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Jer Thorp on Living in Data and Creating Better Futures

Each year there are one or two books that deeply resonate with me and become sticky in that I’m thinking about the book often, bringing it up in conversations, and sending out unsolicited recommendations for executives and researchers in my network to check it out. Jer Thorp’s “Living in Data: A Citizen’s Guide to a Better Information Future” was that book for me in 2021 so I was delighted to host Jer for a conversation on the OODAcast.

Jer Thorp is an artist, writer and teacher living in New York City. He is best known for designing the algorithm to place the nearly 3,000 names on the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan. Jer was the New York Times’ first Data Artist in Residence, is a National Geographic Explorer, and in 2017 and 2018 served as the Innovator in Residence at the Library of Congress. Jer is one of the world’s foremost data artists, and is a leading voice for the ethical use of big data.

Jer is like the Indiana Jones of data, thriving not only in the realm of data analysis, but traveling the world to explore new ways to bring data into our local and global decision-making process. In this OODAcast, we go deep on a variety of issues to include:

  • Jer’s origin story and career experience
  • The risks of data bias, adjacencies, and exclusion
  • The role of data in understanding our relationship with nature
  • How we envision and build better futures
  • Working as citizens to derive benefit from our own data to improve our lives
  • Lots of great stories about his data adventures and lessons learned along the way including how he was almost killed by a hippo

Additional Bio Details:

Jer’s data-inspired artwork has been shown around the world, including most recently in New York’s Times Square, at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, at the Ars Electronica Center in Austria, and at the National Seoul Museum in Korea. His work has also appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Scientific American, The New Yorker, Popular Science, Fast Company, Business Week, Popular Science, Discover, WIRED and The Harvard Business Review.

Jer’s talks on TED.com have been watched by more than a half-million people. He is a frequent speaker at high profile events such as PopTech, and The Aspen Ideas Festival. Recently, he has spoken about his work at MIT’s Media Lab, The American Museum of Natural History, MoMA, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena.

Jer is a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, and an alumnus of the World Economic Foundation’s Global Agenda Council on Design and Innovation. He is an adjunct Professor in New York University’s renowned Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), and is the Co-Founder of The Office for Creative Research. In 2015, Canadian Geographic named Jer one of Canada’s Greatest Explorers.

Podcast Version:

Related Resources:

Jer’s Website

Living in Data Book

Atlas of AI

Matt Devost

Matt Devost

Matthew G. Devost is the CEO & Co-Founder of OODA LLC. Matt is a technologist, entrepreneur, and international security expert specializing in counterterrorism, critical infrastructure protection, intelligence, risk management and cyber-security issues. Matt co-founded the cyber security consultancy FusionX from 2010-2017. Matt was President & CEO of the Terrorism Research Center/Total Intel from 1996-2009. For a full bio, please see www.devost.net