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Jonnie Penn is a technologist, historian of science, and public speaker. He is an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School, a New York Times bestselling author, a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a Rausing, Williamson, and Lipton Trust doctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge. He’s held prior fellowships at the MIT Media Lab, Google, and the British National Academy of Writing. He writes and speaks widely about youth empowerment, the future of work, and the ethics of digital technologies.

As an expert speaker, Jonnie has presented research to the United Nations, European Parliament, UK House of Lords, and to various NGOs and corporations. He volunteers on the IEEE’s P7004 Working Group on a Standard for Child and Student Data Governance and on the IEEE’s Council on Extended Intelligence (CXI).

Jonnie is interested in the relationship between authority and the ideology of optimization. His research focuses on the history and philosophy of computer science, artificial intelligence, labour, management science, and bureaucracy. More broadly, he is interested in systems theory, complex science, data-governance, and questions of epistemic justice, gender, and race. His current research in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology Department at the University of Cambridge explores an alternative account of the canonical origin story of artificial intelligence in the twentieth century, this one reoriented around bureaucracy. As chair of the new AI: History project at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) at the University of Cambridge, Jonnie brings together a network of scholars whose work intersects with the social, political, and cultural histories of intelligent systems. Jonnie is co-chair of the 2018 AI for Social Good workshop at NIPS. He holds degrees from the University of Cambridge and McGill University.

As a teenager, Jonnie founded a grassroots project to ask, “What do you want to do before you die?” After the death of a friend, he and his brother, along with two friends, hit the road to accomplish a list of 100 things to do before you die and to help a stranger accomplish a dream each time they checked one off. The project snowballed to encompass an award winning documentary TV series, a speaking series on mental health, and a popular online student community. President Obama and Oprah Winfrey endorsed the project, which takes the name The Buried Life from a nineteenth century poem by Matthew Arnold about the struggle to find purpose in chaotic times.

Jonnie is on Twitter at @jonniepenn


CogX 2020

On Data Ecologies and Sacred Data

Jonnie Penn and Jasmine McNealy speak at CogX 2020

Jun 25, 2020
UNI Global Union

Connective Action: Digital Tools for Trade Unions

Report highlights tools that can boost union outreach to members

Aug 16, 2019
The Economist

AI thinks like a corporation—and that’s worrying

Artificial intelligence was born of organisational decision-making and state power; it needs human ethics

Nov 26, 2018