Jonathan Zittrain

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Jonathan Zittrain

Leading Expert in the Governance of Future Technology, Including Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity; Healthy Blockchain Skeptic; Master Moderator; Professor of Law and Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University

Biography

How are new technologies transforming our jobs, companies and relationships? Artificial intelligence is now a household term, and while we can’t physically see it, we know it’s hidden inside our mobile phones, automobiles and wearable devices, just to name a few. To better map and understand the changes that affect the core of society’s relationships, organizations look to Jonathan Zittrain. Few are as accomplished, esteemed and engaging as Zittrain. An expert on AI, cybersecurity and the future of work, he is a dynamic speaker as well as a master moderator of panels of some of the greatest minds of our age. Zittrain addresses a key question of the modern era: in an age of rapid technological transformation, how do we develop new social, economic, regulatory and ethical frameworks and strategies to address challenges we may have never before faced? His compelling and thought-provoking ideas are invaluable to leaders trying to make sense out of a world changing faster than we can keep pace.

A professor of computer science, law and policy at Harvard with an exceptional ability to elevate any audience’s thinking – typically with quick wit – Zittrain has spent his career at the forefront of cutting-edge change. An early researcher in AI, a pioneer in the field of cyberspace and cyberlaw, and a contributor to multiple international internet and society research organizations, he wields a nuanced understanding of AI and its complex regulatory and social frameworks gained by a lifetime spent grappling with these very topics. Most recently, he has been a leading voice defining and clarifying pressing issues related to the ethics of data use by digital platforms like Facebook; how digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home should be designed; the implications of self-driving cars; and the future of work in a world dominated by AI and automation. Zittrain targets the “big picture” of technological change and encourages companies in the tech industry and elsewhere to participate in the dialogue. In doing so, they develop products, platforms and business models to avoid missteps which can derail public support. He also offers guidance for governments and policymakers on devising the regulatory structures needed to let technology thrive while accounting for public interest.

Known for his humor as well as his brilliance, and consistently rated as one of the top speakers and presenters at important and influential gatherings, Zittrain delivers captivating keynotes and moderates lively, stimulating debates. A long-time advisor for governments and international businesses, he has also served on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American and is a former Trustee of the Internet Society. For more than fifteen years he has moderated sessions and debates between world leaders at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was named a Young Global Leader and chaired the Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Internet. In 2017, Zittrain was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Named a “Top 100 Global Thinker,” he is a founding director of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

Jonathan Zittrain is available for speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

 

Videos

Media

The View From Inside Facebook

December 5, 2018

Harvard Business Review logo

How to Exercise the Power You Didn't Ask For ($)

September 19, 2018

Harvard Law Today logo

Morality in the Machines

June 26, 2018

The "Internet of Things" is Getting More Dangerous -- Here's How to Better Secure It

June 6, 2018

From Westworld to Best World for the Internet of Things

June 3, 2018

Can Zuckerberg Rescue Facebook…And Our Privacy?

April 17, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg Can Still Fix This Mess

April 7, 2018

Why Europe Is Willing To Regulate Tech More Than The U.S. (Audio)

January 2, 2018

Some Starting Questions Around Pervasive Autonomous Systems

May 15, 2017

The Atlantic logo

The Age of Misinformation

May 3, 2017

Just Security logo

Mass Hacks of Private Email Aren’t Whistleblowing, They are at Odds With It.

October 19, 2016

The Atlantic logo

A Grand Bargain to Make Tech Companies Trustworthy

October 3, 2016

Harvard Law School logo

Why the Internet Matters: A Talk by Jonathan Zittrain

September 14, 2016

Apple’s Emoji Gun Control

August 16, 2016

Harvard Law School logo

Apple Bites Back: Zittrain, Sulmeyer on the Privacy-Security Showdown Between the Tech Giant and FBI

February 19, 2016

WBUR radio logo

Balancing Privacy And Security In Apple, FBI Fight Over Encryption

February 18, 2016

New Republic logo

Facebook Could Decide an Election Without Anyone Ever Finding Out

June 1, 2015

The Future of Net Neutrality, with Jonathan Zittrain

March 24, 2015

The Right to Be Forgotten Ruling Leaves Nagging Doubts

July 13, 2014

Confidential Info Threatened, but Technology Can Help

June 8, 2014

Don’t Force Google to ‘Forget’

May 14, 2014

New Republic logo

No, Barack Obama Isn't Handing Control of the Internet Over to China

March 24, 2014

Intensifying Cyber Threats

January 22, 2014

Digital Books Are Under The Control Of Distributors Rather Than Readers

July 8, 2013

Don't Let Software Patents Stop Us Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

April 18, 2012

Biography

How are new technologies transforming our jobs, companies and relationships? Artificial intelligence is now a household term, and while we can’t physically see it, we know it’s hidden inside our mobile phones, automobiles and wearable devices, just to name a few. To better map and understand the changes that affect the core of society’s relationships, organizations look to Jonathan Zittrain. Few are as accomplished, esteemed and engaging as Zittrain. An expert on AI, cybersecurity and the future of work, he is a dynamic speaker as well as a master moderator of panels of some of the greatest minds of our age. Zittrain addresses a key question of the modern era: in an age of rapid technological transformation, how do we develop new social, economic, regulatory and ethical frameworks and strategies to address challenges we may have never before faced? His compelling and thought-provoking ideas are invaluable to leaders trying to make sense out of a world changing faster than we can keep pace.

