Sherry Turkle

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Sherry Turkle

New York Times Best-Selling Author of “Reclaiming Conversation”; Expert on Technology and Its Role in Transforming Relationships in a Digital Society; Sociologist and MIT Professor

Biography

Professor, author, consultant and researcher, Sherry Turkle has spent the last 30 years researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. She is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, as well as the founding director of Initiative on Technology and Self, a center of research and reflection on the evolving connections between people and artifacts.

Referred to by many as the “Margaret Mead of digital culture,” Professor Turkle has investigated the intersection of digital technology and human relationships from the early days of personal computers to our current world of robotics, artificial intelligence, social networking and mobile connectivity. Her New York Times best-seller, “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” (Penguin Press, October 2015), focuses on the importance of conversation in digital cultures, including business and the professions. Her previous book, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” (Basic Books, 2011), was a featured talk at TED2012, describing technology’s influence on relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

Professor Turkle’s exploration into our lives on the digital terrain shows how technological advancement doesn’t just catalyze changes in what we do – it affects how we think. Her research also raises critical questions about technology’s role in business productivity, asking whether multi-tasking actually leads to deteriorating performance in each of our tasks. Does our always-connected state affect our ability to think, to be creative and to innovate?

Professor Turkle has been profiled in such publications as The New York Times, Scientific American and WIRED. She is a featured media commentator on the effects of technology for CNN, NBC, ABC and NPR, including appearances on such programs as Nightline, 20/20 and The Colbert Report, and has been named a Harvard Centennial Medalist and a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year. In 2014, she was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2017, she received the Everett M. Rogers Award from the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University, and is a licensed clinical psychologist.

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

Videos

Books & Research

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

(Penguin Press, October 2015)

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

(Basic Books, January 2011)

Evocative Objects: Things We Think With

(The MIT Press, September 2007)

Simulation and Its Discontents

(The MIT Press, March 2009)

The Inner History of Devices

(The MIT Press, October 2008)

Media

Forbes logo

America's Top 50 Women in Tech

November 29, 2018

3 Questions for MIT's Sherry Turkle on our Device Addiction and Loneliness

November 5, 2018

Is Your Company Overly Reliant on Technology?

August 15, 2018

There Will Never Be an Age of Artificial Intimacy

August 11, 2018

NBC News Logo

Is Your Kid Friends with Alexa? A Psychologist on What That Means for Their Development

August 5, 2018

Forbes logo

Sleepwalking Towards Artificial Intimacy: How Psychotherapy Is Failing The Future

June 7, 2018

Think Different? Apple Takes Its Message Seriously

June 5, 2018

Commentary: Why Hating Facebook Won't Stop Us From Using It

April 11, 2018

Vox Logo

How We're Becoming Slaves to Technology, Explained by an MIT Sociologist

March 27, 2018

When Is a Child Instagram-Ready?

February 21, 2018

The Assault on Empathy

January 1, 2018

Washington Post logo

Why These Friendly Robots Can't Be Good Friends To Our Kids

December 7, 2017

Huffington Post logo

A Robot Is Not A Best Friend (Video)

November 29, 2017

CBC logo

Would You Let Your Kids Play With AI Robots?

November 27, 2017

In the Future, We’ll Love Our Robot Pets, But Will They Love Us Back?

November 14, 2017

Our Smartphone Obsession Looks a lot like the Obesity Epidemic, MIT Psychologist Says

November 9, 2017

An MIT Psychologist Explains Why So Many Tech Moguls Send Their Kids to Anti-Tech Schools

November 7, 2017

A Good Time for the Good Craic

October 18, 2017

Mattel Pulls Aristotle Children’s Device After Privacy Concerns

October 5, 2017

Huffington Post logo

Pioneers: MIT Professor Sherry Turkle (Video)

October 2017

Walking The Tech Tightrope

May 5, 2017

Sherry Turkle, Mark Doty, to Speak at Phi Beta Kappa Exercises

March 23, 2017

Huffington Post logo

What Can You Learn from Watching the People Around You? (Audio)

February 15, 2017

KUOW logo

We Never Talk Anymore! (Audio)

November 8, 2016

thewire.in logo

Talking To Sherry Turkle About Relational Communication and the Digital Media

October 20, 2016

Sherry Turkle Says There’s a Wrong Way to Flip a Classroom

October 13, 2016

Emotional Fantasy: AI Can Pretend to Love Us, but Should We Love It Back?

May 26, 2016

Huffington Post logo

Sherry Turkle On How Technology Can Impact Human Connection

April 21, 2016

A Conversation with MIT's Sherry Turkle About Conscious Consumption of Tech

April 11, 2016

Spiked logo

The Crisis of Attention

February 2016

TIME Magazine logo

7 Steps to Saving Conversation at Work

November 30, 2015

Washington Post logo

The Book That Will Have Everyone Talking About How We Never Talk Anymore

October 1, 2015

Sherry Turkle’s ‘Reclaiming Conversation'

September 28, 2015

Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.

