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Dr. Jonnie Penn is a historian of information technology, broadcaster, 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 Research Fellow at St. Edmunds College 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, data governance, and sustainable 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. His current work explores the relationship between notions of efficiency and authority in the history and philosophy of computer science, artificial intelligence and management science. He is interested in critical responses to systems theory, complex science, and conventional data-governance strategies, as well as questions of epistemic justice, gender, and race. Jonnie is a Research Associate in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology Department at the University of Cambridge, where he leads a Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures entitled "Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power." In this project, and as Project Development Lead of the Histories of AI track at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, he connects a network of scholars exploring the social, political, and economic ramifications of intelligent systems. Jonnie has co-chaired workshops at leading academic conferences, including NIPS, ICML, and ICLR. He holds degrees from the University of Cambridge (First Class Honours) 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