, Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Jesus Christ. So the question is:

In the year 4015, everything before the year 2000 will be as far back in the past to the people then as everything BC is to us now. Who from our modern era—let’s say from 1700 to the present1—will be not only be known, but universally famous to 4015 people?

A follow-up could be: Which people from before 1700 who are universally famous now (everyone from those ancient people I mentioned to Galileo, Columbus, Da Vinci, Shakespeare, etc. more recently) will still be universally famous in 4015? All of them? Or will some only be known to history buffs by then?

Some people think the human world might be long gone by 4015, but for this question, let’s assume it’s doing just fine.

_________

Tim’s Answer

This is a supremely difficult question. There are a lot of contenders:

  • Older artists, writers, and musicians like Van Gogh, Monet, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Twain, Mozart, and Beethoven
  • Older world leaders like Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Peter the Great, George Washington, and Queen Victoria
  • Older thinkers like Darwin, Kant, Adam Smith, Marx, Emerson
  • A large slew of more modern people: Gandhi, Edison, Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Deng Xiaoping, Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Henry Ford, Martin Luther King, Orwell, Salinger, Picasso, Elvis, Sinatra, and Walt Disney, to name a few
  • The hardest are the most modern contenders, many of whom are alive today, because it’s hard to ever imagine someone so contemporary being as famous in 2000 years as Julius Caesar: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Mandela, Bin Laden, Obama, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and a ton more I can’t believe I’m considering
  • I’m probably missing some obvious non-Western contenders, so I hope people will discuss them in the comments

Before I discuss any people, let’s understand the challenge at hand. Here are five reasons this is so hard:

People from our era who are legendary in 4015 may not be that famous right now. There are two ways a modern person might emerge into timeless fame: 1) They’re incredibly famous now and it sticks, or 2) They’re not that famous now and emerge later for other reasons. For #1, it’s not at all for sure that people who seem obvious now, like Mozart, will stick—in the scheme of things, Mozart (1756 – 1791) is super modern, and that might be part of the reason he’s such a big deal now. That’s hard enough, but #2 is almost impossible to figure out—maybe Philip Glass is one of the top 5 most famous ancient composers in 4015 and one of the things people know about him is that “he wasn’t fully appreciated until a few centuries after his time”—and there’s no way we’d ever know that now.

It largely depends on what happens in the future. We don’t know now what grander movements we’re a part of that will significantly affect the world in 4015. Caesar is so famous because the Roman Empire turned out to last 500 years and dramatically alter the world in a way that is still very important. If the leaders after Caesar had botched it and the empire had fallen much earlier, no one today other than serious history buffs would have any idea who Caesar is. So when thinking about someone like George Washington, he might have potential for Caesar-like fame if the era of US prominence ends up being a truly history-altering thing that stands out when looking at multiple millennia. Given how much impact any dominant country will be able to have in the future, I don’t think we know the answer to that yet. And depending on how that goes, Washington could either become much less of a thing or much more of a thing. Caesar might be a more mythic character today—partially due to Shakespeare—than he was in 200 AD.

Luck plays a huge role. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle stand out amongst all other philosophers of their time—but why, with so many philosophers in ancient Greece, did those three rise to such ridiculous heights? I’d bet that the answer is a lot more complicated than, “They were simply more profound and more influential than everybody else.” More likely, it’s that they, or maybe some fan of theirs later, were very clever about pushing their work into long-lasting prominence. Or maybe it was an important influencer in the world of 4th century academia who re-discovered their works and brought them onto a much bigger stage, and then maybe there was some king three centuries after that who decided he liked what they said, so he made it a mandatory part of his kingdom’s curriculum—and that’s how they got to their level of recognition today (this is only a hypothetical example—I don’t know that particular progression of history or how it actually happened). The point is that there were a lot of smart philosophers in ancient Greece, and I don’t believe it’s just that the best ones endured. There are a bunch of factors that lead to one school of philosophy becoming mythic 2000 years later and most of the other schools being completely forgotten. As for Jesus, what if Constantine hadn’t decided it was strategic to embrace Christianity, and instead set his mind on defeating it? What would that have meant for Jesus being well-known today?

We don’t know which of our current industries will prove important or compelling to people in 4015. We know ancient writers like Homer, playwrights like Sophocles, military or religious leaders like Alexander the Great or Jesus, thinkers like Aristotle, mathematicians like Euclid, etc. But I certainly cannot name a famous ancient athlete and I doubt you can either. So does that mean Michael Jordan or Pelé or Tiger Woods don’t have a chance of lasting to 4015? Clearly, one of the factors here is that a playwright or philosopher could record their work in writing that could be passed down while a stunning 200BC athlete couldn’t put their highlight reel on YouTube. But it’s also about what’s valued in 4015. If basketball is still huge then, Michael Jordan might be mythical. If basketball is some odd ancient sport only a 4015 sports historian could tell you about, Michael Jordan will vanish from recognition. Likewise, Mark Zuckerberg? Seems ridiculous, but it totally depends. What will something like Facebook mean in 4015? Completely unknown, or one of the great founding brands of the Connected Era?

Our technological ability to record and document life now will provide the future with a vast amount of information that ancient times weren’t able to provide—and it’s hard to figure out exactly what that means for this question. As mentioned above, in the past, physical writing turned out to be a great indicator of what could last through the millennia and what was forgotten. But how about a 4015 world where a simple database search could pull up an obscure 2005 blog or photo album or video? How will it change things when you can watch an interview with any ancient person you want? Does it mean it’ll no longer be possible to achieve mythic status? Or will those who last be even more legendary because people will be able to know them so much better? With 20 centuries between now and 4015—and god knows what kinds of technologies will emerge that will make recording life even easier—what will determine what will be lost in that endless pile of available info, and what will endure? With so much access to the vivid and unwavering truth about ancient times, will the concept of history itself become a different thing?

One way I think this factor will affect things: you know how back in the 60s, everyone was counting the days till The Beatles released their next album, and then when it came out, everyone got it and listened to it right away—and how now, the music world has completely changed and no one band is as widely listened to as The Beatles were then? I think it’s gonna be like that. In the same way that more musicians today have some level of audience but fewer of them are Beatles-level famous, I think more people from our time will be famous in 4015 than the number of ancient people who are famous now—but people’s increasing level of access to history will mean that in 4015, very few of them will reach Cleopatra’s level of fame.

So the only reasonable answer is that I have no idea—but I’ll give my best crack. I’ll use three questions to help me:

– What will this era be known for?

– When people in 4015 ask, “How did the world get to be the way it is?” which answers will draw them back to our era?

– Who in our time might be the first to do something in an area that’s still well known in 4015?

Using those questions, here are my scattered thoughts:

  • First, it’s true that this may be known as the era we used up all the fossil fuels or destroyed the environment or blew ourselves up or first created our future robot overlords, but for this question, that doesn’t help me identify any individual people who will be known for that in 4015, so those aren’t the right things to focus on
  • Given the amount of access 4015 people will have to the next 20 centuries of art, I’d guess that today’s artists, writers, and musicians will have a very hard time being widely known in 4015—even Mozart and Beethoven might become obscure. Some will last, but I think luck will play a large part of it. I don’t think any movie stars have a shot unless a modern movie somehow works its way into longterm lore and is part of 4105 culture. Kudos to any director who pulls that off.
  • It may be known as the only time literally the whole world was fighting each other. Wars got bigger and bigger until World War II, and there’s a chance that now, that type of war—nations fighting against other nations—is over. If that’s true, I think WWI and WWII will go down in history in a very serious way. And if that’s true, then Hitler, and possibly a few others, may be supremely famous in 4015.
  • This era may be later known as the pioneering of an important tech age. If that’s true, people like Gates and Jobs have a shot, because they may be a part of an important era’s founding.
  • As China gradually takes over the world, one of its current or recent leaders may end up being supremely important in grand history and we don’t fully realize it now.
  • There’s a chance something like Communism makes a comeback in the future, or becomes controversial again way later in history, and if so, people like Marx or Lenin could end up as everlasting isms that keeps them in the public mind for a long time.
  • I’m sure humans will do a lot more space-travel in the future, but there will always be only one first time a human stepped on another heavenly body, so I’d give serious consideration to Neil Armstrong lasting through the centuries.2 If that’s true, it means he’ll be much more famous later than he is now.3
  • Along those lines, putting the first man on the moon is just one of a bunch of potential achievements (some good, some bad) that the US may be known for in 4015—if ancient US turns out to be a well-known thing in 4015, the biggest US leaders have a shot of being known by everyone then. A bunch of other world leaders (like Napoleon) have a shot as well, but again, since it all depends on what the larger storylines end up being, it’s very difficult to predict. I’m sure people in the year 750AD were sure some leader you’ve never heard of from 620AD would last through history—it’s just hard to know at the time.
  • One of the safest bets for me is Einstein. People responsible for humanity’s collective “Aha!” moments about our existence don’t tend to be forgotten, which is why I don’t think figures like Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, etc.—or Einstein—are going anywhere. I’d say the same thing about Darwin, although with one notch less certainty.
  • Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright Brothers, Henry Ford—they’re all supremely famous right now, because we use lightbulbs, telephones, planes and cars, and we want to know who’s the rad dude who invented it. But how about a time when no one uses those things anymore? Will those people fall into obscurity? If no one even knows what a telephone is in 4015, why would they care who Alexander Graham Bell is? I’d say of those four, the Wright Brothers have the best shot of enduring, because people will still want to know who took the first human flight.

My top three bets: Einstein, Hitler, and Neil Armstrong.

________

Okay, your turn. Who from our era do you think will be well-known in 4015?

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  1. I could have gone bigger with the range to include the more full modern era of 1492 to the present—this would include the Renaissance and the more full period of European Imperialism. But I find the more modern centuries more interesting, because the lines of history are even hazier and it’s an even harder question.

  2. His name backwards is Gnorts Mr. Alien.

  3. So annoying for Buzz Aldrin.

  • Jordan TheJust

    Guaranteed, it’ll be me. I haven’t done whatever I’m going to be known for yet, but come 4015, I’ll be a household name!

    More seriously, following the reasoning above, I don’t think I can think of three better contenders than Tim.

    • Bob Roach

      What about fictional people? Not sure what the gestation period is from ‘real legend’ to ‘real myth’, but I figure a couple of milleniums should do fine. As to the distinction between fact and fiction, we do have some historical proofs that certain characters can travel either way along that line (Robin Hood, Helen of Troy etc.) given enough time for the 100 monkeys on their keyboards to do the work. Might even wander (could, say Shakespeare move to some kind of completely mythical figure?)

      Will it be Homer vs Homer? Aside from the ongoing epic debate (http://goo.gl/0xUmYW), based on the ruthless power of frequency, there may be far more people around the world that have been exposed to the Springfield version than the Greek one.

      HOMER: “To be both a speaker of words and a doer of deeds.”

      HOMER SIMPSON: “What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind!”

      D’oh, indeed.

  • middleclassgenx

    Tim Urban!

    • Luca

      I was about to say that!

    • kowdermeister

      Who? Oh, an american celebrity? Sure. Let’s add pewpewdie also 🙂

  • Felipe

    Hitler, Einstein and Armstrong do seem like good bets (assuming we don’t have another holocaust-like event in the future, which I really hope we don’t). But I’d like to add people like Yuri Gagarin into the mix. Sure, he’s not as famous in our western-centric society. But it’s pretty likely that history books will remember him as the first man in space for centuries to come. I’d risk it and even put him above Armstrong. We will have a first human on Mars, a first human on an exoplanet, a first human in a distant rogue planet. The moon could be overshadowed by these events in a way that the first man to escape our earthly cradle wouldn’t.

    Just a wild thought

    • I had exactly the same thought about Gagarin.

    • Pedro

      I think 2000 years from now, if we are still here, we will probably be already living in distant stars, or distant realities or something like that. I mean, we barely could fly at all in 1915. We didnt know what Internet was until 1990. I bet that our concept of Earth and Space, and even human culture, will be so different from what we have now that Yuri Gagarin and most figures of our time wont be remembered that much even by 3000 AD. History itself will be re-drawn by future powers. Maybe there is no more “us, the human race” like a whole. If we manage to get out of this planet or make contact with some extraterrestrial intelligence in the next century, I bet we wont make such a big deal about our era at all. 2000 years is a lot of time!

    • Rainmaker

      I was thinking the exact same thing. Considering that the power dynamics will be really different, the world will appreciate Gagarin’s achievement (I think we don’t know, for me it’s much more bigger than Armstrong and the lunar landing)

  • In ancient Rome theater was a big deal and I wonder if they had famous actors. Of course, there is no way for us to see their work, but that is now changed. How bizarre would it be for the people of 4015 to watch our movies? I wonder if people will view an actor’s work the same way we now view an ancient sculptor’s or painter’s work.

    • SGrint

      In fact, people thought actors were terrible people, because ‘they don’t have enough personality on their own so they have to act like someone else’ and ‘they act like they’re kings and heroes but they are just poor people’

    • Jeff Lewis

      Given how much language changes over time, I doubt that anybody but scholars would even be able to understand our movies in 2000 years. Just look how awkward Shakespeare sounds to the modern ear, and that’s only 500 years. Chaucer was another hundred years prior to Shakespeare, and he’s almost unreadable. Go back a bit further to Beowulf, and it really does seem like a foreign language.

      • Jeff Lewis

        Just thought of this – they could just add subtitles (assuming the movies somehow survive).

      • Jebmak

        The language in Shakespeare’s plays is not how people spoke. He wrote poetically.

        But your greater point stands.

  • How about Alan Turing?

    • Martin Nick Smolík

      Yes, I think machine computing and theory of algorithms will be definetly bigger thing than now. Maybe it will be the guy who makes first quantum computer

    • A possibility.

  • joonif

    Elon musk

  • roger_orange

    Napolean Hill rose from the Depression. Ayn Rand was first a creature of Hollywood. Hunter S. Thompson began by documenting ’60s rock-and-roll excess.

    I think the current tech/internet boom may be mythologized in the future the way Hollywood’s “golden age” is now.

    So I look at tech blogs for someone who has a broad, philosophical take on things that may inspire future nostalgists.

    It’s a wide-open landscape and I encourage more people to ante up. James Altucher might prove very important and prescient.

    The rest?

    Who is writing for the Verge, Quartz, TechCrunch, PSFK, or Pando who really *gets it*?

    • Blrp

      Are you seriously considering Ayn Fucking Rand? She’ll be lucky to be remembered a century from now.

      • roger_orange

        Dude, I don’t get it, either. She’s awful. But she’s *extremely* influential on American business and politics now. She’s why we have “libertarians” and Uber.

        Why? How? How can the patterns that made her so powerful aid those who have more humanity to offer?

        • The_Postindustrialist

          true. I hate rand, but her influence is unmistakable. It’s like hitler. Hate as much as you want, he may very well be remembered.

    • Tauno

      I would object – as I’m not from the USA and not much into film history, I must admit that even the first three names you mentioned are totally unknown to me. Maybe it’s an incredibly stupid thing to say but that’s the truth. I’m sure that some of my friends would know them, most of my friends wouldn’t – and that’s why I wouldn’t consider those people universally famous.

      I agree though, that people who have had a strong influence on the technology boom would be able to make it to half-mythological status – anyway, as nowadays’ tech achievements don’t usually last for more than a few years or decades, I think that the fame of nowadays’ tech inventors, businessmen and philosophers wouldn’t last for much longer. If Windows or Apple will last for centuries, of course, Gates or Jobs would probably become mythological figures through their companies but if the industry goes on without these companies, they would vanish as well.

      So, from the IT field I would bet on the people who can be credited with INVENTING the computer or the internet (no, I don’t know their names now but people after a few generations might feel the need to look them up), instead of creating something, no matter how big, using these inventions. I would actually compare it to the Wright brothers – although their first flight lasted for less than a minute, we know them as the inventors of the airplane, even though the airplanes we use now are different in almost any aspect you can think of.

  • KIC

    Snooky from the Jersey Shore. She’ll be studied in the same manner that we study Neanderthals.

  • Jay Kay

    Sir Isaac Newton, Einstein, Stephen Hawking – Great scientists all. The fathers of major branches of physics and mathematics and how we understand our world and how it was created.

    Other “modern” scientists who have given their names to units, like Gauss, Tesla, Ampere, ect.

    World leaders who changed the face of the world – stuff that will be taught in history class – right after the Romans to 6th graders…
    Washington, JFK, Hitler, Archduke Ferdinand of Austria (WW1 and his great mustache)

    • I think that Washington is far less famous outside the US than you guys realise. However, I also think he is a strong contender for being famous in 4014, assuming nobody comes along and cocks up America’s leadership in the world.

      • Jay Kay

        That is true.
        Name one world power that is 2000 years old that is close to being a world power? Rome? Egypt? Mongolia? (Genghis Khan) Will the US is still relevant in 2000 years?… It has only been around for what 400 yrs so far? That and how many people talk about the Austro-Hungarian Empire these days (except as the start of WWII) and that has been gone less than 100 years!

        Even without the US being a world power in 2000 years, JFK will still be remembered as one of the men who nearly ended the human domination of world – Nuclear holocaust is not likely to be something that slips quietly into history. Just like Ramses has be immortalized with the pyramids.

    • jeffS

      I really must take exception to putting Hawking up there with Einstein and Newton. These are literally two of the greatest minds in history and they each founded entire disciplines. Hawking as far as I know is a highly regarded physicist who really stands out because of his wheelchair and voice synthesizer.

    • oikon7

      A small correction: Voltaire was an 18th-century French writer and philosopher. You probably meant Alessandro Volta, inventor of the battery.

      • Jay Kay

        You are absolutely correct! (damn auto-correct)

  • Ezo

    Possibly Palmer Luckey (creator of virtual reality technology that works). Television, radio, will be forgotten in 1000 years. Virtual reality never. Of course, technology which enables VR will be obsoleted(it will be direct connection to the brain finally), but I’m talking about idea.

  • Emily

    I hope it’s gonna be Malala.

  • Greg Rosner

    Where da womens at in all dis – ya bitch? Just kidding. Not that I’m a feminist or anything, but it seemed interesting that I didn’t read any female names here. Just saying. What’s up with that Tim? And when I was thinking of who might be universally known in 4015 – I was thinking Steve Jobs, Elon Musk or Barack Obama. So I guess I’m just as male-future-focused as the next penis owner. Any thoughts why? Anyone? Anyone? The only recent universally famous woman I can think of are famous for kinda iky things – i.e. tied to their sexuality, i.e. Miley Cirus, Beyonce. What about that young girl – can’t recall her name – that got the Nobel Peace prize for surviving a Taliban attack. Oh wait – Malala. She’s incredible. I would hope her name would be remembered longer than Miley – but who knows.

    • Tauno

      Actually, it’s quite a good point but needs a little bit more scale.

      As for the example of Jobs, Musk or Obama, I think that’s about who are famous now, in this moment. Jobs’ name will last as long as Apple, the big inventions that allowed him to found a company were made before him. I think Elon Musk has the potential to create something lasting that long but I also think he hasn’t done it yet. Obama – besides the fact of being the first non-white US president, I don’t think hehas actually done anything new or started anything big, and I really don’t get why he would deserve a place in history (even if USA will last for 2000 more years, making it one of the longest-lasting civilisations of history besides imperial China, it will have had hundreds of new presidents by then).

      As for women, then I think that a lot depends on the further developments of society. Feminism has been around for about a century, so it’s possible that it’s not guaranteed to survive 20 times longer. If in 2000 years we will live in an equal or matriarchal society, feminist pioneers (and not necessarily Western) will be remembered. If we return to patriarchy – probably they won’t be, or maybe as some kind of anti-heroes. If we will live in absolute gender neutrality (an idea quite popular now in some groups of society), they founders and activists of that idea might be known – or maybe in that case gender will be such an abstract thing that there is no point to remember feminism any more.

      And as for Malala, it will work either if she continues to make great things, or if people will remember who were the Taliban (it has been around for a few decades, so in a thousand years it’s possible that nobody remembers it, or that people just won’t remember if it came before or after Stalin or Napoleon or Elizabeth I).

      • The_Postindustrialist

        Please don’t bring “patriarchy into this” and yes, it is a bit lopsided to think only of men. And someone who is famous now for being a medial darling for winning the nobel prize as a woman and so young. It’s not going to last.*I* don’t even know her or why she matters beyond the fact that it’s trumpeted up that her gender and age are he biggest part of her “achievement”. 10 years from now nobody’s going to remember her.

        In contemporary memory, it’s the names that get remember before the achievements, in the vast distances of time, it’s the achievements that are remembered and the names are an afterthought.

        Marie Curie is definitely one I think will be remembered. Though, admittedly, she may be consigned to a slightly dimmer memory, such as that of Joan of Arc.

      • Greg Rosner

        Good points – thanks for commenting.

    • Artyom Karapetov

      Oh God, can you please stop with your “why aren’t women on this list” thing?

      Here’s a little history lesson:

      Naturally females were made to raise kids and take care of the household. And that’s what they’ve done historically for thousands of years (until the recent 80 years in countries like USA/Canada, which is insignificant to thousands and thousands of generations before where their #1 priority was making soup and birthing kids). While men’s role was to attend battles, think of means of survival and be creative for these exact purposes – the men who didn’t know how to repel an attack from a spear or hunt a buffalo were not creative/mentally strong enough to survive, and hence only the strongest and smartest/most creative men survived. This is called natural selection based on intelligence and creativity.

      99.9% of the women, on the other hand, were washing, cleaning and taking care of their (numerous) kids (and didn’t have time for anything else) and were “good wives” if they could do well administering the household, which don’t require as much creativity/intelligence/power than hunting or leading a battle. This is called natural selection based on being a “good wife” and ability to reproduce as much as possible.

      So, taking all the “men and women” arguments aside, what gender do you think will naturally be more inventive and therefore famous thought the ages? Historically 99.9% of women were administrators, while most men had to be creative and smart. This is called evolution and you can’t do anything about it.

      • Greg Rosner

        Dude! Artyom! WTF? Thanks for the history lesson – I kinda know all that already – (and I can’t believe I am arguing on the side of feminism – gosh what would my daughter say! She thinks I’m a brut!) But in all seriousness of debate – don’t you think you are applying the lens of history on an unknowable future? Seems the crystal ball you’re looking into is only showing you more of the past. While I think I’d love to hunt, rape, kill and do all that man shit you and I did together a thousand years ago – I kinda think cultural evolution is part of us now and where it is headed is exactly what this dinner table conversation is about.

        If you were to ask me – it will look like the past in some respects, (i.e. how to build trust with people, how to entertain play music – but it will look very different in most respects – i.e. how to get stuff done – and who does the cooking/cleaning – i.e. swarm of bots cleaning at night, food printers, AI embedded systems cognifying anything anyone does including brain surgeons. I am very optimistic about the future. Albeit things might get darker before dawn.

        • Artyom Karapetov

          I’m also optimistic about the future and yes, the robots will serve us well 🙂

          I was saying what I was saying – evolution did its job and there’s no one to blame – but I definitely went harsh on you. You’re clearly not one of these morons, so high five.

      • Jessie

        I hate this argument. I’m a woman, therefore I’m stupid. I’m stupid because evolution has made me, a woman, only good to clean, wash and cook.

        I am creative and I am smart. I happen to have a pair of tits too. Where does that get me? Were my female ancestors part of the 0.1% percent of women who didn’t do the cleaning and the washing or is your argument a load of nonsense?

        • Meg

          He’s not saying women are stupid. He’s saying due to the female role in society for much of history, there are simply more men who’ve had a chance to make visible impact on society. It’s the numbers and historical gender roles that are against us.

          • Jessie

            I think the bit where he said “historically 99.9% of women were administrators, while most men had to be creative and smart […] this is called natural selection and you can’t do anything about it” is pretty much saying that women are less intelligent than men due to natural selection.

            He isn’t merely saying that women haven’t had chance to make an impact, he’s saying that women haven’t made an impact because those traits have literally been ‘naturally selected’ out of us due to evolution. This is what I take offence to. The idea that as a woman, I am less ‘creative’ and ‘smart’ because historically, those traits have been ‘de-selected’ and deemed unimportant by the men who breed with us.

            How does he know what men found attractive in a woman 500 years ago (can he cite any research)? Why is there a dichotomy between intelligence and housework (can’t women be good at both)? How does he know that female intelligence wasn’t a valuable asset for survival (which is essentially the crux of evolution)?

