Monday, February 15, 2010

You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier

You Are Not A Gadget A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier is making a statement against the current state of the internet. He was one of the original creators of virtual reality and proponents for creative commons. He is arguing that the internet has become dehumanizing, mob ruled, economically destructive, and poorly designed. This book is an argument for a different kind of internet; a single payer web, a place with less anonymity, a place where authors are acknowledged for their work, and a place where humans are more important than systems and codes.

The book is very much focused on a humanistic view of computing. The computer serves the individual to help them become more creative. It is against many network oriented ideologies. He thinks large computer networks threaten individual freedom and the idea of a singularity or the point where machines become smarter than humans is counterproductive.

There is a very nice reminder to not be fragmentary and try not to be anonymous. I feel that I need a little bit of anonymity to present some of my views. Jaron Lanier wants people to bring back a degree of civility to the computer world. In his view, the point of networks and social networks is to connect with other people. People are more important than networks.

Social networks are a way to connect with people. I am going to be at Book Expo America and the Bookbloggers Convention as part of this. Networks are not just disembodied voices. If you are using networks correctly, you will be invited to events in the real world like the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art receptions, librarian meetups, conventions, or lunches.

Some of the ideas he is talking about are front and center. There is currently a copyright war that is about digital rights. Central to this idea is who is the author. If there is no acknowledged author which people respect for creative works, the author cannot make a living. Very few people can make money selling knick knacks or speaking. He is correct on this. The internet has disenfranchised many authors, newspeople, and musicians. Acknowledge where you get your content from.

This is an excellent counterpoint to authors like Chris Anderson who talk about the wonderful new opportunities on the web. It is a counterargument against the impersonality of Wikipedia, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and other new media darlings.

The writing is eclectic. It touches on some surprising subjects; cephalopod intelligence, the circle of empathy, theories of computation, music, virtual reality, the noosphere, and the singularity are just a few of the subjects.

If you want to read a very creative personal manifesto about the way the internet is heading, you will find this different. It is a humanistic and individualistic counter to many of the prevailing ideas. Some of it is a little far fetched, but still worth thinking over. I liked reading it.

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