Tristan Harris

Tristan Harris (/trɪsˈtɑːn/) is an American technology ethicist. He is the president and co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology.[2][3]

Tristan Harris
Tristan Harris crop.jpg
Harris at the Collision Conference in 2018 at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans
Born1983/1984 (age 37–38)[1]
Alma materStanford University

Early in his career, Harris worked as a design ethicist at Google.[4] He received his baccalaureate and master's degree from Stanford University, where he studied the ethics of human persuasion.[5]

Early life and educationEdit

Harris was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied computer science at Stanford University while interning at Apple Inc. He then embarked on a master's degree at Stanford with a focus on Human–Computer Interaction, where he took a class from B. J. Fogg, who runs the Persuasive Technology Lab, before dropping out.[6][1] Harris was classmates with one of Instagram's founders, Kevin Systrom, and helped create a demo app with the other founder, Mike Krieger.[7]


In 2007, Harris launched a startup called Apture.[7][8][9] Google acquired Apture in 2011, and Harris ended up working on Google Inbox.[1]

In February 2013, while working at Google, Harris authored a presentation titled “A Call to Minimize Distraction & Respect Users’ Attention”, which he shared with coworkers. In that presentation, he suggested that Google, Apple and Facebook should "feel an enormous responsibility" to make sure humanity doesn't spend its days buried in a smartphone.[10] 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.[10][11] Harris holds several patents from his previous work at Apple, Wikia, Apture, and Google.[12]

Harris left Google in December 2015 to co-found the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization Time Well Spent, later called the Center for Humane Technology.[1][13] Through the Center, Harris hoped to mobilize support for alternative technologies built around core values of helping people spend time well, instead of demanding more of it. He asserted that human minds can be hijacked and the choices they make are not as free as they think they are.[14] The Atlantic stated in their November 2016 issue that "Harris is the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience."[1]

At the Center, Harris advocated for understanding and minimizing the negative impacts of digital technologies. In 2017, he spoke on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper about the addictive design of smartphone apps.[15] At a 2019 presentation in San Francisco, he coined the phrase "human downgrading" to describe an interconnected system of mutually reinforcing harms—addiction, distraction, isolation, polarization, fake news—that weakens human capacity, in order to capture human attention.[16]

Harris and other Center members were interviewed for the film The Social Dilemma, distributed by Netflix. In it he says, "Never before in history have 50 designers made decisions that would have an impact on two billion people"[17][18] about the harms of social media.[19][20][21]

In 2021, Harris was named to the TIME 100 Next list.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bosker, Bianca. "What Will Break People's Addictions to Their Phones?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  2. ^ "Center for Humane Technology: Most Innovative Company | Fast Company". Fast Company. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  3. ^ "Tech workers can help to police their employers". Financial Times. Retrieved 2018-11-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ Girish, Devika (2020-09-09). "'The Social Dilemma' Review: Unplug and Run". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
  5. ^ "When Tech Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  6. ^ "The Magic of Persuasive Design". Stanford eCorner. Retrieved 2021-04-13.
  7. ^ a b "Apture Highlights Brings Instantaneous Search To Any Web Page". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  8. ^ "Google Buys Contextual Rich News Browsing Startup Apture To Beef Up Chrome". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  9. ^ Harris, Tristan (2018-11-17). "Tristan Harris on LinkedIn". LinkedIn.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Patents by Inventor Tristan Harris". Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  13. ^ "Google's new focus on well-being started five years ago with this presentation". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-11-17.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Cooper, Anderson (2017-04-09). "What is "brain hacking"? Tech insiders on why you should care". 60 Minutes.
  16. ^ "Tech is Downgrading Humans". Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  17. ^ Girish, Devika (2020-09-09). "'The Social Dilemma' Review: Unplug and Run". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  18. ^ "Tristan Harris – Congressional Hearing". January 8, 2020.
  19. ^ Collins, Terry (April 27, 2021). "'We're trying to solve a problem here': Senate takes Facebook, YouTube, Twitter to task over 'addictive' algorithms". USA Today.
  20. ^ Neidig, Harper (June 25, 2019). "Senators spar with Google exec over use of 'persuasive technology'". The Hill.
  21. ^ Hinchliffe, Tim (April 27, 2021). "Big tech's addictive business model makes us 'attention vampires,' distracts from urgent threats like China: 'Social Dilemma' star testifies". The Sociable.
  22. ^ "Tristan Harris". 2021 TIME 100 Next. 2021.

External linksEdit