            If it even is the case that intelligence has been bred out of women, then why in 2014 are there lots of smart women? It’s bad reasoning more than anything! According to his theory, intelligence and creativity (the traits he ascribes to men) should have been pretty much bred out of women. Only they haven’t.

            They haven’t because Evolutionary Psychology is a load of rubbish.

      • Joanna Rene Rasmussen

        Current era women are starting to surpass men in intelligence, creativity and ingenuity. So, when we think about the future, you know who’s going to be on that list? _______, the first woman to ever… blah, blah. Evolution is catching up with you, bro. Get ready.

        • Artyom Karapetov

          Though your claim about “women surpassing men in intelligence” is laughable and vague, I have no doubt that there would be more female inventors and thinkers as women will evolve as their role in society changes. Though evolution, as we all know, is a slow process.

          • Tauno

            This has nothing to do with evolution. Evolution shapes species, also populations within them – but how can you possibly say that men and women have evolved in a separate path? Every child has half of the genes from a man and half from a woman.

            If there were a male-only population developing separately from a women-only population for centuries, it would make some sense but I don’t even want to know how would a superior men’s race reproduce without an input of women’s genes 😀

            • Jeff Lewis

              Although I think Artyom is generally full of crap, sexual dimorphism does exist. Average sizes of human men and women is an obvious one. I’m sure there are some behavioral ones, as well. However, human behavior is very plastic, and strongly influenced by culture. And on top of that, almost all traits are distributed on a Bell curve. So, to go back to my previous example, while men might be taller than women on average, it’s not hard to pick out an individual woman who is taller than an individual man. In fact, the tallest woman ever, Zeng Jinlian, was taller than all but about a dozen men over the past century. So even if it was the case that men were on average better at the types of skills Artyom brought up (which is by no means a given), it would be hard to imagine that there wasn’t quite a bit of overlap between the sexes.

      • Jeff Lewis

        This is why so many people criticize evolutionary psychology – these types of post hoc just so stories. How about this instead – throughout history, men’s role was to attend battles, where the best soldiers were those with discipline who followed orders. So men evolved to be compliant and submissive to authority, with little need for creativity. Woman who stayed home while the men went away had to take care of an entire household single-handedly, and sometimes even permanently since men had a higher death rate due to all their running around in wars, and so evolved the creative problem solving necessary to keep the household going.

        Before you try to use evolutionary psychology to argue why one sex is better than another at certain things, you first have to demonstrate that that sex actually is better. Whereas historically male students used to outperform female students, female students now outperform male students in most subjects (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/its-academic-university-women-are-beating-men-at-almost-everything-1693493.html), and the change was far too rapid to have been evolutionary. STEM subjects are about the last male holdout, and while there may be somewhat of a biological basis to this, given the history of other subjects, I think it’s only a matter of time before female students come close to or equal male students. In short, I think the reasons for men historically having more of a role in the types of activities that lead to fame is much more cultural than biological.

  • Tom

    I think Mao Tse Tung. He will be remembered as the one who launched modern China. He has multiple trends/facets fo history, behind him: WWII, Communist, China, Cause of Mass Death.

  • BOKinLarksville

    No one… The way this planet is headed, there will be no one left to “Universally Know” anyone..

  • Brian

    My best guesses at this point would be Hitler and Elon Musk, but both have some major qualifiers. Let’s say our era is the era when major world wars stopped being a thing. In that scenario, then Hitler would be a pretty big character in history for that reason. He was basically the poster character for the Axis powers that the Allies kind of shared with FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. So if you need to point to one person that defined World War II, I think it has to be him. But, by that same logic, if this is the era when wars are fought completely differently, like the War on Terror, then you could also look at Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush as the one that STARTED the current era, which could tend to be seen as more important than who ended the previous one. Firsts just always seem to be more important than lasts, cause who are we to say there won’t be a World War III in the next 2000 years, and someone will be like a new Alexander the Great and actually conquer most of the world?

    As for Elon Musk, he’s working on so many things right now, and seems to have so many ideas, that I see him as the top contender for being the first of a lot of things that could have a lasting effect. Electric cars, space tourism, super high speed land transport. Maybe it’s just a blip in history, but the optimist in me says I hope his ideas are going somewhere.

  • Matt

    Can’t be more specific, but I think that the first female leader of either the U.S. or China is a safe bet.

    Going in another direction – and, again, one that may be a bit outside the parameters of the question – perhaps it will be Hatsune Miku, the first widely-known virtual persona.

  • Greg Smith

    Regarding the proposition: “Our technological ability to record and document life now will provide the future with a vast amount of information that ancient times weren’t able to provide”

    It’s actually not taken for granted in information science that our current ability to transmit and record vast amounts of information electronically will necessarily result in a correspondingly larger quantity of this information being available for scrutiny by future generations than is available to us now with regard to our ancestors. What information we now have about the past – especially the distant past – we have because it was recorded in durable media… think stone tablets, cave paintings, good ink on acid-free paper, that kind of thing. By contrast to this, most forms of digital media degrade quite quickly, sometimes especially so if they are not in continuous use, and even those that are relatively durable require specific hardware systems and compatible software in order to interpret the contents of those media.

    This can be mitigated to some extent by migrating content from old formats to new formats as they become obsolete, but this involves a lot of dedicated archival work. Ideally this process would be automated over time, but it’s not a solved problem by any stretch of the imagination… this does speak to the “dumb luck” aspect of the question you pose, though: much of what will be lost may be lost by technological fluke rather than by cultural merit, and so whomever becomes famous can only be drawn from what remains.

    Anyway, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s still quite possible that much of what we think of as the “unforgettable” memory of the internet will turn out to have been rather ephemeral.

    • Bob Roach

      I think I’ve read that we’re even having trouble now ‘translating’ old digital media formats.

      And not just in ‘formal’ archive situations. How many times have you caught yourself looking at an old box of floppies or even digital CD’s and just went, ‘meh’ — landfill”?

      I think you have to calculate in a Dark Age or two to answer the original question, as well.

      Wasn’t there some design work done years ago to try and develop a ‘universally readable’ icon/symbol message to the far, far, FAR distant future (like tens of thousands of years) to anyone then who would stumble upon a nuclear waste disposal site?

      Content might be king, but context is the crown.

      And time has a way of removing those crowns, in so many ways.

      • Greg Smith

        Quite right, Bob – this is already a problem. For example, even in the short life of the technology there have already been numerous video tape formats (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Videotape), a situation that can leave broadcasters without working equipment to play back archival footage on demand. Digitizing everything was seen as a solution, but then digital formats change… etc., etc….

        • The_Postindustrialist

          Also, digital formats are not known for their long shelf life, AND they need additional machinery to decode. A text is a text is a text. You just need to look at it and you can see the message (which granted needs decoding, but it’s a lot easier than needing to decode the message before you can, well decode the message).

      • jw

        > Content might be king, but context is the crown.

        This is an important point, not just regarding media formats, but also regarding the preserved content. If people in the distant future would find (for instance) a Wikipedia page, and assuming they understand English, would they actually understand what the page says?

        For example, the Wikipedia page on 9/11 starts:

        > The September 11 attacks (also referred to as September 11, September 11th, or 9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda on the United States in New York City and the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area
        on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,996 people and
        caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage.

        Would people in 4015 understand this? What is al-Qaeda? Will they know where NYC and Washington were? Will they even know about the United States? How much is $10 billion in their currency?

        If I look at the rest of the article, there’s a bunch of stuff they probably wouldn’t know about: countries & places, people, religions (and branches of religion), events & ongoing situations (election of a president, decision by the UN, situation in Israel/Palestina), organisations (FBI, CIA, NYPD), things or concepts that might not exist anymore then (“metropolitan area”, “waterboarding”, “fatwa”, “television channel”, the “fuselage” of the plane)…

  • Qckpckt

    I’m not so sure about Armstrong being famous in 4015.

    I think you’re 100% on the money for calling out the history of space travel as being of increasing significance as we develop technologically, but I’m not sure the moon landings will be quite as big as they are for us.

    That I think is a function of U.S. propaganda. The USSR beat the U.S. in every aspect of the space race except landing the first person on the moon. I would think that the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, would hold greater significance to historians in 4015.

    That is, unless the U.S. continues to be a dominant global power long enough for the roots of the moon landings to dig deep enough into the history of humanity. I guess you could argue that the relative game of Armstrong is tied to the longevity of success of the U.S.

    • Anthony Churko

      I don’t know…there’s something to be said for an accomplishment as concrete as stepping on the moon. Columbus wasn’t the best sailor, after all.

      • Hohoas

        Being the first human to venture into the outer space is not concrete enough?

        • Anthony Churko

          No, at least not for the layperson. When does the atmosphere end and space begin? I know that there’s an answer to that question, and people who are into rocket science are aware of it, and care about who first surpassed it.

          But we’re talking about fame, and to be famous, you have to appeal to the masses. The masses don’t care about an invisible line a few hundred miles above us. They care about who actually made it to the big white rock.

          Also, Yuri Gagarin may have been the first human in space, but there were animals who made it before him. And in the eyes of the masses, that cheapens his accomplishment a little bit too.

          • Hohas

            Well, I would agree about the invisible arbitrary line argument you’re making if it were the case that Gagarin just went for a parabolic, sub-orbital flight – up, turn around, down (such as the first American in space (Alan Shephard)) did). The difference, however, is that Gagarin orbited the Earth.

            I think the fact that you believe that it appeals less to the masses is a result of a west-centric view point you might hold. Two millennia from now, this might not be the standard cultural background people will have, and as such the first person to veture into space will regain his fame.

            Although who actually knows..

  • PinkTheBush

    I was gonna be cute and say me, but someone beat me to it and now it’s not funny anymore.

    Your top three bets, Tim, sound pretty safe. All I know is it better not be someone ghastly like Kim Kardashian. You know? Like can you imagine 2,000-year-old history regarding her like we regard Cleopatra or some shit?

  • Truliner

    The world of 4015 according to some.

    From The Perry Bible Fellowship: http://www.pbfcomics.com/209/

    • Tauno

      That’s a good one 🙂

      And well, it’s a common thing nowadays that people who are not so much into history don’t exactly now which people or events were contemporary. Can you say if Jesus lived before or after Confucius? I didn’t know it by heart – but now, when I just looked it up, I saw that there were about 500 years between them (roughly the same as between Columbus and the Beatles 🙂 ).

      Or take the antique world. The Golden Age of Athens was 400-500 years before the Roman Empire, and roughly a millenium (yes, thousand years) after the Minoan civilisation on Crete. And in high school history books now, they are all compressed into less chapters than the history of the last few centuries.

      So, if there won’t be any new technologies of improving the people’s memory artificially, then in 2000 years people will probably know Columbus, Napoleon and Hitler (if there won’t be any events wiping out most of humanity’s knowledge meanwhile but I don’t think they can be global) but they will also remember that these three lived more or less at the same time 🙂

  • Louis A. Cook

    Hopefully no one. Our obsession with the achievements of individuals is, in my opinion, one of the worst wastes of time, energy and opportunity plaguing contemporary culture. Everyone knows Einstein, how many truly understand the theory of relativity, or anything about physics? Forget Hitler other than knowing that mass misjudgement is possible and remember not to be a dick in your everyday life. Neil Armstrong did what any man in his context what his abilities could have done. What about the people who dedicated their lives to building his spacecraft, his suit and the microphone he used to yap himself into history with a one-liner? What good can you do in your context with your abilities that is good for everyone and everything whether you are recognized for it or not?

    • Louis A. Cook

      Ps, looking back this seems kind of like a direct response to Tim’s answer, and a dickish one at that. I definitely didn’t mean it that way- I just used his 3 as examples because they were directly above my typing box, and I intended to say “you” like anybody reading. Another way I might pose it: Who’s your favorite Pre-Columbian Mayan?

      • DS

        Lady Xoc of Yaxchilan!!

        • Louis A. Cook

          Touche! 🙂

  • Kate

    I’m going to say Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. Our lives have changed so drastically in even the last 10 years as to how we use technology, I think they’ll be remembered as fathers of that change.

  • The Larch

    Eadward Muybridge ~ He’s more or less responsible for inventing cinema. After sustaining a brain injury in a carriage-accident Muybridge quit his day job and became obsessed with photography. He spent years taking long-exposures of the West and was at the bleeding edge of photographic technique, namely expediting the shutter speeds of successive cameras; his motion studies (performed at the palatial estate of railroad tycoon Leland Stanford) were integral in the reconstitution of motion. It’s hard to imagine what a paradigm shift this has represented because our daily lives are permeated with cinema–we are able to watch Robert Johnson on Youtube, the Nixon-Kennedy debates, you name it, as a direct ‘copy’ of the original event. This has enormous implications for the ontology of being, notions of time and space, politics, and the arts. Cinema, particularly Hollywood throughout the 20th century, was like a stake through the heart of mimesis and the written word, and has largely inculcated behavior and ideas in the general population from the moment of its inception. Our ideas about various historical epochs have been profoundly shaped by Hollywood and television. Our belief in ‘who we are’ is interminably bound up in the dramas and comedies we consume. Now, given the time-frame we’re dealing with, it’s difficult to say if Muybridge will be as remembered if they ever do (my money is on ‘they will’) virtual reality, which will totally dissolve the membrane between fact and fiction once and for all.

    For any who are intrigued by this “River of Shadows” by Rebeca Solnit comes highly recommended.

  • I went for Einstein and Hitler for the same reasons as you. I never considered Armstrong, but I think you make a valid point. However, it may turn out that Gagarin, being the first person in SPACE, has a chance also? We only celebrate Armstrong more because the Americans got to the moon first. If they had put a man in space first I think that person would have been as famous as Armstrong is now, although I concede that putting a man on a heavenly body other than the Earth is perhaps the greater achievement.

    My third person is Bill Gates. I think this will be known as the start of the information age, and Gates was responsible for bringing interoperability to the masses with Windows. It’s a difficult one as computing is such a new subject, perhaps Tim Berners Lee is also in there with a shout for inventing the Internet? I’ll stick with Bill though.

    • SmokeyJoeandthefish

      I see a good argument for Gates, but more for his philanthropy than computing. His huge fortune is going to make a lasting impact for a long time.

  • jfenbauer

    as for Hitler, i have no doubt that by then we’ll have come up with worse. we are a pretty creative species. sadly. Einstein, possibly because there is a lot of talk about his physics working, not working, being refined etc etc etc. could still be going on. there’s a lot out there we don’t know. Neil Armstrong is your best bet; first of a species to step off the home planet. pretty big deal. really big deal.

    so i guess i’ll go with your Neil Armstrong idea. don’t really have anything better myself. i do suspect that all the Abrahamic profits will still be doing well. utopia and myth (or reality if you so choose) always do well in historic memory.

  • KPMCH

    I cannot think of a living person or a contemporary character that could fill such big shoes, I mean, to be “remembered” 2000 years from now. As Tim wrote, things that are huge today or new technologies that apparently are THE Rosetta Stone for us, may become insignificant in 4015. The same with people.
    I wonder if 4015 population will think of Jesus and disregard Christians the way we think today about Quetzalcoatl and his followers for instance.

    Anyways, if 4015 is still before the Evolutionary Leap from The Great Filter (Fermi Paradox post), someone to be remembered could be the discoverer of a new way of healing. Something that eradicates diseases and cures Cancer, AIDS, ALS, palsy, etc.

  • ScHmo

    Totally agree with Louis – “Hopefully no one.” And why not? It may be we arrive at a new “ism” that celebrates the similarities in one another, not the differences. Where we are ultimately a global community, everyone is key to our survival and prosperity. We are starting to see this in small ways across the globe. Buy local, think global. Internet connecting us to everything that’s happening on this planet. Unfortunately, most people search Brad Pitt or Lebron James instead of Malala Yousafzai (before she garnered her award). We don’t know what affect this global information age is going to have on us in the long term. It’s only just begun. We are a social animal. This is a very social tool we use to communicate, research, reveal our inner thoughts. How is this going to affect us as a species over the next 2000 years? Will it aid us in attaining the next level of consciousness? Who knew how the automobile would affect this planet back in the day.

    And then, of course, there is the other side of the coin. We appear to be reaching the top of the bell curve for our species. And we are subject to the same laws of the universe as everything else. When you hit the top, there’s a big slide down the other side. We may lose everything. The Greeks and Romans sure took a hit as we slid into the Middle Ages. And before that evolutionists believe the human population may have dwindled down to less than 10,000 individuals. What happens if over population, environmental degradation, the rich/poor gap, etc. all get out of hand? Or something in between…. Makes basketball, pop stars and Facebook look very insignificant.

    I choose no one.

  • John Harrison

    “If basketball is still huge then …” I’m sorry but outside the USA that is a ridiculous statement.

    • Rainmaker

      Why is that?

  • Jacob Nestle

    You went for three, I’ll go for five.

    1) Hitler. I agree with your main reasoning for world wars. Hitler is nearly guaranteed to stay a really big shit for a long time, but it’ll depend on the next five hundred years or so. We get through that with no major world wars and your reasoning holds up well.

    2) Neil Armstrong, too, but I’ll say that he’ll be a huge deal in the future–even if nobody really keeps track of anything else, “first man on the moon” is gonna stay a big thing. The only thing is that he might get eclipsed in popularity, if not legend status, by the first guy on Mars, et cetera.

    3) Still Jesus. Yeah. No joke. I don’t think that there was much luck involved with the quick rise of the Christian faith–even if Constantine had come out against it, like you said, that would have only spurred further resistance. He may have lived a really long time ago, but he’s a big thing now and likely still will be two thousand years from now.

    4a) Obama, if the US is still a big deal.
    4b) Whoever the first female president is, same if as Obama
    4c) Washington, same if.

    5) Me, because I’m gonna change the world. Obviously

  • Artyom Karapetov

    Here’s my shot at this:

    -The person who will make the first general-public-known contact with the extraterrestrials.
    -Founders of the modern technological era, aka Gates, Jobs, Page, Brin, along with some bio-tech inventors that are still unborn.
    -Lucky scientists who’s work will be still used during those times/who’s work will be remembered (for some reason still unclear).
    -Prominent space explorers, scientists, inventors, etc. of the future.
    -Religious/philosophical leaders who will set a base for the moral principles of the future generations. I don’t think “religion” will exist in 4015, but the morals and the belief in God (something that made the universe, and which even Einstein and other great scientists believed in as they had found that the more they studied science, the “more they believed in God”). Historical figures like Jesus will be remembered, as they had shaped the history of the past 2000 years, and when the younglings of the future will study history they will of course study a person who had influenced at least two thousand years and changed lives and shaped countries and caused wars and peace etc. though his brief time on earth. He won’t be pop-culture-popular but will certainty be “historically popular”.

  • John Bardeen: invented the transistor, which enabled the computer age, and explained superconductivity, which likely will underlie much future technology. Einstein’s work was very important but it seems unlikely to be the basis for future technology. Bardeen is now very under-rated, but he was a great scientist and wonderful man. All the Einstein stories we now know can be supplanted by the humility and generosity of Bardeen (e.g., when he died, his golf partner of 20 years was asked about him and replied that he didn’t know Bardeen had one 2 Nobel prizes: “It never came up; If it was me, I would have figured out a way to work it into the conversation.”).

  • Tino Stasevich

    TESLA TESLA TESLA!, I really think he would be considered the father of all wireless technologies.
    He also had a very controversial profile and a lot of stories/legends around his personal life, and that really counts when it comes to how long a character is remembered.

    In the other hand, and giving it a paranormal twist, if anything like extraterrestrial beings/life comes to our world, I give a chance to any unknown guy from ‘our era’ to have communicated or had any type of connection with them, and obviously was ignored in this days.

    • DrSuess

      I sense an Oatmeal fan!
      How about Jibbers Crabbers?

      • Tino Stasevich

        hahaha that guy really knows how to explain why Tesla es THAT big.

  • Agis Petikidis

    I don’t have much to write cause the same names popped my mind.

    I also thought that the safest bets are Einstein, Hitler and Newton (Newton is on the edge of not counting, chronologically) although I didn’t think of Gnorts (I should have).

    And the other three names that came to my mind are also Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg but it depends on how important this technological era is actually going to be in the future.

  • Castiel

    If intelligent machines are the feature, I’m betting on Turing.

    • Tim Ryan

      *future

  • This is truly a complex question, and I almost completely agree with Tim’s three. Albert Einstein and Neil Armstrong (or possibly: Wernher von Braun, instead) will be known as long as we don’t end up in a never-ending dark age, and they may even be able to survive that. (Honestly, I am leaning more Wernher than Neil, on the latter, though.)

    As for Hitler, being a politician/ideolog (rather than general) and a would-be world leader (rather than successful conqueror), I just don’t see him having the staying power of a Genghis Khan or an Alexander III of Macedon or even a Napoléon Bonaparte or a Julius Caesar (and Caesar, I might argue, we know best because of Shakespeare’s play and his relationship with Cleopatra–or Liz Taylor–without which, and outside military-history circles, we might not know as well as we know Albrecht von Wallenstein).

    So, I’m going to go weird…part of me wants to say Stan Lee (as the future’s Ovid or Homer).

    Another part of me wants to say Douglas Adams. (Partly because a very mischievous part of me sees Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy being the foundational text for a future philosophy/religion, and partly because I don’t want to think about a future world where L. Ron Hubbard is more well-known.)

    And another part of me wants to say Gerd B. Achenbach or possibly Karl Popper. Though both are more-or-less unknown today, each could very well contribute something on the scale of a Sigmund Freud or be seen on the level of an Aristotle or Plato.

    Lastly, though I’m not sure Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes are very well-known, anymore, some screenwriter-director might make it to that level. My top contenders, on that angle, would be Alfred Hitchcock, Andrei Tarkovsky, Akira Kurosawa and George Lucas.

    But…this is the way I’m going…

    My top three are: Albert Einstein, Wernher von Braun and Stan Lee.

    (By the way, I’m defining “people from our era” as those who lived the bulk of their lives in the 20th and 21st centuries…and Duke Ellington gets honorable mention…I think he’ll be America’s Bach or Mozart for the next few centuries…though like Tim, I’m not entirely sure that even Bach and Mozart could survive to 4015.)

  • Josh Stanley

    I don’t say this to be a jerk but to create a bit of a filter through which to regard this week’s question: Henry Ford didn’t actually invent the car. He is responsible for the manufacturing process that made it widely available, though. So perhaps, in the same way, rather than immediately thinking that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, etc. will be super-famous, what if it actually turns out to be someone completely different, 100 years later, who takes what they are currently known for, and makes them infinitely more accessible or useful or popular, and Gates or Jobs or Musk are all but forgotten? If you go back and look at many of the early innovators of what became the modern vehicle, they are easily recognizable names, but only because of branding. I’ll admit I didn’t know who they were, either, without consulting google.

  • Lunadia

    Stephen Hawking

  • JK

    Whoever causes the world to be a nuclear wasteland shall be remembered forever

  • The_Postindustrialist

    Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Henry Ford, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Economists Adams and Keynes.

    Why these? Marie Curie’s discoveries both in chemistry and our study of radioactivity are too prolific not to be forgotten. Louis Pasteur kicked off the whole field of antibiotics. Henry Ford revolutionized industry with product lines, and also had a part to play in unions. Susan B Anthony and Martin Luther King, and of course, Abraham Lincoln are instrumental to equal rights movements (Susan B appeared on our coinage, an honor others haven’t) which were some of the first movements of their nature in the world. (US gained suffrage before most other nations). FDR was super important too, but it was Keynsian economics which was instrumental in completely revising how we understood how economies work. Adams was “the first” economist (and it’s still technically within your time frame given), so no discussion of economics is complete without these two.

    Strongest votes are for Curie, (who may stay relatively obscure) Ford, Lincoln, Pasteur, and the two economists.

    • abc

      Louis Pasteur was my first guess too. Not only because of pasteurisation (and we will always need food, especially food that can be preserved) but also because of his discovery of vaccination and most important sterile environments and bacteria fermentation. Half of us would notbe here now if not for his work.

