Jonnie Penn Cambridge, UK

  • Founder of "The Buried Life"
  • Author of New York Times best-seller "What do you want to do before you die?"
  • Harvard and Cambridge academic, and former Google Fellow


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Speaker Reel
What History Can Tell Us About the Future of Artificial Intelligence
What History Can Tell Us About the Future of Artificial Intelligence


Jonnie Penn FRSA is an expert in Artificial Intelligence and its consequences for the Future of Work.

Prior to his career in academia, Jonnie founded ‘The Buried Life‘, an online movement of over 1m members. It posed the simple question, ‘What do you want to do before you die?’ The project grew into an MTV series, which aired in over seventy countries and six languages. In the show, Jonnie and his friends travelled across the globe completing a list of a hundred things from their own bucket list. For every item on their own list, they would help a stranger achieve one of their own dreams, such as when they reunited a street-artist with his son after a seventeen-year absence. Jonnie fulfilled his own aspirations along the way, which included a game of basketball with President Obama and a beer with Prince Harry.

The riveting ethos of The Buried Life, which later became a #1 New York Times bestseller, propels the work Jonnie does today. While AI commentary is often pessimistic in its outlook for human endeavours, Jonnie shows these advancing technologies as a pathway to radically new possibilities in how we approach our personal and professional lives. By historically contextualising civic, technological, and economic trends, Jonnie uncovers the arbitrary bases that underpin so many of our accepted norms. He invites corporations to think about the usefulness of engrained concepts such as work/life balance, the five-day working week and regular office hours. Moreover, he asks you to consider what you really want, as a person or as an organization, while drawing on cutting edge research to show the clear links between life satisfaction and productivity.

Jonnie’s latest research explores the Future of Work for Millennials and Post-Millennials in the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this capacity, he has advised the United Nations, European Parliament, and UK House of Lords, as well as global corporations. His thoughts on the direction of AI research have recently been featured in The Economist, IBMThink Leaders, PwC, and elsewhere. In fourteen years as a professional speaker, he has engaged live audiences of over 20,000 and exclusive rooms such as the World Economic Forum at Davos.

Jonnie is currently a Rausing, Williamson and Lipton Trust doctoral scholar at the University of Cambridge and an Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center, Harvard University. He previously served as a researcher at the MIT Media Lab and as a Google Technology Policy Fellow.

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