|The Good Ancestor, Empathy, The Wonderbox, Carpe Diem Regained, and How to Find Fulfilling Work|
Roman Krznaric is an Australian-born public philosopher, whose books have focused on the power of ideas to change society and have been published in over 20 languages. He was named by The Observer as one of Britain’s leading popular philosophers. He is the founder of the world’s first Empathy Museum, Research Fellow of the Long Now Foundation and member of the Club of Rome.
Education and Early Career
Krznaric was born in Sydney, Australia and attended secondary school in Hong Kong. After studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Pembroke College, Oxford University, he completed a Masters in Latin American Politics at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of London, then a PhD in the Department of Government at the University of Essex. His doctoral thesis explored the political, social and economic thought of Guatemala’s oligarchy.
Krznaric did human rights work with indigenous refugees in Guatemala, then taught politics and sociology at Essex University, the University of Cambridge and City University, London. After leaving academia, he was Project Director at The Oxford Muse, a cultural organisation established by the historian Theodore Zeldin to create conversations across social divides. Krznaric and Zeldin co-edited two books, Guide to an Unknown City (2003) and Guide to an Unknown University (2006).
In 2008, he was one of the founding faculty members of The School of Life in London, where he designed and taught courses on work, politics and love until 2012. Since then he has dedicated himself full-time to writing.
- The Good Ancestor (2020)
Like his book Empathy, Krznaric’s The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short-Term World, takes a key contemporary idea – in this case long-term thinking – and unpacks its intellectual history, conceptual underpinnings and practical applications. Krznaric argues that humankind, especially in the wealthy countries of the Global North, has 'colonised the future', treating it as a place where we dump ecological degradation and technological risk. The book reveals six ways we can become better long-term thinkers to help tackle issues ranging from the climate crisis and the risks of artificial intelligence to planning for the next pandemic on the horizon and confronting racial injustice that gets passed on from generation to generation. The book has had widespread public impact, including being the basis for legal rulings on intergenerational rights and climate justice. Its core ideas have also been explored in Krznaric’s TED talk, and in the documentary Time Rebels, made for Dutch public television.
- Carpe Diem Regained (2017)
In Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day, Krznaric reveals how the ancient ideal carpe diem, originally popularised by the Roman poet Horace, has been hijacked today by forces such as consumer culture, social media and the mindfulness industry. Krznaric has described the book as an attempt to rewrite existentialism for the twenty-first century. Krznaric emphasises how an apparently individualistic ideal such as seizing the day also has a collective potential to become a force for socio-political transformation, suggesting that tackling issues such as the global ecological crisis requires a ‘carpamus diem’ (‘let’s seize the day together’) mentality.
- Empathy (2014)
Krznaric’s book Empathy: Why It Matters and How to Get It (originally titled Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution), takes the long-established psychological concept of empathy and reveals how it can be a force for social and political transformation, drawing on examples ranging from the rise of the movement against slavery and the slave trade in Britain in the late eighteenth century to contemporary grass-roots peace building projects in the Middle East.
In the book, Krznaric draws a distinction between affective empathy (empathy as a shared emotional response) and cognitive empathy (empathy as the capacity to step into the shoes of others and understand their worldview), arguing that the latter has a particularly important role to play in social change. This theme was explored in his RSA Animate video, The Power of Outrospection.
The book inspired Krznaric’s creation of the Empathy Museum, an international arts organisation, and the digital Empathy Library. Krznaric is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading thinkers about empathy.
- The Wonderbox (2011)
The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live (published in the US as How Should We Live?) explores what history can teach us about tackling the challenges of personal life: What can we learn about love from the Ancient Greeks? What might the Renaissance teach us about confronting death? How has our approach to work, time and consumerism transformed since the industrial revolution?  The book was inspired by Goethe’s dictum, 'He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth'.
- How to Find Fulfilling Work (2012)
Krznaric’s book How to Find Fulfilling Work extols the virtues of being a “wide achiever” rather than a “high achiever,” arguing that becoming a generalist is a key skill for navigating today’s uncertain and insecure workplace.
- The First Beautiful Game (2006)
He is also the author of The First Beautiful Game: Stories of Obsession in Real Tennis, a book that uses a combination of oral history and personal memoir to explore the medieval sport of real tennis. Krznaric is one of the world’s top amateur players of the sport.
- How Change Happens (2007)
In addition to academic articles on democratic governance and Latin American politics, Krznaric is the author of the Oxfam report How Change Happens: Interdisciplinary Perspectives for Human Development (2007) as well as reports on empathy and development issues for Friends of the Earth and the United Nations Development Programme.
Krznaric is married to the British economist Kate Raworth, author of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. They have boy-girl twins and live in the UK. He is a top ranked amateur player of real tennis.
- What The Rich Don't Tell The Poor: Conversations with Guatemalan Oligarchs (2022)
- The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long Term in a Short Term World (2020)
- Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day (2017)
- Empathy: Why It Matters and How to Get It (2014)
- How to Find Fulfilling Work (2012)
- The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live (2011)
- The First Beautiful Game: Stories of Obsession in Real Tennis (2006)
- Jameson, Julietta (26 May 2017). "Five places that made me: Roman Krznaric". Traveller. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- "Roman Krznaric biography". Penguin Random House. 28 November 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
- "The Good Ancestor by Roman Krznaric – review". The Guardian. 26 July 2020. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- "Episode 54: Kate Raworth and Roman Krznaric – review". 21 September 2021.
- Culp, Samantha. "The Library of Possible Futures". The Atlantic. ISSN 1072-7825. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- "'Are we being good ancestors?' should be the central question of our time". MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- ""How to Be a Good Ancestor"". TED talk.
- "Dutch documentary 'Time Rebels'".
- "How We Ruined Mindfulness". Time Magazine. 26 May 2017.
- "What It Really Means to Seize the Day". BBC Culture. 17 May 2017.
- ""Roman Krznaric: Empathy"". Google talks. 19 December 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- "The Power of Outrospection". Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- "Book Review: The Wonderbox by Roman Krznaric". The Guardian. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- "Interview: Secret to Happiness – I Want This Job for a Week". Salon. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
- " 'Real Tennis' May Be Obscure, but It Has Fans in Britain". The New York Times. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
- "How Change Happens: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Development". Oxford GB. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
- "Roman Krznaric – Writings". www.romankrznaric.com. Retrieved 20 December 2021.
- Shaftel, David (1 October 2015). "'Real Tennis' May Be Obscure, but It Has Fans in Britain (Published 2015)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
- Official website
.ted .com /talks /roman _krznaric _how _to _be _a _good _ancestor : How to Be a Good Ancestor – Roman Krznaric