  • WW

    Tesla, Newton, Einstein, Pascal, Pythagoras, Qianlong Emperor, Mao Ze Dong, Churchill, Napoleon (helped by the complex), Aesop, Brothers Grimm, and Dr. Suess. I think it’s very hard for art and technology to transcend 2000 years. But people who developed fundamentals in science and math will be taught in school over and over again. Stories will be told about them. People in more advanced tech like Steve Jobs will likely be replaced as we find new ways to do things. People love learning about conquerors and turning points in history and history is written by the victorious (or survivors) so I went for the more interesting personalities, because once again, I think history lives on in storytelling. Where I think that art does cross over is with children, who are impressionable and develop an emotional attachment to what they are taught. So the most likely art to be passed down over that kind of time is children’s books.

  • Joanna Rene Rasmussen

    Tim Berners-Lee, first implementor of the internet. Neil Armstrong is tied with whomever (hopefully a woman, as there seem to be none suggested here) steps off the Mars Transit Vehicle and onto the red planet. Kraftwerk, the godfathers of electronic music.

    • The_Postindustrialist

      “Kraftwerk, the godfathers of electronic music.” <—– that totally made my day. 🙂

      • Joanna Rene Rasmussen

        Niiiiiiice!

    • M.B.

      (Dont get me wrong here but.. ) I wonder, why “hopefully a woman”. What does it matter? I just hope that whatever person is to be remember, is remember because of his/her contribution to mankind, and not because they’re in a band or happen to be a good football player or what ever. Hopefully at least a handful of people who fought against gender inequality, racism, etc. will be remembered, regardless of gender and ethnicity.

      After browsing through the comments, I see this come up multiple times.. Why “nominate” a woman just for the sake of it? Obviously due to gender discrimination / racism in the past, a lot less women / people of color will be mentioned – but I definitely assume that such primitive, idiotic behaviors will be non-existent in the far future 🙂 If not, the human race has most definitely failed. For now though, it only makes sense choosing from the people available today(which are predominantly white men I guess) but I am sure it will balance out a lot more (gender / race wise ) in the next decades and centuries – even though if you think about it – it’s completely irrelvant. People should start looking at achievements by humans in general, and applaud every contribution made by who ever.

      Not to attack you or anything.. Felt like sharing my thoughts 😉

      • Joanna Rene Rasmussen

        You’re right. My preference to see more women on this list is irrelevant to this exercise, which is exactly why I stated it as a parenthetical (secondary, not important).

        Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, do you have anything to offer regarding my actual list? Wouldn’t that be a more constructive use of three paragraphs?

        • The_Postindustrialist

          I think that even our bias against women is somewhat self fullfilling in this day and age. We say there’s “no famous women” or “no women in *insert favorite media*” but there are, and plenty of them when you stop writing it off as being nonexistent. I listed Susan B Anthony (for she happens to be one of the first women to grace our coinage), Marie Curie, and referenced Joan of Arc.

          when it comes to artists, I don’t think many are relevant for this exercise, but beatrix potter, emily dickensen, etc. Ayn Rand made the list for a few other people, and justifiably so. Why don’t people who want more female names listed, just start listing them rather than writing it off as “oh well, women never make these lists because history’s written by men”?

          • Joanna Rene Rasmussen

            I listed the three off the very tippy top of my head. You’re right. I should have put more thought into it.

  • Jessie

    Tim, I’m in no way suggesting this is your fault, but it made me sad to see that there is only one woman amongst your list of contenders.

    That woman, Queen Victoria, was only able to be great because she was born into power. If she had a brother, he would be King and she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be great. What makes me more sad is that I don’t think she deserves the accolade either, so to me, your list has no women. Rosa Parks would totally make the shortlist though.

    To round mine down to three, I think they will be: Martin Luther King, Hitler and Tim Berners Lee. Zuckerberg and Jobs are small fry.

    • WW

      I am sad to point out that one of the most famous women in history, Cleopatra, is remembered because she’s pretty and seduced a bunch of people… and also happened to be powerful. Maybe in the future people will know the Empress Dowager Ci Xi.

  • WW

    I think about how knowledge is passed down quite differently. I categorize them in 3 ways: (my previous post was a little rambly)

    1. Things you have to learn in school. The only ones I can think of that will always have to be taught and come with a name are the foundations of math and science. Pythagorean theorem will always be called the Pythagorean theorem.

    2. The best stories will always get passed down through entertainment. Before, people can predict what gets passed down by books. But I don’t think you can compare books to databases in this case. You should be looking at books vs. movies. Most people would have no idea who Alan Turing is without the film… or John Nash for that matter. So it’s story telling in its various forms that pass along the history. I think that’s a bigger determinant of which conquerors/inventors/artists we remember than history class or actual achievement. We have no idea who invented the wheel, or the first people who colonize China. We don’t know the builders of the Ottoman empire as well as Cleopatra. The more interesting the person, and the crazier the story, the more likely it will get passed on.

    3. We pass on stories to our children because of emotional attachment. I think stories like Aesops fables are so much about human nature and applicable irregardless of where we are in technology, that they will continue to be told. There’s a high likelihood that the most popular childrens’ stories will get passed on in some form. I put Dr. Seuss in this category.

    • WW

      As for the greater influence of China, it should add the Qianlong Emperor to the list of people in history. But who knows which culture will be the most prevalent in 2000 years. It could be an alien culture.

  • jamaicanworm

    Easy: Tim Urban.
    Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Xi Jinping will all embrace Truthism, it will supplant Christianity as the most popular religion in the world, and 4015 AD will actually be known as 2001 AWBW (After Wait But Why).

  • Amanda

    Tim, two women on your list, one of whom is famous for a cone bra?! I tend to think as society diversifies and racial–even gender–boundaries blur, future generations will find it hard to imagine dividing along such lines. I hope Susan B. Anthony, MLK, Eleanor Roosevelt, and similar such leaders will be remembered.

    • Aureon

      As sorry as we all are for the case, mainly due to unjust discrimination and limiting social norms, there aren’t many epoch-bearing women (Or black people) before the very current age. This is not due to a minimization of those peoples’ achievements, but rather due to their inability to achieve world-status due sexism, racism and whatnot. It’s also possible some of the world’s finest actually have stolen their achievements (There’s a theory floating around of how Augustus was actually just doing Livia’s bidding – not that i like that one)
      The issue of equality, if history shows us anything, won’t be enough to carry their reformers – Since concepts such as “old” racismsexism will be alien.

  • TJH

    I’m going to say that it will be names and text found on monument walls. After the asteroid destroys our current civilization, it will be up to the archaeologists in 4015 to figure out what was going on 2000 years before. My votes are for Jefferson and Lincoln, since their monuments have large stone carved text on them. Maybe some megalomaniacal dictator who builds something that survives the disaster, as well.

  • Phillip van Pelt

    Whoever finds the first intelligent aliens will surely be remembered in the next two thousand years, if we all survive annihilation during that period. On the future books (or whatever replaces books) about it, there may be a chapter about Neil Armstrong.
    Hitler may be remembered. He is an icon for the worse of humankind. He set a really clear example of what not to do.
    Einstein is going to make it through times. No doubt about that.
    Also, I bet the Wright Brothers have absolutely no chance of being remembered. They’ll fall on a bucket with Santos Dumont. If you don’t know who Santos Dumont is, that’s the exact reason why the Wright Brothers won’t be remembered. I think Leonardo da Vinci has a better chance on the flying machine business history, even without ever flying.

    I’d like to say the Beatles will be remembered, but I honestly doubt it. They did something awesome for music. But then they got copied. And copied. And copied. And every copy has changed. And every copy became worse. And today the music industry is broken, and the teenagers think that Kanye West dude is making a career for Paul McCarteney. Wtf? Music history has no future. Period.
    And, due to our easy access to information, I think individuals will be forgotten. So, Ben Franklin made a light bulb. So John Bardeen made the transistor. And what did they do with that? So Steve Jobs made an iPhone. Wait. Did he? No one has ever seen Steve Jobs with a screwdriver or any other tool. So, from now on, no one will make new things. Companies will make new things. And companies are nothing but a bunch of people who no one can tell by individual names. So, from now on there will be companies. And after that it will just be humans as a whole. Humans did this, humans did that. Humanity found whatever it is to be found. No names. Except that guy who finds the first intelligent aliens, if he pull it off by himself.

  • 1) Gandhi for being an incredibly admirable human being. It seems to me that he will go down in history like Buddha, one enlightened man sharing a grand vision to the world.

    2) Hitler, who is probably one of the most famous human beings ever and so will probably endure.

    3)Tolkien. Famous authors that break ground in literature such as Homer seem to go down in history and Tolkien created a world with so much detail it rivals Homers. Keep in mind that Greek Mythology draws from Homer’s works. Perhaps in the future there will be a religion based around Tolkien’s works and the worship of Eru.

    I’d also like to add that I think at least one famous scientist from our era will make it, but it is very hard to know which one. Edison used to be hugely popular, but now is starting to be overshadowed by Tesla due to Tesla’s superior PR. Scientists such as Blaise Pascal are less known than Einstein know, but in the future may become far more famous.

    My guesses for people from before the 1700 are these:

    1) Jesus, as many have said is a shoe in.

    2) Herostratus for burning down the temple of Artemis, as the world wonders fade away their destroyers will be cursed through history.

    3) And finally the legendary Ozymandias aka Ramesses II for the irony.

    • Steven Reed

      I like the Ozymandias one, many famous poets will go down in history and that is a fantastic poem. I feel like the future will be anti-huge egotistical monuments and there isn’t a poem that better highlights how silly vanity is than that one.
      http://zenpencils.com/comic/ozymandias/
      Great comic illustrating it if you’re interested 🙂

      • That is indeed an awesome comic. The illustration of Ozymandias actually looks like the statue of Ramesses II that is still around today.

  • Arturo Narro

    The first person to travel to Mars will be more famous than any mentioned in this post.

    • Steven Reed

      Will he though..? In 2500 maybe, but 2000 years is a long time.

    • DrSuess

      You stole my answer! I agree…. the first person to set foot on Mars and metaphorically start the colonization of the solar system will have recognition staying power!

  • RedEyes

    Here’s another thing to think about: Maybe our modern era just isn’t that important in the world of 4015.
    Think about it: In our times, a lot of people from the ancient world (say 500BC – 200AD) are well known: Cleopatra, Caesar, Jesus, Socrates and so on, but what about the people that came after? Who can you name (without looking it up) that was important from, say, 500AD? or 800AD? or 1100AD?
    It’s nice to think that we’re part of a fairly revolutionary era (and I’m not saying we’re not), but maybe in 2000 years from now everything we think is big and clever now is looked upon as embarrasingly crude and primitive (they used to get around by burning oil, guys! Hahaha! And they thought just getting to the moon was a big deal!), something to be forgotten about.
    Or maybe society takes a turn in a different direction; maybe everyone goes back to a simpler life (most likely after the robot insurrection of 2765) and all our achievements are simply irrelevant to them; a product of a different age.

    Having said that, I think if anyone is really going to be remembered, it’s going to be the scientists and innovators, rather than musicians and actors – modern music and film will probably be as culturally irrelevant to them as ancient greek plays are to us – ie, one for the historians rather than the masses.

    Or maybe, in some bizarre self-fulfilling prophecy, it’ll be Bill & Ted…

    • Jay Kay

      Genghis Khan – Leader of the Mongolian Empire. 1162-1227AD (I did look up the dates but knew he was from around then)

      Go ahead and see how many children he fathered! It is estimated that 1 in 200 men in the world are his direct descendants!

    • Steven Reed

      “Robot insurrection” made me laugh, you completely get why this subject is so difficult. We might not get how insignificant we are…

    • Jeff Lewis

      That’s a good point, but I’ll venture to say that we are living in a very important time historically – a kind of extended version of the industrial revolution. Prior to the 1800s, society was much, much different than it is today. In 2000 years, the difference between 1850 and 2000 won’t seem like much at all.

    • Aureon

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/Population_curve.svg/350px-Population_curve.svg.png
      Yeah, no. There’s three chances on how this goes:
      A) When the exponential curve started
      B) When the exponential growth happened, and then levelled
      C) When the exponential growth started, exploded, and then collapsed

      In all three cases, it’ll be a very important age.

  • Andrew

    Can’t believe nobody has said Watson & Crick. These are the guys who, in 1953, discovered the structure of the DNA molecule. Watson is still alive, Crick died in 2004. All future biological sciences are going to be based on our understanding of DNA. As long as there is life on Earth and people to study it, these guys will be known.

    Hitler may be surpassed 20x over by worse. Einstein and and Armstrong aren’t going anywhere, though.

    • Bill

      I disagree that Hitler is likely to be surpassed. In the grand scope of human history, we humans have a pretty consistent trend of being nicer to each other over time. When viewing specific events such as WWII, genocide in Africa, or the religious madness carried out by groups like ISIS, it doesn’t seem that way, but consider this – had the holocaust happened 100 years earlier, I submit that most people would not have given a damn. Partially thanks to nuclear deterrent, partly due to an increased appreciation for the value of human life, developed nations aren’t willing to wage even limited war against each other any more, and an ever greater percentage of the world’s nations are developed. Baring some calamity that causes tremendous desperation, I don’t expect we’ll see another large scale total war.

    • Jeff Lewis

      Do you really think that will earn them universal fame in 2000 years? Hell, I’ll bet you over half the population couldn’t tell you who they are now (not that what they did wasn’t important, just not the type of thing to earn the level of fame being discussed here).

  • ily

    On a less scientifical note, Pope Francis perhaps?

    • Tauno

      How many past popes (from before you were born) can you name? How many can be named by a man on the street? I don’t think I can name any.

      I think that Francis (don’t get me wrong, I consider him to be an outstanding person) has a chance if he:

      a) actually changes the world, e.g. by ending all the religious conflicts, at least those involving Christians. I’m not sure if he or anybody else has enough power for that though. Talking about peace is not enough to leave a mark.

      b) has enough luck to be remembered on some more random reason (e.g. if Latin Americans will make a really big deal about him as the first Latin American pope – but in that case, concepts like “Latin American” or “pope” must survive way longer than they have done so far).

      • From before I was born? Hell, I can name 22 Johns, and don’t even get me started on the Piuses.

        -dlj.

      • thijs

        the borgias popes of course, because they have their own series 😛

    • James

      Doubt it, but St. John Paul II may be—at least among Catholic theology geeks.

  • Phillip van Pelt

    Maybe the first person to correctly explain and prove what is the fifth dimension. Or travel through it. Or record it. Go figure.

    • Bill

      Dude, it’s a band. They made that musical, “Hair”? Wow. Read a book sometime. 😉

  • Rodolink

    the one who saves us from freezing when the next glacial age comes

  • Steven Reed

    I believe Alan Turing will, without a doubt in my mind, be a figure who will live in infamy for the next 2,000 years. I think he sits just outside of the super-modern era, meaning he was alive long enough ago that there can still be a mythic surrounding him, and his idea of a true Turing machine is almost a philosophical concept, meaning he would be discussed in a wide range of subject matter, as well as the fact that he was chemically castrated will keep him very famous. In today’s world he’s not as well known but he’s a prime example of how backward our time is, especially compared to a (I would imagine) much more progressive 4015. Even if we do not use the model of computation that we still use today, I think he’ll still be talked about in any computer science 101 course or any history course because he was essentially the founding philosopher of modern computer coding, and I can only hazard a guess as to what computers will mean to us in even 2, 20, or 200 years- let alone 2,000.

    • WW

      I don’t think that he would be remembered unless there are concepts named after him. Do you know the first person who came up with the associative property, trigonometry, affine ciphers, or combinatorics? We don’t even know the guy who came up with Boolean algebra (George Boole. I googled)

      • Um. “Turing machine.”

        Yeah, go Google it.

        -dlj.

        • WW

          How many people do you know has used one?

          • It’s so universal that even people who have to google “Boole” are using it all the time.

            Sorta like gravity or arithmetic.

            -dlj.

            • WW

              I apologize for my ignorance. Dear WBW readers, please upvote the above comment if you have used a Turing machine.

            • You’re in luck kid: the good thing about ignorance is it’s curable.

              Cheers,

              -dlj.

    • DrSuess

      good call. I think he might make it, based on your “computing 101 idea”.
      Also, I think well before 4015 (maybe even in the next 100 years) machines will blow past the Turing limit. I think Turing will be known, but in the “awww… he was so quaintly wrong” category that we put the Ptolemaic solar system into. Awwww…. Turing thought that computers might not get smarter than people. (said our robo-overlords)

      • Aureon

        a Turing Machine has absolutely nothing to do with the Turing test. Unrelated concepts.

  • Jerome

    The only way to look at this question is to compare today with 2000 years ago since we really can’t guess what 2000 years from now will be like.

    The only people we know about from 2000 years ago are political leaders and people associated with political leaders. Aristotle, for example, was well known for his military weaponry so he was well acquainted with the political leaders of the day who in turn were really military leaders. So we know about Aristotle through his connections to political leaders not because of his own cleverness. The question becomes then, why do we know about these political/military leaders and the answer is because their deeds were carved in stone or written on clay tablets and these are very durable. This is the key.

    So in 4015, President Lincoln may be famous because he has a monument IN STONE. Now, that monument may be destroyed in 500 years in which case he will not be known in 4015 but he, at least, has a chance. Napoleon too has a chance because he still stands in stone in France. Hitler on the other hand has less of a chance because most of his monuments have been properly destroyed.

    So we have to take two seconds to ask the question why do political/military leaders make monuments to themselves in stone. This answer is of course, because STONE IS DURABLE and probably the only really durable material we have.

    What this this means is that all this other crap such as paper, celluloid film, microfiche, magnetic tape, plastic records, DVD’s and ALL digital media have no chance of survival AT ALL! Now, by “crap” I am certainly not referring to content. There are many, many great works of art and important historical records on all these mediums. However, I do mean that in terms of durability these record keeping technologies can barely make it through a single century never mind twenty centuries. So for this information to make it through it will have to be diligently copied and recopied over and over again for 2000 years.

    Why do I think this will not happen? Well, remember those political/military leaders? Well, they destroy stuff like crazy and they know it, which is why their monuments are built in stone. Even a destroyed monument can yield some information about the builder. So all these people that you think should be remembered because they said meaningful things in their speeches or in their art will not be because their art will not survive unless it is in stone.

    So who today has made the most stone statues especially statues of political/military leaders? The person with the most has the best chance of being remembered in 2000 years and most likely none of you reading this can name one candidate. I can’t.

    Yet most of you most seem to believe that our vast storehouse of knowledge will easily make it through. I don’t. It is not just wars can that interrupt the copying because natural disasters can do a good job too. The other enemy is disinterest. Maybe 1500 years from now people will stop caring about this time period. They may have other issues that preoccupy them. So if for some unforeseen reason people stop copying for 150 years or so then nearly everything will be lost. Whatever odd items by whatever artist make it through by luck and chance then that art and that artist will become the famous ones because nothing else made it through. Maybe recordings by the We Five will be all that exist from 20th century plastic records and yeah you don’t know who they are do you. In fact, I might be famous for something I haven’t even done yet or you might be famous too. We both have the same chance, about zero.

    Don’t forget that technology changes over time. Most likely after a few hundred years no one will know how to copy a DVD because the technology will be gone. Even if people save the discs, they will not know what they were for. People in the future may think they were just colorful decorations. They’ll dig up some apartment building and find DVD discs hanging by wires over the balcony and they’ll say, “see, they ARE decorations”.

    Even if they realize that there is information written the in the impossibly tiny holes in the aluminum of these discs what can they make of it? How will they even know that it is supposed to be a giant series of digital photographs that seem to move if they are shown one after the other. They will not know the format of the picture, the number pixels, how fast they should be reveals or that a television is what you need to see them because they won’t know what a television is or how it worked.

    Very little is going to survive children, because it is hard for us to imagine just how long 2000 years is. That stone mason whoever he/she is, is looking better and better.

    Since I do not currently know about that stone cutter, here are my choices for who will be famous in 4015.

    1. Me
    2. You
    3. Abraham Lincoln

    • Jan Sjögren

      Since the premise of the discussion was that humanity would be just fine (no post-apocalyptic scenario), I don’t think we need to worry that much about future generations not
      having access to basic or even detailed knowledge of today’s society.
      (Having any interest in it may be a totally different story, though.) You can already fit the entire English-language Wikipedia on a ten-dollar memory circuit a few mm across, and I don’t think digital storage capacities are going to stop increasing exponentially anytime soon.

      • Jerome

        You make a very good point and I would guess that most people on this site agree with you. The problem is that because technology is easily accessible does not mean that it is durable. And durability means both surviving a long time and surviving obsolescence. For example if I managed to put the whole history of California onto a floppy disc would you be able to look anything up. Probably not, yet that technology is less than fifty years old. Less than fifteen years ago you most likely used floppy discs every day but you could read one now? Like you point out, thumb drives have huge capacity but I’ll bet that fifty years from now no one will be able to use it. So in only 100 years, no one would be able to view your English Language Wikipedia in a flash drive except for a few experts. In 2000 years maybe not even the experts will be able to read it; that is if it survives. Technology is plentiful and easy to use but not at all durable especially over two millennia.

        • Jan Sjögren

          I get what you mean, and your point is very valid for data only stored on a certain device or medium, like family photos on a DVD that are not uploaded to the web/cloud. But for generalized data (such as Wikipedia and thus the explanation of what a DVD is/was) which already exists online in innumerable copies, I don’t think technical compatibility will be a problem. Maybe the old language will be a barrier if you look directly at current-era text, but I guess there will be automatic translators for that. We’ll just have to wait and see. 🙂

    • Bill

      Your point about monuments is a good one. Though I think that also ought to include, as others have mentioned, Important Things that have been named for people, like the Higgs Boson. When 5th graders in 2015 are learning basic particle physics via a sentient computer streaming information directly into their brains, there might be a little aside about some guy named Peter Higgs who led the team that discovered the Higgs Boson, which was an important step in developing teleportation, you know, that technology for old fashioned people that actually bother to move their physical bodies around. On the other hand, I disagree that most of the stuff we today value will be utterly lost. Yeah, our common storage mediums won’t last that long. But we’re already doing things like etching important works of literature and such into crystal, or making things like the gold record aboard Voyager. As technology develops, lovers of art will continue to be dedicated to keeping that art fresh and available in whatever the new media format might be. You can pull up a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh on the internet, and that story is 4000 years old. Twice as big a time jump as what we’re talking about now. I don’t imagine that the literites of the forty-first century will be able to find a copy of Twilight. But the works of Joyce, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and such will likely endure, not to mention works in other languages. This isn’t to say they will likely be famous. But they won’t be forgotten. The same will happen for great works of art, film, music, and so on. They’ll be remastered, re-uploaded, generation after generation.

      • Jerome

        Well, to be honest I never considered people names as a survival journey for famous people. I personally would think that the results would be somewhat better than than the survival of records but not that much better. Let’s pick one of today’s favorites, Alan Turing. First of all it is not his own name exclusively. Plenty of people are named Alan and many of them will pass that name down to their children without any direct connections to Mr Turing. Likewise can be said for his last name. If someone is named Alan Turning in 4015 how would he know if he was named for the originator of the Turing Machine. Well, only if people care about the Turing Machine in 4015 and they won’t. Take away the movie and how many people would be Turing fans today? Not that many. Yes, he was a genius but……..

        Case in point, how many children are named Joseph Marie Jacquard after Jacquard’s Loom? Mr Jacquard invented a loom which was the beginning of computer punch cards which was another necessary computer development. Not that many people remember him and the name Marie has changed genders and he was French. What are the odds people speak English in 4015?

        You are right that old things are proof that something always survives, my point is just that of the total that was originally there very little gets through. For example we have some ancient Greek plays but very few. Does anyone believe that it was only the very best playwrights who had works that survived. I don’t. I also believe that there were thousands and thousands of ancient plays written, some good, some bad and nearly all destroyed and forgotten. How many people today want to name their child Phrynichus?

        I realize so many writers here are so optimistic about the future. They seem to think that the future is just going to be a straight line of new technological wonders but everything has a beginning and everything has an end. Who invented the crossbow? Who invented the quill pen? Who invented the battering ram? Do we care? Nope.

        I think that their optimism is misplaced. Our greatness is not in our technology, our greatness is in us. No matter what we choose to do in 4015 I’m pretty certain it will be impressive because we are impressive. I just equally certain that in 4015 no one will care about computers, cell phones or flying cars and if they did then I would say that something has gone seriously wrong.

        Yes, some people will be remembered, some records will survive but I still insist not that many and it will be a complete crap shoot. I’m fairly certain 4015 will be a good year for humanity but it will be a very, very, very different society than today. Hopefully, it will even be egalitarian and fair and the people there may not give a tinker’s damn about the pomposity of “important” names.

