Harris on the center stage during day two of Collision Conf 2018 at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans
Tristan Harris (//) is the director and a co-founder of The Center for Humane Technology, and co-founder of the Time Well Spent movement. Earlier, he worked as a design ethicist at Google, where he studied ethics of human persuasion.
He was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by a single mother employed as an advocate for injured workers. 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.
In 2007, Harris dropped out of the master's program at Stanford. He launched a startup called Apture, which was focused on bringing instantaneous search to content on the web. Google acquired Harris’ company Apture in 2011 and he ended up working on Google Inbox.
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. 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. Harris holds several patents from his previous work at Apple, Wikia, Apture, and Google.
Harris left Google in December 2015 to focus on a nonprofit called Time Well Spent, which he co-founded. Through the Time Well Spent movement, 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 is convinced that all human minds can be hijacked and the choices they make are not as free as they think they are. The Atlantic stated in their November 2016 issue that “Harris is the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience.”
On January 12, 2018, Mark Zuckerberg published a Facebook post which starts with: “One of our big focus areas for 2018 is making sure the time we all spend on Facebook is time well spent.” A few weeks after Zuckerberg's post, The Verge published an article that's titled “‘Time well spent’ is shaping up to be tech's next big debate”. Wired writes that Harris “(...) has played a substantial role in making ‘time well spent’ perhaps the most-debated phrase in Silicon Valley in 2018.”
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