The latest technological breakthroughs can sometimes seem to emerge from nameless, faceless companies. But behind every corporate logo are individual people shaping the future. Some are executives, others are programmers or researchers chasing world-changing achievements. Then there are the rule-makers, whose decisions can have far-reaching consequences for the future. The 20 people on this list are the most influential people in the technology world right now, as extensively debated by TIME’s tech team. Who did we miss?
Windows. Xbox. Surface. Think of a Microsoft product, and Terry Myerson is probably the guy overseeing it. Myerson helped revamp the Windows mobile operating system in 2008 after the iPhone’s release. That experience never reached as large of an audience as Android and iOS, which together power nearly all of the world’s smartphones, but it got Microsoft thinking about the future of computing. Now as head of Windows and Microsoft’s hardware efforts, Myerson is keen to ensure the company doesn’t miss the next big technological breakthrough. His teams are working on new versions of Windows built for virtual and augmented reality, which Microsoft calls “mixed reality.” If successful, he — and Microsoft — could help push these emerging technologies into the mainstream.
Twitter’s head of Trust & Safety, Harvey has the unenviable task of battling abuse across one of social media’s most controversial, troll-riddled platforms. Her vision for Twitter rolling forward — as a communicative medium that empowers its users to navigate the fine line between criticism and abuse — couldn’t be more important. This rings especially true after the last several years have shown exactly how gruesome Twitter trolls can be. In one high-profile example, Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones nearly quit the platform after receiving a barrage of nasty threats and insults last July. Twitter recently rolled out new features aimed at curbing abuse, such as measures that prevent those who have been kicked off the platform from returning under a new guise. It will be up to Harvey’s team to keep combatting such behavior.
Long before companies like Uber and Google were flaunting their autonomous car technologies, Anthony Levandowski was hard at work building his own driverless motorcycle. Now, Levandowski is a central figure in a high-stakes lawsuit between those two tech titans that could determine the winners and losers of our driverless future. Levandowski, who recently stepped aside from his job running Uber’s self-driving vehicle efforts, previously worked on similar efforts at Google. The search giant now accuses Levandowski of stealing trade secrets and using them to boost Uber’s self-driving projects. The case’s outcome could determine which company will emerge as a leader in what stands to become an extremely lucrative market.