Joshua Klein

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Joshua Klein in NYC
Joshua Klein shooting The Link in NYC.

Joshua Klein is a technologist who uses systems thinking to create alternative methods of succeeding in divergent fields. He is most widely known for his project designed to train crows to fetch lost change, but has also used this method to write two books (a science fiction novel[1] and a business book[2]), participate in several startups, work for the US Intelligence Community (via the ODNI), and speak at conferences such as Davos[3] and TED.[4]

Television[edit]

Klein's first television series, The Link, premiered on The National Geographic Channel on Friday May 25, 2012, at 7pm EST/PST, 6pm CST. The show is about the history of human innovation, tracing the connections between the world's greatest inventions in art, science, medicine, finance and more, from ancient times up to the present day. Each episode spans a dozen or so technologies, and traces how each one was dependent on the capabilities provided by the one before it. It is a modern version of Jame's Burke's documentary television series, Connections.

Books[edit]

Klein's first book, a cyberpunk novel called Roo'd (ISBN 1434844005), was released in 2007 under a Creative Commons Share-alike license. It was made available on the iPhone in one of the first ebook readers[5] for that platform, and later made available via Amazon.com.

In 2010 Hacking Work (ISBN 159184357X) was released; a business book focusing on how employees could break rules ("Hack") to empower themselves and their company. The book was featured in several business journals such as the Harvard Business Review[6] and resulted in a number of related guest posts on notable blogs such as Fast Company[7] and BoingBoing.net.[8]

Crows[edit]

In 2008 Klein displayed his thesis project at New York University's ITP[9] program. This thesis posited that synanthropic species (those that have adapted to living near or in human habitats) could be trained to contribute something useful through interaction with new systems as opposed to acting as parasites in a human environment. The demonstration of this was a device[10] which dispensed peanuts and coins in a series of steps designed to teach the crows to drop coins into a slot in exchange for a peanut. Klein later spoke about this project at the TED conference and referenced the concept of synanthropy in his Make Magazine article[11] on training your cat to use the toilet.

The authenticity of his thesis and claims made during a December 2008 interview with a New York Times[12] reporter (and, by implication, his TED talk) were called into question by the publication of a correction in the NY Times in April 2009.[13] In that correction the NY Times states that the experiments never succeeded in teaching the crows to drop the coins into the slot. Klein issued a response to this correction on his website, in which he claims the New York times have damaged the overall project.[14]

Hacking[edit]

Klein's speeches and articles frequently center on hacking as a theme, in which he reappropriates the term from its common misconception (as executing malicious computer attacks) to instead emphasize the unorthodox reworking of existing systems (systems thinking) for mutual benefit. This theme is elaborated on in his speeches to explain how he was able to achieve exploits such as publishing a book by giving it away for free, training crows to fetch coins, and reworking the employee/employer relationship.

References[edit]

External links[edit]