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Videos

  • Jonathan Zittrain | The Internet is Rotting
    Jonathan Zittrain | The Internet is Rotting
  • Tanner Lecture 2020 – Between Suffocation and Abdication: Three Eras of Governing Digital Platforms
    Tanner Lecture 2020 – Between Suffocation and Abdication: Three Eras of Governing Digital Platforms
  • Cybersecurity: How Far Up the Creek Are We?
    Cybersecurity: How Far Up the Creek Are We?
  • Zittrain and Zuckerberg discuss encryption, ‘information fiduciaries’ and targeted advertisements
    Zittrain and Zuckerberg discuss encryption, ‘information fiduciaries’ and targeted advertisements
  • Jonathan Zittrain: Openness and Oversight of Artificial Intelligence
    Jonathan Zittrain: Openness and Oversight of Artificial Intelligence
  • Lecture 2: With Great Power Comes Great Ignorance: What’s Wrong When Machine Learning Gets It Right
    Lecture 2: With Great Power Comes Great Ignorance: What’s Wrong When Machine Learning Gets It Right
  • Jonathan Zittrain: The Pursuit of Knowledge in the Digital Age
    Jonathan Zittrain: The Pursuit of Knowledge in the Digital Age
  • Jonathan Zittrain: The Leadership Challenges of Artificial Intelligence
    Jonathan Zittrain: The Leadership Challenges of Artificial Intelligence
  • Automation and Algorithms in the Digital Age | Jonathan Zittrain
    Automation and Algorithms in the Digital Age | Jonathan Zittrain
  • Covid State of Play: Jonathan Zittrain, Margaret Bourdeaux, Beth Cameron, and KJ Seung
    Covid State of Play: Jonathan Zittrain, Margaret Bourdeaux, Beth Cameron, and KJ Seung
  • HLS in the World | National Security, Privacy, and the Rule of Law
    HLS in the World | National Security, Privacy, and the Rule of Law
  • Jonathan Zittrain on Encryption, AI, Cybersecurity, Privacy and the Future of Work
    Jonathan Zittrain on Encryption, AI, Cybersecurity, Privacy and the Future of Work
  • Jonathan Zittrain on Big Data
    Jonathan Zittrain on Big Data
  • Peter Zenger Lecture with Jonathan Zittrain
    Peter Zenger Lecture with Jonathan Zittrain
  • Jonathan Zittrain on Technology for the Social Good
    Jonathan Zittrain on Technology for the Social Good
  • OII Bellwether Lecture: What Are We Doing Here? The Future of Academia
    OII Bellwether Lecture: What Are We Doing Here? The Future of Academia
  • [Virtual] Challenges in Digital Technology Then and Now
    [Virtual] Challenges in Digital Technology Then and Now
  • Andrew Keen & Jonathan Zittrain: The Future of Work
    Andrew Keen & Jonathan Zittrain: The Future of Work
  • Is Blockchain Privacy's Best Friend? | Privacy In The Age Of The Algorithm 6/7 | Cognizant
    Is Blockchain Privacy's Best Friend? | Privacy In The Age Of The Algorithm 6/7 | Cognizant
  • Private Social Media Data in the Public Interest: What’s Next?
    Private Social Media Data in the Public Interest: What’s Next?
  • 7: Jonathan Zittrain: Intellectual Debt: What's Wrong When Machine Learning Gets It Right
    7: Jonathan Zittrain: Intellectual Debt: What's Wrong When Machine Learning Gets It Right

Learn More About Jonathan Zittrain

How are new technologies transforming our jobs, companies and relationships? Artificial intelligence is now a household term, and while we can’t physically see it, we know it’s hidden inside our mobile phones, automobiles and wearable devices, just to name a few. To better map and understand the changes that affect the core of society’s relationships, organizations look to Harvard’s Professor Jonathan Zittrain.

