Who Owns the Future?

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Almost everything in the economy — from manufacturing, transportation, and energy to healthcare — will ultimately be about information, thanks to 3D printing, self-driving cars, robotic mining equipment, robot nurses, and the rest of the technology we're developing by observing and analysing human behaviour.

If software is the final industrial revolution, Lanier argues, it won't be sustainable to hand over the data you produce in return for free services instead of payment. Moore's Law has given us "cheap treats" — yesterday's unattainable luxury hardware is today's throwaway phone feature. But the limit on Moore's Law that Lanier points out isn't the usual issue of heat and quantum efficiency: it's that people who want to get paid for what they do seem very expensive when computation is so cheap, and the technology industry forgets that what those people contribute is actually valuable.

The middle class is vanishing in industry after industry. It's gone in music production and distribution, and machine learning-powered translation will get good enough to put a lot of human translators out of business. That's ironic, because their translations are what the machine learning has used to build translation algorithms. Shouldn't they get micro-payments for their contributions to systems that make the siren servers so much money?

Shouldn't we all be getting paid for information gleaned from us, if that information turns out to be valuable? If a nurse observed by machine learning demonstrates an efficient method that a robot nurse can learn, should she get paid for that? Suppose you meet your partner on a dating site, and twenty years later, you're still married.

Who Owns The Future?

If the dating site algorithm analyses you both and uses that information to help refine the algorithm for pairing people up, you should get a cut of the profits. And instead of selling your eyeballs for ever more targeted ads, you'll actually pay for some of those services you use. Lanier returns to the original ideas about networked information from pioneer Ted Nelson , whose Xanadu system would have had two-way links and two-way transactions, and suggests an alternative network economy where information stays connected to its source.

He also takes a remarkably sensible look at who might built this kind of system and what would motivate them. There are caricatures of the different industry players and participants here — but unusually, for a book about technology, there are also recognisable human beings acting and reacting the way humans actually do rather than the usual idealised marketing personas. This is a wide-ranging, discursive, and deliberately provocative book. Lanier makes no secret of the fact that he works at Microsoft. His disclaimer that his criticisms of Amazon's ability to reduce its own risk and increase risk for smaller sellers by always under-pricing them, and that it is nothing to do with Microsoft's partnership with Barnes and Noble, is refreshingly clear and honest.

Table of Contents

What I can offer is being open about what I think. Lanier's role in pioneering virtual and augmented reality gives him the kind of insider insight that normally precludes this level of criticism. In just one role in a long and varied career, he founded a startup that was bought by Google and formed the basis for Google Glass. Along the way, you'll learn as much about philosophy, economics, and thermodynamics courtesy of Maxwell's demon , as you will about 3D printers and why IBM's Watson is just a machine for producing answers rather than any kind of real artificial intelligence.

All this makes the book a fascinating, compelling, and thought-provoking read.

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier

You might not be as worried about any individual service as Lanier is about the whole idea of siren servers, and you might not find the idea of two-way transactions comprehensive enough to be our economic salvation — it's arguable that implementing them would have been complex enough to prevent the world wide web ever getting adopted. But Lanier makes it clear that this is a first look at a solution — what he calls "a whiff of a possibility".


  • The Correspondence of Northrop Frye and Helen Kemp, 1932-1939, Volume 1 (Collected Works of Northrop Frye);
  • Thoughts on what is wrong with the current way the information economy works.
  • Anatomy of a Trial: Public Loss, Lessons Learned from The People vs. O.J. Simpson!

Even if you're not convinced, it's encouraging to see an alternative to a disrupted and digitised future that turns us all into digital serfs, valued only for our eyeballs and our sharing ability. Who Owns the Future? Sorry, general AI is still a long, long way off. From low code and cloud, to AI and encryption: What you do with data needs to be about more than buzzwords. Slug slime to hexagonal frying pans: How design inspiration can come from unexpected places. I just turned my Surface Book into a fancy leather-bound tome.

Thanks to Apple's year-long free trial program, Apple TV Plus has the potential for incredible reach.

But can Apple sustain that reach after the year is up? Here's what Apple might Giveaway ends on Sept. The Smart-Enough City, book review: Putting people first. Ben Green offers a welcome antidote to most accounts of smart cities, arguing that citizens' values, rather than technology itself, should be the starting point.

Personalized sound for every concert goer: Today Aerosmith, tomorrow at a venue near you. Imagine perfect sound quality at every live show. The School of Life. Tech Crunch TV. Bloomberg TV's "Taking Stock". Financial Times Business. This is a short intro from Jaron to a few of the ideas in the book: - Wired Magazine, April The legendary computer scientist and codebreaker may finally receive a posthumous pardon.

So what? An article in The Guardian on May 30, - Google's car would give it even more remote control over us. An article for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on April 24, - Whoever owns our data will determine our fate. The New York Times. Named 11th Best Book of by Amazon. The Independent. The Times. His vision implies that if we are allowed to lead absorbing, properly remunerated lives, we will likewise outgrow our addiction to consumerism and technology.

Lanier's New World is founded on hard, fulfilling work. He concedes that such a radical reorganisation of worth will demand from us new levels of maturity, discipline and collective responsibility — but then who said dignity should be downloadable for free? The Economist.

New Republic. The Plain Dealer, Cleveland. SF Chronicle. Included in the Washington Post's "Summer reads for business leaders". Deutsche Welle.

Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier – review

An interview with Scientific American. The Times of Israel. The Firedoglake Book Salon.


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