• James Williams


    35-year-old James Williams, a doctoral candidate researching design ethics at Oxford University, has been announced as the inaugural winner of the US$100,000 Nine Dots Prize.

    James’ entry Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Persuasion in the Attention Economy argues that digital technologies are making all forms of politics worth having impossible as they privilege our impulses over our intentions and are ‘designed to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities in order to direct us toward goals that may or may not align with our own’. You can read two short extracts from his entry here.

    Born in Cape Canaveral, Florida and raised in Texas, James Williams is currently a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and Balliol College, Oxford, where he researches the philosophy and ethics of attention and persuasion as they relate to technology design. In particular, he is interested in advancing the ways we can understand and protect user freedom in environments of highly persuasive design.

    James is a member of the Digital Ethics Lab at Oxford and founder of the Oxford Internet Institute’s PhilTech seminar series. He directed the Oxford Data Experience Lab project on virtual reality and has helped teach the master’s-level Internet Technology and Regulation course. He is also a visiting researcher at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

    Prior to this he worked for over ten years at Google, where he received the Founders’ Award – the company’s highest honour – for his work on advertising products and tools. He holds a master’s in design engineering from the University of Washington and as an undergraduate studied literature at Seattle Pacific University. He is a co-founder of the Time Well Spent campaign, a project that aims to steer technology design towards having greater respect for users’ attention, goals and values.

    James is a frequent speaker, consultant for companies and governments, and commentator on technology issues in the media. A big part of his mission is to make philosophy and ethics more accessible and relevant to designers, developers, and company leaders. His other interests include virtual/mixed reality systems, gaming, space travel, and the work of James Joyce.

  • Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy

    May 31, 2018

    James Williams launches a plea to society and to the tech industry to help ensure that the technology we all carry with us every day does not distract us from pursuing our true goals in life. As information becomes ever more plentiful, the resource that is becoming more scarce is our attention. In this ‘attention economy’, we need to recognise the fundamental impacts of our new information environment on our lives in order to take back control. Drawing on insights ranging from Diogenes to contemporary tech leaders, Williams’s thoughtful and impassioned analysis is sure to provoke discussion and debate. This title is free to download.

    James’ book has now been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, and an audiobook version is available.

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