Brian doesn't just report on tech; he tells compelling stories that bridge the gap between the tech industry and the layperson. His work has illuminated the intricate web of connections between innovation, humanity, and the planet, captivating readers and sparking discussions worldwide.

Brian Merchant is a writer, tech journalist, and the author of a bestselling book about the iPhone, The One Device. His most recent book is Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech (2023). He has been the Los Angeles Times' tech columnist, an editor at Motherboard, VICE’s science and technology publication, and the founder of Terraform, its online fiction site. He founded Automaton, a project that examined the human impact of AI and automation, for Gizmodo. He currently serves as Journalist in Residence, AI Now Institute. Brian is also the co-editor of a print anthology of Terraform stories, called Terraform: Watch/Worlds/Burn (2022). His work has appeared in the New York Times, Harper's, Wired, the Atlantic, the Guardian, Slate, the Washington Post, Fast Company, Fortune, and beyond. He lives in Los Angeles.  

Speech topics

How AI will transform the way we work

Lessons from the Industrial Revolution, the Luddites — on through today.

AI is fast on the rise as the revolutionary new tech of the day. But technology and automation have been disrupting and reorganizing the way humans work for over two hundred years. As such, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from the past — as to what happens when automation hits the workplace, how it can help or hinder human jobs, and the disasters that await if it's deployed too fast, or without input from those it stands to disrupt. This talk, from the author of a history of the first major saga of the machine revolution, and the first clash between man and machines — the Luddite uprising — will delve into the dangers and promise of AI, and into the lessons from history how technology can empower, not erase, the modern worker.

The Human Cost of A.I. AND Automation

'The robots are coming for our jobs'—thanks to artificial intelligence and automation, the ubiquitous notion lurks, back of mind, for just about every member of the modern workforce, from stock trader to warehouse stocker. But the robots aren't coming; they're already here. Businesses and institutions are beginning to adopt automated systems and AI software that are driving them to slash jobs and hours right now. Yet the phenomenon is just beginning. To understand where we're headed, this talk will examine the human impact of automation through a historical lens, beginning with the first cohort of workers to lose their jobs to automation at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution—the much maligned and much misunderstood Luddites. What happens when machines are deployed to take human jobs, when those humans have few or no other options? What can be done to stop the riots and uprisings that machines have unleashed before—and when and how might we expect to see chaos again if we fail? We'll explore the answers here.

Rethinking the Luddites in the Age of A.I.

AI is on the rise, and it promises to transform the way we live and work. Those who criticize it are often called Luddites — but what if we've got the real Luddites all wrong? This surprising and illuminating talk delves into the true history of the 19th century Luddites, reveals that the infamous machine breakers were not anti-technology, but anti-poverty, and examines what we might learn from their example. What happened the first time that machines came for our jobs — and how can we avoid a similar crisis today?


As you read this, a smartphone is almost certainly within reach. How did this one device become the thing we cannot leave home without? And how much do you really know about what goes into creating it? To understand the true story of our era's most ubiquitous device — and the unheralded innovation, twisting supply chains, and invisible labor that make it possible — is to begin to understand what makes the modern world tick. Using the iPhone as a lodestar, this talk explodes, explains, and demystifies the vast and teeming world behind the screen.


The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone

The secret history of the invention that changed everything-and became the most profitable product in the world.

Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech 

The true story of what happened the first time machines came for human jobs, when an underground network of 19th century rebels, the Luddites, took up arms against the industrialists that were automating their work—and how it explains the power, threat, and toll of big tech today.

Terraform: Watch/Worlds/Burn

An anthology of near future science fiction from VICE’s acclaimed, innovative digital speculative story destination, Terraform—in print for the first time. Edited by Brian Merchant.

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