Few are as accomplished, esteemed and engaging as Zittrain. An expert on AI, cybersecurity and the future of work, he is a dynamic speaker as well as a master moderator of panels of some of the greatest minds of our age. Zittrain addresses a key question of the modern era: in an age of rapid technological transformation, how do we build and restore trust and develop new social, economic, regulatory and ethical frameworks and strategies to address challenges we may have never before faced? He also co-chairs the Berkman Klein Center’s Digital Pandemic Response Practice, an interdisciplinary program that works with public and private decision makers on urgent questions and policy decisions around the use of digital tools and data in order to help attenuate the Covid-19 pandemic. His compelling and thought-provoking ideas are invaluable to leaders trying to make sense of a world changing faster than we can keep pace.

A professor of computer science, law and policy at Harvard with an exceptional ability to elevate any audience’s thinking – typically with quick wit – Zittrain has spent his career at the forefront of cutting-edge change. An early researcher in AI, a pioneer in the field of cyberspace and cyberlaw, and a contributor to multiple international internet and society research organizations, he wields a nuanced understanding of AI and its complex regulatory and social frameworks gained by a lifetime spent grappling with these very topics. Most recently, he has been a leading voice defining and clarifying pressing issues related to the ethics of data use by digital platforms like Facebook; how digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home should be designed; the implications of self-driving cars; and the future of work in a world dominated by AI and automation. Zittrain targets the “big picture” of technological change and encourages companies in the tech industry and elsewhere to participate in the dialogue. In doing so, they develop products, platforms and business models to avoid missteps which can derail public support. He also offers guidance for governments and policymakers on devising the regulatory structures needed to let technology thrive while accounting for public interest.

Known for his humor as well as his brilliance, and consistently rated as one of the top speakers and presenters at important and influential gatherings, Zittrain delivers captivating keynotes and moderates lively, stimulating debates. A long-time advisor for governments and international businesses, he has also served on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American and is a former Trustee of the Internet Society. For more than fifteen years he has moderated sessions and debates between world leaders at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was named a Young Global Leader and chaired the Global Agenda Council on the Future of the Internet. In 2017, Zittrain was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Named a “Top 100 Global Thinker,” he is a founding director of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Zittrain established the Assembly Program, a three-track fellowship program that convenes cohorts of experts, professionals, and students to develop solutions to complex technology policy issues, including those in cybersecurity, AI, and online disinformation. He also championed the development of the Caselaw Access Project, which has expanded free public access to U.S. case law.

Jonathan Zittrain is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Jonathan Zittrain was last modified: November 7th, 2022 by Justin Louis

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Will the Metaverse Be the Holy Grail or a Holy Fail?

Facebook – now Meta – is among the latest companies convinced not only that there’s money to be made in virtual worlds, but that humanity’s future may largely lie there. Whether conceived in textual gaming, reconceived in role-playing environments like Second Life, or now more fully realized in multimedia networks and advanced hardware that create fully immersive experiences, what challenges lie ahead for a society that has already seen the harm such technologies can inflict? Acknowledging that organizations will continue to develop products that push people farther into online environments and away from reality, Jonathan Zittrain – Professor of Law and Computer Science at Harvard University and a leading voice for the ethics of data use – reminds us of the lessons learned from past attempts to populate a metaverse.  He gives participants a preview of how this next phase will likely impact such issues as privacy, property, speech and governance, explores related ethical questions, and recommends ways organizations can do better. By being more conscious about how they develop and deploy technologies and who they target, organizational leaders and teams can play a critical role in building the kind of future they want for themselves and their posterity.

NFTs and the Value of Owning the Unownable

“Non-fungible tokens” (NFTs) broke into general awareness through their eye-popping valuations — with people naturally wondering not only who would buy them, but what they are. Harvard Professor Jonathan Zittrain has been researching the minor miracles  and major idiosyncracies of the digital era since the Internet first went mainstream. In this talk, he explains what “unowned” technologies like cryptocurrency, the web, and the Internet itself are, and why the very fact that no one readily controls them can lend them special value. But how to distinguish between their genius and their madness? For more insight, see Zittrain’s Twitter thread on the subject.

