Jaron Lanier's recent thoughts

The place to be totally off-topic.

Jaron Lanier's recent thoughts

Postby Chris on January 14th, 2010, 3:09 pm

Musician, Computer Scientist; Pioneer of Virtural Reality; Author, You
Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto


The Internet as it evolved up to about the turn of the century was a
great relief and comfort to me, and influenced my thinking positively
in a multitude of ways. There were the long-anticipated quotidian
delights of speedy information access and transfer, but also the far
more important optimism born from seeing so many people decide to
create Web pages and become expressive, proving that the late 20th
century's passive society on the couch in front of the TV was only a
passing bad dream.

In the last decade, the Internet has taken on unpleasant qualities,
and has become gripped by reality-denying ideology.

The current mainstream, dominant culture of the Internet is the
descendant of what used to be the radical culture of the early
Internet. The ideas are unfortunately motivated to a significant
degree by a denial of the biological nature of personhood. The new
true believers attempt to conceive of themselves as becoming ever more
like abstract immortal information machines, instead of messy, mortal,
embodied creatures. This is nothing but yet another approach to an
ancient folly; the psychological denial of ageing and dying. To be a
biological realist today is to hold a minority opinion during an age
of profound, overbearing, technologically-enriched groupthink.

When I was in my twenties, my friends and I we were motivated by the
eternal frustration of young people that they are not immediately all
made rulers of the world. It used to seem supremely annoying to my
musician friends, for instance, that the biggest stars, like Michael
Jackson, would get millions of dollars in advance for an album, while
an obscure, minor artist like me would only get $100K advance to make
one (and this was in early 1990's dollars.)

So what to do? Kill the whole damned system! Make music free to share,
and demand that everyone build reputation on a genuine all-to-all
network instead of a broadcast network, so that it would be fair. Then
we'd all go out and perform to make money, and the best musician would

The lecture circuit was particularly good to me as a live performer.
My lecture career was probably one of the first of its kind that was
driven mostly by my online presence. (In the old days, my crappy Web
site got enough traffic to merit coverage as an important Web site by
the mainstream media like the New York Times.) It seemed as though
money was available on tap.

Seemed like a sweet way to run a culture back then, but in the bigger
picture, it's been a disaster. Only a tiny, token number of musicians,
if any, do as well within the new online utopia as even I used to do
in the old world, and I wasn't particularly successful. Every musician
I have been able to communicate with about their true situation,
including a lot of extremely famous ones, has suffered after the
vandalism of my generation, and the reason isn't abstract but because
of biology.

What we denied was that we were human and mortal, that we might
someday have wanted children, even though it seemed inconceivable at
the time. In the human species, neoteny, the extremely slow fading of
our juvenile characteristics, has made child rearing into an extreme,
draining long-term commitment.

That is the reality. We were all pissed at our own parents for not
coming through in some way or other, but evolution has extended the
demands of human parenting to the point that it is impossible for
parents to come through well enough, ever. Every child must be
disappointed to some degree because of neoteny, but economic and
social systems can be designed to minimize the frustration.
Unfortunately the Internet, as it has come to be, maximizes it.

The way that neoteny relates to the degradation of the Internet is
that as a parent, you really can't go running around to play gigs live
all the time. The only way for a creative person to live with what we
can call dignity is to have some system of intellectual property to
provide sustenance while you're out of your mind with fatigue after a
rough night with a sick kid.

Or, spouses might be called upon to give up their own aspirations for
a career, but there was this other movement called Feminism happening
at the same time that made that arrangement less common.

Or, there might be a greater degree of socialism to buffer biological
challenges, but there was an intense libertarian tilt coincident with
the rise of the Internet in the USA. All the options have been ruled
out, and the result is a disjunction between true adulthood and the
creative life.

The Internet, in its current fashionable role as an aggregator of
people through social networking software, only values humans in real
time and in a specific physical place, that is usually away from their
children. The human expressions that used to occupy the golden
pyramidion of Maslow's pyramid, are treated as worthless in

But dignity is the opposite of real time. Dignity means, in part, that
you don't have to wonder if you'll successfully sing for your supper
for every meal. Dignity ought to be something one can earn. I have
focused on parenting here, since it is what I am experiencing now, but
the principle becomes even more important as people become ill, and
then even more as people age. So, for these reasons and many others,
the current fashionable design of the Internet, dominated by so-called
social networking designs, has an anti-human quality. But very few
people I know share my current perspective.

