Clive Thompson is a longtime contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a columnist for Wired, and the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better. His next book, Coders: How Programmers Think, is out in March 2019.
As a child growing up in Toronto in the 1970s and 80s, Thompson became fascinated with the first “home computers”—the ones you plugged into your TV, like the Commodore 64, and programmed using BASIC. He was hooked, spending hours writing video games, music programs, and simple forms of artificial intelligence. The obsession stuck with him, even as he went to the University of Toronto to study poetry and political science. When he became a magazine writer in the 1990s, the internet erupted into the mainstream, and he began reporting on how digital tools—everything from email to digital photography to instant messaging—were changing society.
Thompson began with a pessimistic view of the internet’s impact on our lives. He worried, like many social critics before him, that society and civility would fall off a cliff. But over the next twenty years, he realized that more often than not when people were given the power of self-expression on a global scale, they produced amazing innovations: Wikipedia, YouTube, collaborative art, crazy new forms of writing like TV recaps, collaborative problem-solving, and the ESP-like awareness that comes from the status-update universe.
Thompson’s book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better reveals how modern technology is making us smarter and better connected, as individuals and as a society, despite widespread anxieties to the contrary. From pioneers (Chinese students who mounted an online movement that shut down a $1.6 billion toxic copper plant) to amateurs (a global set of gamers who solved a puzzle that had baffled HIV research scientists for a decade), Smarter Than You Think embraces and extols this transformation, presenting an exciting vision of the present and the future.
Today, Thompson is one of our most prominent technology writers, respected for his deeply reported longform stories that get beyond headlines to harness the insights of science, literature, history, and philosophy. He writes not only about inventors, but also about how everyday people use technology—often quite unpredictably. In addition to The New York Times Magazine and Wired, he writes for Mother Jones and Smithsonian and is the tech consultant for CBC’s Q radio program. He is also one of the longest-running bloggers, having launched his science and tech blog Collision Detection in 2002.
His newest book, Coders, continues Thompson’s exploration into the intersections of technology and human experience, delving into how programmers approach their work and how that work impacts the rest of us.
For more information on Clive Thompson, please visit clivethompson.net.