  • DrSuess

    Top 3….. here goes (ps… many good names have been taken, so I’m trying to go a bit different)

    1. Peter Higgs. He has an elementary particle named after him! And IF we end up being able to manipulate space-time in any significant way… it will be based on an understanding of his particle.

    2. Al Gore. If/ when the global warming issue comes to a head in the next century or so, people will look back with a nearly religious zeal for anyone who could get labelled as a prophet of the event. Al was the most publicly visible person warning everyone of the dangers. I’m not saying that in 4014 there will be a Goreist church or anything. Just that he will be associated with the time in which the crisis began.

    3. Malala. Nobel peace prize as young as that? With the power of global communication and a good publicity network… she might just be the person over the next 50 to 100 years to really DO SOMETHING in terms of global peace.

    • Abc

      Since you mention it, I think Alfred Nobel will be remembered much more than Malala

  • Amalek, whose name was extirpated from human memory three thousand years ago, will probably be at least 3/5ths as unextirpated in another 2,000.

    Amalek?

    Yup. Him. See, even the people who don’t remember him are still asking about him.

    -dlj.

  • Drew66

    Well, how about someone who is someday seen as an early oracle around an issue which is later recognized to be of profound, existential significance to all of humanity. So maybe a few hundred years from now, someone like Al Gore may be viewed as a prescient herald on the ways in which we are destroying our planet. If clean energy and environmental protection become the fundamental prevailing ideology on our planet, then an early mover like Gore may well be remembered as an heroic voice in the wilderness. (Calm down, Al.) The other person or people who will likely be remembered are the first ground breakers in conquering cancer and other devastating diseases, and mastering organ replacement and gene therapy. Those first responsible for materially extending human life expectancy out to multiples of what it is today will be rightfully famous, and their fame could well last for a couple of thousand years.

    • Derek

      Ooh interesting point about extending human life expectancy or conquering cancer. No humans will ever forget the person who gave them the chance to live much longer.

      • thijs

        can you give me the name of the guy that gave us penicilin from the top of your head?

        • The_Postindustrialist

          Louis Pasteur. He was on my list. 😛

          • Tauno

            fine irony or ironic mistake?

      • Tauno

        I’m not sure about extending life expectancy or conquering cancer. One reason is that these are being done by several people, actually several groups of people and over a long period of time. I said these are being done, not will be done because the progress is already happening and it will go on – if there will be one person later taking credit for it, would it be genuine?

        Another reason – imagine that in 100 years, people will figure out how to cure and prevent cancer. A while later, people will forget what cancer was, and a few millenia later cancer or the cure for that will be completely irrelevant.

    • nielmalan

      Jim Hansen is the name you’re looking for. Al Gore is the St Paul of the James Hansen Jesus.

  • James

    I can’t believe no one has said Yuri Gagarin yet. The first man in space.

    • Castiel

      Check further down the comments. There’s even a discussion on who will be remembered the most, Gagarin or Armstrong.

  • Allen Apul

    Lil Wayne, Michael Jackson, The Presidents on Mt. Rushmore, Hitler, Baby Jessica (lol)

    • The_Postindustrialist

      Ouch. Good call on Rushmore. Having your face physically carved into the side of a mountain is a damned good way to be remembered.

  • Jennifer

    This is an awesome question with so many possible answers. I absolutely agree with Einstein, Hitler, and Neil Armstrong. Each person had such an incredible impact on modern history.

    With the WW2 theme I would add Stalin, Emperor Hirohito/Tojo, and Harry Truman. Stalin because of the unbelievable impact he had on the world order. I would add Hirohito because he refused to be defeated during WW2, and Tojo for the plan to carry out the attack on Pearl Harbor. Truman because he made the decision to drop one of the deadliest weapons of our time on Japan, ending the Pacific part of WW2.

    I would also add Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest physicists ever, to the list of scientists.

    The 3 main inventors of the automobile: Nicolas Joseph Cugnot for his steam powered tricycle, Karl Friedrich Benz for the 1st combustion engine, and Gottlieb Daimler for the 4 wheel motorized carriage. Also Henry Ford for his innovations for the automobile industry.

    Lastly, I would add the modern tech giants Bill Gates for making computers user friendly, and Steve Jobs for forever changing the cell phone.

  • ChrisDK

    Its quite well established exactly how the 3-mentioned Greek philosophers rose to such greatness. First and foremost they are tightly connected (teacher-student wise). Secondly, all other greek (and roman) philosophical schools for the next 1000years!!! were footnotes to these guys. Everyone else were borrowing/stealing from them. There were groups of middle and neo-platonists 1000years after Platos death.. Stoics, sceptics, etc. all openly acknowledged their for-fathers (mostly Plato and Socrates). Aristotle was rediscovered by the Arabs around year 900-1100 and recognized for his futuristic vast insight in human nature, biology and the cosmos. All these were again “re-discovered” in Europe in the renaissance and dwarfed everything else going on at the moment.

  • Bill

    Before I got to Tim’s choices, I’d decided on Hitler and Neil Armstrong. Armstrong is an easy choice because the first human on the moon is such a tremendous milestone in the development of technology, and is an achievement akin to the building of the great pyramids. Also, by 4015, the tremendous undertaking that was the first moon landing will be an easy example of how far we will have come in the way that we view the pre-industrial world today. “What, they had to build massive… what are those things called? rockets? To get into space? They didn’t just teleport? No wonder it took so long to get things done back then.” And of course there’s Hitler. So long as the west remains a reasonably strong world culture, he’ll be the personification of the worst in humanity and a symbol for what will probably be the last total war between developed nations. The simple fact is that it’s pretty damn difficult for a human being to have a more terrible effect on the world than Hitler. (Yes, I know Stalin and Mao were ultimately responsible for more deaths, but at least in the west, and including Russia, Hitler remains the poster-boy for evil. If Stalin is already becoming a subject of ironic nostalgia in Russia today, by 4015 he’ll be a footnote. You know, that one Russian dictator who was horrible and oppressive? Meh, that’s nearly all of them. It will be interesting to see how Mao is remembered in a post-Communist China. It’s likely that no government existing today will still exist 2000 years from now. The question is, how soon will this change occour for China, and will the new regime make an issue out of the 70 or so million who died because of him.

  • Daniel

    This could be considered a safe and trendy bet, but I think Elon Musk deserves some serious consideration. With all the uncertainty that the future holds, Musk is working on a huge plan to leverage that uncertainty.

    Let’s say Musk actually succeeds in crafting the technology to colonize Mars. If we do in fact blow ourselves up in a nuclear holocaust, destroy the atmosphere or somehow make Earth uninhabitable to humans, and the next step for our SPECIES is to move to Mars… The messiah.

    Of course, if the need to actually vacate Earth was foreseen in advance, the effort would be collective involving NASA, ESA and probably every major national and international government entity and space program. But Musk is currently at the forefront of creating this technology in a way that governments just can’t compare, as evident with NASA relying on SpaceX for a number of efforts.

    The timing would have to be right, like in Interstellar where Matthew McConaughey physically discovers the planet we move to right as the Earth is about to suffocate. That would be historic. But even if we don’t evacuate Earth for another thousand years, there’s potential that the tech built at SpaceX will be seen as the blueprints and inspiration for a species saving mission. Musk was the one to force us to seriously think about humankind’s plan B and actually get the ball rolling. Huge.

  • Mike

    Charles Darwin for the theory of evolution. Rudolf Clausius for the second law of thermal dynamics.

    I think the only way to get on the list is to do something first that can’t be surpassed and will matter to everybody’s life, which is why no sports person or artist can be on the list. Armstrong will be forgotten as somebody makes it to Mars who will then be forgotten and somebody goes further and so on an example being Yuri Gagarin.

    • AH

      I’d guess you wouldn’t think of Yuri Gagarin as forgotten if you were in Russia though. It’s only in US and the West (and probably places influenced by them) that he’s been supplanted by Neil Armstrong

      • Tauno

        actually you’re proving his point with that.

        It took the West a few decades to forget Gagarin, in Russia he’s not so forgotten. It shows that being famous is absolutely relative.

        Let’s think further – if the West loses its influence in a few centuries (I believe it will happen), maybe some Chinese or Indian space pioneers will become more famous than Armstrong, and Armstrong will remain just an American thing. Russia will remember Gagarin and will have forgotten Armstrong instead. In two millenia, neither USA nor Russia will exist the way they do today, and both will have their heroes forgotten.

    • DeeDee Massey

      Or Laika, Yorick, et al, for that matter.

  • Walt Liquor

    Kanye West.

    • Ymmit

      LOL

  • Friend of the Ood

    Umm Jaden Smith?

  • Ryan

    Fascinating question. I hope someone will do an infographic after of the top answers!

    My two cents: If he achieves his goal of creating a permanent human presence on Mars (and that is a big “if”), I’d put money down on Elon Musk. He is unlikely to be the first person to actually set foot on Mars, but becoming a multi-planetary species would be one of those defining moments in humanity’s timeline with things being divided into “before” and “after”. Unlike past defining points (e.g. development of agriculture, industrial revolution, etc.) this is one that likely can happen within one human lifetime and if Musk manages to be the person most associated with this, even if many others play critical roles and become famous in their contemporary times, I could see his name being the one that sticks for the long haul.

  • Michael

    The ironic thing about the information age is that it’s probably harder to keep access to information 2000 years from now over time. If you don’t upgrade the information to the newest standards along the way, you lose access to it. As an early tech adopter, some of the greatest creative works of my short lifetime are already lost to this kind of information entropy, because it’s no longer possible to read old, degraded cassette tapes and 5.25″ floppy disks, even if it were possible to reconstruct the obsolete format for the obsolete computer system that wrote them.

    Information gets lost all the time due to failures too. My mother was a brilliant photographer, and over 80,000 of her pictures are gone forever, because a hard disk crashed in the middle of trying to copy it forward to a newer hard disk. Books last for centuries, bits last a decade or so, unless careful steps are taken. Physical media like photographs probably won’t be that enduring either; especially as people have moved away from analog processes in favor of digital ones. Those old prints from WWII are still intelligible, but will they be in 2000 years, and how will they compare to digital prints from a future Einstein’s childhood?

    In addition to all of the above, the amount of information we generate every year is growing exponentially, and the more data there is, the greater the problem of future preservation becomes. You run out of Greek prefixes necessary to keep storing all that stuff somewhere down the line, in spite of how much storage densities have increased, because there is just so ridiculously much information to store. Consequently, we will probably have more information about how government was run in 1950 than in 2050 when we comb through the archives.

    As far as who will be remembered that long into the future, Einstein, Hitler, and Armstrong are a good short list. I’d add Oppenheimer for sure, because even if we have clean, safe, cold fusion by 4015, everybody will still remember the guy associated with creating the first atomic bomb.

    Then again, who created the trebuchet? The cannon? The matchlock? The flintlock? The centerfire cartridge? Lots of people remember John Moses Browning today for creating an enduring legacy in the firearms world, but even though we’ll probably still be shooting the 1911 in 4011, I don’t know if he will be more successful at being remembered than whoever invented the matchlock. On second thought, probably not, but if he is, then Kalashnikov will get a spot too. Oh, and Samuel Colt has the best chance of all of enduring.

    I’d like to go on and on, but I’m almost late to work.

  • Mike the Bike

    Ray Kurzweil

  • AH

    You’re less certain about Darwin than Copernicus, Newton, Galileo or Einstein? Naaah… those guys came up with absolutely amazing things, granted… but evolution touches every aspect of our humanity in a way that nothing else can. While the theory of relativity is incredible, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a theory that affects our way of thinking about who we are – our brains, our bodies, our souls, our origins, our morality – in the same way. Copernicus, Newton, Gallileo and Einstein’s ideas were equally as paradigm-shifting as Darwin’s with respect to their own paradigms… but Darwin’s theory is the one that shifted the most important paradigm of all

    • Thijs

      I second this, it’s usually the ones that unify a field of science (evolution is the unifying theory in biology) that get remembered. Darwin definitively falls into that catagory. In the future Einstein might be proven wrong and his fame will wittle away, but the theory of natural selection by survival of the fittest governs all (even planets, stars and universes) and is more solid than a rock.
      If you read on the origins of species, you find that a lot of his evidence isn’t real evidence at all, but the mechanism he proposes for what he observerves has yet to be proven wrong despite all the hard work of all of biology.

    • M.B.

      I have to agree with you, although I don’t agree that the general theory of relativity didn’t alter the way we as humans think, especially concerning our origins and souls/morality – i think it made a huge impact in cohesion with Darwins theory of evolution 🙂 At least on me it did.

    • Jeff Lewis

      I’d go with Newton over any other scientist. He was one of the key figures of the scientific revolution, and it was that revolution that completely changed the way people think about the world – more than any single theory that came along later as part of science. I mean, just think about the very recent discovery of dark matter & dark energy, that only 5% of the universe is the ordinary matter we’d known about before. That’s HUGE, but nearly as big of a change in mindset as the scientific revolution itself. Plus, it’s usually the pioneers who are remembered moreso than their successors.

      • Jeff Lewis

        That penultimate sentence should be ‘…,but not nearly as big…’

  • JT Abate

    If I were to make my bold predictions, I’d choose Mark Zuckerberg for pioneering social media which unfortunately I think will only become more prominent and expand even further through the ages.

    A dark horse could be the crew of the Enola Gay who dropped the first atomic bomb. Depending on what the future holds in store more war or more peace, whether Atomic/Nuclear weapon use becomes common or obsolete, or if bombs get even bigger to dwarf a nuke. Who knows maybe there’s a black hole bomb or death star. I’m hoping for the latter in which case if we do become more peaceful I’m sure the first and one of the last nuclear explosions and those responsible would be well remembered in history.

  • Mattimore

    Biggie, Bilie Holiday, Bob Dylan and the like will always be classics, as music-lovers will continue paying homage to their predecessors, especially given the explosion of digital music and the cloud.

    I suspect the Coen Brothers movies will still have a cult following in 4015.

    The founder of each philosophical branch will be paid respect (i.e. Camus, Nietzsche, Kant, Siddhartha, etc), and ever leader who was “the first” or “the most extreme” such as Obama (the first Black(ish) president), Hitler (the most “evil” man in the world), and the Wright brothers (airplanes) will be known in scholarly circles.

    Most of us, sadly, will be entirely forgotten… traceable only to those curious descendants who decide to pay a small fee and look us up in the hologram library.

    • Veronica

      The Coen Brothers were also my first guess for anyone from the film industry being relevant.

      • nate

        I was thinking Nolan would, actually, or Spielberg.

  • anon

    The only thin darwin might be remembered for is his hokey ideas that managed to confuse alot of people. He will be laughed at.

    • Skissor

      But they were true, and he managed to change how we looked at our past and our ancestors.

    • John Depp

      Are you joking? Or just baiting.

    • Jeff Lewis

      You think Darwin’s going to be remembered for his misguided idea of gemmules rather than for his groundbreaking discovery of natural selection? I suppose it’s possible, given that Lamarck is now remembered mostly for his faulty ideas on inheritance, but I would have figured Darwin’s fame was more like Newton’s, and that he’d be remembered more for his good ideas than his bad ones. (Yeah, I know what anon was really getting at.)

  • Mark Gromko

    Darwin, Ghandi, Martin Luther King. If our culture, or even just our species does last another 2000 years, it will be because we acknowledged who we are, and learned how to live peacefully with one another.

    If Elon Musk were to be remembered, it would only be for landmark foolishness. Mars is not habitable, never will be. Dreams of colonizing other planets have zero chance of success. No one will be remembered for that cherished fiction.

    • Matteo

      …?

    • John Depp

      2x?

    • Disqo

      It highly unlikely that Earth will sustain humanity for another 2000 years due to resource depletion, overpopulation, or any out of context problems that we may face (giant comets colliding with Earth, the sun getting hotter or closer making Earth uninhabitable, …etc).

      The only sane action is to NOT keep all of our eggs in one earthly basket.

      Elon Musk has thought of this simple realization as many others have, but differed in that he acted on the thought in a major way and has created and expanded SpaceX in a few short years beyond what entire countries programs’ have been able to achieve.

      I, for one, commend him on such dedication and extreme effort and foresightedness, and whether or not we end up colonizing Mars is irrelevant in my opinion, the main takeaway is that he started us on this journey and followed through with concrete actions.

      • Jeff Lewis

        Adaptation might be expensive, or at the worst civilization might collapse, but humanity will probably go on existing for a long time. Look at Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. Rome was a civilization on the verge of being as advanced as the modern world, but people didn’t go extinct after it collapsed. They just reverted back to simpler lifestyles. That’s the same thing that will happen in the future if we don’t get our acts together. At the very worst, people would revert back to hunter-gatherer lifestyles, but they won’t go extinct.

        Also, 2000 years isn’t all that long in geological timescales. The sun won’t get significantly hotter or colder in that timespan, and there’s very little chance of a large asteroid impact, so the only likely catastrophes in the next two millennia are man-made.

    • Badgersauce

      Colonizing other planets TODAY have about zero chance of success.

      But the human species, while relatively young, does not appear to be harmonizing with the earth’s ecosystem like all other forms of terrestrial life preceding us. Maybe this will change but we don’t seem to be reaching any sustainable equilibrium with our environment. We spread over the earth like a deadly virus does through the body its host. Our existence seems to be starting to change our global environment.

      Its only a matter of time before the earth cannot sustain our species. Either we spread to another host planet or we go extinct eventually. This will not be a huge concern for many generations, but we must evolve into an interplanetary species if we are to survive long term.

      I believe as this becomes more and more apparent over time, we as a species will do whatever it takes to reach the technology to colonize other planets, then eventually other star systems, then eventually other galaxies, and as far as we need to go in order to ensure survival.

      If we can get off this planet and decentralize, humankind may exist eternally. Otherwise, there will eventually be nobody to remember ancient history (2015).

      • Tauno

        As for colonizing Mars to escape this dying planet, I think it’s sci-fi and will never happen on one simple reason.

        A lot of effort is needed to survive on Mars – basically we’d need to create a self-sustaining environment that is absolutely insulated from the outside. Mars is very cold, with high radiation and UV levels, almost no oxygen or liquid water etc. And can you imagine any disaster hitting the Earth that would make the whole planet even worse than that? I don’t, really. Even if it becomes very hot or cold, even if the radiation levels rise, even if most species we know will become extinct, no matter what – even in the worst cases it would still be way easier to survive here than on Mars. It would be tough, yes, but would be even tougher up there.

        So, if we will be able to build structures that can resist radiation and extreme temperatures, provide us oxygen, water and food etc., then why should we take them to Mars at all?

        • Disqo

          It’s all about hedging our bets.

          Aspiring to become an interplanetary species as Badgersauce mentioned is a very reasonable strategy.

          We can compile lists after lists of possible future-challenges and try to refute them one by one, or we can proceed on all fronts simultaneously.

          So, yes, I agree with you that should we be able to withstand extreme temperatures and low oxygen here on Earth, then our species should remain on Earth. However, I also believe that part of our collective attention can be dedicated to interstellar travel at the same time with the main side-effects being reduced overall existential risk and added understanding of the universe we inhabit.

      • Jeff Lewis

        I think you have a somewhat romantic view of nature. Species don’t ‘harmonize’ with the ecosystem. They reproduce and make as many offspring as they can until some other competing species limits them. The way a sea turtle has to lay 100 eggs in a nest just so one or two will survive to adulthood is not harmony – it’s a bloody massacre.

        Just look to the past. When the Isthmus of Panama finally connected North and South America, and those animals finally met each other, the result was mass extinction (see Great American Interchange). Yes, those ecosystems finally reached an equilibrium, but I don’t know if harmony is the word I’d choose for that, considering the great losses involved.

        Humans have been around for around 100,000 – 200,000 years (depending on where you decide to draw the line). That’s somewhat young for a mammal, but not in our infancy (most mammal species last about 1 million years). But honestly, for most of that time, humans were in equilibrium, at least, as much as those environments were in equilibrium (remember the big environmental swings as the glaciers advanced and retreated). It’s only been since the agricultural revolution in the past 10,000 years, and really more with the industrial revolution that the equilibrium’s been thrown off again. But that’s what happens when there’s a big change. Given that U.N. estimates show the human population levelling off by the end of the century, we’ll probably reach a new equilibrium soon after that.

        (Of course, the environmentalist in me hopes that we do everything we can to ensure that the new equilibrium maintains as much biodiversity as possible, and that it’s not just a new world of farms, ranches, and cities. But the cynic in me isn’t all that hopeful.)

        • Louis A. Cook

          I’ve often pondered the long game future of these concepts in action. I’m a product designer, frequently forced to look at people more objectively than usual through basic incentives. I’m also a professional fisherman who studies many aquatic species in the same way in order to track them and present them with what they see as a familiar and irresistible food item. This often takes me down evolutionary studies. However, I can tell you have a much greater understanding of these types of topics than I do, despite my interest. I wonder what you know or think about the implications of the human supply chain on the evolution of species. It seems to me that human leftovers are poised to be the biggest random opportunity presented to those capable of taking advantage. But the possibility for boom/bust is pretty grand considering the rate at which we create impacts, then realize they might be creating what we see as a problem and then change them. Like nutrients available from sewer discharge reduced to treatment plant effluent, dumps become landfills to materials reclamation and mass composting, canal shipping, roads. The centralization of resources in this type of supply chain makes efficiency possible for other organisms. Rats, bacteria, … and almost anything anyone labels invasive. Is there a field of research on this topic that is biologically predictive in a neutral sense rather than just politically reactive to the consequences to our needs in our current state?

    • Mark Gromko

      I’d like to flesh out my comment about the likelihood of colonizing another planet. The vast distances between stars (and other planets) are difficult to represent. One way to put this into context is to reflect on the time it has taken the Voyager spacecraft to reach beyond the solar system into interstellar space. Launched in 1977, the spacecraft entered interstellar space in 2012: It took 35 years to travel just to the edge of our solar system. The time it would take to reach the nearest Goldilocks planet is orders of magnitude longer.

      Yes, but that’s with conventional means of propulsion. What about some Star-trek like Warp Drive? Or worm holes? Or something even our science fiction writers haven’t imagined? This brings us back to Tim’s comment on how hard this question is, as we just don’t know how things like that will play out. However, my opinion is that we must consider some physical limits to really be LIMITs, the speed of light being the most obvious. Newton’s Laws of Motion also impose limits that make me skeptical that future space craft can achieve great advances in speed. Rockets must expel mass to create acceleration, which imposes limits on what accelerations (and Decelerations!) are possible. In any event, in my speculations about the future, I’m not betting on Warp drives or any similar technology.

      Rather than assume that we have irrevocably spent our planet’s finite resources and abandon Earth in search of an unspent planet somewhere in space (a high-cost, low probability outcome), I imagine (read: hope for) a future that spends our time, effort, and resources into making a sustainable home for humanity here on Earth.

  • Oliver

    This is a great website. I only discovered it a few days ago following a friend’s link to the Fermi Paradox piece. I’ve since been reading just about everything on here.

    This is a very interesting topic that had never occurred to me in the past to consider in any detail. I like the thought process Tim used to come up with his three suggestions, but I would have followed it to reach different conclusions (with the exception of Neil Armstrong, which is probably as safe a guess as any).

    The reasoning for including someone involved with WWII is sound, but I wonder if ultimately Truman will be remembered more than Hitler for his decision to authorize the use of nuclear weapons. 2000 years from now it could be that it will be seen as the first in a series of massively destructive attacks. As noteworthy as that would be, if no nuclear weapons are used over the next 2000 years then that one incident would stand out even further and would also likely be credited as the reason why they were never used again.

    Einstein is a legendary figure today because he has provided us with our best understanding to date of how the universe works. But the fact that his theory is likely incomplete will probably prevent him from achieving this level of immortality. Unless the ultimate unified theory only requires some minor tweaks to Einstein’s calculations I imagine he would be overshadowed by the person who comes up with the missing equations.

    • Martin_Samuelson

      Newton’s theories have mostly been supplanted (by Einstein, among others) but he remains universally known

      • Oliver

        You make a good point, but I would suggest two counter-arguments. The first is simply that only about 300 years have passed since Newton’s discoveries, so their revolutionary nature still reverberates to this day. The second is that he could still be known because, although his equations are wrong, they are perfectly acceptable when it comes to explaining things on Earth. Ideally 2000 years from now we will have moved far beyond our local area, and our normal activities will be on such a scale that Newton’s equations will be hopelessly inaccurate.