Dignity might also mean being able to resist the near-consensus of
your peer group.
Posts: 82
Joined: September 7th, 2008, 2:42 pm

Re: Jaron Lanier's recent thoughts

Postby Mr.DRC on January 14th, 2010, 4:57 pm

Like I said:
...where did it all go wrong Chris?

Why quote others when- Damn!Some geezer already appropriated that one :evil:

Thanks.Enjoyed the piece.Will enjoy it more at home with a cuppa and a biccie ;)

Some ex-Civil Servant will forever be a Loved One of the other ex-Civil Servant.ats.
User avatar
Big Daddy
Posts: 754
Joined: September 8th, 2008, 11:23 am
Location: Moominvalley

Re: Jaron Lanier's recent thoughts

Postby cyberyukon on January 15th, 2010, 10:02 am

"authors, journalists, musicians and artists are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind"

More like bite-sized pieces. We're becoming a culture of bite-sized everything. From fast-food to debit card-taking parking meters the rise of the "apps". And maybe it's not about being bite-sized as much as it is about convenience. Technology theoretically should make things better and more convenient. Just ask the Jetsons. So the PC and the .mp3 make things more convenient. More portable. Portability and convenience are close cousins. Add in the cost--that it's all free--and you've just cooked up a juggernaut of probably unconquerable force.

"An intelligent person feels guilty for downloading music without paying the musician, but they use this free-open-culture ideology to cover it,” Mr. Lanier told me."

Personally I've gone back to, whenever possible, buying CDs. Downloading digital media has lost its appeal. I don't like purchasing air. Musical air, yes. But still just air. A CD I can hold and kiss and worship...and throw against the wall when it fails. And it becomes part of me. I have a box full of CDs, some twenty-five years old. They're like markers or totems of previous days. Can't do that with a digital file.

"Mr. Lanier was once an advocate himself for piracy, arguing that his fellow musicians would make up for the lost revenue in other ways."

Like paying $250.00 for a concert ticket. Hmmm...

"In theory, public officials could deter piracy by stiffening the penalties,"

Didn't the RIAA try this? By taking 5 year olds and grandmothers to court (and giving Bob Lefsetz tons of column material)? The horse was out of the barn years ago when someone figured out that en route from the CD to the speaker the stream of Fourier-patterned electrons in the computer could be diverted and stored into a separate file.

And people were swapping .mp3s as far back as 1998, long before Napster came around,
Napster simply created a common interface to allow more people to organize and share music on a bigger scale rather than with just their immediate friends.

But the one thing I've learned from watching "Pawn Stars" is that something is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. And if they can get it for free, well, it's going to happen.

But to get back to the article, I've always said that, in a strange way, the 'net represents...or maybe manifests?... humanity. The 'net is humanity. The dark and light of humanity. From the deepest Id-based porn sites to the wonderful resources that allow us to donate money instantly to help the folks in Haiti and keep in touch with long-lost friends. And yes, from the expression of creativity to the "mean-ness of mobs" and piracy of digital media.

"To save those endangered species, Mr. Lanier proposes rethinking the Web’s ideology, revising its software structure and introducing innovations like a universal system of micropayments."

Great idea. At least until some 13-year-old with a lot of time and a Sharpie marker is able to figure out how to intercept the aforementioned march of electrons. And the web is too big and too nebulous for any one form of architecture. The web maintains a controlled form on anarchy--it always has. The e-mail spammers have known this for years.

The answers lie elsewhere, folks. Outside of the world of digital this and that.

Anyways...just some thoughts...

Anyone agree? Disagree?
User avatar
Papa Legba
Posts: 253
Joined: September 7th, 2008, 5:32 pm
Location: Las Vegas...you know the place.

Re: Jaron Lanier's recent thoughts

Postby thick as a Brick on January 16th, 2010, 7:29 am

thick as a Brick
Radio Head
Posts: 96
Joined: March 2nd, 2009, 7:32 pm


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest