- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (8 February 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307389979
- ISBN-13: 978-0307389978
- Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.8 x 21.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,22,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (Vintage) Paperback – 8 Feb 2011
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A New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe Bestseller
“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, The New York Times
“Persuasive. . . . Lanier is the first great apostate of the Internet era.”
“Thrilling and thought-provoking. . . . A necessary corrective in the echo chamber of technology debates.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Mind-bending, exuberant, brilliant. . . . Lanier dares to say the forbidden.”
—The Washington Post
“With an expertise earned through decades of work in the field, Lanier challenges us to express our essential humanity via 21st century technology instead of disappearing in it. . . . [You Are Not a Gadget] compels readers to take a fresh look at the power—and limitations—of human interaction in a socially networked world.”
—Time (“The 2010 Time 100”)
“Lanier is not of my generation, but he knows and understands us well, and has written a short and frightening book, You Are Not a Gadget, which chimes with my own discomfort, while coming from a position of real knowledge and insight, both practical and philosophical.”
—Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books
“Sparky, thought-provoking. . . . Lanier clearly enjoys rethinking received tech wisdom: his book is a refreshing change from Silicon Valley’s usual hype.”
“Important. . . . At the bottom of Lanier’s cyber-tinkering is a fundamentally humanist faith in technology. . . . His mind is a fascinating place to hang out.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A call for a more humanistic—to say nothing of humane—alternative future in which the individual is celebrated more than the crowd and the unique more than the homogenized. . . . You Are Not a Gadget may be its own best argument for exalting the creativity of the individual over the collective efforts of the ‘hive mind.’ It’s the work of a singular visionary.”
“A bracing dose of economic realism and Randian philosophy for all those techno utopianists with their heads in the cloud. . . . [Lanier is] a true iconoclast. . . . He offers the sort of originality of thought he finds missing on the Web.”
—The Miami Herald
“For those who wish to read to think, and read to transform, You Are Not a Gadget is a book to begin the 2010s. . . . It is raw, raucous and unexpected. It is also a hell of a lot of fun.”
—Times Higher Education
“[Lanier] confronts the big issues with bracing directness. . . . The reader sits up. One of the insider’s insiders of the computing world seems to have gone rogue.”
—The Boston Globe
“Gadget is an essential first step at harnessing a post-Google world.”
—The Stranger (Seattle)
“Lanier turns a philosopher’s eye to our everyday online tools. . . . The reader is compelled to engage with his work, to assent, contradict, and contemplate. . . . Lovers of the Internet and all its possibilities owe it to themselves to plunge into Lanier’s manifesto and look hard in the mirror. He’s not telling us what to think; he’s challenging us to take a hard look at our cyberculture, and emerge with new creative inspiration.”
“Poetic and prophetic, this could be the most important book of the year. . . . Read this book and rise up against net regimentation!”
—The Times (London)
“[Lanier’s] argument will make intuitive sense to anyone concerned with questions of propriety, responsibility, and authenticity.”
—The New Yorker
“Inspired, infuriating and utterly necessary. . . . Lanier tells of the loss of a hi-tech Eden, of the fall from play into labour, obedience and faith. Welcome to the century’s first great plea for a ‘new digital humanism’ against the networked conformity of cyber-space. This eloquent, eccentric riposte comes from a sage of the virtual world who assures us that, in spite of its crimes and follies, ‘I love the internet.’ That provenance will only deepen its impact, and broaden its appeal.”
—The Independent (London)
“Fascinating and provocative. . . . Destined to become a must-read for both critics and advocates of online-based technology and culture.”
About the Author
Jaron Lanier is known as the father of virtual reality technology and has worked on the interface between computer science and medicine, physics, and neuroscience. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Visit the author's website at www.jaronlanier.com.
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Lanier's personal interest in exotic music fits with his own form of personal revolt against the dehumanizing forces at play. Laced with insightful snippets, Lanier appears "locked" into his own matrix. Lanier fears and believes in a digital future. It's economic and socially revolutionary potential intersects with a growing proportion of humanity. Yet just as Latin (then French) dominated intellectual discord in the West (and arguably English in a more global sense today), the very breadth of intellectual resources will eventually require the return of specialists and revitalize demand for "original" sources in much the same manner that ideas from classical times became the passion of Renaissance humanists.