        I’m curious to hear what you think about that. I’m not supremely confident in my opinion, I’m just trying to explain my logic.

        • Martin_Samuelson

          The same arguments you make for Newton can be equally applied to Einstein. No matter what comes after general relativity we will still be able to use it to synchronize our satellites, just like we can still build bridges today using Newton’s theories.

          As for Newton only being 300 years back, I think if his legacy has survived for 300 years that’s as good of an indicator as anything that his legacy will last another 1,700. But really we can never really know

  • Jeff Lewis

    My guess: Newton, Napoleon, and Hitler.

    Given that the question was ‘universally known’, and not just known by nerds, I doubt many of the predictions people are making here. For example, most inventors won’t be remembered, because people just don’t care that much. Most people in this comment thread are probably better educated than average, but how many here coould say who invented the computer, or microchip, or steam engine, or jet engine? And as others have pointed out, many of these types of innovations are increasingly the domain of companies, so individuals get less and less credit.

    The mention of Jesus brings up an interesting point. Apologies to the Christians reading this, but there’s debate about whether a Yeshua of Nazareth even existed as a basis for the myth (see Richard Carrier), and if he did, just how much his life might have been the basis for the Gospels vs. embellishment and syncretization with prior religions. In other words, the persona we know as Jesus is mostly fictitious. The need for sites like Snopes show that most people are no less credulous now than they were 2000 years ago. Will there be a similar mythical famous person 2000 years from now? Or even whole new religions? Will Scientology be seen as respectable?

  • Delon

    Trying to predict the future on the basis of fame, which itself is incredibly fickle, is delusional. Can anybody reliably pick who will be famous after next year’s Academy Awards? It’s a little bit like the weather, there are more unknowns than there are knowns. It’s really just an exercise in projecting what we think of ourselves onto who we think they may be.

    I applaud your efforts though, because your questions are more interesting than your conclusions.

    A better question to ask is who or what will have the biggest impact on the lives of people 2000 years from now, irrespective of fame. That is a more objective framework which allows you to more reliably answer the question with objective measures like: wealth and prosperity creation, health and longevity, education and access to information, and even rights and legal protections.

  • Tauno

    One unanswered question would be – what do
    we mean by a person being known? If we have an ancient sculpture but we
    don’t know the name of
    the author, does it count as knowing the person who carved it? Probably
    not, even if we know a lot about his work.

    What about the cases
    if only the name remains? A casual example – if you ask “how many
    kilowatts is the output of your diesel Chevrolet, Peter?” then you think
    only about your friend Peter and his car, not St Peter, James Watt,
    Rudolf Diesel or Louis Chevrolet despite naming them all in one
    sentence. If we forgot everything about someone excepting his name,
    would that count? The names of scientists and inventors have been given
    to measuring units (or inventions, or discoveries) but even if these units keep
    their names and relevance for 2000 years, the people behind the names
    might be forgotten. Possibly also most inventions that change our lives
    today will be forgotten, as well as people, no matter how brilliant, who have
    invented something and not named it after themselves. Anyway, let’s say
    that a remaining name or depiction of the person counts as him being
    known.

    The best comparison for the timeframe would be – who
    do we know from the ancient times (let’s say, from the dawn of
    civilisation until the fall of the Roman empire), through which ways, and would it work for
    their nowadays’ counterparts?

    For the information to last,
    it must be documented well enough. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians,
    Indians and Chinese wrote things down and passed them to the next
    generations, so we know about their most important people. We can’t trace
    back anybody who lived in other parts of the world back then, no matter
    how outstanding people they could have been. Also, even in the most
    advanced societies of that time, a majority of population was illiterate
    and probably never had their names written down anywhere. That’s why I’m
    sure that people in 4015 will know more about us than we know about
    people 2000 years ago. Practically all the modern cultures record things
    in similar ways now, and literacy and texts are more wide-spread than
    ever. Digital information vanishes quickly but well-kept paper can last
    for half a millenium, and stories about outstanding people have been
    reproduced in different forms so much that something would remain even
    after some bigger-scale disasters (if not through physical materials then at
    least through oral tradition). Also, I don’t think the language of
    written texts would be a major problem – if there are people now who can
    read ancient Greek, Roman or even Egyptian texts, I’m sure that most
    modern texts will remain translatable across an equally long time.

    Anyway,
    if a lot of today’s information will make it to 4015, people will pick
    out what will be relevant for them. If, on whatever reason, just a small
    fraction of it remains,
    then anybody mentioned there will become famous as that will be the only
    thing known about our era – and that’s a very random choice already, so
    let’s assume that a reasonable amount of sources remain.

    Next – who are those people from the ancient times that we all know now?

    First
    – political/military leaders, preferably autocratic and with a strong
    cult of personality. Pharaohs, Roman emperors or Alexander the Great are
    well-known, Roman and Greek leaders from more democratic periods are
    not. Nowadays’ US presidents or other world leaders don’t have such an
    influence on the society as emperors, they stay in the office for a limited time,
    they must consider the opinion of the public, opposition, international
    community, and they don’t have everything circling around them. Out of
    20th century leaders, I would make my bets on Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao
    and Kim Il Sung – even if they’ll be remembered negatively, they will
    be remembered (think about Nero). Also Gandhi would do, partially
    because I’m sure the Indian civilisation will last. And maybe George W.
    Bush – not as a US political leader but he has a potential to
    evolve into a mytological evil figure in the Muslim culture or whatever
    it evolves into 🙂

    Second – founders of religions have
    remained famous – Jesus, Buddha, Confucius (I would add also Mohammed
    but he’s a bit too modern already). I don’t see anything comparable in
    nowadays’ world, excepting if some of today’s countless weird cults
    would suddenly start growing and taking over masses some centuries from
    now. Also people mentioned in religious texts have remained extremely
    well-known (people around the world keep naming their children Peter,
    Mary, Joseph, John, Thomas, Sarah etc). Of course, it’s also possible
    that the future world will have one unquestionable religion and nobody
    will care about past religions – but I don’t think it will happen. In
    any case, popes or any other modern influential figures who are just
    keeping the continuity of a religion instead of creating some real
    radical changes don’t have much chance to leave a trace in history.

    Third
    – science and culture (linked closely back then). Fortunately, some
    Greek philosophers have made it, as well as storytellers (Homer),
    doctors (Hippocrates) etc. Anyway, we know only a fraction of the poets
    or philosophers who lived back then during several centuries, while we
    can follow the continuum of the political leaders.
    Nowadays it’s easier to leave a mark, of course, but I don’t think most
    of our culture will do it. The longer lasting the mark, the better. To
    know nowadays’ musicians or actors, one should reproduce and understand
    nowadays’ films or music while a sculpture will be a sculpture also in
    millenia, so I think that sculptors will be better known than singers,
    actors or athletes. That’s also a reason why Lenin or Mao have chances
    to remain known – they have been carved into stone enough times 🙂

    Pop
    stars or athletes don’t have much hope to be widely known by then as
    culture will have transformed so much. What do we actually know about Roman
    gladiators (i.e. the main entertainment and sport 2000 years ago),
    despite a lot of information that is available? Nevertheless, future historians might know our entertainers – imagine a bunch of serious history professors discussing the societal influence of some Miley Cyrus lyrics 🙂

    And finally – I’m pretty sure that in two millenia, even if a lot of information about today remains, people
    will start mixing up stuff from 16th, 19th, 21th century etc., it will
    become one period for them. I think that it could start with Columbus
    and other great geographical discoveries (and conquests after that)
    because that was the beginning of irreversible mixing of cultures and genes that had
    evolved separately until then, the beginning of global communication
    lasting for at least half a millenium (not necessarily a
    positive thing but nevertheless the beginning of a totally different and long-lasting era). So, the beginning of the global era were the geographical
    discoveries (although they will probably be called differently in the
    future), and we haven’t seen the end of that era yet. And in 4015,
    everything that happened between Columbus and us will seem as happening
    almost at the same time (and a limited number of people will be known from all of this era), exactly as we might have trouble imagining and
    remembering that there were e.g. three centuries between Aristotle and Caesar, or that ancient Rome lasted for more than a millenium.

    • Tauno

      (sorry that my reply has a weird formatting and looks like a poem – I wrote it in Gmail drafts and pasted it here, it looked normal then 😀 )

    • Sid Unpasteurised Milk

      I know what you mean about the name enduring but not the person, Alan Blowjob and Leslie KFC Family Bucket have descended into relative obscurity in recent years.

  • Bernardo

    As a black horse I would pick Tim Berners-Lee, credited as the inventor of the internet which will continue to revolutionize the world in ways we can hardly imagine. There is a good chance that in 2,000 years humanity might consist of one big inter-connected brain we are all downloaded into and exist only cyberspace. But if humanity is still composed of physical beings doing physical things (like having a body and going to school and eating) we might still be learning how Gutenberg first revolutionized the use of information with something called books and then how Tim Berners-Lee brought information into the physical age.

  • Glenn Carleton

    Peter Higgs assuming the Higgs particle finding and LHC efforts results in further conclusions about multi-universes or whatever the findings will be regarding the nature of matter.

  • sabs546

    This might sound dumb
    But what about the modern internet stars
    In 4015 the internet will be very different
    So what about people on YouTube
    Its a longshot but the internet will probably be more important then than now meaning internet stars from game developers to YouTubers may be fairly known like alongside movie stars and people like Michael Jackson
    Just not in the same way as plato, aristotle and jesus

  • Sean

    Typically the people remembered for more than a few hundred years are remembered more for an idea than the actual facts of what they did. I would think Mother Teresa may be remembered in two thousand years for what she represented with regards to charity. She may also reach sainthood within the Catholic Church, which has itself lasted two thousand years thus far. St. Patrick has a holiday in the U.S. and he lived 1600 years ago.

  • robert

    Assuming the whole feild of black hole research continues to be interesting and vital I’d throw Stephen Hawking in there with Einstein. He has such a “made for good story telling” back story that his life would be a great candidate for textbook inundation. And he is up there with all the greats as far as expl;oration and discovery.
    But I agree 100% on Neil Armstrong. Hitler is a maybe, but history does love a villain.

    • M.B.

      Came here to say this. Hawking has been responsible for some groundbreaking research comparable to that of Einstein i’d say. I really hope both of them will last through the centuries as inspiration for all future scientists. (Hawking’s story is inspiring on its own, not only due to his accomplishments and breakthroughs and introductions to very cool/daring scientific theories, but also due to his illness which makes it even more extraordinary and inspiring)

      Besides that I agree with Tim, I really doubt any athlete or singer will ever be as famous as say, Ceasar or Plato. Their influence on the world, and/or on the way of thinking, is next to non-existent so they will soon enough fade from memory.

      Impossible to tell though.. Anyone making progress on that time machine?

  • robert

    Oh, and for the record, Jesus still counts as a new person…Since his death was AD (even though the method of dating hadnt come around yet)
    His name will most likely last another 2k years if any religious leaders does

  • Ryan Yiggle Brooks

    I think that Edison won’t be as well known, because more and more people are learning now that he didn’t do shit to invent the lightbulb. He had a lot of other inventions, but the lightbulb is his claim to fame. And it was more the work of other scientists who actually believed it was a worthwhile endeavor, whereas Edison thought it was stupid until he realized he could profit from it and then took credit for it.

  • John Depp

    Who ever self promotes. It is not what you do that makes you memorable, it is what is told about you.

  • Al

    First time poster!

    It’s an interesting question to ponder for sure, but as Tim laid out in his answer, there are many reasons why this is very hard to predict with any accuracy.

    Having said that, if I had to venture a guess, I’d say “Satoshi Nakamoto”. For the uninitiated, that’s the mythical creator of Bitcoin.

    Bitcoin is the first successful, dare I say well-known, cryptocurrency. It was created by Satoshi Nakamoto, but that’s only a username from internet chat rooms, no one actually knows who the person or group of people are behind it.

    So, given the mystery surrounding Satoshi’s identity, and the seductive nature of money (in all its forms throughout history), and the fact that Satoshi is sitting on A LOT of bitcoins from the early days of Bitcoin mining (making him/her/them very rich when they finally cash in, if ever) makes a pretty intriguing guess for a future well known legend.

    • Badgersauce

      I thought I was going to be the first one to say Satoshi Nakamoto!

      Bitcoin is a fascinating, ingenious protocol that has the potential to exist as long as the internet does, much like Bit Torrent and other useful IP based protocols. Once Bitcoin gains widespread understanding and adoption, it could become the backbone of the world’s financial systems.

      I love the irony that the potentially most influential person of our time might turn out to be someone who is anonymous. But who knows, maybe in 35 years, 1/1000 of a bitcoin will be worth 10000s of dollars, and Satoshi Nakamoto will use his estimated 750k – 1Million bitcoins (close to 1/20 of all bitcoins that will ever exist). With that kind of money (something like the GDP of a world superpower nation), Satoshi Nakamoto could influence the future of the world AGAIN in ways we do not imagine.

      • Disqo

        Awesome, exactly what I had in mind. I was surprised that no one had said it already, made for a good first time post 🙂

  • billnoble

    Is it really possible that nearly 200 intelligent people comments on this (nevermind Tim himself) without ONE single mention of climate change and the already committed 6th Great Extinction? For me, that means it’s astronomically unlikely that anything said here is meaningful.

    • Tauno

      Climate change has been mentioned several times, and also Al Gore in connection to that (though I’m not sure if his name will make it through times the same way global warming will as he’s more of a PR guy and already largely forgotten – maybe not in USA but at least in countries where global warming is treated as an issue, not a theory). Maybe James Watt, Henry Ford etc will be remembered as the ones triggering the global warming, instead of Al Gore just for being one of those saying that it is happening?

      As for exctinction, then it moves out of the topic because there can’t be one single person blamed for that (if they won’t find a scapegoat later in retrospective, of course 🙂 ).

  • consanguinity

    Right now we remember the most extreme, outlandish people.. I mean like extremely evil or extremely good or extremely smart. But in the future, I reckon most of humanity will have knowledge of the nuances of human emotions and feelings, so they will remember people who did the best or the worst despite the odds against them, even though there might be people who have done more than them. They’ll remember the futurists, the people who thought way, way ahead of their time. Maybe Leonardo Da Vinci, I’m not sure. I don’t really know much about these sort of things because I’m 12, but hopefully this could be true.

    • BeSeven

      Are you really 12? Really?

      • consanguinity

        Yes, unfortunately. No-one takes me seriously.

        • Jere

          If you think being 12 makes people not take you seriously, then why did you tell us your age in your post?

          • JJ

            In my experience, what’s better than participating in adult conversations as a young person and mentioning your age is participating in adult conversations as a young person and *not* mentioning your age.

          • consanguinity

            Well, I thought that if I told you my age you wouldn’t think I was just a really dumb adult if I had gotten something wrong in my post but I was wrong to do that I guess..

        • Joe Gottmer

          I’m very impressed! You’re beyond your years.

          • consanguinity

            Thanks!

  • Alex

    I like the author’s bets, and might I add Martin Luther King Jr. and maybe Obama. The racial barrier has been a huge part of human society for several centuries dating back to European colonialism, and overcoming it signified a huge change in the human world for years to come. For the two mentioned above, they are given a slight advantage because US has been such a prominent figure in the world during this era. It has been an era of revolutions (blended with an era of technology), with the “lesser” people gaining more knowledge and resisting the authority, I’d say people who leads the people’s movement will gain an even more prominent standing as time goes by. (Gandhi, Che Guevara, Mandela, Jobs/Gates (for leading consumer movement in personalized tech gadgets), Hitler, etc.)

  • Luke Sebastian Scalone

    I disagree that Neil Armstrong will be well-known in the long run. I think more important will be the person who makes it profitable and feasible to colonize space well. So, as a counterpoint to Neil Armstrong, I think that Elon Musk will prove to be a viable candidate for the person who gets us off the blue marble. In addition, I have an immense amount of faith in his concept of the “hypertube.” Even though we don’t necessarily remember the person who invented the train or the car (though we do remember who made the car profitable), I believe that the hypertube will be revolutionary here and on other planets in the future if it is successfully implemented.

  • Dima

    How about the inevitable invention of and subsequent inventors of:

    – A.I (this will be akin to the invention of the wheel or discovery of fire, and i think be the most important human invention ever)
    – Interplanetary travel
    – Perhaps a new consciousness awakening movement (similar to how religious awakening happened in the last 2000 years)
    – First contact / cooperation / conflict / war etc with Extra terrestrials
    – First synthetic human and or clone created in a labratory environment

    • middleclassgenx

      Maybe, too, the first sentient human to teleport. That’s gonna take guts.

  • Dr. K

    Probably the people that will be remembered are people that have physical and mathematical ideas and things named after them, as these are very likely to remain constant through many many centuries. Some people have already mentioned Peter Higgs and Alan Turing, but others are Pauli, Heisenberg, Dirac, etc. Add to these the few people who have chemical elements named after them (Einstein, Fermi, Röntgen, Bohr, Curie, Meitner, Mendeleev).

    Aside from this, if Technological Singularity actually ever happens, Ray Kurzweil is going to be a freakin’ Messiah.

  • nielmalan

    Making some mild assumptions about the continued gullibility of people and the perniciousness of religion, L Ron Hubbard (the creator of the Church of Scientology) seems to be a good candidate. I don’t think Joseph Smith stands a chance, because the USA probably won’t survive, and the LDS church is too closely linked to the country.

  • The Swede

    Stalin, Hitler & Mao, just as Atilla the Hun is still well known today. Putin, perhaps – depending on his actions in the coming decade. Churchill. I agree on Einstein and Armstrong. I do not think that Jordan, Picasso, Mozart etcetera will be well known among the public, just as few today know of ancient playwrights. Also, it might be worth concidering that a lot of very powerful rulers have faded away from public knowledge, like most Persian or Egyptian ancient rulers. I don´t think that we can assume that all our digital information will be saved and accessible, so a lot might be lost.

    If the internet survives in some form, some of its creators might be well known. Also ENIAC, though not a person.

  • Sérgio Henrique Rocha Batista

    I think that, by 4015, the advent of the singularity is a safe bet. Think this way: we can only deal with limited information, so a person who is not a historian will certainly have only the most basic grasp of what made our culture the way it is right now, which, by the way, is facilitated by the fact that the information that arrived to us from ancient times is full of lacunes; We know Plato and Aristotle because their work survived and the work of the unamed guys in mesopotamia didn’t; we know Caesar because our culture is (or imagined itself to be) direct descent of Rome, and we know Ramses II because his period can summit a very specific and different empire whose works are still here, but only a very specific historian knows something about Ptolomeu III or the kings of Etrúria. I think that, except for the eventuality a huge catastrophe, the information right now avaiable will not be lost, and the capacity of gathering and processing information will increase exponentially. A 4015 individual or collective mind will not need, when considering for example the history of music, remember, like most of us, a handful of composition from key authors because they will probably be able to consider the whole archives of human production almost at once, even if music is no longer a thing.

  • fred

    While our technology has changed dramatically in the past 2000 years, people haven’t really changed much. Barring a collapse of civilization (which Tim asked us to assume), I think the situation will be *very* different in 2000 years — it won’t just be that technology has changed, people will have changed dramatically, possibly to the point that we wouldn’t even recognize them as people.

    There are two possible ways this might happen (and of course both could occur):

    (1) Humanity becomes integrated-with/replaced-by machines. At a minimum I would expect we would all have our brains wired into whatever the future version of the internet is — I wouldn’t be typing this comment, I would just think it, and “googling” something would mean having the answer to a question available so instantaneously that you wouldn’t have time to realize you didn’t already know it. A more extreme version is we upload our brains to the cloud or to a robot or some sort of cybernetic hybrid. This could mean we that we essentially abandon our bodies, or change them as easily as we change clothes today, and it would really only be our consciousness that persists and makes us who we are (whatever the hell that means). Of course another possibility is that we create a machine intelligence that simply destroys us, but that violates our agreed assumption that we don’t wipe ourselves out.

    (2) Humanity radically alters its biology. We are rapidly approaching the point where we will be able to intelligently modify our own DNA. It will surely start small (eliminating certain genetic diseases), but it’s not a huge step from removing errors to making small improvements (e.g. augmenting health or physical prowess or even intelligence/creativity), and from there one can imagine adding whole new capabilities (being able to see in infrared, echo-locate, absorb oxygen from water, photosynthesize). Two thousand years is a long time, and even if you suppose we only take baby steps in this direction in the next 50-100 years, we could still wind up radically altering ourselves over the next 2000.

    A very likely consequence of both (1) and (2) is effective immortality (at least for those who can afford it), which would pretty radically change our culture/civilization. By this I don’t mean that people would necessarily be indestructible, but that, baring catastrophe, we would be able to live indefinitely, either by having become free of aging/disease, or having the ability to repair/replace our bodies (or no longer even having bodies as such). And even in the event of catastrophe, in scenario (1) we would very likely have the ability to restore ourselves from backup.

    So, with this perspective in mind, I would expect that the names people are most likely to remember in 2000 years will be the ones associated with the ability to make these kind of radically transformations. In scenario (1) the names Turing and von Neumann stand out, but someone like Ray Kurzweil might also become important. In scenario (2) it’s possible that names like Crick, Watson, and Franklin will be very well remembered (yes, I am assuming the future will be intelligent enough to bestow Rosalind Franklin with the fame and credit she deserves), but more modern names like Eric Lander, Craig Venter, or Aubrey de Grey might become well known.

    But actually I think the people who will play the most important roles in achieving either (1) or (2) are probably names that we don’t know yet, but I suspect they are alive today, even if only recently born.

  • d

    Noone will be individually remembered in 4015. Knowing which individual was responsible for what will be a provenance of a specialist group whose work will be geared towards ensuring fair reward for services rendered while ensuring there is no danger of creating a cult of personality – which is something the future us fear and despise, due the uprising and mayhem of 3012.

  • Justin K.

    Henry Ford, for his development of the assembly line for mass production, may be remembered should the same process (or a process similar to it) be used in 4015.

    One massive player in the Japanese side of WWII was Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who was directly responsible for bombing Pearl Harbor, effectively bringing in the US. Should one country or the other be a massive power in the future, he or FDR can be seen as important figures besides Hitler in the era.

    Nikola Tesla is another famous inventor who built the groundwork for many other inventions he was either unable to finish or did not file patents for—as a pioneer for green energy, I think he stands the best chance of being remembered for his achievements.

    With youth culture pretty much unaware of the arts prior to even the ’70s or ’80s, I think it’s safe to say modern artists in fine art or other media (music, film, etc.) face an almost-vertical uphill battle in being remembered even a century or two from now. I’m willing to bet my money on a political figure or business person in being remembered rather than cultural icons.

    • Nick

      No one “knows” Tojo now.Unlikely he will have a surge in popularity. And he wasn’t constructive – and wasn’t a madman like Ghengis Khan. Hitler’s place is certain.

      Tesla. Yeah. Sure. Which green energy thing did he invent again?

      He’ll be remembered for what he did do. Induction motors, and his research there. And magnetic field flux is named after him. So he will be remembered well in engineering.

  • Frank

    I think it is not only a question of IF some people will still be remembered in 2k years, but also HOW they will be remembered.

    Let’s take Jesus Christ for example (I don’t want to step on any toes here, so if this is a sensible topic for you, just look away for a second please).

    He is revered as a god, or godlike person, the son of god nowadays. But in his lifetime, he seems to have been helluva troublemaker! What with whipping up the masses, being a jewish revolutionary, resisting the power of the romans as he’s often, and I think rightly perceived.

    The image of the famous people of today will often change I think.

    What do you think?

  • Let’s add French author Michel Houellebecq, who foreshadowed the expansion of the ISIS caliphate http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30694811

  • Hrishi

    Larry Page and Sergey Brinn is my guess.
    As founders of Google, the search engine which has made any information in any corner of the world available at the tip of your finger. Google is vigorously expanding itself. From smartphones to the latest Google glass.
    Our age, as someone said, is the age of information, which I believe is true. And an organisation which handles such a huge amount of information, has the power to change the course of history.
    I think Google will play a very big role in coming years and the founders of this organisation will be remembered for millenia to come.

