Tristan Harris

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Tristan Harris
Tristan Harris at Collision Conf 2018 (cropped).jpg
Harris at Collision Conf 2018 at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans
Alma materStanford University

Tristan Harris (/trɪsˈtɑːn/) is the president and a co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology.[1][2] Earlier, he worked as a design ethicist at Google.[3] He received his degrees from Stanford, where he studied ethics of human persuasion.[4]


He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by a single mother. Later on, he studied computer science at Stanford University while interning at Apple Inc., then embarked on a master's degree at Stanford, where he joined B. J. Fogg's Persuasive Technology Lab. Harris studied the psychology of behavior change.[5] Tristan was classmates with one of Instagram’s founders, Kevin Systrom, and helped create a demo app with the other founder, Mike Krieger.[6]

In 2007, Harris dropped out of the master's program at Stanford.[5] He launched a startup called Apture, which was focused on bringing instantaneous search to content on the web.[7][8] Google acquired Harris’s company Apture in 2011 and he ended up working on Google Inbox.[5]

Opinions on technology use[edit]

While working at Google in February 2013, Harris sent around a presentation to a handful of coworkers which was titled “A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention”. In that presentation, Harris suggested that Google, Apple and Facebook should “feel an enormous responsibility” to make sure humanity doesn't spend its days buried in a smartphone.[9] The 141-slide deck was eventually viewed by tens of thousands of Google employees and sparked conversations about the company's responsibilities long after he left the company.[9][10] Harris holds several patents from his previous work at Apple, Wikia, Apture, and Google.[11]

Harris left Google in December 2015 to focus on a nonprofit called Time Well Spent, which he co-founded.[5][12] Through Time Well Spent, Harris hoped to mobilize support for an alternative built around core values at tech corporations, chief of which is helping us spend our time well, instead of demanding more of it. Harris asserts that all human minds can be hijacked and the choices they make are not as free as they think they are. [13] The Atlantic stated in their November 2016 issue that “Harris is the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience.”[5]

He coined the phrase "human downgrading" to describe the interconnected system of mutually reinforcing harms – addiction, distraction, isolation, polarization, fake news – that weakens human capacity, caused by technology platforms with the extractive business model to capture human attention.[14]


  1. ^ "Center for Humane Technology: Most Innovative Company | Fast Company". Fast Company. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  2. ^ "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  3. ^ Girish, Devika (2020-09-09). "'The Social Dilemma' Review: Unplug and Run". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  4. ^ "When Tech Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  5. ^ a b c d e Bosker, Bianca. "What Will Break People's Addictions to Their Phones?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  6. ^ "Tech is Downgrading Humans".
  7. ^ "Google Buys Contextual Rich News Browsing Startup Apture To Beef Up Chrome". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  8. ^ Harris, Tristan (2018-11-17). "Tristan Harris on LinkedIn". LinkedIn.
  9. ^ a b Haselton, Todd (2018-05-10). "Google employee warned in 2013 about five psychological weaknesses that could be used to hook users". CNBC. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  10. ^ Newton, Casey (2018-05-10). "Google's new focus on well-being started five years ago with this presentation". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  11. ^ "The Problem". Center for Humane Technology. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  12. ^ "Google's new focus on well-being started five years ago with this presentation". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  13. ^ Lewis, Paul (2017-10-06). "'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  14. ^ "Tech is Downgrading Humans". Retrieved 16 August 2019.

External links[edit]