You Are Not a GadgetYou Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“If we chose to pry culture away from capitalism while the rest of life is still capitalistic, culture will become a slum. In fact, online culture increasingly resembles a slum in disturbing ways. Slums have more advertising than wealthy neighborhoods, for instance. People are meaner in slums; mob rule and vigilantism are commonplace. If there is a trace of “slumming” in the way that many privileged young people embrace current online culture, it is perhaps an echo of 1960s counterculture.”

Lanier is a virtual reality engineer and he is very well connected in Silicon Valley, so to hear someone else in the technology field realize and confirm much of what I have seen and written about is at least affirmation that I am seeing what I am seeing.

This book should be a must read on everyone’s list. There’s a lot to think about and a lot to consider about how technology has so limited and manipulated the growth and the creativity in society and culture in so many ways and has tried to make us humans and our lives a simple algorithm.

We are not gadgets. We still have brains – although we’re using them less and less and just joining the hive and coasting along following the Pied Piper to who knows where – and we need to resist what technology is trying to force us into becoming: automatons who can simply be programmed en masse.

This book is short and accessible for everybody, even if you’re not in the technology field. But the quote above should be sobering enough to pique your interest.

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Comments
  1. John D says:

    You wrote: “Slums have more advertising than wealthy neighborhoods, for instance. People are meaner in slums; mob rule and vigilantism are commonplace. ”

    I never thought of it in quite that light, but this is an excellent framework for describe the Anonymous phenomenon. Of course, vigilantism does not grow in a vacuum. These may be privileged, spoiled even, kids, but look at the culture in which they grew up. They are trained to be disaffected or, worse, victims. When corruption becomes blatant, infects every corner of society and all checks and balances quit working, you not only have vigilantism, you get revolution. Unfortunately, people have forgotten what that means as well and are in for a great shock. Let’s see if anything happens to turn it all around before it’s too late. It only takes a few Noble people to wake up and guide everyone to a different future, if God is willing.

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    • John, that’s one of the topics Lanier discusses in exactly the same scenario you describe and he decries much of what has emerged from making this sort of technology – and dumbing it down for ease of use, in many cases – available to everyone. As with all things, it’s that same mixture of good and evil that prevails for now. One day, it won’t and that day can’t come soon enough for any of us!

      I think you’d get a lot out of this book. As always, there are things I disagree with, but the overarching discussion I do agree with. Because we’re both inside technology, I think we can relate in a way that people who are outside, peripherally using it, but not really understanding how it works, technology cannot.

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