    • yihwan

      How many people can name both Google founders without Googling them first?

      I suspect not that many – as a proportion of the current worldwide population.

      I don’t see why they’d be more famous in 2 millennia.

  • MrBecause

    Not considering the destruction of this planet way before 4015AD as part of the equation (that’s my prediction), I would think that whatever the prevalent media outlets wants us to remember is what we will remember.

    • allwyn mascarenhas

      sadness+controversy+ “we live in bad times” ..u hit all ticks

  • Sarah

    I agree that it all depends on what happens in the future. So, here’s my guess as to who will be known in unfathomable future with my speculations about what might happen in near future.

    1)Buckminster Fuller

    Have you seen ‘Humans need not apply’ youtube video from CGP grey?
    It says robots will replace every human jobs in near future. Now, we need our jobs to provide ourselves with foods, place to live and etc. If the video says the truth(I think it does) we got to change the way we live. And I guess the path we must take has been suggested by Buckminster fuller. Manage the planet and take care of every human being living on it using highly advanced technology instead of being threatened by it. If we take that path, he might be the new Adam Smith. (He’s the only person I know the name of among the thinkers whose ideas are in the same line.)

    2)J. Robert Oppenheimer

    There’s always this dreadful possibility. Nuclear bombs or nuclear power planet disasters. If either of these happen to be so big that it changes the shape of earth or the way humans live on earth, The scientist who invented the way nuclear can be used in a destructive way will be remembered.

  • tomamitai

    If you think Buzz Aldrin is annoyed, what about Michael Collins? He didn’t even get to walk in Neil’s footsteps, plus he’s got the Irish guy of the same name to contend with!

  • Liberal_CA

    It is a virtual certainty that the world will have long been destroyed by a nuclear war in the year 4015, and the leaders of major participating nations will be very well known by the survivors

  • Alejo

    George Lucas, Elon Musk, Buzz Aldrin

    • Shanghighed

      I can see Star Wars becoming a religion pretty easily.

      • jj

        already is

        • Shanghighed

          There’s no church, priests or tax-exempt status yet, but it’s coming.

  • NuyaBizness

    Hawking comes immedietely to mind

  • Guest

    I’d put my money on people who are

    • TAMCBR

      The suspense is killing me!

  • Grant A Cole

    Philosophy – Gene Rodenberry (vision of a money-less society), Daniel Quinn, and Robert Pirsig
    Science & Business – Hawking, Musk, & Shai Agassi

    Just Because – Buckminister Fuller & Oppenheimer

  • jnavon

    The 3 persons are not yet known:
    1. The person who finally made an accurate model of the human brain and open the era of really intelligent androids
    2. The person who finally made an accurate model of the human inmune system so doctors were able to effectively eradicate cancer and most diseases
    3. The person who solved de energy crisis by creating small scale nuclear fusion reactor

    • KPMCH

      Great response! I only thought and post about the disease eradication author yet to come.

    • jw

      Will these discoveries be made by a single person though? If they’re made by groups, we might remember the country that sponsored it (like we remember the Roman Empire/Ancient Greece/Egypt for a bunch of stuff), or maybe the head of the group (like we now remember kings, presidents, generals…)? Or maybe we will attribute these discoveries to a single individual, such as the one that finally put everything together or the one that made a large break-through.

  • Shanghighed

    Neil Armstrong and the first astronauts. They are our Magellans

  • Guy Rosen

    TL;DR – people with equations, constants or units named after them.

    A sure way to not be forgotten is to have something timeless named after you. Almost everything else is risky: Armstrong’s step may be outshone, Washington or Hitler could be easily marginalized depending on how history unfolds, inventors will be out-invented, music will go out of fashion, etc. Even having a city named after you is no guarantee (Constantinople anyone?).

    But:
    a) It’s very likely that we’ll still be teaching basic math or science. Think Pythagoras today.
    b) Just as the meter is likely to survive as a unit (but dear God do I hope the mile and inch become a historical curiosity!), there’s a fair chance the volt and ampere will survive too.

    The nice thing about these is that they are also consistent across all of today’s cultures, so whether our overlords for the next millennia are American, Chinese or from the Federated States of Micronesia – they are likely to stay.

    I think Newton (first) and Einstein (second) are the best bet of being famous, not just recognized. Anyone who learns slightly more advanced calculus or physics will also know (or hate) Leibniz, Euler, Hubble, Planck, etc.

    • The_Postindustrialist

      but we do know constantine so many years later, as well as the whole conversion of the roman empire to christianity at the council of nicea. 😛

      • Guy Rosen

        True, we know him from Christianity but less so from the city. I guess if you want something geographical named after you, go as big as possible.

        Interestingly, I believe the largest (earthly) geographical region named after a person is the Americas (am I missing something?). So even if countries come and go, I doubt America as a continent(s) will get a new name… so in 2000 years there will be someone to ask about the etymology and learn about Amerigo Vespucci. Curiously that makes him better placed than Columbus to stand the test of time. (TIL Spain refused to recognize the name America for two hundred years because they thought Columbus should get credit).

        • The_Postindustrialist

          hmmm.. I don’t know about vespucci. Sure, he’s got the name, but he’s lacking the imprint on history like Constantine.

          I think you’d have to need both to really stay known.

          Meanwhile, although maybe not the biggest land mass named after someone, columbus, washington, lincoln, and laffeyette all have numerous (prolific really) towns, cities, states, and, for columbus at least, nations that in some way or other, bear their names. Perhaps instead of just one chunk of land being named after you, it’s better to diversify and hope for the best. 😉

          • Guy Rosen

            I guess you’re right, that’s the difference between “known” (or, “not lost”) and “famous”. Being known is necessary, but not sufficient.

            I’ll apply that to my suggestion on units too. Ampere, Watt and Coulomb won’t be lost, but even today it’s hard to claim they’re famous. That’s why Newton is my top bet.

            As for towns and countries, I beg to differ. How many cities or countries from 2000 years ago still bear their name? Probably a handful around the Mediterranean but otherwise these things are fickle on a millennial time frame.

            • The_Postindustrialist

              hmmmm…. But those are towns and countries that have survived 2000+ years. We don’t know much which new world countries and cities might stay. Considering Washington has the capital named after him, it’s fairly good to say that his name might last. If only New York was named after someone. What about Canadian cities that have names from famous peoples?

  • Liza Lee

    This can be seen as a relatively simple question, if you make three assumptions:

    1. History always repeats itself.

    2. The world reveres intelligence and technology- because it is the way we became the dominant species on the planet. That is the reason why we know the names Newton and Plato, but no one remembers the best gladiator in the Coliseum (and I am not talking about Russel Crowe.) Brains will be remembered, and Brawn forgotten.

    3. Follow the money

    If we take fact one, that history repeats itself, who do we remember from the 1600’s?
    It is almost exclusively names from science, (Isaac Newton Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, René Descartes, Pierre Fermat, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle).
    You could add literary figures like Shakespeare to this list, but science is written in the language of mathematics that never dates, whereas English could become outdated like Latin is today.

    To sum it up, I think that THE WORLD REMEMBERS THOSE WHO DISCOVER BASIC TRUTHS ABOUT THE WORLD. . We are still using Newtons’s physics and Galileo’s realisation that planets are round. If we stand on the shoulders of others as a species, is is because they benefit ALL OF US.

    That is why I don’t think people like Mandela will be remembered once they have corrected the wrongs of the world, in the same way we don’t remember some leader who helped his people 400 years ago. To be remembered, you have to benefit the WHOLE OF MANKIND, in a way that they can use to make money in the future. Like discovering the wheel, or electricity or the Internet.

    My money is definitely on Neil Armstrong (even though the who team at NASA deserves the honour) , Tim Berners Lee for inventing the internet and Einstein. New contenders would be the pioneers in Quantum Physics like Nils Bohr and Heisenberg.

    However, lets hope that it is not some fickle Reality TV future we are heading to, where Kim Kardashian is seen as the founding mother!

  • john

    some physicist who comes up with the perfect model of how everything works in the next 200 years

  • Amanda Pondo

    I think transport will play a key role, so either whoever brings teletransportation to the masses, or if that doesn’t happen by 4015,then the inventor(s) of the modern bicycle since in 4015 we’ll probably be physically similar to now, will still need to get from A to B and will possibly have exhausted our supply of oil by then.

  • hayley

    Don’t think anyone will be around for this to even matter. Interesting post, however.

    • Tauno

      What can possibly happen?

      An asteroid impact? The last one felt globally was 65 million years ago. Now we’re talking about two thousand years, so the probability of it exists but is really small. Same goes for supervolcanoes.

      A nuclear war? That is more probable although I don’t want to believe any leader would actually be lunatic enough to do that. Anyway, if it happens, then it won’t make the whole planet uninhabitable – it would target cities or countries that would remain dead for a while (not for eternity though, the population numbers of Hiroshima needed “only” ten years to recover) but definitely not the whole planet, I’m sure that most of Africa or Central Asia would remain untouched. Of course, the whole world would experience climate change and increased radiation but I’m sure that these wouldn’t kill everybody either.

      Climate change? It has a huge potential to bring along natural disasters, make large territories uninhabitable, even cause famine and wars etc but I’m still sure that it won’t destroy all the humanity. How would that happen?

      So, I think that in the worst case, in 2000 years’ perspective, the number of people can drop drastically and the way of life of the survivors might go several steps back – but there will be people around for sure, and there will also be information about nowadays (if in no other way then at least through legends and mythology, mixed with pure imagination).

      • Jeff Lewis

        Exactly. Like I wrote in a comment further down, about like what happened to Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

  • stm22

    Someone from the field of economics – Adam Smith, Keynes, Friedman, etc. Economics is a dramatically different way of looking at the world. There might not be money in 4015, but there will be infinite desires and finite resources, and thus the need to study economics.

  • penguin

    hmm, the 19th and 20th century are full of people that could be remembered – and maybe not the people we think. People who invented computer *like devices* like Turing or even early transistor inventors – or electricity guys like Edison and Tesla. Even computer language creaters like Bourne (C++), Dennis Ritchie (C), Larry Wall (Perl – lol doubt it 😉 ), All good possibilities. Other modern inventions like the car, the plane *wright brothers*, the assembly line (Ford). Artist, like aformentioned Mozart and other classical composers. Obviously little wayne. Depending on future economic theories perhaps someone like Adam Smith, Mises, or even John Maynard Keynes will be remembered. However what really matters is who writes history – whoever wins, will write history – so people we know today as good, may be seen as ‘evil’ in the future or vice Versa.

    Like any of this matters!? – by 4015 the penguins shall rule the planet and the humans will be banished to the South Pole – where they can bicker about whether the salmon is better than south pole Anchovy. You will grow fur, and wings and we shall be the true owners of the planet.. The most evolved, most elite of all species. The best swimmers!

  • jakila

    Michael Jackson

  • Julie

    so I haven’t read the whole post yet but I just had to stop to comment on this…there are soooo many men on that list of potentially memorable people. If I am not mistaken, I think Queen Victoria and Madonna are the only females you mentioned? That should probably be unpacked

    • Ryan

      Seriously? Read the article, then go on your feminist rant. Maybe it’s because women have only just been given similar rights to men, therefore allowing them to do great things.

      • wobster109

        I agree with Julie. Tim listed the scientist Tesla; Tesla is not as famous as Marie Curie. Tim listed the author Salinger; J.D. Salinger is not as famous as Maya Angelou. Tim listed Kaiser Wilhelm; Kaiser Wilhelm is an order of magnitude less famous than Queen Elizabeth I.

        • logic11

          Salinger is absolutely more famous than Maya Angelou. Whether that’s the way things should be is irrelevant, to the average person Salinger is a well known name, while Maya Angelou is only famous in certain circles.

      • TAMCBR

        Absolutely no call to characterise Julie’s perfectly rational and calm post as a ‘feminist rant’. You could have made your counterpoint without resorting to the total overreaction of snarkily classifying her post (and in the process using ‘feminist’ in a derogatory way, helpfully letting everyone know how you feel about women who stand up for themselves and thereby undermining your credibility).

      • Jebmak

        Wow dude. You have issues.

    • The_Postindustrialist

      Rather than complaining about the lack of women in his list, why don’t you start listing them. I’ve been putting women’s names on this list for the past three days. (and the women other commenters have mentioned). Rather than thinking it’s some hidden agenda, why not realize that some people make someone’s cut and some don’t?

  • Brandon Lane

    Today we remember people the most from ancient even to relatively recent history did something radical and or were the founders of somesort of major thing electricity atoms democracy all great well remembered people are associated with those things but how many artists from ancient rome do you now i think that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Seregy brin (google) will be some of the best known people from this era also whoever perfects the whole robot thing will be as or even more famous than gates or jobs who knows maybe the microsoft of robots is being founded in someones garage right now or maybe a totally new tech will emerge in the next few years and change the world. basically i think that tech will be what defines this era in history which i believe will be dubbed the beginning of the age of the robot. basically again whatever tech still directly effects the people of 4015 will be the best remembered and therefor the founders of that tech will be famous names.

  • Scudsoup

    My guesses would be: Immanuel Kant, Isaac Newton, and Thomas Edison

  • Leonardo

    Nikolai Tesla

  • Sam Kozman

    Well, being an American, if USA is still a thing, or talked about thing, you would almost have to include of any of the presidents with memorials built of them. This includes Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, etc. Just imagine passing by Mount Rushmore and going “I have no idea who those people are.”

    Your’e probably going to do a little bit of research and figure that out. I think even if aliens spotted that they would say “woah”.

  • Zach

    Nick Jonas

  • Justin Bieber

  • Dan

    Gabe Newell

  • Daniel Schwartz

    Let me put in a vote for the Beatles.

    Let me add, by the way, that if someone from the 20th century (or before) isn’t famous now, I don’t imagine they will be 2000 years from now. Yes, the Internet is a marvelous thing, but most people don’t know who to credit for it today. (Do you think of the name “Otis” every time you ride an elevator?)

    David Lloyd-Jones brought up an interesting point with “Amalek”. The Jewish people have long memories, both for friends and enemies. There’s a reason why Jews still name their children Alexander, after someone who was nice to them over 2,000 years ago. And there’s a reason why Haman, an obscure Persian viceroy who would otherwise have been forgotten completely, is still remembered — but only by Jews. So, yes, Hitler is very much a candidate to be remembered in 2000 years.

  • Vivek Naik

    In case of science, the aha moments are will not carry the same significance for the times to come. For example, the earth being round is not so much of a shock to us while space-time fabric is a big deal. These truths of nature may become so basic to daily existence that their creator is not even thought about. There would have been some guy who “invented” the idea of money. Today money is such a basic commodity, the creator of money is lost in obscurity.
    Secondly, like you said there are many bands today but not all are Beatles-level famous. In 4015 there will be so many things to know and such a huge information overload, that only a few history buffs will even bother to look back in time, let alone so much farther back.

  • wobster109

    J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is about as
    famous as anything ever written. It’s on the same scale as The Iliad or Romeo and Juliet.

    I’d say most athletes and musicians stand no chance. Michael Jordan will be about as meaningful to Y4K people as the most famous gladiators are to us.

    I wouldn’t place bets on all but the most influential scientists either. So Newton, Einstein, Darwin. No one else. How many of us remember Laviosier, who basically single-handedly founded the entire field of chemistry? That was less than 300 years ago. So for any scientist, I think, was this person more influential than Lavoisier? Perhaps Bill Gates, if he successfully eradicates polio, will be remembered.

    Hitler will probably be something like Genghis Khan. He has a good chance of being remembered. If we start paying more attention to Eastern history, Mao Zedong has a good chance too.

    I’m afraid I wouldn’t bet on any artist. We have no idea who the Greek and Roman artists were.

    • TAMCBR

      I was going to suggest Rowling-via-Harry-Potter too. HP was incredibly culturally pervasive and the stories themselves have exactly the type of structure and characters to lend themselves to adaptation and future influence. There will come a day when the Potter films will be re-made for a new generation, further re-makes will come in the form of whatever medium we use to tell stories in the future, other writers will base their story arcs on the original text, others may create spin-off worlds. It has the potential to become like (as you said) The Iliad or a Shakespearean play – the original source for a huge number of creative works. I think she’s genuinely in with a shot.

      • deathbymaomao

        “HP was incredibly culturally pervasive” – you’re joking; right?

        In what way has Harry Potter changed western (or eastern) culture in any significant way? We don’t see any HP references in our architecture, music, art or language (besides the odd reference or quote that someone throws around).

        • logic11

          But it’s really recent… and yes, there are influences that come up all the time. I personally see that growing a great deal.

          • Jeff Lewis

            Meh. Tolkien’s had more influence than Rowling, but I doubt either will be widely known in 2000 years.

            I think the ‘modern’ writer with the best chance of being remembered is Cervantes, since he invented the modern novel.

          • deathbymaomao

            That’s probably because of the company you keep.

            If you’re going to spend your time with tarquins who think Harry Potter is good then you’re going to hear crap like “Gryffindor” and “quiddich” all of the time.

            At least Shakespeare helped to codify and formalise the English Language. I don’t see Rowling doing that.

            • Jeff Lewis

              Shakespeare’s overrated. It’s easy to be a poet when you just invent new words (just kidding, obviously).

        • anotheroptimist

          For some reference… The work of Shakespeare is ~500 years old. A possibly recognizable English language that is what he might be given credit for having a major effect on is ~1000 years old.

          I am not saying that he wont be remembered 2,000 years after his existence. I am saying he’s only made it a quarter of the way thus far. So to compare any modern literary person or person of the arts to him is saying that they might have a chance to be remembered for 500 years like he was if you can argue they are as significant and you can convince yourself that the media they work in will exist or be adored for at least 500 more years.

          The concept in question here is two thousand years! Sorry I had been thinking this for a lot of there comments, but the Harry Potter deal was just too much for me…

          Here’s a final thought. Languages that date around 2,000 years old (within a couple hundred years) are like Sanskrit and Arabic maybe. English as we know it was in its fetal phase if that (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proto-Germanic_language). Again I am just stating facts but i think it puts things a little more in perspective. How would changing forms of record keeping, communication and even organization of this world (and beyond this world) affect all of this thought process?? I have only scratched the surface.

    • Artyom Karapetov

      I agree with all your points, except for Rowling.

      There is a high possibility she’ll be remembered, unless somebody else in this century will make something as popular (which is likely), therefore putting Rowling on a list of “most popular in 50 years” (or whatever time her world will remain popular) list, which is not much time when talking about 2000 years. Though I hope you’re right, because her novels are awesome 🙂

  • Rie Mandsen

    Alfred Nobel. He has a prize named after him, one that is quite prestigious too. And although we don’t remember all nobel-prize winners from the last 200 years, we do follow the ceremonies every year and are excited about who it’s going to be. If the prizes do continue, then Nobel will still be internationally famous. Plus lots of people will look him up and find out he invented the dynamite too.

    I have read most of the comments here and would like to point out that for non-americans most of the names mentioned are not famous at all. George Washington might be the most famous name in the US, but a peasant in China knows nothing about him.

    • Ella

      Isn’t it just a bit weird- if the Nobel prizes are still going in 4015- they will have been going for more than 2000 years… “Welcome to the 2200th Nobel prize ceremony” or something like that. There’s a lot of prestige in an event these days going for more than 100 years.

  • Claire

    Queen Victoria and Madonna were briefly mentioned but otherwise this entire conversation was about men.

    • deathbymaomao

      Good point – sadly that is a reflection on how society has treated women for the previous 4000+ years.

      Most of the women we know about from 2000 years ago were the wifes, mothers or daughters of some other “great man”. Jesus’ mother Mary, Anthony’s Cleopatra, Helen of Troy..

      • The_Postindustrialist

        Joan of Arc, Scheherazade, Mary Shelley, Emily Dickensen, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria – all known without a male attached. (you can argue for Shelley, but nobody really remembers her poet husband when “Shelley” is mentioned, and when you say her name, instantly you know her book, rather than her husband’s fame).

        Then there’s Queen Isabella, Mary, Queen of Scots… The list of well know and respected women goes on and on and on… And they aren’t all cast in the roles of mothers and wives. I get very tired of this BS comment. You denigrate these women and their achievements when you complain that historical women are nothing more than wives or “forgotten”.

        • deathbymaomao

          I believe you are mistaking my comment for an attack on feminism. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

          In my post I was speaking of the women from circa 2000 years ago – history has judged the women of this period to be nothing more than supplements to the males of their time.

          The women you’ve listed are from a more modern era. Hopefully humanity has evolved now to a point where sexism is on a decline. I know we still have a very long way to go! Men still get a lot more credit then women, and until more women reach the higher escerlons of the science, industry or politics this will not change.

          • The_Postindustrialist

            Scheherazade definitely isn’t “modern”.

            And quite truthfully, we know very few people from 2000 years ago to start. Outside of religion, (moses, mohammad, jesus, all interrelated for a particular reason), we have three philosophers (aristotle, plato, socrates, also all directly relational, and pythagoras, and maybe euclid). We have cleopatra and julius caesar, homer…. Constantine…. And hell, it’s taking work to pull out names that old in general.
            And most of the reason has to do with geo-centrism rather than sexism.

            Check this out:
            http://mentalfloss.com/article/59287/9-female-warriors-who-made-their-mark-history

    • logic11

      There are some women who should be remembered, but probably won’t be. Really I see Madame Curie as the only likely one from science and tech that we know about now. Ada Lovelace should really, really be on the list but most people now don’t know who she is… let alone in 2000 years.

  • deathbymaomao

    If the Internet is going to remain as important as it is today then perhaps future generations will, incorrectly, give credit to Tim Berners-Lee as remember him as it’s creator.

    People now get confused on the difference between the World-Wide-Web and the Internet. It’s possible the confusion continues into the future.

    Also a note on Neil Armstrong…. yes he was the first man to walk on the moon. But can anyone name the first man to step foot in America? Was it actually Christopher Columbus, or was he just the man in charge of the expedition? Maybe it’ll be J.F.K who is remembered for sending Humans to the Moon?

  • Fred JB Gomes

    For sure, I think James Watson and Francis Crick. DNA is just starting now, but will be HUGE in the future.

  • Philipp

    If we as a species are still alive in 2000 years, nothing will be the same or even imaginable from our perspective. I would assume that the only people that remain well-known in 4015 are people that contributed to an area that will still have relevance in our understanding of the world of 4015, and the only thing I believe will be relevant in 2000 years are things that are undisputable true. Which is logic and its corresponding science, math. I do not know what we will know about our universe in 2000 years, but I am sure we will use the same mathematical process to describe it.
    People who contributed to our understanding of the world via new maths and equations named after them will still be known. But of course only the big ones, like Newton, Einstein, Heisenberg, Plank. And Darwin, although he did biology, evolution appears to be an universal concept for life science equivalent to the laws of thermodynamic for physics.

    What will also be know probably is the name of certain religious figures, while I hope and do not believe that prophetic religions will still be a thing in the future, I think people will still be educated about how humanity had religion (to raise awareness for its pitfalls) and Jesus and Mohammed will be as abstract names as Anubis and Ra are for us nowadays.
    When it comes to art I am way more sceptical, I believe that in 2000 years, art will be something very different than it is know, and I doubt that any one artist will be able to outcompete their competitors by skill/technique/vision/creativity in a time where everyone will be able to do and distribute art with a view clicks over the whole world. It’s like with drugs, it’s great if you are a pharmaceutical company providing something people need like penicillin, but once there are 100 companies producing generica with different pros and cons, your market share will likely go down drastically. So the beatles were the penicillin, but now there is more music on the market, so the audience splits up.

    As for political figures like Hitler, Stalin, Nepoleon and so on, I believe they will be virtually forgotten in public memory as they hold no relevance for people’s everyday life in the future.

    • middleclassgenx

      Philipp: Some very good points 🙂

  • deathbymaomao

    I can’t believe that there has not been a single mention of Alexander Flemming.

    For shame.

  • Andreas Febry

    Despite it will be for wrong or correct attribution, I bet these people will stay or get more famous in the next centuries: Tim Berners-Lee, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, Alain Aspect, Peter Higgs, Carl Sagan, Neil Armstrong, Einstein, Tesla, Darwin, Gandhi, Hitler, Kim Jong family (not sure), Rotschild, and the guy that will start (or end) the next biggest war, and also someone that will bring up or stop the future one world goverment system and the current monetary system. History shown that we always need heroes (and villains) afterall. And don’t forget that art never die: so Mozart and co, Davinci, Lennon and Beattles, and Michael Jackson, will stay prevail.

