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David Ewing Duncan

Award-winning science and technology journalist and bestselling author of Talking to Robots

  • About David Ewing Duncan

    David Ewing Duncan is an award-winning journalist covering life science, technology, AI, politics, climate change, and culture—and bestselling author of 12 books published in 21 languages. He writes for Vanity Fair, Scientific American, Atlantic, The New York Times, Wired, among others. Duncan was formerly a producer and correspondent for ABC’s Nightline and 20/20 and for NPR’s Morning Edition and was the longtime Chief Correspondent of NPR Talk’s Biotech Nation.

    An entrepreneur, researcher, and advisor on biotech, Duncan gives frequent talks on health, biotech, bio-business, and AI. In his captivating keynotes and lectures, he alerts us that “the age of fusion” between health, IT, and biomedicine is already beginning, even as we imagine the literal fusing of robots, AI, and humans. His realistic and thoughtful insights about the effects these radical technological advances will have on humanity encourage audiences to consider their upsides and downsides carefully as we enter what he calls the Early Robot Era.

    In his most recent book, Voyage of Sorcerer II: The Expedition that Unlocked the Secrets of the Ocean Microbiome, Duncan teamed up with famed geneticist Craig Venter to explore the microbiome of Earth that connects all life and reveal how climate change and human activity are altering it ways that could be disastrous for humans unless we take urgent action. Other books include the bestsellers Talking to Robots, Experimental Man, and Calendar. He also coauthored a recent report on The Future of Health detailing where we currently are and what the future may hold in cancer research, longevity, mental health, wellness, and more, as well as how climate change and politics impact human health.

    The founding director of the Center for Life Science Policy at UC Berkeley, Duncan is the Creative Director of Cure Experience in New York City and cofounder and CEO of Arc Fusion, which holds unique events around the world on major life science topics for top leaders. His work has won numerous awards, including the AAAS Magazine Story of the Year, and has been nominated three times for a National Magazine Award. An Expert at Singularity University and a member of the Writer’s Grotto in San Francisco, he lives in Boston and New York City.

    Contact us for more information about booking David Ewing Duncan for your next event.

  • Speaking Topics

    Making Sense of It All : Technology and the Future

    David Ewing Duncan offers a quick, thorough, and digestible survey of where we are with the deluge of new and breathtaking technologies and discoveries that are rushing at us at an exponential pace and what it means to you, your family, your business, and the future. At the same time, we are facing existential-level threats ranging from AI going rogue, automation run amuck, climate change, and the political division. He calls this a “Tale of Two Cities” moment where in one “city” we are seeing breathtaking new technologies in multiple fields that are poised to impact how we live and could improve our lives and the lives of generations to come. The other “city” is what’s keeping us up at night with what might go wrong. Blending optimism with pragmatism, Duncan walks an audience through the wondrous possibilities and how we can aim ourselves towards thriving and building a sustainable future.

    Spotlight on AI:
    David Ewing Duncan can adapt this talk to focus exclusively on artificial intelligence. Duncan walks audiences through what is really happening with the plethora of recent developments in technology, science, and engineering.

    Radical Stewardship: Sustaining the Earth that Sustains Us

    Based on his address at the UN Science Summit, David Ewing Duncan merges two topics he has long studied and reported on—climate change and human health. Drawing from his book, Voyage of Sorcerer II, Duncan describes what climate change is doing to Earth’s microbiome, and the organisms—including humans—it sustains. He also pulls in research and interviews from The Future of Health report he co-wrote, as well as his many years of research into the impact of the environment on the human organism. Duncan’s talk offers hope that it’s not too late to head off disaster and that we can fix our planet if we can muster the social, economic, and political will to do it.

    Psychedelics, Mental Health, and You: The Future of Ketamine Therapy

    Early in the pandemic, David Ewing Duncan contracted a mild case of COVID that quickly became a case of long COVID—one that left him breathless, his brain in a fog, and impacted his heart, leading to depression and a complete inability to write.