A professor of computer science, law and policy at Harvard with an exceptional ability to elevate any audience’s thinking – typically with quick wit – Zittrain has spent his career at the forefront of cutting-edge change. An early researcher in AI, a pioneer in the field of cyberspace and cyberlaw, and a contributor to multiple international internet and society research organizations, he wields a nuanced understanding of AI and its complex regulatory and social frameworks gained by a lifetime spent grappling with these very topics. Most recently, he has been a leading voice defining and clarifying pressing issues related to the ethics of data use by digital platforms like Facebook; how digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home should be designed; the implications of self-driving cars; and the future of work in a world dominated by AI and automation. Zittrain targets the “big picture” of technological change and encourages companies in the tech industry and elsewhere to participate in the dialogue. In doing so, they develop products, platforms and business models to avoid missteps which can derail public support. He also offers guidance for governments and policymakers on devising the regulatory structures needed to let technology thrive while accounting for public interest.

Known for his humor as well as his brilliance, and consistently rated as one of the top speakers and presenters at important and influential gatherings, Zittrain delivers captivating keynotes and moderates lively, stimulating debates. A long-time advisor for governments and international businesses, he has also served on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American and is a former Trustee of the Internet Society. For more than fifteen years he has moderated sessions and debates between world leaders at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was named a Young Global Leader and chaired the Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Internet. In 2017, Zittrain was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Named a “Top 100 Global Thinker,” he is a founding director of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

Jonathan Zittrain is available for speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

 

Speech Topics

Are You Ready For AI?

Artificial intelligence provokes both excitement and anxiety. Even as the world awaits the vast opportunities of AI, we are wary of the possible ways it can go wrong, and how it can undermine entire business models in the blink of an eye. Jonathan Zittrain, a scholar of the development of the internet, says that as AI becomes more advanced and more common, we must consider three questions:

  • How do we successfully embed AI in our technologies?
  • What AI breakthroughs are imminent and which ones are in the distant future?
  • What are the risks and benefits of deploying AI?

In this presentation, which can be tailored to different audiences and focus on specific subsets of the broader theme, Zittrain explores ways in which AI is already reshaping the world and how it might change in the future. Companies need to develop a deeper understanding of which aspects of AI will be most transformative and how they can respond; what they should embrace and what is merely a passing fad; and the reputational and ethical risks inherent in the technology, and how they can create a framework for containing or addressing them.

The Future of Work

Concern for the displacement of human jobs by AI is pervasive in social, cultural and political discourse. A combination of artificial intelligence, the rise of digital platforms and the “gig” economy has caused companies to struggle both with disruptive technology and having to compete with rivals who are able to reap greater profits with little overhead, while governments scramble to devise a new framework for an economy that is prosperous for some and insecure for many. Internet pioneer and new technology expert Jonathan Zittrain draws upon both his own research and his experience participating in the digital economy to help companies understand AI, automation and the long-term prospects for human employment. Zittrain argues that the focus should not be on preserving traditional jobs but on creating the best possible framework for companies and individuals to reap the rewards of platforms, AI and automation. In doing so, we can channel freed-up human activity into creative, productive and self-fulfilling tasks. In the future, says Zittrain, humanity can increase productive creativity while outsourcing many routine functions to AI. But we do have to ensure in the present that this future of work will help rather than harm most people.

How Tech Companies Can (And Should) Protect Our Privacy

Over the past decade, our lives have been transformed by social media. Suddenly, we could connect, share information and network with others, all for free. Except it wasn’t free. Instead of paying money, we were exchanging our personal data – and compromising our own cybersecurity – for the ability to easily share online. This has been increasingly problematic as consumers realize – thanks to dramatic scandals and data breaches – how much their own privacy and security have been compromised.

Companies which have access to our information, says Zittrain, should be held to the same standard as doctors, lawyers and other professionals to whom similarly sensitive details about our personal lives are available. Rather than tech companies changing (or being forced to change) their business models wholesale, they can instead embrace a “fiduciary” responsibility to their customers. As threats become more extensive and malicious, digital firms’ protection of our data will become a matter of basic cybersecurity in addition to one of personal privacy, and penalties for not guaranteeing safety will be severe. This presentation is geared toward companies who want to leave a legacy of having changed the world for the better and succeeded financially, as well as the policymakers who are weighing options to deal with those businesses who do not have the desire or ability to embrace change.

