About Tristan Harris

Tristan co-founded Apture in 2007, after stopping out of Stanford’s Masters Computer Science program. He is rated #16 in Inc. Magazine’s Top 30 Entrepreneurs under 30. A Mayfield Fellow with the Stanford Technology Ventures Program in entrepreneurship, Tristan’s career spans the open content world of Wikia and the user interface engineering world of Apple. By the age of 20, Tristan had filed his first patents around new information navigation and browsing interfaces. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, eWeek, and he has given lectures and talks in conferences and universities across the world, including at MIT’s Media Lab and at Stanford University.
When not evangelizing Apture, Tristan spends his time reading about mirror neurons and behavioral economics, playing Yann Tiersen music on the piano, and dancing argentine tango in San Francisco. Tristan holds a BS in Computer Science from Stanford, with a focus in Human Computer Interaction

“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. He is now co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology with former technology insiders, whose mission is to reverse the harms created by technology platforms, and to re-align technology with humanity. 

Rolling Stone magazine named Tristan one of “25 People Shaping the World”, and was named in Fortune’s 40 under 40 of 2018 for his work on reforming technology. In 2016, Tristan left Google to work on reforming the attention economy with the non-profit initiative, Time Well Spent which called out the industry’s “race to the bottom of the brain stem” to capture attention and proposed design solutions. In January 2018, Mark Zuckerberg embraced “time well spent” as a design goal for Facebook, and in May 2018, Apple and Google each launched “Digital Wellbeing” initiatives and “time well spent” features now shipping on iOS and Android phones.

Tristan has spent more than a decade studying the influences that hijack human thinking and action. From his childhood as a magician to his work in the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab where he studied persuasive technology, Tristan became concerned about the need for ethical and humane technology.

A year after his company was acquired by Google in 2013, he created an internal slide deck within Google that went viral, warning about technology’s arms race to capture attention and the moral responsibility of technology companies in how they shape society.

Tristan’s work has been featured on TED60 MinutesHBO RealTime with Bill MaherPBS NewsHourRecode, The Atlantic, WIREDNYTimes, 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, a senior fellow at Common Sense Media, and an advisor to the Open Markets Institute

Before Google, Tristan was co-founder and 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.

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Headshot photos for Press & Speaking Engagements

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