Restoring Trust in the Digital Age

The economy may be doing well, but trust in digital technology – and the companies devising it – is hard to find. The optimism associated with Silicon Valley, including about the prospects of its products bettering the world, has floundered amidst worries about privacy, misinformation and inclusion. What previously was seen as helping our autonomy and community – “Learn about any topic you want! Hail a car at any moment! Connect with long lost friends!” – now might appear to be confining them, in ways we can only barely discern, one scandal at a time. In this talk, Jonathan Zittrain will speak to what’s gone wrong; what parts of the trust deficit are specific to the technology and its makers, versus our societal institutions generally; and how we might get back on track.

Are You Ready For AI?

Artificial intelligence provokes both excitement and anxiety. Even as the world awaits the vast opportunities of AI, we are wary of the possible ways it can go wrong, and how it can undermine entire business models in the blink of an eye. Jonathan Zittrain, a scholar of the development of the internet, says that as AI becomes more advanced and more common, we must consider three questions:

  • How do we successfully embed AI in our technologies?
  • What AI breakthroughs are imminent and which ones are in the distant future?
  • What are the risks and benefits of deploying AI?

In this presentation, which can be tailored to different audiences and focus on specific subsets of the broader theme, Zittrain explores ways in which AI is already reshaping the world and how it might change in the future. Companies need to develop a deeper understanding of which aspects of AI will be most transformative and how they can respond; what they should embrace and what is merely a passing fad; and the reputational and ethical risks inherent in the technology, and how they can create a framework for containing or addressing them.

The Future of Work

Concern for the displacement of human jobs by AI is pervasive in social, cultural and political discourse. A combination of artificial intelligence, the rise of digital platforms and the “gig” economy has caused companies to struggle both with disruptive technology and having to compete with rivals who are able to reap greater profits with little overhead, while governments scramble to devise a new framework for an economy that is prosperous for some and insecure for many. Internet pioneer and new technology expert Jonathan Zittrain draws upon both his own research and his experience participating in the digital economy to help companies understand AI, automation and the long-term prospects for human employment. Zittrain argues that the focus should not be on preserving traditional jobs but on creating the best possible framework for companies and individuals to reap the rewards of platforms, AI and automation. In doing so, we can channel freed-up human activity into creative, productive and self-fulfilling tasks. In the future, says Zittrain, humanity can increase productive creativity while outsourcing many routine functions to AI. But we do have to ensure in the present that this future of work will help rather than harm most people.

How Tech Companies Can (And Should) Protect Our Privacy

Over the past decade, our lives have been transformed by social media. Suddenly, we could connect, share information and network with others, all for free. Except it wasn’t free. Instead of paying money, we were exchanging our personal data – and compromising our own cybersecurity – for the ability to easily share online. This has been increasingly problematic as consumers realize – thanks to dramatic scandals and data breaches – how much their own privacy and security have been compromised.

Companies which have access to our information, says Zittrain, should be held to the same standard as doctors, lawyers and other professionals to whom similarly sensitive details about our personal lives are available. Rather than tech companies changing (or being forced to change) their business models wholesale, they can instead embrace a “fiduciary” responsibility to their customers. As threats become more extensive and malicious, digital firms’ protection of our data will become a matter of basic cybersecurity in addition to one of personal privacy, and penalties for not guaranteeing safety will be severe. This presentation is geared toward companies who want to leave a legacy of having changed the world for the better and succeeded financially, as well as the policymakers who are weighing options to deal with those businesses who do not have the desire or ability to embrace change.

Cyber Threats and Terrorism: Are We Secure?

