Author Archives: Ethan

#iftheygunnedmedown Six Years Later, and Just as Vital – an interview with activist C.J. Lawrence

My new book, Mistrust: Why Losing Faith In Institutions Provides the Tools to Transform Them, comes out from W.W. Norton this November. In it, I share the stories of dozens of activists who are finding new ways to make social … Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights, Media | Leave a comment

Next steps

Thrilled to be announcing a big next step: I will be joining the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this coming year, and launching a new research center. My friends at UMass have created a unique position for … Continue reading

Posted in Media Lab, Personal, UMass | 2 Comments

Digital Public Infrastructure… and a few words in defense of optimism

My friends at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia have just published a new paper from me on the topic of digital public infrastructures. This is an idea I started talking about in an article for the Columbia Journalism … Continue reading

Posted in ideas, Media, Personal | Leave a comment

Whose deaths matter? New research on Black Lives Matter and media attention

What influences do social movements like Black Lives Matter, MeToo or Occupy have on society as a whole? One hope movement leaders express is that a successful movement can change how we think and talk about key social issues. Champions … Continue reading

Posted in ideas | Comments Off on Whose deaths matter? New research on Black Lives Matter and media attention

On me, and the Media Lab

(Please be sure to read the addendum at the end of this post.) A week ago last Friday, I spoke to Joi Ito about the release of documents that accuse Media Lab co-founder Marvin Minsky of involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s … Continue reading

Posted in ideas | 2 Comments

Training the next generation of ethical techies

My friend Christian Sandvig, who directs the Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing at the University of Michigan, started an interesting thread on Twitter yesterday. It began: “I’m super suspicious of the “rush to postdocs” in academic #AI ethics/fairness. Where … Continue reading

Posted in ideas | 1 Comment

Philanthropy and the hand-off – what happens if government can’t scale social experiments?

My friend and (lucky for me) boss Joi Ito has an excellent essay in Wired which considers the challenges of measuring the impact of philanthropy. For Joi, one of the key problems is that social problems are complex, and the … Continue reading

Posted in ideas | 1 Comment

Beyond the Vast Wasteland: briefing Congresspeople for the Aspen Institute

I was privileged to speak to a gathering of Senators and Representatives who came to MIT for an Aspen Institute event in May, 2019 titled “Internet, Big Data and Algorithms: Threats to Privacy and Freedom, or Gateway to a New … Continue reading

Posted in ideas | Comments Off on Beyond the Vast Wasteland: briefing Congresspeople for the Aspen Institute

Thinking in Solid

“Why does Amazon ask me to review something the day it arrives?” Amy asks. “I usually don’t know if it’s any good for a couple of weeks. They should email you again a hundred days later.” We’re walking the dog … Continue reading

Posted in ideas | Comments Off on Thinking in Solid

Sir Tim versus Black Mirror

On a sunny summer morning in June, professor Jonathan Zittrain is hosting Sir Tim Berners-Lee in a Harvard Law School classroom. The audience is a smattering of visiting scholars at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and a … Continue reading

Posted in ideas | Comments Off on Sir Tim versus Black Mirror