    Duncan describes how ketamine psychotherapy, along with one of the leading figures in the psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy movement, saved his brain. He delves deeply into the “new” science and therapeutics of psychedelics to treat depression, PTSD, and other mental health maladies.  Building on his Vanity Fair essay, “Stolen Words: COVID, Ketamine, and Me,” he discusses what’s known about the science, the clinical evidence, and the history of humans and psychoactive substances—plus gives an overview of the possible future of the psychedelic space in business, IP, regulation, legality, and investing. In this fascinating talk, Duncan answers questions like: how do psychedelics work? Will they be legalized? What’s happening with issue of IP? And what traditional medicines can they replace?

    Longevity and Radical Wellness

    How long do you want to live? David Ewing Duncan has asked over 100,000 people this question, asking them to “vote” for wanting to live to age 80, 120, 150, or forever. The results might surprise you. For this talk, Duncan draws off 25 years of reporting on the serious science of health and biotechnology, plus years of test-driving nearly every wellness test on the planet, as he explains what’s real and what’s hype in wellness and longevity science. He also talks about how breakthroughs in genetics, regenerative medicine, AI, and bionics might lead to human enhancement—and whether or not we actually want these augmentations. Duncan includes insights he has received firsthand from the world’s leading longevity and wellness scientists and entrepreneurs.

  • Video

  • Praise for David Ewing Duncan

    Praise for Talking to Robots

    Duncan takes us to the crossroads of the inevitable merging of human and machine. Splendidly written, passionately argued, and well-researched, this book is a divination tool for the arrival of either the utopia or the apocalypse.

    Andrei Codrescu, author of Raised by Puppets Only to Be Killed by Research

    Until we have a non-fiction robot that writes brilliant, insightful books (I give it 25 years), we can thank God we have David Ewing Duncan. Thanks to David’s book, I have a healthy mix of wonder and panic about the future. But more important, perhaps: I feel a bit more prepared for this radically different landscape, one where robots change everything from politics to parenting, from coffee to sex.

    AJ Jacobs, author of Drop Dead Healthy

    A refreshing variation on the will-intelligent-robots-bring-Armageddon genre…this colorful mixture of expert futurology and quirky speculation does not disappoint.


    One of 32 Books You Need to Read This Summer...and a....riveting read.

    Praise for Masterminds: Genius, DNA, and the Quest to Rewrite Life

    A Best Book of the Year

    San Francisco Chronicle

    Praise for When I’m 164: The Science of Radical Life Extension and What Happens If It Succeeds

    David Duncan makes it clear that immortality may not be all it is hyped up to be. Don't read this unless you want your mind changed.

    Kevin Kelly, Maverick Editor, Wired

    Praise for Experimental Man: What One Man’s Body Reveals About His Future, Your Health, and Our Toxic World

    In sweeping the reader up in his quest, Duncan shows what good reporting and storytelling can do. His narrative method - part mystery tale, part voyeuristic drama - humanizes complex information, educates and entertains.

    San Francisco Chronicle

    Praise for Calendar: Humanity’s Epic Struggle to Determine a True and Accurate Year

    David Duncan takes his place in the ranks of the best explainers in print.

    Hugh Downs

    Duncan writes the way good teachers teach, conversational, yet informed… [he] is a popularizer and storyteller…

    USA Today (Editor's Pick)

    Praise for Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas

    …a vibrant, gripping biography.

    Publisher's Weekly, (starred review)

    Praise for Residents: The Perils and Promise of Educating Young Doctors

    Duncan… captures dramatically what goes wrong, not only during medical training but also in much of the care provided by American hospitals today… I hope someone is listening.

    Washington Post Book World

    Praise for From Cape to Cairo: One Man’s Trek Across Africa

    A vivid if sobering account of contemporary Africa…

    Kirkus Reviews

    Praise for Pedaling the Ends of the Earth

    David… goes after, on a scale that few can imagine, an ongoing pursuit of being an explorer rather than an observer of the world.

    Interview Magazine
  • Books by David Ewing Duncan

  • Media About David Ewing Duncan

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  • David Ewing Duncan travels from Boston, Massachusetts

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