by Jaron Lanier Print book  |  1st ed
Questioning the coming digital utopia   (2013-06-16)
Jarod Lanier makes up for a somewhat rambling, disjointed argumentative structure by peppering this book with startling insights and counter-intuitive statements on the nature of technological innovation. Lanier, credited as the founder of virtual reality technology, is as much a humanist as a techno-geek, and he wants us to be cautious as we enter the brave new world of digital miracles. Personhood is a crucial concept for Lanier, and he makes it clear that computers can never be people.
Lanier is best when he explains how the process of technology proliferation can channel culture into particular patterns. A seemingly random choice at the point of invention can result in solidified structure and precedent that can be nearly impossible to overcome. I recommend particularly his discussion of digital music and the ways it has shaped our creation and hearing of music today.
For all its faults, Lanier's voice is one that is worth hearing. For a good pairing, I would suggest reading this book along with David Weinberger's "Too Big to Know." The latter extols the virtues of crowd wisdom and interconnectivity, while Lanier cautions us to remember the value of individual creativity and the mystery of consciousness.
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