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.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Insider's perspective & worth your time
Lanier is occasionally frustrating but his reflections on the reach and thinking of Silicon Valley persistently return to me since finishing this book. There are some stunning revelations, but his characterization of 'Siren Servers' and the general lack of concern or sense of social responsibility by the key players holds true with every new headline in the news. I have no doubt the inner elite of the 'Siren Servers' scoff at this kind of scrutiny, thoroughly enveloped in their neo-enlightenment self-justification. As you read you can hear how close statements get to "all the best for this, the best of all possible worlds".
Typical fanaticism from a politically motivated fanatic. The author seems to lack an understanding of the very capitalist system that enabled him to pioneer new things. The reason he thinks this modern wave of technology will put everyone out of work is that finally the old trimmer can not envision what comes next. Perhaps it's all the medical Mary j clouding the brain of one of the 1980's great innovators I don't know. In the end what he puts fort for the future amounts to realization of 100 years of socialist dreams come to fruition through the internet turning humans into a currency of the global order where we are paid to be used by the silicone valley instead of innovating and coming up with new jobs the way the tech revolution did in the 90's This is the same kind of paranoia put out by big labor in the 1970's as they resisted modernization of their factories for fear that robots would take all the jobs.
Please make this in an audio version, publishing people. Please!