Who Owns the Future?by Jaron Lanier
Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality and one of the world’s most/i>/i>
The “brilliant” and “daringly original” (The New York Times) critique of digital networks from the “David Foster Wallace of tech” (London Evening Standard)—asserting that to fix our economy, we must fix our information economy.
Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality and one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers. Who Owns the Future? is his visionary reckoning with the most urgent economic and social trend of our age: the poisonous concentration of money and power in our digital networks.
Lanier has predicted how technology will transform our humanity for decades, and his insight has never been more urgently needed. He shows how Siren Servers, which exploit big data and the free sharing of information, led our economy into recession, imperiled personal privacy, and hollowed out the middle class. The networks that define our world—including social media, financial institutions, and intelligence agencies—now threaten to destroy it.
But there is an alternative. In this provocative, poetic, and deeply humane book, Lanier charts a path toward a brighter future: an information economy that rewards ordinary people for what they do and share on the web.
“Lanier’s career as a computer scientist is entwined in the central economic story of our time, the rapid advance of computation and networking. . . . [Who Owns the Future?] not only makes a convincing diagnosis of a widespread problem, but also answers a need for moonshot thinking.”
"Lanier has a mind as boundless as the internet . . . [He is] the David Foster Wallace of tech."
“Lanier has a poet’s sensibility and his book reads like a hallucinogenic reverie, full of entertaining haiku-like observations and digressions.”
"Everyone complains about the Internet, but no one does anything about it . . . except for Jaron Lanier."
"Who Owns the Future? explains what’s wrong with our digital economy, and tells us how to fix it. Listen up!”
"Who Owns the Future? is a deeply original and sometimes startling read. Lanier does not simply question the dominant narrative of our times, but picks it up by the neck and shakes it. A refreshing and important book that will make you see the world differently."
“This book is rare. It looks at technology with an insider’s knowledge, wisdom, and deep caring about human beings. It’s badly needed.”
"One of the triumphs of Lanier's intelligent and subtle book is its inspiring portrait of the kind of people that a democratic information economy would produce. His vision implies that if we are allowed to lead absorbing, properly remunerated lives, we will likewise outgrow our addiction to consumerism and technology."
- Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author
Jaron Lanier is a scientist and musician best known for his work in Virtual Reality research, a term he coined and popularized. Time named him one of the “Time 100” in 2010. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Tuesday, June 4, 2013 Not so long ago the Internet was seen as the next great economic engine. The optimism was never higher than at the peak of the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, of course; but even after the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, 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. Since that time, it is certainly the case that the Internet has spawned a few major successes, as well as a host of hopefuls. However, it cannot be said that the economy has enjoyed a great boost since the Internet exploded. On the contrary, the economy has, at best, stagnated--and it currently shows no signs of escaping its slump. So what went wrong? According to Silicon Valley luminary Jarion Lanier, the problem is not so much with the Internet per se, but with how it has been set up, and how the major Internet companies themselves are organized. To begin with, major Internet companies tend to form monopolies, or near-monopolies, and on a global scale (mainly because Internet networks are able to reach a global audience and undercut local players, but also because these networks are more valuable to their users as they grow larger). The formation of monopolies and near monopolies destroys competition, of course, which compromises economic growth. Even more important than this, though, is that Internet megaliths employ relatively few people, and have very little overhead (thus they simply don't contribute much back to the economy). You see, the business plan of most successful Internet companies is to offer a particular service for free (such as Internet search efficiency with Google, or social connecting with Facebook, or business connecting with LinkedIn, or an auction platform with eBay, or music and video files on a sharing site etc). The framework of the platform is provided by the company, but the content of the service is provided by the users. The site attracts users with the prospect of a free and useful service, and the site itself makes revenue through selling advertising space. Oftentimes, the company collects information from its users through its activities on the platform, and uses this information to help target them with ads and/or sells this information to third parties so these third parties can use it themselves. Lanier's book is a sprawling affair occasioned with numerous fairly bizarre flights of fancy (I didn't mind this so much since Lanier is fairly interesting, and has a unique perspective), but the core ideas here are very intriguing and worthy of serious consideration. The problem with Lanier's solution at this point is that the economy has not yet slumped enough in order to convince us that Lanier's theory must be true, and that radical solutions are needed (and Lanier's solution is radical). Nevertheless, should events continue to play out as Lanier foresees, his solution may well become attractive at some point. A full executive summary of the book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com on or before Tuesday, June 4; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
Terrible. Extremely WORDY. Seems more interested in exhibiting apparent encyclopedic knowledge of people and world events in history. A clear and concise story would have been a lot better. Seems to be restating the same theory repeatedly with innumerable examples. Cannot recommend this book.