The Two-Way Linking Network b. The Role of Companies and Corporations c. Centralized Governance Conclusion i. The optimism was never higher than at the peak of the dot-com boom in the late s, of course; but even after the dot-com bust in the early s, many believed that this was but the growing pains of an emerging industry, and that in the long run the Internet would yet provide the foundation for a new and improved information economy.
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Share via Email Jaron Lanier is a digital visionary with a difference. As the New Yorker once put it, he is a technology expert who dislikes what technology has become. He is a go-to person for those worried about the internet. His latest book, Who Owns the Future? These are giant computer networks, devised by the smartest technical folk around, systems that gather data often without having to pay for it. Lanier has in his sights Facebook, Google and the other mega-tech firms interest declared: I advise Google on free-expression issues.
The people who lose out are the creators. The author starts his list with the translation services: "with each so-called automatic translation, the humans who were the sources of the data are inched away from the world of compensation and employment". Much of the non-payment culture is voluntary, based in the ethos of the US west coast.
Lanier argues that our insatiable demand for information and entertainment and for access to instant communication has come at a heavy price. We "expect online services… to be given for free or, rather, in exchange for acquiescence to being spied on".
Successful technologists are the new "ruling class". In this digital world order, money and power are concentrated in the hands of a few. Forget the veneer of T-shirts and flip-flops; for all the roots in hippy culture, it is a Darwinian world in which only the most successful are able to monetise their products. The author does not convince me that the internet, as it currently operates, reinforces inequality. But it is a point that policymakers and technologists should think more deeply about.
Lanier mixes historical metaphors with abandon. At one point he quotes Aristotle: "What a shame about enslaving people, but we need to do it so someone will play the music, since we need music.
Then he suggests many in the present middle-class creative and academic sectors are operating in "feudal conditions". The structure and language do not help the cause either.
The book is written as a series of snippets, more like TED-style mini-lectures, rather than developing the ideas into a longer train of thought. At times the language is impenetrable.
Still, the book raises important questions and Lanier is highly qualified to ask them. His danger signs are worth noting. Each technological innovation produces the potential not just for cyber-crime, but for manipulating the way we lead our lives. Take the driverless cars that Google is developing. He conjures the following thought: imagine you take a driverless taxi. Without explanation, it lingers in front of billboards during your journey or forces you to a particular convenience store if you need to pick up something.
Is that very different to search engines reading your mind through your click-habits or Amazon telling you, often accurately, what you really want to read next?
Big Data warns of the dangers of misuse by governments and corporations alike, but from predicting climate change to health epidemics, they prefer to focus on the value.
Life is enhanced when smart data helps passengers identify those airports that are more prone to delays or which patients, on discharge from hospital, are more likely to be readmitted.
In a fascinating experiment, an expert who used data to predict the likelihood of American soldiers being blown up by roadside bombs in Iraq was asked by the mayor of New York to tackle illegal property conversions.
He did so by a mixture of computer data sets and walking the streets, inputting manually observations such as the quality of brick. Armed with uncannily accurate information, inspectors moved in, clearing buildings that had become fire hazards and dens of criminality.
The amount of raw data about all our lives continues to rise exponentially. It is a frightening prospect.
#36. A Summary of ‘Who Owns the Future?’ by Jaron Lanier
He lived in tents for an extended period with his father before embarking on a seven-year project to build a geodesic dome home that he helped design. At NMSU, he took graduate-level courses; he received a grant from the National Science Foundation to study mathematical notation, which led him to learn computer programming. Lanier also attended art school in New York during this time, but returned to New Mexico and worked as an assistant to a midwife. After Atari Inc.
Who Owns the Future? Quotes
He is a mega-wizard in futurist circles. He is the father of virtual reality in the gaudy, reputation-burnishing way that Michael Jackson was the king of pop. That was a feisty, brilliant, predictive work, and the new volume is just as exciting. One need not be a political ideologue, he says, to believe that people have quantifiable value and deserve to be recompensed for it. Image Jaron Lanier is a witheringly caustic critic of big Web entities.
Instead, wealth, and more importantly, power, information, and data, have become concentrated in large companies, while ordinary users find themselves in increasingly precarious work arrangements, with decreasing privacy and control. Lanier argues that this trend is not sustainable. Although everyone producing videos on YouTube has to self-finance their projects and take some risk, only a very small number are actually able to make money from their videos. This results in a Zipf distribution, as opposed to a bell curve, with the bell curve being associated with the creation of a middle class, said Lanier. The resistance to paying for information is absolutely natural for someone who has been economically disempowered. Lanier also addressed, among other topics, privacy, ideology in technology, educational technology and MOOCs, the current dystopian streak in science fiction, the impact of technology on ideas about personhood and spirituality, and the details of how micropayments could be used to pay people for their online activity and data. Listen to the full audio recording above.
Who Owns the Future?
Share via Email Jaron Lanier is a digital visionary with a difference. As the New Yorker once put it, he is a technology expert who dislikes what technology has become. He is a go-to person for those worried about the internet. His latest book, Who Owns the Future? These are giant computer networks, devised by the smartest technical folk around, systems that gather data often without having to pay for it.