Lanier identifies the forces and possible implications of modern information technology. As the law of unforeseen consequences would suggest, Lanier defines a window with extensive potential to remake the world as we know it -- or at least perceive it. However, anticipating future trends (the mantra of the human existence) carries a burden of having only the present to project into the future. Lanier's critique of contemporary culture is insightful but it is also limited in application to a passing generation.
Lanier aspires to pull us away from the dehumanizing abyss of current technology. His own evidence regarding the expanding capacity of computers and information technology generally, however, could as easily prove its own undoing as data evades quantification under the weight of its own quantity. Qualitative analyses (along with an appreciation of music) require a mature intuitive cherry-picking of reliable evidence. Or as previous leading thinkers have noticed, logical constructs preclude non-logical outcomes, which in turn preclude progress beyond what is commonly viewed as reasonable or rational. Or as Einstein once noted, paraphrasing, if you want your children to better understand math, teach them fairy tales. Perhaps Lanier can bridge this gap in his next book.
The book starts out speaking about the limitations inherent in our current technology due to lock-in as many of the programming languages currently in use today were written ten, twenty, thirty years ago. A good example is MIDI. MIDI was created to be a simple mime of a synthesizer on a computer, but MIDI only specifies certain notes in a limited range (like the keys on a piano). Pick up a saxophone or start to sing and there are many more possible sounds than can be produced using MIDI; the technology is so embedded in everything we do now that it's locked-in.
Lainer stands in contrast to proponents of the free/open culture movement; most free culture advocates perceive themselves as rebellious and liberal but Lainer posits that they are the conservative ones. He makes a great point in that many of our best pieces of software have come from closed systems - i.e. the iPhone or Adobe Flash. This quote sums up his view nicely: "If we choose to pry culture away from capitalism while the rest of life is still capitalistic, culture will become a slum." I think a happy medium does exist, but is currently not present in efforts such as Creative Commons licensing (though it's certainly a start).
"Am I accusing all of those hundreds of millions of users of social networking sites of reducing themselves in order to be able to use the services? Well yes, I am. [...] A real friendship outght to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other. Each acquaintance is an alien, a well of unexplored difference in the experience of life that cannot be imagined or accessed in any way but through genuine interaction. The idea of friendship in database-filtered social networks is certainly reduced from that." Sure all of that is true, but that all depends on how we define and value various words. I don't consider all of my 1,192 "Facebook friends" to be my close friends in real life, many are people that I've met along the way and simply want to keep in touch with occasionally. I realized shortly after reading that chapter that I was being small. I grew up straddling the analog and digital ages and I know both. Lanier is looking beyond that at future generations that will grow up on Facebook, Twitter, and other web 2.0 networks.
I've found great joy in people I've met on the internet and proceeded to meet in person, many of who have become great friends. I've been meeting people from online communities for nearly a decade now and it's never been weird or creepy, aside from the middle school dance feeling that might occur for the first few minutes. To be fair, Lainer does spend about a page or two praising this result of the web, but I don't think he gives it enough credit.
One point I have to strongly disagree with is Lanier's assertion that musical progress has been greatly slowed and everything is just "retro, retro, retro." He says most people in their 20s can't differentiate between 90s and 00s music. Can you tell me that there's anything that sounds like The Postal Service or The Knife from the 20th century? Those are just two examples off the top of my head but there's a plethora of original music out there right now that is distinct to our time. I'm also not sure why musical genres and trends have to be spliced into ten year increments that coincide neatly with decades, but that's just an aside. Musical genres have splintered and there's isn't currently an overarching archetype, but I would say that's simply because we have access to so much music and record companies no longer have as much power to set the standard for what is appropriate for the masses. The masses decide for themselves by finding new music on the internet.
I found this book to be a fantastic thought exercise and it made me take a hard look at my technological worldview. I wish the conclusion was a more coherent and non-tangential; Lanier goes on to talk about cephlopods for several pages at the end of the book.
My life is seeped in web 2.0; this review itself is sending to four different web 2.0 platforms after I hit the publish button. We as a culture and society have become so engrossed in these platforms that I think it's important to step back and evaluate exactly what it is we're doing. I hope there's a compromise that exists between totally free and open culture and closed systems; I suppose we'll find out.
I wouldn't consider myself to be a Luddite. Ray's discussion of humanity trying to repress technology is correct and will not work. Once Pandora's box has been opened there is no stopping what will happen. It comes down to being uncertain about things and not being trustworthy of leaders, that are supposed to represent you and as we already know from recent news....
Anyways, great book
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