Cyber Threats and Terrorism: Are We Secure?

With massive data breaches commonplace and data integrity in doubt, cyber security continues to be a vital policy and legal issue. The challenges are real and plentiful: while the openness of PCs and the Internet has spawned an abundance of connectivity and creativity, it has also brought a growing scourge of spam, viruses, identity theft and cyber-terrorism. But in the face of such threats, the answer is not a move toward simpler, locked-down devices in exchange for security, Jonathan Zittrain argues. He discusses the false starts in understanding the simultaneously underappreciated and overhyped fields of cybersecurity and cyber warfare, and offers a view on where the deepest problems lie – and how to address them. Should we be afraid? Are we prepared? In this presentation, Zittrain will explore:

  • Cyber Terrorism and Technology Infrastructure Protection: Why is the government so deeply concerned about it, while proposing only a “partnership” to deal with it?
  • Civil Liberties: Zittrain paints a picture of the surveillance society to come and highlights the ethical implications.
  • The Cantonized Internet: Get ready for filters left and right—ideological, mercenary, governmental, and ultimately our own, as the idea of a “generally accessible” web site available on “the” Internet recedes into the past.
  • Why the Internet of Things is making cybersecurity that much more difficult

The Art of Moderating

Organizations go to great lengths to assemble people in the same place at the same time for a conference. And they’ll look to formats other than speeches to liven up the course of a day. Unfortunately, panel discussions can often underwhelm: some moderators’ preparation entails producing a list of questions asked one after the other, typically to each one of the panelists answering in turn. Later questions aren’t adapted in light of the answers to earlier ones.

Jonathan Zittrain moderates panels differently. He prepares in a way that allows an organic, dynamic conversation to flow – challenging panelists to revisit topics they thought they knew cold, seeing issues in new ways – and drawing in audience members throughout the session, rather than as a brief Q&A at the end. There’s no easy rulebook for this kind of moderation, and the tightwire it represents is a big part of its appeal. Jonathan Zittrain walks it – and leads others to walk it – with geniality, curiosity, incisiveness and shared humility about what we don’t know as much as what we do.

Zittrain is also able to work with organizations to design a Socratic Dialogue: a panel of as many as ten people asked to respond to a crisp, unfolding hypothetical scenario from the vantage point of their respective roles. Part simulation, part law school-styled class, a Socratic Dialogue helps illuminate how people and organizations make decisions, and how they think through complicated questions, including ones of ethics and values, under pressure. Such panels can be a highlight of a conference.

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Recommendations

“Jonathan was superb. We have never had such a high quality series of executives sharing meaningful insights together in one room like that before in our 9+ year history of doing this. Definitely a format we intend to replicate in other events going forward.”

—Michael Alcock, Microsoft

“These days, it’s hard to be surprised/amazed about new technologies or disruptions that might come true in the near future, but Jonathan’s speech gave me a whole perspective about things I wasn’t even aware of. It’s not only what he says – which is amazing and truly interesting, it’s how he communicates.”

—Romulo Rejon, Telefonica

“Thanks so much for your wonderful presentation today! Our members loved it and many told me it was THE best presentation they have heard in the 10 years of the Corporate Directors Group! Not only did we all learn a lot, but your skilled delivery, laced with great humor, was fun to hear.”

—Clint Allen, Corporate Directors Group

“The highlight was hearing a keynote from Jonathan Zittrain on “The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it.” He was so entertaining and informative. If you ever have a chance to hear him, take it. We shouldn’t believe that the Net will always be what we have now, plus more. Between aggressive government regulators, technology “advances,” cautious administrators and political pressure groups, we could end up with less, not more, in the future.”

—Jim Calloway, about keynote at LTNY

Awarded Young Global Leader of Tomorrow

— World Economic Forum

“Excellent topic – Professor Zittrain was outstanding – and a relevant topic, we should keep on our agenda.”

 

—Foreign Policy, November 2012

“Jonathan Zittrain is the ultimate law-tech-policy triple-threat. He teaches internet law at Harvard Law School and at the Kennedy School, is professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and faculty co-director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He’s done interesting work on the possibilities and implications of crowdsourcing, and wrote a cautionary tale about risks of internet capture and lockdown called “The Future of the Internet–and How to Stop It.” Technology advances quickly, and so do the legal frameworks we use to understand it. But Jonathan seems to be living in the future and explaining it to us in the present. Which is cool.”

—Recognized by Fastcase 50, 2011

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