Randall Collins estimates that there will be, at best, 2 majors philosophers per generation, and perhaps another dozen or so important secondary philosophers. In The Sociology of Philosophies he contends that high levels of intellectual creativity are rare. Taking the long view, it is likely that none of the major thinkers of today will rate a paragraph in the intellectual histories of 500 years from now. This can be somewhat depressing.
On the other hand, the great intellectual project of understanding the world is worth doing. Even being a provincial intellectual, or a thoughtful member of the reading public, is an important part in making creative thought real. How can this be so? Because, Collins argues, the right measure of creative thought is how much other people use and develop your ideas. His rule of thumb is that we can't really begin to say that a thinker is a creative intellectual until a third generation of thinkers has taken up that person's ideas. That means that we, the readers and thinkers (to whatever degree) of this day, are vital to the creative intellectual work of those who went before. Our thoughts are really what makes a genius a genius.
One of the most inviting images in Collins' argument is his account of what intellectual life is, at its heart:
"The intellectual world is a massive conversation. … What makes one an intellectual is one's attraction to this conversation."