  • Meticulous Matthew

    Depending on whether humanity carries on expanding into space I gues someone like Freeman Dyson whose name is attached to mega-engineering that may be attainable or at least a lot closer to reality in 4015 may still be known.

    Other than that I feel that scientists who have come up with fundamental scientific theories such Newton and Fleming which are essential at the basic level of understanding of their subjects and have their names attached to their rules will be remembered. Most people still know Pythagoras even if they aren’t entirely sure when he lived. “He’s the triangle guy, right?”

  • Leonel Rutz da Silva

    imagine the world without einstein, what we would have? no atomic bombs, no e=mc² and whatever that means, and what else we would lose?
    we would still have smartphones, internet, airplanes, wi-fi, confortable cars and houses, etc.
    now imagine all the tesla patents gone…

    • Jeff Lewis

      Actually, we wouldn’t have many of those things. Remember that Einstein was one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics (he won his Nobel for the photoelectric effect, not relativity). So basically, all that stuff you listed that uses microchips might not exist (or at least, might have been a few years later in coming until some other person figured it out). Things you can add to your list that we have thanks to Einstein’s contributions to science: GPS, nuclear power plants, lasers (CDs, DVDs, checkout scanners), PET scans, Big Bang theory, knowing about black holes, understanding gravitational lensing (and hence, discovering dark matter), etc. I like Tesla, too (I’m reading a book about him now), but his contributions pale to Einstein’s.

      http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7318567/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/its-alberts-world-we-just-live-it/#.VK7wS9V4rGM

      http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/curiosity/topics/discoveries-relativity-made-possible/

    • ADnon

      What about this: if Einstein never lived, maybe someone else would have figured out the curvature of space-time. Or maybe someone else before him did, but was eaten by a cannibal before making his/her work public. Perhaps a unified theory was already discovered, but the author was eaten by a a storm of fire ants. Or what about possibly another genius being able to clearly visualize and explain the universe(s) before the big bang, but was unfortunately eaten by a hungry hungry hippo.

      Perhaps our knowledge is way behind what it could have and should have otherwise been. Biological evolution is similar to thought evolution: it takes what exists and improves upon it and it does not happen linearly.

  • Kahoapili

    What a GREAT question – how does your brain come up with stuff that causes us all to really think? I can only hope that who ever is remembered will be a person known for doing good work for all.

  • PissBoy

    To sum up where we’ll be in 4015…

    We’re gonna take you back, to the year 1939 when Charlie Chaplin and his
    nazi regime enslaved Europe and tried to take over the world… But then an even greater force emerged, the “Un”, and the “Un” un-nazied the world – forever.

    There was a time when reading wasn’t just for fags. And neither was
    writing. People wrote books and movies. Movies with stories, that made
    you care about whose ass it was and why it was farting. And I believe
    that time can come again!

  • nathan woodard

    For scientists who are already recent historic figures, I am going with Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. When Newton applied calculus to celestial dynamics he ushered in the modern era of science as we know it. Unless he is surpassed, which is certainly possible, Einstein is the natural candidate as the preeminent modern physicists during a lengthy period of outstanding productivity for physics. I think that biology and genetics is going through it’s heyday now, and physics may or may not see another period like the one ushered in by Newton and brought to maturity by Einstein. I have not mentioned any of the founders of quantum mechanics because none of them combine the breadth and authority that Einstein so well earned.

    But there is more to science than physics….and in 2000 years they might take physics for granted.

    I am not sure who is the Newton of genetics. Perhaps Watson and Crick? As to the Einstein of genetics, perhaps an expert can tell us if the field has already peaked or if is is too early to tell what man or woman will be the analogue of Einstein?

    As for biology, I am willing to bet that the best is yet to come….soon…and we therefore don’t know yet. Anybody? Help us out with biology and biologists? Newton analogue?

    IN 2000 years the human brain will be well understood. For cognative behavioral sciences I need help. Newton analogue anyone? I certainly hope I am safe in assuming the field is too young to have experienced it’s Einstein figure?

    As to newer sciences and social sciences, can anybody tell us who stands out like Newton and/or Einstein, or are we still waiting for a transformational figurehead? This is over my head. Perhaps Keynes as the Newton figure? (That’s assuming his theories are never debunked in any wholesale way.) I am confident that economics has a long way to go before it finds it’s Einstein. (I’m a big fan of economics, but I still think of it as a young science still searching for it’s limits.

    As for western literature and poetry, I am going with Shakespeare. I personally think of Goethe as the greatest person of letters in this era, but I am pretty sure Shakespeare will take the popular vote. I’m ruling out Dante for reasons so debatable that I am afraid that I might start a firestorm if I even bring them up. Given the incredible volume of literature that has resulted from compulsory education and easy publication, I find it hard to imagine anyone outside of these two taking the prize for our present era. Can anybody help us with this?

    What about Eastern literature. Anybody? Eastern literature? Who or what may be the present day analogue to the Upanishad?

    As for Western philosophy, Nietzsche hands down. He is the most important modern Western philosopher and a clear contender for “most important philosopher since Socrates. Before you kill me, please consider the translations and commentary provided in the life work of Walter Kaufmann. And please don’t talk to me about Heidegger. As for the french existentialists, I love them (to death….get it. hahahaha) but I am afraid that 2000 years from now they will be talking about either Nietzsche and/or some man or woman not born yet.

    As for Eastern Philosophy I need help. Help? Eastern Philosophers? Anybody? Remember that in 2000 years eastern cultures may well be dominant.

    As for political figures, for the good of us all, I am taking the fifth. Hopefully it is some woman who has yet to be born who will finally solve this whole world peace thing. I am hoping that she takes the lead in establishing international rules of warfare stipulating that wars can only be fought by men over fifty. Ok….call me naive. Just please spare me the lectures on military political history. I’m familiar.

    And every era needs it’s Cresus. Who is the richest and most powerful global persona of our era? Perhaps that is up for grabs still?

    Let’s agree on Hitler as the nom de guerre for “really bad guy”, and let’s all hope that nobody ever manages to exceed his accomplishments.

    Last but not least, if we are still around it probably means we found a way to roll back global climate change and prevent a dinosaur event. Let’s hear it for the woman or man who figures out how to regulate the climate even after it is way too late.

    And whoever invents the flux capacitor.

    • Jake Catlett

      For cognitive behavioral sciences, and neuro-science in general, watch out for what Sam Harris does in the next couple of decades. Can we hope for Richard Dawkins to be remembered? Also, you mentioned Newton and calculus, which I strongly agree with, but everybody forgets Leibniz, who invented calculus independently of Newton, but at the same time – and whose notation system for calculus is the accepted norm now! Newton never once used the the word “differential”… he called them “fluxions”!

      • nathan woodard

        Thanks! 🙂 Is Dawkins more of a commentator as opposed to a discoverer? I’m not really sure. But I will surely keep an eye on Sam Harris! In this vein, someone recently introduced me to Ian Couzin and his breakthrough work on collective behavior. Depending how that fits in to future cognitive science, I think he may turn out to be a contender. Check out some of his lectures on youtube!! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2WqH_HUxz8&index=8&list=FL5MwaIFkv4v7jhPEvITPz0w) As to Leibnitz, I agree with your commentary. I chose my words carefully when I mentioned that Newton “applied” calculus. As I wrote it I secretly hoped someone would read it and think “Liebniz!!” Although I have never actually read Liebniz’s papers or notes, I have always ranked Newton higher on account of his overall scope. (But I thank Liebniz every time I use the d/dx style of notation. Sometimes this style helps me stay closer to the equation and relate better because every time I see a “d” I can visualize a finite element “delta”. I especially favor this notation when I am winging it and writing a final equation out of thin air instead of actually deriving it properly 🙂

        • Jake Catlett

          Yes, I think Dawkins is more of a commentator, however I think it’s possible (hopeful) that he, or someone like him, may be remembered as a pioneer in atheist thought. He and Harris both work towards explaining how we as human beings are capable of constructing a valid moral framework without needing to rely on ancient ideologies to explain or justify our behavior. Sam Harris is doing work on the neurological roots of morality and human ethics, and Dawkins has some great arguments for why morality, love, compassion, and the better side of human behavior in general can be explained by evolution – as well as how religion has evolutionary roots, and why we as a species no longer have the need for it.

          • nathan woodard

            I agree. I was remiss in my failure to cite Darwin as a Newton figure[1], and I wonder if evolutionary biology has found its Einstein. If so, perhaps it is Dawkins? At any rate your words remind me that science has matured to the point that some of our “Einstein” moments are likely to materialize now and in the future through groups of women and men as opposed to lone wolf individuals. We rightly celebrate crucial individuals, and I enthusiastically fling myself into the romanticism of that image. (It’s very compelling.) But on the other hand, one reason that scientific reason has stood the test of time is the manner in which the collective incremental investigations of many individuals–each working on their small problem–naturally coalesces to change and modify the most basic considerations in each sciences.[2] It is an imperative of this collective process that each field will at times need a Dawkins–a great thinker who is both contributor and commentator–to act as an authoritative voice by which the work of the group can at times be fused into Einsteinian achievement. And I dig it that you are discussing the evolutionary basis of religion and its impilcations toward morality. You just saved me the trouble of elaborating as to why I consider Nietzsche[3] to be the most important modern philosopher! 🙂 🙂

            [1] Perhaps a biologist might say that Physics found its Darwin figure in Newton. 🙂

            [2] It seems a modern interpretation of “scientific method” encompasses the process by which the scientific community referees its own work. While there have been short lived periods where politics and religion attempted to interfere with the overwhelming integrity of this process, I cannot think of a single case where the process can be considered by reasonable people as having broken down. Three cheers for science.

            [3] I reject the Darwinian interpretation of NIetzsche’s ubermensche, I don’t buy into the absurd idea that Nietzsche was supportive of Nazi’s, and I really don’t think his blond beast was intended as a symbol for Teutonic men. I defer to Walter Kaufmann on these points. As to Nietzshe’s bad ideas concerning women, all I can say is that Plato, Aristotle and Socrates each had some pretty bad ideas too. It would be to our collective and tragic loss if we took each bad idea as grounds for dismissal.

  • Angela Huang

    Definitely Pythagoras.
    The teachers make us write ‘by Pythagoras’ after every proof we do and take points off if we don’t.

    • nathan woodard

      I agree. And I also think that all of the current household names from ancient greece will continue to be remembered. There is so very very little written record from that era, so everything that was written and retained should continue to be studied and remembered.

  • rresaff

    I’m browsing at work while waiting for a thing to finish so I didn’t load more comments, but I didn’t notice mythology mentioned. I don’t think anyone will be remembered accurately in 2000 years, mostly because I don’t think the big BCE (is that the right term, I grew up with B.C. and, at work, not bothering to check) figures are accurate today. I think it might be something like “Yuri Gagarin built the first space station” or “Einstein invented the internet” or, maybe closer to the truth in this instance, “Hitler conquered Europe while murdering anyone he didn’t like.”

  • Sam

    Peter Norvig or Ray Kurzweil (Artificial Intelligence), if they could achieve what they claim is feasible in the next decade, they will be the first to create machines smartest than humans, and it’ll be machines in 4015 who’ll be remembering their creators 🙂

  • S. Wilson

    My top 10:

    1. Albert Einstein – Theory of relativity,
    mass-energy equivalence, photoelectric effect

    2. Louis Pasteur – Vaccination, microbial
    fermentation, pasteurization

    3. Charles Darwin – Evolution

    4. James Watt – Improved steam engine, helped bring
    about Industrial Revolution

    5. Michael Faraday – Electromagnetic induction,
    diamagnetism, electrolysis

    6. James Clerk Maxwell – Classical theory of
    electromagnetic radiation

    7. George Washington – Father of the US

    8. Karl Marx – Marxism

    9. Orville and Wilbur Wright – Manned flight

    10. Adam Smith – Father of modern economics

  • doggg123

    Alan Turing

    • krystal

      Now that I think about it, maybe. I think he’ll be more fascinating as people continue trying to create sentient robots or just clones.

    • krystal

      He’s not a household name right now but he might be what Tim’s talking about

  • Jeffy

    In 2000 years our era will hopefully be remembered as the time in history equality of all humans began. Any future where humans are around in 2000 years would have to be a united one as our technological capabilities increase so will our ability to destroy ourselves, and the only way to survive will be united. Obviously this has not been achieved yet but progress has been made in the last 100 years. Civil rights/womens rights and freedom activists such as Gandhi, nelson mandela, martin Luther king, susan b anthony to name a few. And history also remembers those who were particularly cruel as contrast and therefore Hitler, Stalin+ Lenin

    • April O

      I honestly believe that Hitler’s going to be left begind. I mean, I see it being possible that someone could form a Jewish holiday that remembers the Holocaust, but I doubt it’s going to stay as big as it is now. History remembers the winners, and Hitler lost. He wasn’t even in power all that long. Sure, he drove the world into chaos and killed millions (I realize this reads as being kind of callous, but despite my certainty of my opinion, I would like to state for the record that I do not take WW2 or the Holocaust lightly), but in the scale of 2000 years it’s a blip. Unless WW2 is like, the last war to ever be fought on a global scale (and, c’mon, that’s pretty impossible, I think it’s importance is going to shrink significantly in the next few hundred years. Lenin or Mao, on the other hand, have a better shot, especially if this is the beginning of a lasting era of a Chinese and communist empire.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        Mao: First Emperor of the Red Dynasty, Second Shih Huang-Ti.

  • Butler-beep

    Perfectly brilliant conjecture, yet, in 2000 years, names and time will have been left far behind. .. But thank !

  • Butler-beep

    Makes much sense; Einstein, Hitler, and Armstrong. Yet Einstein was misquoted and misunderstood, Hitler was but one of a Gang of Four including Stalin, Roosevelt, and Mao, and Armstrong had little to do with his being the lucky first-laddy to step on the Moon …

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Don’t forget the Dumb Luck Factor.

  • DeeDee Massey

    In 4015, the prominent figures might not even be one of us. They might include the first Whateverling to “discover” life on Terra.

  • Butler-beep

    In another 2000 years, all earth-bound linear languages will be extinct . . . and our 3.3-D consciousness will seem like hieroglyphics, without the Rosetta . . . despite our archival mausoleums of DVD’s and laser-inscribed silicon-chips . .

  • Mya P.

    Rather than “WHO” from our era will be well-known, I think it will be more of “WHAT” it will be known for. I think what may stand out about us to people 2000 years from now are not people, but our collective mindset – that our era, though more modern technologically than previous ones, was mostly barbaric and backward. We are an era that reached for the future but was anchored in the past, an era that was controlled by fear, ignorance and greed, an era of polarizations, of absolutist black and white thinking limiting us from who we really are and could of been. I see our time as being looked at as the time of great conflict; a time when we were on the edge of ruin and at the same time great discovery. I wonder what the mindset will be 2000 years from now?

  • anonymous

    Deepak Chopra, maybe.

    I don’t know that much about Chopra but maybe he’s heading toward a novel approach to spirituality. One that might catch on. Make people feel powerful in the same fashion as praying. But doesn’t conflict with science.

    Religious leaders seem to pass the test of time. Religious books, less so. That’s a problem…

    Someone (maybe Chopra) might combine Science with Religion. You are suppose to question everything in science. Not so much in religion. But what if someone came up with a religion that incorporated the shifting part of scientific knowledge which was, as of yet, unknown. There’s always something we don’t know.

    Currently there are mysterious subjects like consciousness and quantum entanglement. They will do for now. Once they are understood, the religion switches to the new mystery in science. And they capitalized on the unknown to preach an emotional connection to the universe. A source of personal power.

    This is a new take on what it means to have a spriritual belief. It’s inwardly, intuitively powerful. And it’s intellectually powerful and stimulating also. Prophets are replaced with ideas that are always a step ahead of science. The ‘bible’ for this new belief is more like a science text book/meditation that connects it to the human spirit, or something. The unknowable ideas shift as science advances so it never gets stale.

    But Chopra’s written a few books. I don’t know if they would stand the test of time. (And I’d personally like to see scientists be remembered over spiritual leaders but don’t see that happening)

    • Jeff Lewis

      Please, not Chopra. I’d be embarrassed for our era if he was the religious figure that was remembered. Though I suppose it’s possible. I’m sure the Romans around the turn of the century weren’t particularly impressed with the cult of Christianity, and look where it is now.

      • Jeff Lewis

        OTOH, I’m not sure how prominent religion will be in the future. If you look at industrialized nations, more and more people are leaving religion (according to some surveys, the UK is already majority non-religious). According to some recent studies (here’s a decent summary – http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/how-to-get-rid-of-religion/ ), religion seems to be correlated with social dysfunction. The more dysfunctional a society, the more religious. And while I’d guess there’s some positive feedback, the arrow of causation seems to be mainly that dysfunction leads to religion, not the other way around. So, if societies continue to improve around the entire world, the trend away from religion will probably continue. And when you consider the hypothesis in Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, it seems like the trend over the past several thousand years has been towards better societies. Of course, continued progress isn’t inevitable, but barring some major turning point, I’d hope that society in 2000 years is functional enough that most people won’t feel the need to turn to religion.

    • Jake Catlett

      Chopra? Really?? Let’s seriously, seriously hope that somebody who is basically known for spiritual mumbo-jumbo that has no basis in empirical evidence is remembered for anything at all in the future.

    • Brechels

      I don’t think pseudo scientists will be remembered longer than a few decades.

  • valerie

    MADONNA!?? That is the one woman you mention?? Madonna? Really? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?????????
    I’m sorry I didn’t realize I had traveled back to 1953. I could smack you right into the middle of next week right now.

    Maya Angelou, Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Sampat Pal Devi, Mary Moody Emerson, Rosa Parks, Emily Dickenson, Eleanor Roosevelt…………….

    • James

      I think the more glaringly obvious point is that he missed the onward match of gender equality, which should hopefully mean that the famous man/woman ratio is even in x amount of years. Maybe his “top bets” should include an as yet unknown female.

      The problem with your list is that I’ve only heard of a few of them, so not exactly great candidates for right now.

      • April O

        I’m guessing (and hoping), that maybe not in 2000 years, but possibly in 200 years, that woman might be Malala Yousafzai. I think in a short time we might become more focused on the world as a whole and less on the Western vs African vs Asian kind of seperate histories. Which is why, no pressure kid, if Malala is successful in her aim of bringing equal education to girls throughout the world, she could easily be seen as an early founder of future gender rights. But you know, have fun being 17, hopefully.

        Another thing that this article kind of ignores is the fact that people who have an interesting story might last a little longer in fame (a reason why Motzart is compelling to read about, and in short term history -say 200 years- why my money would be on Kurt Cobain as a lasting icon in music, his story is one that’s interesting and compelling, and I think Malala’s story is too, and it’s only beginning), because that’s where legends take root. Sometimes you want to hear a good story. Most of the ancient world leaders we remember are folks who united areas (possible through bloodshed), which both could help in Malala’s continuing fame and prominence, and is also why I think that Hitler is going to be substantially less famous in just a few hundred years. I mean, he lost. History is written by and for winners. He’s important now, but that’s because people are still alive who lived through the war. When, in the year 2020, Malala brings equal education to the last country in the world that doesn’t have it, we’ll all start writing text books that have her on the cover.

        But you know, again, no pressure kid.

        • Dalek

          I agree with a lot of what you said, but did you have to be such a condescending ass?

    • Sandrine

      I have never heard of Sampat Pal Devi or Mary Moody Emerson, but I know who the rest are. I think they’re all pretty good candidates, with Eleanor Roosevelt probably leading the line, and Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, and Emily Dickenson lined up behind her.

      • Rosa Parks is really only relevant in American history. She did not have global impact.

  • Jake Catlett

    Both Newton and Leibniz, for inventing calculus (at the same time, independently of each other!!). In a universe predicated upon change, the language we use to describe change (calculus) is invaluable. Calculus will be used for the remainder of human history, and while most Americans consider ‘calculus’ to be a dirty word, our compatriots on the other side of the Atlantic have a much more abiding respect for it, as calculus is more or less the tool which was used to create the modern age. I’m pretty sure that its profile will continue to grow throughout history, and both Newton and Leibniz will be held in very high regard as a result. Physics, as well, was invented by Newton, and he described gravity as well as the motion of the planets. Galileo will be remembered as well, as will Einstein. It’s tough to say whether Edison or Tesla will get the lion’s share of credit. It’s quite possible that Tesla will go down in history as one of those people who got none of the credit they deserved while they were alive, while Edison might be dismissed as having received more than he deserved – especially in light of his treatment of Tesla. Euler at present doesn’t receive the attention he deserves (although that’s not true if you’re a mathematician!), and it’s my hope that that fact changes in the future – but as the author of this article states, that’s super tough to determine.

    Why did Stephen Hawkings escape mention in this article?? Without going into an exhaustive account of his discoveries and achievements, let it suffice to say that I suspect his cosmological musings may well grow to be considered on par with Einstein’s. He did, after all, predict the existence of black holes long before they were proven to be real – and we now know that our entire galaxy is held together by the gravitational pull of a super-massive black hole that lies at its center. Being the first to describe the force which holds our celestial home together in one system is a pretty huge achievement – and this is just one of the many discoveries and predictions he has made, most of which escape the understanding of the average human alive today. The things we collectively fail to grasp today may very well be the required reading of high school students two millennia into the future.

    Somewhere on this planet, walking around and leading an unnoticed life, is the guy who is going to be the first human to step foot on Mars – an achievement that may even outstrip Armstrong’s feat.

  • MahtukYonder

    Electricity led to computers and electric technology (satellites, i-phones, Nukes, globalization, The INTERNET) – arguably the biggest leap forward for humankind in quite a while (for better and for worse). So I’d put my money on Tesla (and Edison, even though I will state for the record that Edison was a bitch for undermining and sabotaging and in general being a jealous bastard toward Tesla – a much greater man).

    I’d also say that whoever becomes the figurehead for the assimilation of technology and sustainable/thriving life on Earth will be well known and remembered. We won’t make it into the next couple of centuries stripping Earth of its resources and the level of pollution we create – we are not apart from nature, we are part of it and we won’t survive without remembering and acting upon that fact. We will also not likely abandon technology/science. We must strike a balance between the two.

  • Aaron, just…. Aaron

    In the long run, I feel like our current time will be ultimately lumped in with the Industrial Revolution. Marked by rapid growth and generally increased quality of life for the masses, but marred by greed, excess, unforgivable levels of wastefulness, and a complete lack of foresight vis-a-vis our consumption levels vs sustainability.

    Unfortunately, if this period of time (say, the last 200 years) are remembered for anything in 2000 years, I feel it could be either “the group who ruined the planet” or “the group who *almost* ruined the planet”.

    As far as individuals are concerned, it’s a pretty short list, but i think Stephen Hawking would be on it. Perhaps Neil Armstrong? Sadly, balancing their positive achievements out on that list would be Hitler. At least until WW3 breaks out, and he’s partially forgotten. Truthfully, I think the only individuals who will survive name recognition that long are the ones who get immortalized by having their actual achievements twisted to impossible levels. That being said, I’ve heard Mark McGwire was 11 feet tall and once hit a baseball to the moon.

    It seems many people here seem to be posting people who were undeniably influential and extremely important in OUR time, but I think many will be forgotten in the next hundred years, much less the next 2,000. Their achievements will seem so absolutely commonplace that no one will bother to research the history of them, like who came up with buttons on shirts, and who invented shoelaces? Undoubtedly, both those items are indispensable, but their inventors are forgotten because their inventions just became too common.

  • Bob Roach

    Wow, look at the humber of comments! (Is this ever a more popular subject than popularity itself?)

    I know popularity isn’t a universal metric for historic longevity, which is why I think we should all earnestly try to keep this thread going for another… 2,000 years or so? (time off for pee breaks)

    I’m sorry if I’m repeating somebody else’s comments (when are we not, right?), but given I have considerably less than 2,000 years of free time left, I thought I’d share some thoughts I’ve had about this question.

    I say we have to really have a closer look at what are the assumptions in this question.

    Tim used the word ‘who’ which begs the question, define ‘who’. (I can almost hear Bill Clinton saying, “Define ‘define'”).

    In terms of a two thousand year snapshot, the legal right to personage status barely just happened for women.

