Disruptive technologies uproot culture, can precipitate wars and even topple empires. By this measure, human history has seen nothing like the Internet. Pioneers of the digital revolution examine the Internet’s brief but explosive history and reveal nascent projects that will shortly reinvent how we interact with technology—and each other. From social upheaval and ever-shifting privacy standards to self-driving cars and networked groceries, this eye-opening program provides a stunning glimpse of what’s around the corner.
John Donvan is a correspondent for ABC News, and host and moderator of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates, which are heard on public radio and by podcast. During his journalism career, in addition to anchoring such broadcasts as ABC’s Nightline, Donvan served as chief White House correspondent, and held multiyear postings in London, Moscow, Jerusalem, and Amman, Jordan. He is the winner of three Emmys and the Overseas Press Club Award. He is co-author of In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, The New York Times bestseller published in 2016 by Crown Books. He became interested in autism’s impact on families upon meeting his wife, the physician and medical school professor Ranit Mishori, who grew up in Israel with a brother profoundly affected by autism. Donvan also performs as a live storyteller with the group Story District. He has two children and lives in Washington, DC.
Vinton Cerf, a vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, is widely known as one of the founding fathers of the Internet. In the 1970s, Cerf co-designed the network’s architecture and the protocols it uses to communicate, and he has been instrumental in shaping its direction in the decades since. As a former vice president at MCI Communications, he led the development of the first commercial e-mail service to be connected to the Internet. From 2000 to 2007 he served as chairman of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the Internet’s growth and coordinates the addresses it uses. At Google, he focuses on identifying new technologies that will help build the next generation of Internet applications.
For their decades of work on developing the Internet, Cerf and his colleague Robert Kahn have together been awarded the U.S. National Medal of Technology, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Association for Computing Machinery’s Alan M. Turing Award, widely considered to be the “Nobel Prize for computing.” Cerf holds a Ph.D. in computer science from UCLA and honorary doctorate degrees from 19 other universities, and he has served on numerous panels advising the U.S. government on cybersecurity and technology issues.
Neil Gershenfeld leads a unique laboratory, the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT, that is breaking down boundaries between digital and physical worlds. Gershenfeld and his students have created computers that use nuclear spins in molecules and bubbles in fluids, built programmable materials and intelligent infrastructure, made machines that make machines and computerized virtuosic musical instruments. His work has been seen and used in the White House and the Museum of Modern Art, in Las Vegas shows and rural Indian villages. Named one of the top 100 public intellectuals by Foreign Policy magazine, Gershenfeld is the founder of a growing global network of more than 100 field fab labs that provide widespread access to prototype tools for personal fabrication in locations from Afghanistan to the Arctic Circle. He has a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell, was a junior fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, and was a technician at Bell Labs. He’s the author of numerous technical papers, patents and books, including Fab, When Things Start to Think, The Physics of Information Technology, and The Nature of Mathematical Modeling.
Elizabeth Stark is a visiting fellow at the Yale Information Society Project and a Lecturer in Computer Science at Yale University. She is an influential open internet advocate who was deeply involved in stopping SOPA and fostering online engagement in support of internet freedom. She started the “Ideas for a Better Internet” program at Stanford University, where she teaches at the intersection of computer science, law, and design. Stark is a cofounder of the Open Video Alliance, and a producer of the annual Open Video Conference, dedicated to promoting free expression and innovation in online video.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Stark founded the Harvard Free Culture Group and served on the board of directors of Students for Free Culture. While at Harvard, she researched extensively for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard on projects ranging from net censorship to crowdsourcing to digital copyright policy.
Stark has also worked to support diversity in technology and harness the power of the internet to rethink educational models. She has organized peer-based coding classes, led workshops on women in entrepreneurship, and serves as a mentor for the Thiel Fellowship.
Alex Wright is the Director of User Experience at The New York Times and the author of Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “a penetrating and highly entertaining meditation on our information age and its historical roots.” He is also a member of the graduate faculty at the School of Visual Arts’ MFA program in Interaction Design.
In addition to the Times, Wright’s writing has appeared in Salon.com, The Wilson Quarterly, Harvard Magazine, The Believer, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. He has also led research and design initiatives for IBM, Microsoft, The Long Now Foundation, Harvard University, the Internet Archive, and Sun Microsystems, among others. His work has won numerous industry awards, including a Webby, Cool Site of the Year, the PRSA Silver Anvil and an American Graphic Design Award. Wright holds a B.A. in English and American Literature from Brown University and an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Simmons College.