With massive data breaches commonplace and data integrity in doubt, cyber security continues to be a vital policy and legal issue. The challenges are real and plentiful: while the openness of PCs and the Internet has spawned an abundance of connectivity and creativity, it has also brought a growing scourge of spam, viruses, identity theft and cyber-terrorism. But in the face of such threats, the answer is not a move toward simpler, locked-down devices in exchange for security, Jonathan Zittrain argues. He discusses the false starts in understanding the simultaneously underappreciated and overhyped fields of cybersecurity and cyber warfare, and offers a view on where the deepest problems lie – and how to address them. Should we be afraid? Are we prepared? In this presentation, Zittrain will explore:

  • Cyber Terrorism and Technology Infrastructure Protection: Why is the government so deeply concerned about it, while proposing only a “partnership” to deal with it?
  • Civil Liberties: Zittrain paints a picture of the surveillance society to come and highlights the ethical implications.
  • The Cantonized Internet: Get ready for filters left and right—ideological, mercenary, governmental, and ultimately our own, as the idea of a “generally accessible” web site available on “the” Internet recedes into the past.
  • Why the Internet of Things is making cybersecurity that much more difficult

The Art of Moderating

Organizations go to great lengths to assemble people in the same place at the same time for a conference. And they’ll look to formats other than speeches to liven up the course of a day. Unfortunately, panel discussions can often underwhelm: some moderators’ preparation entails producing a list of questions asked one after the other, typically to each one of the panelists answering in turn. Later questions aren’t adapted in light of the answers to earlier ones.

Jonathan Zittrain moderates panels differently. He prepares in a way that allows an organic, dynamic conversation to flow – challenging panelists to revisit topics they thought they knew cold, seeing issues in new ways – and drawing in audience members throughout the session, rather than as a brief Q&A at the end. There’s no easy rulebook for this kind of moderation, and the tightwire it represents is a big part of its appeal. Jonathan Zittrain walks it – and leads others to walk it – with geniality, curiosity, incisiveness and shared humility about what we don’t know as much as what we do.

Zittrain is also able to work with organizations to design a Socratic Dialogue: a panel of as many as ten people asked to respond to a crisp, unfolding hypothetical scenario from the vantage point of their respective roles. Part simulation, part law school-styled class, a Socratic Dialogue helps illuminate how people and organizations make decisions, and how they think through complicated questions, including ones of ethics and values, under pressure. Such panels can be a highlight of a conference.

Internet Entropy

June 21, 2021

“Jonathan was superb. We have never had such a high quality series of executives sharing meaningful insights together in one room like that before in our 9+ year history of doing this. Definitely a format we intend to replicate in other events going forward.”

Michael Alcock, Microsoft

“These days, it’s hard to be surprised/amazed about new technologies or disruptions that might come true in the near future, but Jonathan’s speech gave me a whole perspective about things I wasn’t even aware of. It’s not only what he says – which is amazing and truly interesting, it’s how he communicates.”

Romulo Rejon, Telefonica

“The highlight was hearing a keynote from Jonathan Zittrain on 'The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It.' He was so entertaining and informative. If you ever have a chance to hear him, take it. We shouldn’t believe that the Net will always be what we have now, plus more. Between aggressive government regulators, technology 'advances,' cautious administrators and political pressure groups, we could end up with less, not more, in the future.”

Clint Allen, Corporate Directors Group

Awarded Young Global Leader of Tomorrow

World Economic Forum

“Excellent topic – Professor Zittrain was outstanding – and a relevant topic we should keep on our agenda.”

Foreign Policy, November 2012

“Jonathan Zittrain is the ultimate law-tech-policy triple-threat. He teaches internet law at Harvard Law School and at the Kennedy School, is professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and faculty co-director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. He’s done interesting work on the possibilities and implications of crowdsourcing, and wrote a cautionary tale about risks of internet capture and lockdown called 'The Future of the Internet–and How to Stop It.' Technology advances quickly, and so do the legal frameworks we use to understand it. But Jonathan seems to be living in the future and explaining it to us in the present. Which is cool.”

Recognized by Fastcase 50, 2011