Maggie explores why we should paradoxically seek uncertainty in an age of flux and angst. With unpredictability rising, from the precarity of work to the “uncertainty shock” of the pandemic, the experience of not-knowing has been neglected as a topic of study until recently.

Maggie Jackson is an award-winning author and journalist known for her pioneering writings on social trends, particularly technology’s impact on humanity. She is the author of several books, including Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure (2023).

Her acclaimed book Distracted: Reclaiming our Focus in a World of Lost Attention (2008, 2nd Ed. 2018) kickstarted a global conversation on the steep costs of fragmenting our attention. Winner of the 2020 Dorothy Lee Book Award for excellence in technology criticism, Distracted has received worldwide acclaim for its prescience and lasting impact. In 2018, the book helped inspire Google’s global initiative to promote digital well-being. Jackson’s essays have been featured in numerous anthologies including Living with Robots: Emerging Issues on the Psychological and Social Implications of Robotics (2020) and State of the American Mind: Sixteen Leading Critics on the New Anti-Intellectualism (2015).

A former long-time columnist for The Boston Globe, Jackson also has written for the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Business Week and other publications around the world. Her recent Boston Globe essay on uncertainty’s critical role in good thinking – the subject of her next book - has been published in multiple languages, distributed in many workplaces, and added to university courses. 

Jackson has appeared widely in the press, from MSNBC to NPR’s All Things Considered and Brian Lehrer shows. Her expertise has been featured in The New York Times,, O Magazine, and The Times (UK) and in many podcasts, TV segments, and film documentaries, including the acclaimed UK documentary “In Real Life.” In 2019, she was a consultant to the primetime ABC special “ScreenTime.” The NPR science show, “The Pulse,” recently focused on her new work on the upsides of uncertainty for good thinking.

Jackson is a high-energy keynote speaker and moderator who has given talks at Google, Harvard Business School, The Conference Board, the Forbes CMO Summit, Chautauqua, and other major corporations, universities, and conferences in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. She has been honored with awards for her writings on psychology, culture, and technological change and with fellowships and grants in family policy and in art/material culture. She lives with her family in New York City and coastal Rhode Island. 

Speech topics

Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure

Today an onslaught of unknowns fueled by unrest, recession, disaster, and plague drives laments about “these uncertain times” to fever pitch. We fear not-knowing and equate being unsure with paralysis and inefficiency. More than ever, a quick, sure answer seems the ticket to success. But at this historic juncture a rethink is due: the uncertainty that we shun turns out to be the mindset we most need in volatile times. Pioneering journalist and social critic Maggie Jackson takes us behind the scenes of a revolution in cognitive science to reveal uncertainty’s critical role in good thinking, from crisis-problem solving and creativity to superior collaboration. Through stories of a maverick surgeon, a contrarian activist, and a mutiny in space, Jackson details the unexpected secrets to conquering our fears of not-knowing and to harnessing the powers of uncertainty at home and at work. We gain the pathway to the better answer, the hidden nuance, and to the brilliance of an open mind. 

Lost in the Instant: Finding Focus and Connection in an Age of Overload and Distraction

Our attention is embattled as never before, hijacked by “smart” software, undermined by relentless info-streams, and diluted by our own split-focus efforts to keep up with it all. How can we reclaim our focus, wake up to what matters, and once again manage our devices and our days? In this talk from the author who sounded the first warnings of our crisis of distraction, we learn the secrets to rekindling our highest human capacity, the key to good problem-solving, creativity, and human bonds. Drawing on exciting discoveries from the new science of attention, Maggie Jackson reveals what is at risk in this era of always-on connectivity and the secrets to turning data into knowledge and distraction into masterful attention. She offers both a wake-up call and a path forward as we reckon with one of the most pressing problems of our time.

Getting Along Again: An Antidote to Intolerance in a Divided Age

In an era of echo-chamber news, social media flame wars, and rising divisions, how can we respect and value even extreme differences with others? Drawing from an astonishing chapter in US history and the latest in cognitive science, Maggie Jackson tells of a legendary friendship between a KKK leader and a civil rights activist that can help reveal the steps we can take to heal our divisions today. In this talk, we learn the ripple effects across communities of tiny acts of tolerance and discover why opening our gated minds makes us more creative, flexible thinkers in all walks of life. Jackson’s words tell a simple story: of seeing possibility where we least expect it in thought, in others, in the world.


Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure

An unpredictable, changeable world has been with us all along. Liberating ourselves from the ever-alluring but mistaken belief that life could be otherwise offers a startling new vision of human progress and of what it means to know.

In a world that’s growing more terrifyingly unpredictable, the swift certain answer seems just right. But while pursuing the secrets to good thinking in scientific laboratories, operating rooms, corporate boardrooms, and on the frontiers of Artificial Intelligence, award-winning author Maggie Jackson realized that in devaluing uncertainty we have been overlooking the crucial missing link to the higher-order mind. Once largely neglected as a topic of study, the newly discovered gifts of not-knowing now fascinate the greatest cognitive scientists – and offer us a remarkable antidote to the narrow-mindedness of our day.

Distracted: Reclaiming Our Focus in a World of Lost Attention

In Distracted, journalist Maggie Jackson ponders our increasingly cyber-centric world and fears we're entering a dark age of interruption that will render us unable to think critically, work creatively or cultivate meaningful relationships.

What's Happening to Home: Balancing Work, Life and Refuge in the Information Age

In our modern world, where technology offers the promise of mobility and flexibility, the lines between work and home become increasingly blurred. In What's Happening To Home? Jackson explores the ever-changing role of home in our lives.

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