    Even sooner — for corporations. Many are already talking about the extension of ‘human’ rights to non-human species. And can we assume that AI sentience will be included before the next two thousand tax seasons are through?

    So define ‘human’? That’s gonna get fuzzier too.

    Though as Tim showed us in a previous post, the boundary lens of selfness is already heavily smeared with Vaseline.

    If you define humanity in terms of common genetic heritage, where does that thread weave? Along those lines, Henrietta Lacks — of HeLa cell culture fame — has already achieved a kind of immortality. (Anyone else ever read, ‘The Gods of Foxcroft’?)

    And that’s another front. If bio-tech figures out how to shut off aging — would the results still be human? Maybe there’s people alive right now who will be well-known and LIVING in 4015.

    And then we get to the adjective, ‘well-known’.

    Most of us probably translate that into ‘historically significant’ — but the two are not mutually inclusive at all. Fact vs. useful fact as translated through the power of the ruling class throughout history teaches us that.

    Historical value and historical importance or relevance are impossible metrics to use over the long haul. Unless we include evolutionary history. Then we get into that whole literal meaning of life thing. And what is the meaning of that?

    Maybe humanity will diverge — polarize? — into two sub species by then. Study your Morlock verb use now.

    Or, as many have speculated — what happens when humanity becomes so dependent on technology that we retreat into a kind of evolutionary retreat as a result of our ineptitude? Shades of ‘Wall-E’ and… what’s that Asimov short story about the future engineer who discovers how to do math calculations using a pencil and paper?

    Another option is we evolve into some kind of ‘Borg’ like communal hive, maybe the question will become moot. Who would be well-known? Everyone. End of story.

    Myself, I’d be far more interested in knowing who SHOULD have been well-known in 4015. Like Scott Adams Dilbert’s garbageman — maybe the most fearfully intelligent, most talented people that ever lived have just chosen… not to be known.

    Given the choice, I think I’d prefer to live in a world where you can never really know what that ordinary looking stranger you just passed on the street really is, or what they’ve accomplished or about to discover. So much of adulthood is experienced through solidified and narrowing filters.

    Do we really need historical record to define a perspective on our collective future when there’s more than a lifetime of wonder in any single second going on? In the long run — we’re all atoms.

    I’d say more, but my time machine’s charge alarm is gonging and that means it’s literally — now or never. Stay hungry and foolish.

  • Antonio Baia

    Me.

  • PHN

    The 2015 public erroneously identifies Einstein as the “inventor of the atomic bomb.” This dark side to Einstein’s image makes him more intriguing to modern memory.

  • PHN

    Neil Armstrong might be relegated to the obscurity of Leif Erikson; the Apollo project might be known to historians as a tentative exploration that established no lasting Lunar presence.

    • Francisco Javier Ruiz Briz

      ^^ That.

    • Jaimeen Bulsara

      I had to google Leif Erikson :/

  • PHN

    From a distance of millennia, Osama bin Laden might be recast as the “Spartacus of the 21st Century.” Both rebelled unsuccessfully against a world power at its height. The bloodiness of Spartacus’s struggle has faded in the memory of history. The codename “Geronimo” is an intriguing hint at future folk hero status.

  • Kayla

    Stephen Hawking!

  • otaku

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    EVERYONE WILL REMEMBER LEVI ACKERMAN

  • Francisco Javier Ruiz Briz

    Wild guesses are Alan Turing, William Shockley and John Bardeen. And they are virtually unknown today.

  • MBD

    After skimming many of the responses one thing stood out to me more than anything, many of the answers were very “American” and I very well could be off on this but ask yourself on a lot of these names being discussed if they are even names that are well known througout the world right now? I honeslty don’t know, but I wonder does the world right now even view a lot of these names that highly? With that being said I think relgious names/figures have to pass that test moreso than a lot of these names.

    Is Neil Armstrong right now known that well world wide? Even Martin Luther King?

    Just my thoughts

  • orkydea

    Gandhi, maybe we forgot about human rights, another form of world war
    or Johannes Paulus II, who contributed to the end of cold war

  • bubuletz

    I’m going with Elon Musk besides Einstein and the likes. The guy is striving towards improving our lives big time: electric cars (Tesla Motors) so we could get rid of fossil fuels easier / quicker (and he seems to be quite successful at this endeavour), Solar City so we can have more green energy and he’s trying to jump-start space colonization (first stop Mars) with Space X.

  • April O

    When I think about the globalization, technological advances, and political leanings of today, there’s one man and one name I keep coming back to, and that’s Adam Smith. While he’s kinda, sorta taught in schools today, if our era of capitslism marked by the rapid industrial revolution has any influence on the future, I think he has a great shot of being the name that sticks around. Who better to educate young students on the philosophies of this period of time?

    Although I was thinking that I hope it’s Neil Armstrong and Gene Roddenberry, because I hope that in the future Star Trek comes true, and you could point to them as the two people that started it all. I can picture the museum now, a video or whatever passes for it on a loop at tge enterance, one of Kirk’s uniforms behind glass, a headline like “A Man With a Vision” while young cadets mill about and make wild guesses about gow this guy became so ahead of his time and founded a new era of peace and space exploration. And out back? A massive aquarium/harbor for a humpback whale.

    • carbinecorps

      I’d like Yuri Gagarin instead of Armstrong because first man in space just seems a lot cooler.

  • Jono Kivex

    For the sake of a fun thought… Claude Shannon. As per his code being discovered in string theory in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLvXaclRlHs

    I am not an expert on the subject, and I draw no specific conclusions from this video, but it damn well gave me a lot to think about

    • Jordan Scott

      I’ll second that. If the theory was right, He’d be the guy who hacked the Matrix code base. Mega VIP status.

  • Mallory

    Before I even read your response I was going to say hitler. History focuses more on the villains than the heroes.

  • USTaiwanExpat

    There’s people in Asia (China/Taiwan specifically) who have only a vague idea of who Hitler was. Some even have a positive association with him, so I don’t know if his name will be known in 4015 if he’s not even well known throughout the world today.

  • John Tan

    We’ll be well known for cats & selfies.

  • Too late for a first female leader of China: the Empress Dowager Qixi already nabbed that one back in the late Qing.

    -dlj.

  • tommo_montana

    Everyone’s making a common error, which is assuming things that are popular now will be around in the future. The best answer to this question is to ask what are the oldest popular things now. They are many times more likely to be around in the future than recently popular things. So, it will not be the first female politician of US nor China. (Are female rulers from 2,000 years ago famous? Not for merely being female.) It will not be Barack Obama. It will probably not be Elon Musk. It will be Confucius, Jesus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Shakespeare, etc.

    Older artists, writers, and musicians like Van Gogh, Monet, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Twain, Mozart, and Beethoven
    Older world leaders like Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Peter the Great, George Washington, and Queen Victoria
    Older thinkers like Darwin, Kant, Adam Smith, Marx, Emerson
    A large slew of more modern people: Gandhi, Edison, Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Deng Xiaoping, Einstein, Neil Armstrong, Henry Ford, Martin Luther King, Orwell, Salinger, Picasso, Elvis, Sinatra, and Walt Disney, to name a few

    out of this list, most of the “Olders”. However, when you get to “modern” people, only Gandhi, maybe Martin Luther King, mayyyyybe Tesla (we can hope!). The others were just blips in history. Look at how many roads are named Gandhi (in India) and MLK (in USA). That’s why I say these two guys have staying power.

    Now look at the modern artists people are holding up as contenders. Sorry, none of them will be well-remembered in 2000 years. Look at the Beatles, or whoever you think went “Platinum” on “albums”. Google says the Beatles sold 11.4 million copies of their most popular album. Justin Bieber reached more people than the Beatles before he ever made an “album”, just through YouTube. Psy’s “Gagnam Style” is the most-experienced piece of art/literature in all of history, merely because distribution has changed (2.2 Billion views).

    Let that sink in for a minute. “Gagnam Style” is more recognized than Disney movies, ramen noodles, any style of architecture you can name, any painter or any of his masterpieces. Pachebel’s Canon might be similarly popular as a chord progression, but very few people could name that chord progression as Pachebel’s Canon.

    Do you think books were better after the printing press? That writers instantly gained better abilities and produced greater works? No, but books certainly got more popular with the spread of printing presses. Same with all media, through the internet. Will Psy, the best-“selling” artist of our all history up to our present time, be remembered in 4015? Probably not. The song is crap. Every artist to make a song of similar or greater virality will reach >>2.2Billion views on youtube or whatever distribution method replaces youtube. Because more people join the collective consciousness of the internet every day.

    But the lasting works gain more and more as better distribution methods are created. The Bible benefited from the printing press, and it benefited from the internet, and it benefited from torrents. I’m sure it will keep benefiting from future distribution methods as well. So, when wondering about 2,000 years into the future, just look to the past, and ask who are the oldest “populars” today.

    You know what’s always been popular?
    1. Being born
    2. Dying
    3. Dying of Malaria

    Pretty much in that order. So the Happy Birthday song is really darn famous, but no person is associated with it. Malaria is really famous, (estimated to have killed half of humans that have ever lived, ~50Billion) so if anyone cures malaria in our modern era, they might be famous. Then again, people don’t reward problem solvers. Hardly anyone knows who invented the vaccines that save billions of lives.

  • Chan

    So everyone assumed that humans can live in 4015

    • Cham

      Hmm this is not the main point though.
      I think the situation may vary. Some people may be famous in future America but not in other countries?

      • Chan

        Then people living in that one or more countries are thinking that the person is universally famous.

      • Dalek

        I very highly doubt that America will exist in 4015.

  • Sijia Huang

    I agree with Tim. This is an extremely hard question to answer. Especially since it asks what lay people would remember about this millennium, rather than archaeorecordists (those who study and try to reconstitute data from ancient recording media like clay tablets and DVDs). After the Great Purge of 2119, when a successful worldwide cyber attack wiped nearly everything connected to the Amazon Web, what historical figures did what hundreds of years ago took second place to reconstructing the modern political economy. So everyone knows that any “fact” from before the Great Purge is most likely probably a Youtube made by some prankster before 2200. So little is verifiable before 2135 that no one but archaeorecordists can figure out what data is authentic. But then, who cares. Everyone already knows that Albert Einstein and Bill Gates invented the Amazon Web by combining relativity and quantum computing.

  • Tanner

    Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Wernher Von Braun, possibly Neil deGrasse Tyson? Assuming (hoping) we look to the stars and planets. They could be seen as people who started decoding the keys to space travel.

  • JimmyPop

    I haven’t seen anyone mention Charlie Chaplin or Che Guevara, they are big rockstars of popular culture, never underestimate power of that.

  • George Williams

    I propose Neil Armstrong as the greatest. Not just because no-one else can be first to fly to an extraterrestrial body but because there will be an enduring monument (the lunar lander) that could last longer than the Pyramids assuming it avoids an unlucky asteroid strike.

  • Aaron

    I think Ray Kurzweil will be universally known, for his contributions to the furthering of technology and his postulating on futurology… 4015, by which stage, most of what Kurzweil has postulated will have come true.

    • Dalek

      It depends on whether or not his ideas actually come true. He will inevitably become more well known to the general public in the future, but we can’t really say that he will be universally known in a few centuries—let alone 2000 years—without knowing if his predictions are even accurate.

      • Aaron

        do you know Di’Vinci? why? for his contributions, even those that were wrong… Also, many of Kurzweils inventions are used commonly today. So if his predictions comes true or not will have no bearing. He has already contributed in more ways than many ever do

        • AEF

          Yeah, but Di’Vinci isn’t 2000 years old, only a couple hundred, and he’s known for many elements of his artistry. I wouldn’t bet on the average person in 4015 recognizing his name; he’ll just be one more “of those old, pre-electricity inventors… you know, those Renaissance men, from before everything was so specialized… what was his name again…?”

  • Canaille

    It’s not a question of who will be known 20 centuries from now, but rather whose fame will be sustained at the same level as today. If we assume that information will continue to accumulate as much as (or more than) today, then someone in 4015 AD should be able to pull up info on Mozart or Mike Tyson on the future’s equivalent of Wikipedia.

  • Darko

    Nikola Tesla for sure

  • Alex

    To make it easier I’ll make it into 4 categories, Artists, Great Minds, Political leaders, Inventors and Innovators and pick 3 from each, I think that all these names will be somewhat remembered but then I’ll pick by big 3
    Artists – Da Vinci, Mozart, and Shakespeare
    Great MInds – Einstein, Darwin, and Galileo
    Political Leaders – Hitler, Washington, and Napoleon
    Inventors and Innovators – Neil Armstrong, Edison, and Wright Brothers
    Big 3 – Einstein, Washington, and Armstrong
    A lot harder than I thought to narrow down so many people, also i’m sure if I were to do this 20 years from now a no-brainer for my top 3 would be someone today or recently in this past doing something with the web or this technology revolution (Jobs, Musk, Cerf????) but people would have to wait to find who really sticks out

  • cybervigilante

    Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Orchestra.

  • Brad Finley

    If SpaceX makes it to Mars as planned in ten or twenty years, Elon Musk. It will be similar to the moon landing except instead of an entire country being remembered for the moon, a single man might be remembered for Mars. Also a planet will likely be held with more importance than a moon. Similar to the way a man on the moon has begun to eclipse the achievement of putting a man in space.

    • Scott Miller

      I think that the person who actually steps foot on Mars will be remembered more than Elon Musk

      • PaulBrinkley

        Possibly. In that vein, Elon Musk might end up as memorable as Queen Isabella.

  • Tomás Blas

    I think Newton’s contributions to our understanding of the world and to the evolution of our species will be more remembered than Einstein’s.

  • Thadoos

    Archimedes was an inventor of devices we don’t really use anymore or that don’t seem that rad (odometer?), but we manage to remember him. Not on a Jesus scale, mind you, but we do remember he said “Eureka!” Thomas Edison didn’t have a memorable catchphrase they’ll name towns in California after, did he?

  • Tueksta

    My guess is, that everyone will be remembered. It’s like only some 15-20 billion individuals in our era, so that’s easy to remember. And we sure have the data of most of us.

    • AEF

      I don’t think that really counts — do you think all 15 billion individuals will be universally known? I mean… I guess if you’re assuming AI changes everything…

      • Tueksta

        It depends, how people understand “in 2000 years” in the question. Is it a comparison to who we remember now from 2000 years ago? Or do you mean, extrapolate the development of humanity for another two thousand years, including the concept of “remembering”.
        I guess if someone in 15 A.D. was asked, who would be remembered in 2015, he’d think about lineage descriptions learned by heart or put into stone in tombs. And he’d probably say: everyone who’s family line will survive long enough or can afford to buy a tomb that will survive for two thousand years.
        We tend to forget, that we’re at the beginning of a digital age where there is backups and archives for everything. From genealogy research I know that those documents will be sacred for a long time and be searchable. As data-processing improves rapidly, the question is not how to retrieve the data if it’s available, but if we do it at all.

        Maybe the mainline interpretation of the question here is more: About which individuals deeds and quotes will humans learn during their educational upbringing in 2000 years.

        And this one is more tricky, because with great data mining capabilities, current fame will be ignored, but any single individual could become the origin of the most famous quotes in 2000 years. But large-scale deeds are much harder to accomplish, so I guess researchers and warlords are the most probable candidates, as their deeds shape the development of the world in a way that will have repercussions 2000 years later.

  • jay

    Since ‘merica will most certainly still be around… any of the presidents

  • PaulBrinkley

    If any athlete circa 1750-2000 were to make it, I’d expect it to be Roger Bannister. Running is perhaps the most universal high-impact athletic endeavor in history, and this fellow was the first to break a well known limit in running. That said, he may end up relatively obscure, like “that guy who ran from Marathon”.

    • Pippin Covington

      seeing as he’s already pretty obsucure, I wouldnt count on it

  • Joseph Smeall

    Anybody with a strong connection to significantly influencing the 9/11/01 attacks in any way. That event will probably take on the same significance in the future as did the crucifixion of the political-religious cult leader named Jesus of Nazareth in the eastern Mediterranean, 2,000 years ago.

    • nemanja1503

      lol no

  • AEF

    I wouldn’t bet on any musicians or artists. As more and more recordings are available, we’re already treating groups from 30-40 years ago as “classic rock”. That won’t last: people in 4015 will have so much music from the previous 50 years alone. Given that genres will continually be evolving, there’s no reason, besides chance, that any currently living musician will have any sort of relevance; they’ll have their own Elvises.

    • AEF

      Side-note: while a lot of scientific choices make sense, we should keep in mind that these people are supposed to be universally known, not just known to other future scientists. How many average people have ever heard of Thales, considered by many to be the “first scientist”, or Eratosthenes, who calculated the circumference of the Earth? They’re as removed as Einstein will be.

  • shruti

    Orwell, I am happy just seeing that name 🙂 , made my day … he is such a profound thinker and visualizer.. its brilliant in its own way

  • Musk

    Elon of Mars.

  • When it comes to people who discover the “ah-hah” moment for society I do agree. Einstein fo sho.

    But the damn problem is trying to think of who it could be in the next 15-20 years that would make it.

    For example the person who heads the team of the first AI with Human level intelligence would go down in history (assuming we survive).

    But sadly I don’t think it would happen for any future scientific discoveries. Why?

    The age of one person discovering a breakthrough in science especially Physics is dead. Most science is now collaborative purely because shit is so complex now. In recent history: the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for the Solar Neutrino Problem was shared by the heads of two teams on opposing sides of the world who didn’t directly collaborate but whose results when combined together led to a “OH SHIT” moment.

    More famously the Higgs Boson, Peter Higgs regrets the particle being named after him because 5 other Physicists proposed the mechanism which suggested the existence of the particle. And the Nobel Prize was awarded to him and one other in 2013 because they had the fortune of still being alive.

    Which really sucks. There may be no future scientists who will be forever remembered.

    But the inventors? They got a chance.

    Future awesome discoveries:
    – A.I
    – FTL travel (doubt it would be one guy, but a team backed with shit loads of A.I)
    – Inventor and Project Head of the first ever terraform.

  • Alex Demas

    Satoshi Nakamoto, whoever he is/they are.

  • Christopher Porricelli

    Darwin, Mao, and Yuri Gagarin

  • SJ

    I’m a little late to this conversation, but wanted to say that no matter who the contenders are in 4015, my hope is that the world/culture/societal norms have changed enough that there are more than 2 women in the top 49 contenders (such as in Tim’s current list above). If ASI ends up ruling us all, hopefully Ada Lovelace gets her due.

  • Person

    I would add Larry Page and Usain Bolt if you talk about athletes, he will rank among the best known.

    • ZlatkoK

      Why Bolt? Do you think that his records won’t be broken in 20,30, 1000 years?

  • ZlatkoK

    I will only mention the one that we already know about (there is no point of mentioning “the guy who invented AI” or similar).

    Hitler (IF there is no bigger war afterwards), Einstein (theory of relativity will be used and known forever), Darwin (again, theory of evolution describes the living world), Yuri Gagarin (*).

    Older ones will probably endure in the memory (Caesar, Alexander, Jesus Christ, Muhammed, Da Vinci, Galileo, Newton).

    Forget about athletes, contemporary artists, actors, politicians…

    (*) All due respect to Neil Armstrong, but he is just the first among many
    (somebody will be first on Mars, Venus, planet in another star
    system, planet with life…). Yuri Gagarin is THE first man in space.
    Analogy would be: imagine human race in a house from its beginnings –
    you remember the first guy exiting the house, not the one who was first
    to visit the neighbours (there are many other more interesting
    neighbours)…

    • Gagarin deserves the fame, but we’ve already shown with Christopher Columbus that we’re capable of lionizing the “wrong” figure.

  • Del

    I have a feeling that a certain Elon Musk will join the ranks of legendary in 4015. He’s got his Spacex and Tesla going on, and I think it’s quite possible that he will find a way to send humans up to Mars, and revolutionise the car, and energy market, or at least spur on others to walk down the same path.

    I think Newton might go down too. Discoveries like gravity, calculus aren’t easily forgotten, especially if they’re still used in 4015.

    I guess that the people of 4015 will remember what’s relevant to them. I don’t know who ran the fastest in 1643, cause I don’t necessarily need that info, it isn’t relevant. But, I know which famous guy was born in 1643, Newton, cause I use calculus, and I see his laws of thermodynamics everywhere. Similarly, when Elon Musk gets his Model 3 in the markets, and ships the first people off to Mars, believe me, it will be very relevant.

  • Bongstradamus

    Assuming we create superintelligence and achieve immortality by transferring our consciousness intomachines, in 2,000 years we’ll still be watching the Kardandroids on whatever passes for TV.

  • Frankie

    My guess. We remember, and books tend to compile and talk, about people who did something in the past which is still important for us today, that’s why we know about Corelli (his music is still played often) but not the guy who won the fight competition in the olympic games in 325 B.C.

    So, science is getting more and more prominence (it was not always so in the past), it’s changing our lifes and likely it will keep doing so for a pretty long time. Pioneers in basic and presumably long-lasting theories (although by 4015 all of them may have been put upside down) will likely be remembered: Einstein (relativity) and Planck (quantum mechanics) are secure bets, as will be the guys elaborating a final theory of quantum gravity, which we are still waiting for, or eventually those dealing with string theory if finally this turns out to be correct and not a pretty but useless mathematical artiface. Darwin will maintain his status too. About those involved in applied science/technology, that’s harder because important inventions nowdays might be fully obsolete by then and nobody will recall who invented such a contaminating, dangerous and energy-inefficient thing. Pioneers in flying (Wright’s) and space travelling (Gagarin) might be exceptions.

    Louis Armstrong! of course, if some music is to survive two whole milennia from nowdays my bet is jazz. Of course rock or pop music might have their chances (and thus Beatles or Stones along), or maybe some kind of minimalistic/avant garde, and then Phylip Glass or Wim Mertens might have an option, or perhaps someone who is composing music right next door and we do not even know about him… And about other arts and literature… just who knows; Kafka hardly published anything during his life and today is one of the most known and acclaimed writers… I’ bet for him rather than for Joyce.

    Will some kind of “cinema” or whatever audiovisual entertainment still be on by then?, if so people might be curious and appreciate the pioneers of that (sure we would very much know and appreciate the guys painting the oxes in Altamira should we knew their names…). Who?… well the Lumiere brothers are candidates, but, depending on tastes drift some actor or director might find their way to long-lasting rememberance… (let me suggest Boogie, hehe!, and Bette Davis?… or Gloria Swanson?)

    Politics. Unfortunately the bad guys tend to be the most long-lasting in memory, so yes, Hitler and Stain will sure have their place. Will Bin Laden or some other large-scale terrorist join the bunch?. George Washington’s name most likely will endure, since USA is likely to maintain a superpower status for a long time yet, and even if it was not so it is already an important part of history (we still remember Ramses II right? even though that kingdom went out of history more than two milennia ago)

    And well, the world is going to change so much in the next decades/centuries that maybe these guesses we are doing now will be outdated/obsolete not in 2000 years but much much sooner!

  • andrewp3

    Beatles, Sartre and Elizabeth Baguley

  • JaketheSteak

    Given that English is the first language to become truly global, and could plausibly remain the only one, then Shakespeare might not be a bad shout, given how crucial he was in creating it.

    • Jamie

      Yeah but Chaucer was even more influential before him and people don’t remember that nearly as much because his English is different to Shakespeare’s & to ours. My guess on that one is that even if English remains the biggest global language 2000 years from now (which I doubt) it will be a very different incarnation to what we know today. Unless you take the measures that France has about codifying language (and not even really then) it is a very fluid thing.

  • robert

    Many times in the past thought leaders believed that we knew all there was to know, then great new things were defined. In the next 2000 years this will happen again. In addition there will be a mega war (or 3) that will destroy much (including our collective memory), a “black death” of some kind and more. Which means that the world WILL be unimaginably different from this era. Probably women will dominate and men (the failed experiment) reduced to sperm donars. Who will be remembered, those whose memory luckily survived and still had relevance. There is no way that any of our guesses are right and possibly all are wrong.

  • johnny

    i think it is lineage indeed. the most people we are talking about, we talk them stronger than they were, so they can live on. i mean, theosophy is a huge background thought for mythology and mythological/thought/religious circumstance invention (opened up the realms for religions). thus we are praising greek philosophy. and it is always transforming. so, between the youngs who fight now for their flowers as long as they can smell them, we are strenghtening the old

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