“How do you ethically steer the thoughts and actions of two billion people’s minds every day?”
Called the “closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,” by The Atlantic magazine, Tristan Harris spent three years as a Google Design Ethicist developing a framework for how technology should “ethically” steer the thoughts and actions of billions of people from screens.
In 2016, Tristan left Google to work full-time on reforming the attention economy with the non-profit initiative, Time Well Spent. Time Well Spent aims to catalyze a rapid, coordinated change among technology companies through public advocacy, the development of ethical design standards, design education and policy recommendations to protect minds from nefarious manipulation.
Tristan founded Center for Humane Technology and inspired the associated “Time Well Spent” movement. In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg embraced time well spent, a phrase coined by Harris, as a design goal for Facebook.
Tristan has spent a decade understanding the invisible influences that hijack human thinking and action. Drawing on literature from addiction, performative magic, social engineering, persuasive design, and behavioral economics, he is currently developing a framework for ethical persuasion, especially as it relates to the moral responsibility of technology companies.
Rolling Stone magazine named Tristan one of “25 People Shaping the World” in 2017. His work has been featured on TED, 60 Minutes, HBO RealTime with Bill Maher, PBS NewsHour, Recode, The Atlantic, WIRED, NYTimes, Der Spiegel, The Economist, and many more. Tristan has briefed Heads of State, technology company CEOs, and members of U.S. Congress about the attention economy. He is a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School in Government and an advisor to Open Markets Institute.
Previously, Tristan was CEO of Apture, which Google acquired in 2011. Apture enabled millions of users to get instant, on-the-fly explanations across a vast publisher network.
Tristan holds several patents from his work at Apple, Wikia, Apture and Google. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Computer Science, focused on Human Computer Interaction, while dabbling in behavioral economics, social psychology, behavior change and habit formation in Professor BJ Fogg’s Stanford Persuasive Technology lab. Tristan is currently a Senior Fellow at Common Sense Media. He was rated #16 in Inc Magazine’s Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 in 2009.
Most popular work:
- Read his most popular essay How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds – from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist (15 min read) – in French, Portuguese, Arabic and Mandarin.
- Listen to his most popular interview, “What is Technology Doing to Us?” (1 hour 40 mins) with the philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris.
Headshot photos for Press & Speaking Engagements