“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 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, 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.
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.
- Watch or listen to his interview “When Tech Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself” with Yuval Harari and Nicholas Thompson of WIRED magazine (transcript + 56 min video)
Headshot photos for Press & Speaking Engagements