My name is Nick Merrill. I am a Research Fellow at the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity at the University of California, Berkeley.

I study the internet—who runs it, and who should run it. I’m primarily concerned with centralization and fragility, interlinking problems in which:

  1. Economic dynamics produce an internet run by too few people, with consequences for equity, inclusion, and monopoly; and

  2. The concentration of key internet infrastructure that results from these economic dynamics increases the risk of catastrophic, pan-internet outages.

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Popular posts

Why I’ve Been Offline

What Cybersecurity Is And Why You Should Make It Your Life

Taiwan & The Internet During World War

Past projects

My research has spanned artificial intelligence, virtual reality, biosensing, cryptography, and decentralized web technologies.

I’ve advised the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Congress aides and chiefs of staff, mid- and senior-level U.S. Executive Branch officials, large consulting firms, and policymakers around the world.

My threat modeling practices are used by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), Meta (formerly Facebook), and the Taiwanese government.

Some past projects, from most recent to oldest:

  • Measuring internet fragmentation. I collected data on internet fragmentation and control. These data have been used by NGOs and government agencies worldwide. This work has been covered widely by news outlets internationally, including CNN, CBS, The Hill, and many more.

  • ML Fairness Bootcamp. My ML Fairness Mini-Bootcamp was the first (and is, as far as I know, the premiere) hands-on curriculum in AI bias. Versions of these materials are taught to thousands of students and policymakers worldwide annually.

  • Adversary Personas. Who might do you harm? This is the question posed by Adversary Personas, a threat modeling practice I developed with my lab. National government agencies and companies worldwide use versions of this practice.

  • Passthoughts. Logging into things with your brain! During my Ph.D., I worked on passthoughts, the world’s first three-factor, single-step authentication paradigm. Our work was covered by over 300 media outlets internationally, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CBC, BBC, The Los Angeles Times, ABC, CNBC, CNET, Wired, TechCrunch, Xinhua, and many more. Of the lot, NEO.LIFE produced by far my favorite graphic:

Illustration by Igor Bastidas for NEO.LIFE
  • Can machines read the mind? You're at the park, it's a beautiful day, the light is shimmering off the lake. If we outfit you with one or two electromagnetic sensors (in a headband for example) to what extent can we describe the way you feel at that moment? Informed by my work on passthoughts, my Ph.D. work produced a theory of mind-reading machines. It goes like this: what we mean by “the mind” moves relative to what technologies can do, and what we want them to do.

  • Aaronson Oracle. Press the 'f' and 'd' keys randomly. It’s easy. Just use your “free will.”

About me

I received my Ph.D. from the U.C. Berkeley School of Information. My adviser was John Chuang.

All of my papers should be available on Google Scholar without a paywall. If you find a paper you cannot access, please let me know.

I live in xučyun, the traditional territory of the Ohlone people, who have still not been recognized by the U.S. federal government. If you do too, check out ‘oṭṭoy/Cafe Ohlone and consider giving shuumi.

ewweh ṭuuxi huyyuwiš (brighter days lie ahead)

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Any liberatory struggle will require a trustworthy communications network. That network will be an internet. But perhaps not this internet.


Nick Merrill