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You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto Paperback – February 8, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307389979
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307389978
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #248,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Michael A. Duvernois VINE VOICE on January 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Technology criticism," the author writes, "should not be left to the Luddites." Jaron Lanier is certainly no Luddite, but in this "manifesto" he blasts the Web 2.0 mentality, highlights long-standing technology lock-ins, and ranges far and wide in his criticisms of the Internet, computing, and the cultures surrounding the two today.

The core of his argument is that the achievements of the Web 2.0 collaborations are neither exciting, nor new. "Let's suppose that, back in the 1980s, I had said, `In a quarter century, when the digital revolution has made great progress and computer chips are millions of times faster than they are now, humanity will finally win the prize of being able to write a new encyclopedia and a new version of UNIX!' It would," he writes, "have sounded utterly pathetic." He's referring to Wikipedia and Linux, two clear successes of collaborative construction. And furthermore, the intellectual work of those thousands of people have been undervalued, in fact, they're unpaid volunteers. The middle classes have spent their hours working without paid to build wonderful constructs for the profits of major companies. Hmmm...as I write this book review, unpaid, with Amazon looking to earn money from selling more copies of this book...

Ranging further across the Web 2.0 field, Jaron notes the Facebook and Myspace pages in their prescribed formats with individuals reduced to favorite books, movies, five options for politics, and six options for relationship status. Other parts look at technology lock-in, with the example of MIDI. It was developed in the early 1980s for keyboard synthesizer control and output, and reproduces the nuances of a keyboard but not, for example, a violin. It would be hard to get support for a new, broader tool.
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Format: Hardcover
In his book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, Jaron Lanier becomes a solitary voice in the wilderness shouting as loudly as he can that all is not well with the virtual world nor with the tools that make the virtual world possible....software and computers. That this book was written by an insider from the world of the Internet should get everyone's attention.

Jaron Lanier is a household name for those who follow the world of computers and virtual reality and his book is nothing more than a manifesto warning us that there is a dark side to the Internet. Even innocuous websites such as Facebook and Google, "lords of the cloud" do not escape Lanier's expose. "Emphasizing the crowd means de-emphasizing individual humans" and that, in the end, leads to "mob" behavior. Utterly true.

As I flipped through the book, the point that resonated most loudly to me was the impact `anonymity' has had on our virtual world (and maybe the real world as well). I can remember visiting a chat room that was dedicated to "Books and Literature" in 2000 or 2001. As a librarian I was naturally drawn to a space that I thought would be filled with others like me who had a love of the written word and for good books. Did that assumption back fire? You bet! What I found was a chat area filled with virtual people who wanted to chat about anything but books and literature. If I were to post a question about what people were reading or what they thought of a given book I was torn (virtually) from limb to limb. Having served in the military I have a pretty good operational understanding of foul language, and I'm pretty good at throwing the words around when necessary. However, that this language would be used in that particular venue by people who could remain anonymous was a shock.
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5 Comments 123 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What Jaron Lanier does is take us up 50,000 feet and allow us to view things with perspective. He says we have been overwhelmed by the unnoticed "lock-in" and simply adjust and reduce ourselves to fit the requirements of online dating, social media, forums, and the software we employ. Web 2.0 is homogenizing humanity, taking us down to the lowest common denominator instead of allowing or encouraging us to bloom in different directions. Everything we now "enjoy" seems to be backward looking - music is sampled and retro, news is criticized mercilessly, but very few are creating it any more, relationships are Tweets...

It sounds like Lanier recommends friends don't let friends communicate via Facebook - they do it on the phone or in person. But the direction we are taking instead reduces interaction, kills creativity, journalism, music, science....it's not as pretty as predicted.

These are truly valuable criticisms, and this is an important, if flawed book. Flawed because after a hundred page pounding of logic and evidence, Lanier spends the second hundred pages telling us how wonderful it is to be a scientist and play with humans and cuttlefish. I was particularly annoyed with a gratuitous couple of paragraphs devoted to swearing, which which he says might be connected to parts of the brain controlling orifices and obscenity.

Well, to my knowledge, swearing is purely cultural, not physiological. In Quebec, the worst swearing is against the Catholic Church, Translated into English "Christ Tabernacle" sounds like something WC Fields said to skirt the censors. But it's the most vile thing you can say in polite conversation in Montreal. On the other hand Motherf----r doesn't translate into French at all. And what's any of this got to do with online reductionism?
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