Glenn Doman, who devoted his life to developing extraordinary people via his Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, struggled for decades to find an adequate definition of intelligence. He finally came up with this: “Intelligence is the degree of ability one has to see the difference between the way things are and the way things could be, and to make them closer to the way they could be.”

When we set out to put together this year’s list of astounding young thinkers, it wasn’t our agenda to find an activist crop. But as we went down the typical avenues to rustle up obscure-but-not-for-long names, these were the ones that kept popping up.

There appears to be a movement among scary-smart young people to, well, move. And shake. To take risks. To enact the change that their research “suggests” they should.

Our 30—or at least most of them—know that they’re intelligent, but, more importantly, they know how to apply their intelligence. They understand—and live—the fact that action trumps intellectualism. They’re aware that research without implementation is hollow, and that to meaningfully contribute, it’s necessary not just to study but to step into Theodore Roosevelt’s proverbial arena.

Many work to better the lives of the disenfranchised: the poor, the imprisoned, the very young, the old. If their brains are sophisticates, their hearts are servants.

It’s fascinating to hear about the specific moments that have inspired each of their life’s work: a brief conversation with a stranger; a health scare; a hug from a destitute child. One gets the sense that it’s not so much that unusually poignant things happen to these bright young people, but more that they intercept what to others would be just a passing event and volley it into a meaningful life path.

Bill Chopik (PhD Psychology '15)

Erik Kim (PhD Psychology '15)

Ed O'Brien (PhD  Psychology '14)

Laura Miller-Graff (PhD Psychology '13)


Read the full article "Thirty Under 30: The Top Young Thinkers in Economics, Education, and Political Science" at the Pacific Standard.