Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class

jaronlanier

Jaron Lanier is a computer science pioneer who has grown gradually disenchanted with the online world since his early days popularizing the idea of virtual reality. “Lanier is often described as ‘visionary,’ ” Jennifer Kahn wrote in a 2011 New Yorker profile, “a word that manages to convey both a capacity for mercurial insight and a lack of practical job skills.”

Raised mostly in Texas and New Mexico by bohemian parents who’d escaped anti-Semitic violence in Europe, he’s been a young disciple of Richard Feynman, an employee at Atari, a scholar at Columbia, a visiting artist at New York University, and a columnist for Discover magazine. He’s also a longtime composer and musician, and a collector of antique and archaic instruments, many of them Asian.

His book continues his war on digital utopianism and his assertion of humanist and individualistic values in a hive-mind world. But Lanier still sees potential in digital technology: He just wants it reoriented away from its main role so far, which involves “spying” on citizens, creating a winner-take-all society, eroding professions and, in exchange, throwing bonbons to the crowd.

This week sees the publication of “Who Owns the Future?,” which digs into technology, economics and culture in unconventional ways. (How is a pirated music file like a 21st century mortgage?) Lanier argues that there is little essential difference between Facebook and a digital trading company, or Amazon and an enormous bank. (“Stanford sometimes seems like one of the Silicon Valley companies.”)

Much of the book looks at the way Internet technology threatens to destroy the middle class by first eroding employment and job security, along with various “levees” that give the economic middle stability.

“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”

Read the rest here:

Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class – Salon.com.

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About anomaly

SMiles Lewis has had a lifelong interest in all things anomalous. An early age proclivity at recalling his nightly dreams as well as several personal experiences with ESP, precognition and dream switching bolstered his interest in the paranormal. Shortly after high-school he joined the local MUFON chapter in Austin, Texas. He would later become a MUFON State Section Director for that group as well as leader of the local UFO Experiencer Support and Study Group. A lover of books, SMiles collected over 1000 titles before founding the non-profit Anomaly Archives that serves as the lending library of the Scientific Anomaly Institute (501c3). For over twenty years he has worked with digital audio, video and other bleeding edge internet technologies. He has published his own print journal (E.L.F. Infested Spaces), edited a local paranormal newspaper (Austin Para Times), maintained a large network of websites (ELFIS.net), organized a national UFO conference (NUFOC-38), spoken to anthropologists about UFOs and parapsychology (Encounters with the Fantastic), hosted (and been a guest on) both terrestrial and webradio talk shows and has been podcasting since before the phrase existed. All these efforts and more have led radio talk show host Robert Larson to describe Miles as a “Gonzo Alt-Media Proprietor and Informationalist.” He is also the LOWFI-Texas State Bureau Chief of The League of Western Fortean Intermediatists. SMiles’ current projects include co-hosting PsiOp-Radio with Mack White as part of the many unique shows airing daily on his ANOMALY RADIO Network. He is active with several local non-profits which includes his service on the board of directors for the Institute for Neuroscience And Consciousness Studies (INACS) and the Scientific Anomaly Institute‘s lending library, the Anomaly Archives. His writings can be found within the Archives of his print journal ELFIS and ANOMALY Magazine. In his day job with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission‘s Talking Book Program he manages a Volunteer Recording Studio and audio duplication department and has been a consultant on two digital audio development documents for the Library of Congress‘ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
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