- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (3 February 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141049111
- ISBN-13: 978-0141049113
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.4 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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You Are Not a Gadget Paperback – 3 Feb 2011
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Fabulous - I couldn't put it down and shouted out Yes! Yes! on many pages . . . This is a landmark book that will have people talking and arguing for years into the future. (Lee Smolin)
Lucid, powerful and persuasive . . . Necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
There is hardly a page that does not contain some fascinating provocation (Guardian)
Mind-bending, exuberant, brilliant (Washington Post)
A pioneer in the development of virtual reality and a Silicon Valley veteran, Mr. Lanier is a digital-world insider concerned with the effect that online collectivism and the current enshrinement of "the wisdom of the crowd" is having on artists, intellectual property rights and the larger social and cultural landscape. In taking on such issues, he's written an illuminating book that is as provocative as it is impassioned. (Michiko Kakutani's Top 10 Books of the Year 2010 New York Times)
In the world of technologists, Jaron Lanier is that rare combination: a pioneer and a skeptic. A legendary computer scientist, he did crucial early work in the field of virtual reality (the phrase is his). But he now recoils at the way Web 2.0 and social media sell us short as human beings, both in our relationships and in our sense of who we are. In purposeful, reasoned steps, always informed by a profound understanding of how software really works, he lays out his vision of where it all went wrong and champions the power of the human brain in an age of ever smarter machines. (Lev Grossman Time Magazine Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2010)
About the Author
Jaron Lanier is a philosopher and computer scientist who has spent his career pushing the transformative power of modern technology to its limits. From coining the term 'Virtual Reality' and creating the world's first immersive avatars to developing cutting-edge medical imaging and surgical techniques, Lanier is one of the premier designers and engineers at work today. Linked with UC Berkeley and Microsoft, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the IEEE in 2009.
A musician with a collection of over 700 instruments, he has been recognised by Encyclopedia Britannica (but certainly not Wikipedia) as one of history's 300 or sogreatest inventors and named one of the top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by Prospect and Foreign Policy.
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The remainder of the book covers Lanier's other interests, which are many and varied, and include science, virtual reality, ancient musical instruments, music, cephalopods, a particular polygon, art and humanism. The intelligence and grasp of varied subjects in varied disciplines that come across in this book are amazing.
What informs the entire range of his subjects is an awareness and cherishing of that elusive and often ineffable part of life which does not compute -- tenderness, empathy, delight, a sense of magic, a hint of something larger than ourselves. An appreciation for this aspect of our humanity seems so very absent in much of today's culture and, to my mind and to Lanier's, explains in part why so much of it is vacant and derivative.
This unsettling book explores some of the strange conundra created by our fascination with all things `web 2.0'. From the way one programmer's convenience becomes the next generation's strait-jacket, to the loss of identity in wiki-based knowledge, and the lowering of self-esteem among Facebook addicted youth, to the `ideal' of perpetual existence as a stream of electrons in a computer's `consciousness, this book takes science fiction and roots it deep into the rich manure of common current `culture'.
The concept that structure and process can speed up adoption and dissemination of new ideas by lowering volatility and improving message targeting is anathema to the proponents of wiki-style freedom. But is the freedom of information necessarily worth the sacrifice of individual expression, attribution and control? Proponents of the hive mind or noosphere would argue that case but Lanier takes an independent stance that values contribution of individuals as individuals, with their personal intelligence, experience and emotion, above the anonymous, often re-edited and variable outputs of agglomerated information mash-ups. It is a brave, but valid, stance and coherently reasoned.
The doctrine of crowd-based wisdom is infiltrating strategy and policy development processes. Whilst involvement is inherently useful, it appears obvious, upon reading this treatise, that there should be clear limits to the way in which crowds are used and scope for individual attributable contributions to retain relevance.
The use of pseudonyms and anonymous postings is definitely supporting the rise of `Trolls'. Trolls, in cyberspace, are people who are abusive towards other people or ideas. They have been implicated in cyber-bullying which leaves boards exposed to claims of failure to prevent harassment and/or discrimination. The move towards transparency is greatly hampered when organisations interact online with anonymous respondents.
As Lanier points out, "If you win anonymously no one knows, and if you lose, you just change your pseudonym and start over, without having modified your point of view one bit. If the Troll is anonymous and the target is known then the dynamic is even worse." Any company is at risk of a cyber-storm if their operations, brand or philosophy should offend a tribe of trolls. The case of Nestle and the palm oil debate is a dramatic illustration of this principle in action.
Another of Lanier's bugbears is the principle of `lock-in', where decisions made in the early stages of development establish constraints on decision-making in the later stages until they become ingrained as `facts'. Reducing the richness of individual experience to suit the templates of networking sites is a harrowing process to any innovative thinkers. Cutting the glissando of music into computer recognisable notes is anathema to many musicians. Both of these processes have enabled sharing and progress on a scale unparalleled in human history. Both are reducing the expression of future potential by fitting it into a template based on past expedience.
Lanier is one of the leading thinkers of the internet age and this book has set him apart, and at odds, from his fellows. It has also provided a necessary space for consideration in our headlong rush to the brave new lands of the internet fuelled universe. Like the maps of olden-times, at the edges of our current knowledge it would be well to mark the internet with signs stating `Here be Dragons'. They may only be dragons of our own invention but it is as well proceed towards them with due caution.
Highly recommended for both fans and sceptics of web 2.0 plus anyone who is still undecided.
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* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "Presenting to Boards", "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: practical case studies for company directors', "The Director's Dilemma", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.
Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors
Presenting to Boards: Practical Skills for Corporate Presentations (Volume 1)
says, but I think he brings up a number of very important points. The point that resonated
strongest is that about the devaluation of individual creativity. It is certainly true
that the work of individuals frequently crystalizes the thinking of society. But there
does seem to be a fairly broad movement to devalue the role of individuals in
the process of discovery. Lanier argues that ultimately replacing individual creativity
by the computationally guided "inventions" of the hive mind is a step in the wrong
Lanier's writing is clear, and should be required reading for regular followers of
Wired and similar publications (like myself). It does become clear that those
publications, and (if Lanier is right) a large part of Silicon Valley, subscribes to a
fairly coherent new philosophy. Lanier calls this set of belief a religion, simply
because many of the adherents will follow it without question. Whether he is ultimately
right on his main points or not, Lanier succeeds in making the reader question
assumptions about technology which many consider to be unquestionable truths.