I’m a writer, journalist and technologist. I spent a large part of my early career writing about media for major news outlets including The Washington Post.
I wrote the book Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age (HarperCollins, 2010), which offered constructive philosophical solutions to some of the human downsides of the digital age. A New York Times bestseller, it has been published in many countries and languages. The book launched me on a journey into the technology world.
I grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Harvard with a degree in history and literature. I did graduate study in Spain, then moved to Washington, DC, where I was a U.S. Senate aide working on foreign relations, intelligence and military affairs.
Next I joined The Washington Post, initially as researcher for Bob Woodward in the investigative unit. As a Post staff writer, I covered business, media, politics and ideas. My writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times and many other publications. I’m a two-time winner of the National Press Club’s Rowse Award for media criticism.
I have given keynote talks at conferences such as South by Southwest and the Aspen Ideas Festival, as well as numerous universities and other organizations. I’ve moderated conversations for the Aspen Institute’s Socrates program in the US and other countries. I have been a media fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center and a resident fellow at the MacDowell Colony. I studied the culture of reading in Japan on a fellowship from the Japan Society, and had a Rotary International graduate scholarship.
In 2014, I joined the MIT Media Lab as a research scientist and spent the next five years on research projects aiming to ensure that artificial intelligence reflects human values and enables social progress. In 2019, I left MIT to launch a startup based on one of those projects. I’m also Visiting Scholar for Humanistic Technologies at the Center for Humans and Machines, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin.
Home is Massachusetts, where I live with my wife, writer Martha Sherrill, and our son, Will.