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Tim Urban, speaker

Tim Urban

    • Celebrated Blogger & Thinking Person’s Cartoonist
    • One of the most viewed TED Talk speakers of all-time
    • Captivates audiences with his unique ability to distill a diversity of complex and fascinating topics, from Artificial Superintelligence to why we procrastinate to how we could become a multi-planetary species.
Full Bio
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Tim Urban: Large Models, AI, Human History and the Future

Tim Urban: Large Models, AI, Human History and the Future

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator | TED

Tim Urban: Inside the mind of a master procrastinator | TED

Wait but Why? The Superintelligence Road | Tim Urban | Talks at Google [2016]

Wait but Why? The Superintelligence Road | Tim Urban | Talks at Google [2016]

How to think: A framework for overcoming the primitive mind | Tim Urban and Lex Fridman

How to think: A framework for overcoming the primitive mind | Tim Urban and Lex Fridman

Tim Urban Speaker Biography


Since he started writing the long-form, stick figure-illustrated blog Wait But Why in 2013, Tim Urban has become one of the Internet’s most popular writers. Urban, according to Fast Company, has “captured a level of reader engagement that even the new-media giants would be envious of.” Vox describes Urban’s articles as “a feast. At the end, you feel sated, like you just learned the ___ out of something, like you get something in a way you didn’t before…you will understand the world better for reading them.”

A world tired of a flood of short, shallow listicles quickly noticed—two months after Wait But Why was born, Urban’s article Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy swept the Internet, becoming both the most shared and most commented-on article of the month on Facebook. Urban has since produced dozens of viral articles on a wide range of topics, from why we procrastinate to why artificial intelligence is scary, to why we haven’t seen any signs of aliens, to why it’s so hard for him to start peeing when there’s someone at the urinal right next to him. His articles have been regularly republished on sites like Quartz, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, TIME, Business Insider and Gizmodo. In 2015, Fast Company wrote that “Wait But Why is disproving the notion that thoughtful, long-form content and virality are mutually exclusive.”

Today, Wait But Why receives over 1.5 million unique visitors per month on average, with some month’s total visitors topping 10 million. Additionally, the blog has over 300,000 email subscribers. The Wait But Why community of readers is also highly engaged, with every article generating hundreds of thoughtful, intelligent reader comments and some reaching well into the thousands.

Urban has gained a number of prominent readers as well: authors Sam Harris and Susan Cain, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, TED curator Chris Anderson and Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova. Recently, Urban received a call from Elon Musk, who told Urban he likedhis writing and asked Urban if he’d like to interview him and write about his companies. Urban accepted, and spent the next six months writing a thorough blog series that Vox’sDavid Roberts called “the meatiest, most fascinating, most satisfying posts I’ve read in ages.” Since then, Urban’s relationship with Musk has continued, as Musk invited him to host SpaceX’s launch webcast and solicited Urban’s input and slide illustrations in a talk he did at the December 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris.

As Urban has taken off as a writer, requests for him to speak have steadily increased. He has done talks at companies including Facebook, Chartbeat and Thumbtack; schools such as MIT, Brown and Wharton; and conferences including Effective Altruism in Mountain View, Social Media Week in New York and Sweden’s Øredev. After Øredev, conference head Anders Janmyr tweeted that Urban’s talk was “the best keynote in years.”

Urban recently spoke at TED2016 in Vancouver. Like his writing, Urban’s talks span many topics, involve stick figures and combine depth and impact with humor and entertainment to delight and inspire his audiences.

THE AI REVOLUTION AND THE ROAD TO SUPERINTELLIGENCE

The article was widely shared, even catching the eye of Elon Musk, who shared the article twice on Twitter, commenting “Excellent and funny intro article about Artificial Superintelligence! Highly recommend reading.” Urban has since turned his exploration of AI into a gripping talk—one that the head of Sweden’s Øredev conference tweeted was “the best keynote in years.” After watching the talk at Social Media Week in New York, conference founder Toby Daniels wrote that Urban “was brilliant, inspiring and terrifying at the same time, and left most of us speechless, breathless and in a mixed emotional state of wonder and awe at what the future holds.”

When Tim Urban began digging into research on artificial intelligence, he could not believe what he was reading. It hit him pretty quickly that what’s happening in the world of AI is not just an important topic, but by far THE most important topic for our future. In what Vox called his “epic series on artificial intelligence,” Urban took readers on a deep exploration of what AI is, how it works and why it might dramatically change our lives.



PROCRASTINATION: OVERCOMING THE GREATEST BARRIER TO SUCCESS

This keynote has enchanted over 65 millions of viewers as the third most-viewed (and ranked as one of the funniest) Ted Talk ever. Urban shares three key reasons we procrastinate, identifying them as “players” that vye for our attention, focus, and time. After establishing a “why,” he shares valuable tools that audiences can use to tackle procrastination in their own lives. The tools range from the Eisenhower Matrix to Urban’s set of six strategies for overcoming short- and long-term procrastination.

This keynote is uniquely applicable to individuals and teams and catalyzes change and growth. Audiences walk away with side stitches from laughter and an inspired understanding of the greatest barrier to success.

Procrastination is widely acknowledged as one of the top hindrances to success, growth, and confidence in oneself. Tips on how to stop procrastinating are plentiful and can be found easily, but implementing them without understanding “why” we procrastinate leads to short- term success and long-term hopelessness. In this hilarious, mind-tugging, and optimistically practical talk, Tim Urban shares why we procrastinate and how to stop.



