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William Powers  

Best-Selling Author of Hamlet's BlackBerry

William Powers was born in Arizona and grew up in Rhode Island. He graduated from Harvard University magna cum laude with a degree in U. S. history and literature, and did graduate study in Spain as a Rotary International Scholar. He began his career as a U.S. Senate staff member working on foreign relations, intelligence and military affairs.

He then joined The Washington Post, working initially for Bob Woodward in the investigative unit. He did reporting and research for The Commanders, Woodwards international bestseller about the first Gulf War.

As a Post staff writer and columnist in the 1990s, Powers covered business, media, politics, popular culture and ideas. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times and many other publications. He created The New Republics first media column, and for ten years wrote an influential column on the intersection of media and politics for National Journal.

He has been featured in dozens of major news outlets, including interviews with Katie Couric, NPR, Good Morning America, PBS NewsHour, CNBC and the BBC, and coverage in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Wired and The Guardian.

Powers has been a speaker at such high-profile venues as South By Southwest, the Aspen Festival of Ideas, Google and Facebook. Reporting on one of his dynamic presentations, The New York Times called him an apostle of the next wave of digital thinking.

He is the author of The New York Times best seller, Hamlets BlackBerry. Widely praised for its insights on the digital future, the book grew out of research he did as a fellow at Harvards Shorenstein Center. It has been selected as the Common Read for 2011-2012 at a number of U.S. colleges and universities, and is being translated into many foreign languages.

Powers is a two-time winner of the National Press Clubs Rowse Award for best American media commentary. He has been a resident fellow at the MacDowell Colony, and studied the technology culture of Japan on a fellowship from the Japan Society of New York.

He has given keynote talks at conferences such as South by Southwest and the Aspen Ideas Festival, as well as numerous universities and other organizations. He's moderated conversations for the Aspen Institute’s Socrates program in Spain, Ukraine, Mexico and Japan, as well as the U.S.

In 2014, he joined the MIT Media Lab as a research scientist. He and his lab colleagues are working to ensure that artificial intelligence reflects human values and enables social progress.

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, author Martha Sherrill, and their son.

Speech Topics

Einsteins Cubicle: Where Genius Happens & Why

Information is everywhere, and in an effort to stay abreast of it all, were constantly connecting. But the most important connections--the original insights and eureka moments that change the world--tend to happen in the space between the countless tasks that fill up our daily lives. It can happen when youre walking along a city street, taking a shower or just driving down the highway. William Powers calls them Gaps, and he shows why theyre essential to the kind of thinking often called genius. Theres genius in all of us and in a busy, hyper-connected world the trick is locating those magical spaces where it can bloom. Powers shares inspiring stories of geniuses past and present who found gaps in the most unlikely places and how we can do the same.

  • What the latest scientific research reveals about the sources of inspiration;

  • How great minds such as Einstein carved out gaps within their own hectic, busy lives;

  • The ways digital tools are changing the landscape of creativity, and where cutting-edge thinkers and organizations are finding brand new gaps.

Hamlets BlackBerry: The Next Tech Revolution

Over the last two decades, the digital revolution has transformed our lives. Were connected as never before, and a whole new world of resources is at our fingertips. How do you harness these riches to build better organizations, communities, schools and families? This might seem like uncharted territory, but it isnt. Drawing on over 2,000 years of human innovation and progress, Powers shows that every tech age brings the same mix of opportunities and challenges were facing right now. And forward-thinking people always recognize that the key to success isnt the technology but how you use it. Our gadgets should be working for us, not vice versa, and the next wave of innovation will be about making sure they do. In fact, its already begun.

In this lively presentation, Powers reveals:

  • Why great leaders and creatives are never passive about technology,

  • Why Shakespeare embraced the BlackBerry of his time and how Ben Franklin would have used Twitter,

  • How the next tech revolution will radically reshape the digital experience, so it fosters depth and imagination,

  • Which innovative organizations are leading the way, and what we can learn from them.

Free the Mind: Unleashing the Creative Power of New Technologies

Best-selling author William Powers combines the neuroscientific and behavioral breakthroughs of the last several decades with his own trailblazing research to show why the current approach to social networking and other new technologies is deeply flawed. Conventional wisdom says the more connected you are 24/7 to digital screens--and the more tasks youre performing simultaneously--the better. Yet a growing body of evidence shows that, as we strive to stay tethered to our gadgets, were working less efficiently and thinking less creatively. And paying a high price in lost productivity: A typical midsized American company with 1,000 employees is now losing $10 million a year to overload--distracted workers trying to juggle too many digital tasks at once.

In this provocative, story-driven presentation, Powers:

  • Shows were repeating the mistakes of the technology past, by viewing the devices as the source of creativity;

  • Explains what constant multi-tasking does to the brain;

  • Using real-life examples, demonstrates how a more balanced, targeted approach to technology restores focus and sparks truly innovative thinking.


William Powers: Hamlet's BlackBerry
Making the most of our digital technologies might mean using them less. That’s one of the tips for surviving our internet-saturated lives in a new book called “Hamlet's BlackBerry”.
William Powers, best-selling author of 'Hamlet's Blackberry,' to speak at Bucknell
Powers is the author of Hamlet's Blackberry, a New York Times best seller that explores our growing dependence on digital devices.

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