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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The influential thinker behind You Are Not a Gadget takes on the future of our lifestyle and economy in a profound look at the ways networking and the Internet are shaping what we’ll become. Jaron Lanier explores how, in a world where information is often free, opportunities for growth and new jobs for young people are actually becoming more scarce. In a thoughtful manifesto against the value of free information, he suggests a new course for the future involving an intriguing system of micropayments. Regardless of whether you end up agreeing with Lanier or not, his ideas are fascinating, compassionate, and original.
Information can't be free if the digital economy is to thrive, argues this stimulating jeremiad. Noting that the Internet is destroying more jobs than it creates, virtual reality pioneer and cyber-skeptic Lanier (You Are Not a Gadget) foresees a future when automation, robotics, 3-D printers, and computer networks will eliminate every industry from nursing and manufacturing to taxi-driving. The result, he contends, will be a dystopia of mass unemployment, insecurity, and social chaos in which information will be free but no one will be paid except the elite proprietors of the "siren servers" Google, Facebook, Amazon, and the like that manipulate our lives. Lanier's extrapolation of current trends to an economy where almost everyone will be judged redundant is incisive and scary. Unfortunately, his proposal for safe-guarding the middle class micropayments for the supposedly valuable but currently free information that ordinary people feed into the Web, from consumer profiles and friending links feels as unconvincing and desperate as the cyber-capitalist nostrums he derides. Lanier's main argument spawns fascinating digressions into Aristotle's politics, science-fiction themes, Silicon Valley spirituality, and other byways. Even if his recommended treatment seems inadequate, his diagnosis of our technological maladies is brilliant, troubling, and well worth the price.