THE MAGIC OF HIGH-RUNG THINKING: THE KEY TO GROUP SUPERINTELLIGENCE

In this mindset-shifting talk, Tim explores how individuals think, how groups think together, and how those two things are connected. Using his trademark drawings, Tim explains the Thinking Ladder and its four types of thinking: “The Scientist” and “The Sports Fan,” who keep their thinking on the high rungs of the ladder; and “The Attorney” and “The Zealot,” who occupy the lower rungs, susceptible to dogma and stuck in outdated ideas. He explains why “high-rung thinking” is better suited to innovation and teamwork.

He also applies the Thinking Ladder to groups and introduces audiences to two broad kinds of intellectual and workplace culture: The Idea Lab, a “high-rung” culture where disagreement is encouraged, where people are always respected, but ideas are not; and The Echo Chamber, a “low-rung” culture that penalizes departure from the prevailing narratives at the company and incentivizes independent minds to remain silent. While Idea Lab culture unleashes the full intellectual power of a group of minds and gives the company a superbrain, Echo Chamber culture leaves that potential untapped—the company brain is simply the brain of the CEO, widely repeated.

This keynote will immediately impact how you perceive, respond to, and strategize about just about everything. Tim’s inspiring guidance helps people stay on the highest rungs of their own ladder and rethink the way that they think—with transformational results. His frameworks for thinking and collaboration are catchy and memorable, and audiences will be using them years after hearing the talk.

Tim Urban’s “Thinking Ladder” and the concept of “High-Rung Thinking” are integral to his most recent book, What’s Our Problem?: A Self-Help Book for Societies. But way before the book, his articles on the subject captured the attention of business leaders such as Tobi Lütke, the CEO of Shopify, who believed they held critical lessons for teams and leaders. In fact, Lütke was such a fan of Tim’s ideas that he bound the articles into booklets for his entire company to read.

When you understand the Thinking Ladder, you gain powerful insights relevant to corporate culture, managing teams, controlling perceptions, fostering innovation and creativity, and understanding motivation and your customers— along with healing and hopeful insights into the most pressing issues facing society today.



EXPONENTIAL ADVANCEMENT: AI AND THE WILD IMPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGICAL GROWTH ON OUR FUTURE

Some of the biggest innovations and new technologies feel ethereal, though, making it difficult to understand their importance, to perceive their impact on our future, and to harness the product of innovation to our success.

In this enlightening, informative, and often reassuring talk, Tim Urban deploys his talent as one of the world’s best (and most entertaining) science and tech explainers. He makes the ethereal real, explaining the major advances happening right now that promise to shake our world in the near future – with the complexity they deserve and the simpleness that anyone can understand. This talk will excite audiences, leaving them with a comfortable understanding of the exponential advancement of technology and inspiring wonder in the future ahead.

If the entirety of human existence could be captured in a 1,000 page book, with each page covering 250 years, almost every incredible technological advancement would exist only on the most recent page–page 1,000.

Today, we live in an era of exponential technologies, where things like artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces–even becoming a multiplanetary species are proceeding at a head-spinning pace.



WHAT’S OUR PROBLEM?

In this talk, Tim zooms out on the American landscape, explaining how rapid changes in technology, geography, government, and media have had unforeseen consequences. Tim believes that our political thinking and conversations are constrained by the lens we use: the “horizontal” left-center-right political axis. He introduces the audience to a new way to visualize politics, using the core tool in his bestselling book: a vertical axis that can add a critical element of nuance into the picture. Tim trades the polarizing political “left” and “right” for two new, incredibly useful terms: “high-rung politics” and “low-rung politics.” As we move from high to low, nuanced spectrums simplify to rigid binaries; rich discussion gives way to conformity and groupthink; common-humanity activism becomes common-enemy activism. In short, our problem is that low-rung politics is spreading and high-rung politics is fading.

The solution: We need to be more aware of the vertical story—the high rungs and the low rungs—and we need to be more courageous about speaking out for what we value and what we believe. The audience can use this lens to sharpen their own thinking, have better conversations, and ultimately, help set society on a better trajectory.

In 2016, Tim Urban looked out at American society and knew something was off. Political tribalism was on the rise, anger was overflowing on social media, and productive discussions seemed impossible. Tim spent the next six years taking a deep-dive journey to explore the most pressing issues facing society. In What’s Our Problem?, his bestselling book published in February 2023, Tim shares the many answers he discovered.

 

CYBORG: BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES, COMMUNICATING THROUGH THOUGHT, AND THE AMPLIFICATION OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE

Yes, you read that right. Brain implants. In this mind-spinning talk, Tim Urban puts on his futurist hat to look at the potential of this technology as only he can.

Drawing on research gained while reporting on the cutting-edge Silicon Valley company, Neuralink, Tim shares the tantalizing possibilities as new frontiers of communication, collaboration, and creativity are opened up through BCI. He also examines the future vulnerabilities on this slow march toward cyborgdom, such as the implications of “thinking together” and the  possibility of having our memories accessed by hackers. With thought-provoking wit, voluminous knowledge, and plenty of his trademark drawings, Tim explains how BCI and intelligence amplification works and the future world that’s coming. It’s an inspiring and entertaining talk about the future that will put you ahead of the knowledge curve today – leav

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