September 26, 2015

Forbes logo

Sherry Turkle's Solution To The Downside Of Screen Relations: Conversation

April 20, 2014

Biography

Professor, author, consultant and researcher, Sherry Turkle has spent the last 30 years researching the psychology of people’s relationships with technology. She is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology and Society at MIT, as well as the founding director of Initiative on Technology and Self, a center of research and reflection on the evolving connections between people and artifacts.

Referred to by many as the “Margaret Mead of digital culture,” Professor Turkle has investigated the intersection of digital technology and human relationships from the early days of personal computers to our current world of robotics, artificial intelligence, social networking and mobile connectivity. Her New York Times best-seller, “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” (Penguin Press, October 2015), focuses on the importance of conversation in digital cultures, including business and the professions. Her previous book, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other” (Basic Books, 2011), was a featured talk at TED2012, describing technology’s influence on relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

Professor Turkle’s exploration into our lives on the digital terrain shows how technological advancement doesn’t just catalyze changes in what we do – it affects how we think. Her research also raises critical questions about technology’s role in business productivity, asking whether multi-tasking actually leads to deteriorating performance in each of our tasks. Does our always-connected state affect our ability to think, to be creative and to innovate?

Professor Turkle has been profiled in such publications as The New York Times, Scientific American and WIRED. She is a featured media commentator on the effects of technology for CNN, NBC, ABC and NPR, including appearances on such programs as Nightline, 20/20 and The Colbert Report, and has been named a Harvard Centennial Medalist and a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year. In 2014, she was named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2017, she received the Everett M. Rogers Award from the Norman Lear Center at USC Annenberg. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University, and is a licensed clinical psychologist.

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

Speech Topics

Simulated Love Gone Wrong: How to Find the Right Role for Robots

Sherry Turkle is not taken with new cute robot Jibo’s seductive and friendly repartee. When we have toys for children that declare their love and want to chat, we bring to life a longstanding fantasy that machines might be our companions – that they might seem to not only be smart, but also to care about us. But there, says Turkle, we run into a problem: Simulated thinking may be thinking, but simulated feelings are not feelings, and simulated love is never love. Our “success” in making robots that pretend to empathize involves deception with significant consequence. When we offer simulated companions to our elders, we break a generational compact that we will be there for each other. When we offer sociable toys and digital pets to our children, we embark on an experiment in which our children are the human subjects. Will we be honest enough to confront the emotional downside of living out our robot dreams? Turkle asks us to ponder where this is heading – and to put machines in their proper place as helpful and responsive, not proxies for family and friends.

The Other AI: How to Address the Impact of “Artificial Intimacy”

From self-driving cars to digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, artificial intelligence is fast becoming ubiquitous. But while we are quick to embrace technologies that make our lives or jobs easier, we’re slow to observe the dangers: interacting with objects that have no empathy detracts from our own, causing us to become less fully human in the process. Sherry Turkle argues this is because AI can stand for not only artificial intelligence but also artificial intimacy – the false sense that we can trust devices as we might trust humans. When companies fail to properly communicate the limited nature of these technologies and instead promote them as reliable friends, consumer backlash can become potent. In this presentation, Turkle explains the pitfalls of allowing artificial intimacy to grow unchecked. With vivid cases from the iPhone to insurance companies, she reveals to companies how they can (and should) ensure AI is not deliberately sold as a replacement for human trust or companionship and avoid suffering the consequences of what customers tend to see as a personal betrayal by their machine friends.

How to Be the Empathy App to Bridge the Empathy Gap

We are living in a time where empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others – is under assault. The empathy “gap” is widening in many societies around the world. Among college age students, studies conducted over a 30-year period have shown a 40% decline, with most of the drop coming after 2000. A generation has grown up believing it is possible to share our attention during almost everything we do and feeling that we “would rather text than talk.” What are the costs of a “flight from conversation” in personal life, among one’s family and friends? What are the costs in the business world? And most importantly, what can we do about it? Sherry Turkle believes technology has offered the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship and then – as it got really good – the illusion of friendship without the demands of intimacy. While we have always known that only people can be empathic, we only really get good at it with our full attention to each other.

To Increase Creativity and Productivity, Be an Empathic Organization

One of the realities of corporate life is that office technology leads us to make a Faustian bargain with everyday office technology: What we gain from efficiency and responsiveness is compromised by what we lose because of the isolation, disengagement and distraction that comes with digital life. Sherry Turkle calls our work dilemma that of “pilots in the cockpit.” Often, we are too busy communicating online to have the conversations that count – on the phone or face-to-face. At every level, people craft ways to move phone or in-person conversations to screens on which they feel less vulnerable and more in control.

Turkle makes an impassioned case for companies to pivot back to conversation-based interactions that spur fully formed relationships. Ultimately, the aim is to become an organization that values empathy, authenticity and engagement. When employees recognize the difference between relational and transactional encounters, they can place a higher value on the former and build better relationships with clients and co-workers. The empathic organization understands that the capacity for solitude, and for relationship and conversation go together. With these underpinnings, employees will be more effective at establishing and maintaining relationships as they develop a competence for attention and focus. They will thrive – and so will your business.

