Technology Gurus Make the 2011 TIME List of 100 Most Influential People

COMMENTARY | Time Magazine unveiled the 2011 TIME 100 list of most influential people Thursday, and there are few surprises. Regulars like Oprah Winfrey made the list for the eighth straight time while Republican Rep. Paul Ryan made his debut on the list.

The 2011 TIME 100 aims to include the people who are currently setting the pace and dictating the content of our daily conversations. As Rick Stengel, TIME’s managing editor, said as he unveiled the cover of the TIME 100 issue on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show today, the list is about the “power of influence; not the influence of power.” The list therefore includes global citizens whose influence on us through media, politics, arts, sports, business and everyday lifestyle is very evident, but not because of traditional views of power.

Three of the top 10 most influential people in the list struck me because of the way they have individually chosen to use technology to impact lives and our discourse. The three are Wael Ghonim, Julian Assange and Mark Zuckerberg. The three have used technology in their own ways to empower, divide and connect people globally.

Wael Ghonim is #1 on the 2011 TIME 100 list

Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google executive turned revolutionary who managed marketing for Google in the Middle East, is credited with using social networking media like Facebook and Twitter to spark a revolution in Egypt. This revolution ultimately led to the end of 40 years of dictatorship by Hosni Mubarak.

Ghonim leveraged social networking to spread the word about the power of the people to be a catalyst for positive change without using violence. During the six days of protests, Ghonim, a father of two, was taken under arrest and ultimately released. Newsweek called Ghonim the Facebook Freedom Fighter.

Mark Zuckerberg is #6 on the 2011 TIME 100 list

Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and current CEO, spent a lot of time in the headlines in the last year. Through the lens of the movie “The Social Network,” global audiences learned more about how Zuckerberg, the 26-year old techie, capitalized on our human urges to communicate and stay connected. The movie took us behind the scenes and into the mind of Zuckerberg as he built what we all now know and love as Facebook.

Just when many of us were second-guessing our support of Facebook after we learned more about the man behind the technology, Zuckerberg exposed the world to his philanthropic side when he pledged $100 million to support education in the city of Newark, N.J.

Julian Assange is #9 on the 2011 TIME 100 list

Whenever I think of Julian Assange, I always think of Lex Luthor, the imaginary super villain who works for evil as Superman works for good. I am not sure who the Superman would be in this case, but Assange, to me, is an example of how someone would be willing to use their skills, in this case technology skills, to divide people and create enemies for no other reason than the fact that he has the ability to do so.

The words “Assange” and “WikiLeaks” became household names as the world waited to see what new embarrassment would be disclosed next. Assange is still facing prosecution for sex crimes.