Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Brain dump: Jaron Lanier at the LSE

Last night's lecture by Jaron Lanier last night (at the LSE) was fascinating. The computer scientist and musician is widely credited as the inventor of virtual reality systems, and has been working for Microsoft for some years as a scholar and architect. He was speaking about his new book, ‘You are not a gadget’.

Some thinking points for you:
  • Phenomena such as Google Wave and Wikipedia are removing the human element of our interactions with technology, leading to ‘Digital Maoism’ and a false single version of the truth that forces us to act stupid to make machines look smart.
  • Open ‘collaborative’ culture is damaging to innovation, leading to stale ideas and a lack of controlled risk taking by developers and technologists. The best way to innovate is by following the scientific model – keeping findings secret and only revealing new theories in controlled bursts.
  • True IT security can only be reached through a mixture of diversity (lots of different IT systems so the strongest survive – not proprietary systems) and trust (people understanding that breaking into stuff is bad).
  • The movement towards large walled gardens of content (Apple, Amazon) is a creativity bottleneck, stopping innovation by forcing developers to choose one system for their content. At the same time, this creates file sharing that is forcing artists to give up on their dignity and consistently promote themselves or risk disappearing.
  • By allowing multiple copies of the same file to exist, the internet is a huge, wasteful and heavy industrial machine that is far from green.
While some of his ideas were radical and against many of the systems that are currently defining how we use and consume technology, he certainly made you stop and think about the way tech is affecting our lives. I’d recommend you read the book.