Media

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Books & Research

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Recommendations

“The audience loved her. Lots of good tweets about her talk, and relevance to our field”

— Germaine Schaefer, Heart Rhythm Society

Praise for “Reclaiming Conversation”

“Turkle is by no means antitechnology. But after a career examining relations between people and computers, she blends her description with advocacy. She presents a powerful case that a new communication revolution is degrading the quality of human relationships.”

— Jacob Weisberg, The New York Review of Books

“Turkle deftly explores and explains the good and bad of this ‘flight from conversation’ while encouraging parents, teachers and bosses to champion conversation, use technology more intentionally and serve as role models.”

— Success, A Best Book of 2015

Reclaiming Conversation reminds readers what’s at stake when devices win over face-to-face conversation, and that it’s not too late to conquer those bad habits.”

Seattle Times

“Turkle’s witty, well-written book offers much to ponder…. This is the season of polls and sound bites, of Facebook updates extolling the perceived virtues or revealing the assumed villainy of opinions. Talk is cheap, but conversation is priceless.”

— Boston Globe

“Drawing from hundreds of interviews, [Turkle] makes a convincing case that our unfettered ability to make digital connections is leading to a decline in actual conversation—between friends and between lovers, in classrooms and in places of work, even in the public sphere. In having fewer meaningful conversations each day, Turkle argues, we’re losing the skills that made them possible to begin with—the ability to focus deeply, think things through, read emotions, and empathize with others.”

— The American Scholar

 “This is a persuasive and intimate book, one that explores the minutiae of human relationships. Turkle uses our experiences to shame us, showing how, phones in hand, we turn away from our children, friends and co-workers, even from ourselves.”

— Washington Post

Reclaiming Conversation is best appreciated as a sophisticated self-help book. It makes a compelling case that children develop better, students learn better, and employees perform better when their monitors set good examples and carve our spaces for face-to-face interactions.”

Jonathan Franzen, The New York Times Book Review

“Nobody has thought longer or more profoundly than Sherry Turkle about how our brave new world of social media affects the way we confront each other and ourselves.  Hers is a voice–erudite and empathic, practical and impassioned–that needs to be heeded.”

— Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. 

“This book makes a winning case for conversation, at the family dinner table or in the office, as the ‘talking cure’ for societal and emotional ills.”

— Publishers Weekly
 

“A timely wake-up call urging us to cherish the intimacy of direct, unscripted communication.”

Kirkus

 “’Only connect!’ wrote E. M. Forster in 1910. In this wise and incisive book, Sherry Turkle offers a timely revision: ‘Only converse!'”

Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows and The Glass Cage

“Smartphones are the new sugar and fat: They are so potent they can undo us if we don’t limit them. Sherry Turkle introduces a lifesaving principle for the twenty-first century: face-to-face conversation first. This heuristic really works; your life, your family life, your work life will all be better. Turkle offers a thousand beautifully written arguments for why you should lift your eyes up from the screen.”

— Kevin Kelly, senior maverick for Wired; author of What Technology Wants

“Digital media were supposed to turn us from passive viewers to interactive participants, but Turkle reveals how genuine human interaction may be the real casualty of supposedly social technologies. Without conversation, there is no syntax, no literacy, no genuine collaboration, no empathy, no civilization. With courage and compassion, Turkle shows how the true promise of social media would be to reacquaint us with the lost of art making meaning together.”

Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock

“To reclaim conversation is to reclaim our humanity.  We all know it at some level, and yet how satisfying to find our hunch proved right:  Turkle shows us that to love well, learn well, work well, and be well, we must protect a vital piece of ourselves, and can.   What an important conversation about conversation this is.”

Gish Jen, author of Typical American and Mona in the Promised Land

“Like the air we breathe, or the water we drink, most of us take face-to-face conversations for granted.  In this  brilliant and incisive book, Sherry Turkle explains the power of conversation, its fragility at present, the consequences of its loss, and how it can be  preserved and reinvigorated.”

Howard Gardner, John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Sherry Turkle’s unrivalled expertise in how people interact with devices, coupled with her deep empathy for people struggling to find their identity, shine through on every absorbing and illuminating page of Reclaiming Conversation. We can start remembering how to talk to one another by talking about this timely book.”

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Harvard Business School professor and author of MOVE and Confidence

“It is a rare event when a single book presents both  a compelling indictment of one of the more insidious effects of technology on our culture and an immediate, elegantly simple antidote—all the while  providing a stirring apologia for what is most important about language’s power to move us, to expand our thoughts, and to deepen our relationship to each other. Once again, Sherry Turkle seeks to preserve human qualities that are eroding while we are always “elsewhere”: empathy, generativity, and mentoring our young.”

Maryanne Wolf, John DiBiaggio Professor of Citizenship and Public Service,  Tufts University

“In a time in which the ways we communicate and connect are constantly changing, and not always for the better, Sherry Turkle provides a much needed voice of caution and reason to help explain what the f*** is going on.”

Aziz Ansari, author of Modern Romance

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Turkle, Sherry

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