Nine Dots Prize

About the Prize

The Nine Dots Prize seeks to reward original thinking in response to contemporary societal issues. Each Prize cycle lasts two years, with a new question being announced every other October. The next question wil be announced in October 2018.

All those 18 years of age and over are welcome to enter but responses and the resulting book must be in English. We are looking for innovative thinking, whether this comes from new voices or from experienced authors. The Prize’s heartland is in the social sciences, but we welcome responses that draw on all disciplines and cross-discipline thinking. Joint responses from multiple authors will be considered, although proposals that put forward a number of authors all contributing single sections (such as an edited collection) will not be accepted.

The Prize will be awarded anonymously. The Board will award the Prize to the entry that in their view best responds to the set question. Responses can critique, agree or disagree with, or reject the premise of the question, but they must engage with it fully and insightfully.

The Board will look for originality of the ideas and arguments put forward, the ways in which the ideas are communicated and the conclusions or recommendations that the author(s) reach. Responses may draw on research and evidence from a wide variety of sources and disciplines not restricted solely to the social sciences.

The Prize is sponsored by the Kadas Prize Foundation with support from CRASSH and Cambridge University Press. We have a Board made up of 12 distinguished experts. Day to day, the Prize is run by the Senior Prize Manager.

About the Board

The current Board is composed of twelve internationally recognised and distinguished academics, authors, journalists and thinkers. They are:

  • Professor Diane Coyle – Professor of Economics at Manchester University, former Vice Chair of the BBC Trust and Economics Editor of the Independent
  • Professor Paul Gilroy – currently Professor of English at Kings College London, previously Giddens Professor of Social Theory at the London School of Economics
  • Professor Simon Goldhill (Chair) – Director of the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Professor in Greek Literature and Culture and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge
  • E.J. Graff – Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and Managing Editor of the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog
  • Professor Alcinda Honwana – visiting Professor of Anthropology and International Development at the Open University and formerly was a program officer at the United Nations Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict
  • Peter Kadas – Director of the Kadas Prize Foundation
  • Professor Ira Katznelson – President of the Social Science Research Council and former President of the American Political Science Association
  • Professor Roger Martin – Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship at the Rotman School of Management and the Premier’s Chair in Productivity & Competitiveness
  • Professor Riccardo Rebonato – Professor of Finance at EDHEC Business School, formerly Global Head of Rates and FX Research at PIMCO
  • Professor David Runciman – Professor of Politics and Head of the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge
  • Professor Saskia Sassen – Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University


Winner 2017

35-year-old James Williams, a doctoral candidate researching design ethics at Oxford University, has been announced as the inaugural winner of the US$100,000 Nine Dots Prize.

James’ entry Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Persuasion in the Attention Economy argues that digital technologies are making all forms of politics worth having impossible as they privilege our impulses over our intentions and are ‘designed to exploit our psychological vulnerabilities in order to direct us toward goals that may or may not align with our own’. You can read two short extracts from his entry here.

Born in Cape Canaveral, Florida and raised in Texas, James Williams is currently a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and Balliol College, Oxford, where he researches the philosophy and ethics of attention and persuasion as they relate to technology design. In particular, he is interested in advancing the ways we can understand and protect user freedom in environments of highly persuasive design.

James is a member of the Digital Ethics Lab at Oxford and founder of the Oxford Internet Institute’s PhilTech seminar series. He directed the Oxford Data Experience Lab project on virtual reality and has helped teach the master’s-level Internet Technology and Regulation course. He is also a visiting researcher at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

Prior to this he worked for over ten years at Google, where he received the Founders’ Award – the company’s highest honour – for his work on advertising products and tools. He holds a master’s in design engineering from the University of Washington and as an undergraduate studied literature at Seattle Pacific University. He is a co-founder of the Time Well Spent campaign, a project that aims to steer technology design towards having greater respect for users’ attention, goals and values.

James is a frequent speaker, consultant for companies and governments, and commentator on technology issues in the media. A big part of his mission is to make philosophy and ethics more accessible and relevant to designers, developers, and company leaders. His other interests include virtual/mixed reality systems, gaming, space travel, and the work of James Joyce.