Jaron Lanier Asks Who Owns the Future?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality and one of the most influential thinkers of our time, examines the effects network technologies have had on our economy. In his new book Who Owns the Future? he asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. He looks at why and charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow.


Jaron Lanier

Comments [28]

jacques t from NYC

Those with an interest in topic should check a work by Jason Benlevi - "TOO MUCH MAGIC: Pulling the Plug on the Cult of Tech"

May. 18 2013 01:35 PM


"Did Adam and Eve think that nudity and sex was somehow "dirty?""

This question, right off the bat, is premised upon no less than two assumptions that do not follow from anything I actually wrote.

Your response appears quite reflexive.

Perhaps I will respond in detail later.
Regarding your sci-fi-like visions:

As long as humans remain biological organisms with such physical requirements as air, water and food and such emotional ones as actual human contact.... then technology can only go so far.

May. 07 2013 02:10 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Jf

What do I need land for? I'm not a dirt farmer. I could care less about land. If possible, I'd give all land back to the animals other than the amount needed for robots to farm it.

May. 07 2013 12:57 PM
Jf from The future

A good type of socialism could give everyone a self suficiency kit and some land.

May. 07 2013 12:51 PM

Mr.Lanier's closing comment presented a choice between a caricatured "Socialist Paradise", on one hand, and what he calls "Capitalism" (perhaps euphemistically), on the other.

This is a false dichotomy; these are not the only two choices.

May. 07 2013 12:48 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Noach

Did Adam and Eve think that nudity and sex was somehow "dirty?" Someday, when children are produced in factories, and individuals live in their own virtual world, in their own virtual "Gan Edens," these ideas and sexual feelings and "perversions" will have no relevance. The idea that the concept of "family" and monogamy and all of those old structures will become meaningless. Everyone will eventually be an individual, living for himself, by himself, in a virtual world of his own design. It all depends how soon technology can make such a virtual world realistic enough.

May. 07 2013 12:47 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes -- tech innovation , life, etc. is a perpetual balancing act. The problem is in not knowing it and not balancing accordingly.
Our addiction to push-button dopamine spurts is preventing us from adequately considering and adjusting for their effects.

May. 07 2013 12:43 PM

Please address how the technology in question, far more than anything else, has advanced and spread the cancer of pornography.

(To the alarming levels we see today, where even children at younger ages than ever have practically unlimited access to all manner of content that makes the likes of Playboy look _wholesome_ by comparison. Shockingly degrading to women, such smut unquestionably is a major cause of the alarming increase we have seen, among youth of younger ages than ever, of not only promiscuity in general but even such manifestly gruesome, dangerous and misogynist acts as buggery (anal penetration.).)

May. 07 2013 12:40 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The old idea of the perfect virtual world was called "Heaven" or Paradise. So the idea of some virtual world where all human problems don't exist anymore is not a new one. What is new, is the increasing ability to create it on earth thanks to computer technology.

May. 07 2013 12:36 PM
John A

Corrected Jaron link

May. 07 2013 12:35 PM
Jordan from Madison, NJ

Everything Mr. Lanier says is compelling to me, but it is not lost that he is a paid employee of Microsoft engaged in google-bashing.

May. 07 2013 12:34 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'm sorry Jaron is so pessimistic. I think his conclusions are wrong. Virtual reality will eventually FREE people from the shackles of hierarchy and materialism. Those are real world "problems," solved only by a virtual world. Nothing can basically be changed in the real world, but only in an individually tailored virtual "world."

May. 07 2013 12:34 PM
Jf from Dystopia

If i had to pay for every piece of information how could i make the utopian encyclopedia on tumblr? We dont need jobs we need to do everything ourselves to get back satisfaction and adventure in life. Self sufficient not slave to societies machine. Jared is a dystopian. Virtual reality fails because lack of exercise.

May. 07 2013 12:30 PM
John A

Like it or not, America's past successes have bred great materialism which itself devalues us.

May. 07 2013 12:29 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Independent Noach

Religious people, such as Hassidim, or orthodox Muslims, and other such groups, have been living in their own "virtual worlds" for centuries. They cut themselves off from the reality around them, and base their society and ways of life on certain ideas they consider sacrosanct. Such as praying and studying torah all the time, as one example.
In the digital future, individuals will be able to tailor their own individual environments they will be able to "live" in.

May. 07 2013 12:28 PM

About 90 years ago, Henry Ford made the same observation Jaron Lanier just has. Shown some of the marvelous new machines facilitating the making of cars with far fewer workers, Ford said of the machines, "But do they buy cars?"

May. 07 2013 12:27 PM

Yes, nothing is "free" (and "freedom" is entirely _relative_ and ultimately _illusory_)

May. 07 2013 12:26 PM
ann from Bergen County

Wonder if the guest has read Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Player Piano," written before computing power reached its current level, but nevertheless illustrates similar issues.

May. 07 2013 12:26 PM

Regarding "capitalism"/"Capitalism", please:

1.) Define the term as you use it
2.) Do you consider _your_ concept of "capitalism" to be consistent with that advanced by Adam Smith?
3.) Do you consider the prevailing (predatory) "neo-liberal" economic system that is commonly _called_ "capitalism" to be consistent with Smith?

Finally, your clear implication is that it is simply a given, axiomatic, that "capitalism", whatever exactly you mean by the term, is not only positive but THE standard against which everything should be judged.

Why? Please give your reasoning.

May. 07 2013 12:23 PM
Ed from Summit

Is there an analogy to Bitcoin?

May. 07 2013 12:21 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I disagree somewhat with Jaron's pessimism. Quite the contrary, one can be quite happy living isolated and alone in a small room, if you have access to virtual reality and choose to live within it. As for "employment," at some point people will be paid by the number of IDEAS they can produce. Already, the companies with the most patents now make the most money. Physical wealth is being replaced by psychic and virtual wealth. Why do people want to be rich in the first place? So that they can get the beautiful spouses they want, and get the respect or love they crave, and all of the rest of those hierarchical notions. But a virtual world, will be able to live as you want your virtual world.

May. 07 2013 12:20 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes, Luddism is age-old. But this time is different.
Tell it like it is, Jaron.

May. 07 2013 12:20 PM
John A

Have your own copy of "Computer Lib/Dream Machines" ?
It's from the Ted Nelson that Jaron mentioned. Fun book.

May. 07 2013 12:16 PM

@ fuva, 12:12 p.m.: Once more, you are right on the money (quite literally, in this case...)

May. 07 2013 12:16 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Look, the real world is made of a species of mammals we call "humans," but real mammalian life is HIERARCHICHAL due to biology. The "alpha" people are always going to acquire a disproportionate amount of "stuff" and domination. Only in a virtual world is true equality possible, not in real wealth, but in psychic and virtual wealth. Human problems exist in the real world, not in the virtual world.

May. 07 2013 12:14 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Those with more resources can better leverage info tech, to further increase their advantage, while simultaneously distracting those they're ripping off.

May. 07 2013 12:12 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Ask Jaron if he can see a day when people can have virtual sex and virtual families that they can tailor as their avatars while robots do the real work? Where you can have a virtual spouse and virtual children you can create to your own specifications, just as video game players today can create avatars as their imaginations please in those virtual multiplayer online (MMO) games?

May. 07 2013 12:05 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Lanier was a guru of virtual reality and somewhat of a hero of mine back then in the early 1980s when the subject was in its infancy. I've always believed that "virtual reality" is the future of human reality, and indeed every form of diversion from the grimness of actual reality, going as far back as caveman paintings to stare at night, indicates the need of humans for diversions and entertainment to alleviate the mental stresses of actual reality. Real life is hard; virtual life can be beautiful.

Can you ask Jaron what are his feelings about video gaming today? How will "gamification" change our lives and culture?

May. 07 2013 11:12 AM

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