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You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto Paperback – February 8, 2011
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A New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe Bestseller
“Lucid, powerful and persuasive. . . . Necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Persuasive. . . . Lanier is the first great apostate of the Internet era.”
“Thrilling and thought-provoking. . . . A necessary corrective in the echo chamber of technology debates.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Mind-bending, exuberant, brilliant. . . . Lanier dares to say the forbidden.”
—The Washington Post
“With an expertise earned through decades of work in the field, Lanier challenges us to express our essential humanity via 21st century technology instead of disappearing in it. . . . [You Are Not a Gadget] compels readers to take a fresh look at the power—and limitations—of human interaction in a socially networked world.”
—Time (“The 2010 Time 100”)
“Lanier is not of my generation, but he knows and understands us well, and has written a short and frightening book, You Are Not a Gadget, which chimes with my own discomfort, while coming from a position of real knowledge and insight, both practical and philosophical.”
—Zadie Smith, The New York Review of Books
“Sparky, thought-provoking. . . . Lanier clearly enjoys rethinking received tech wisdom: his book is a refreshing change from Silicon Valley’s usual hype.”
“Important. . . . At the bottom of Lanier’s cyber-tinkering is a fundamentally humanist faith in technology. . . . His mind is a fascinating place to hang out.”
—Los Angeles Times
“A call for a more humanistic—to say nothing of humane—alternative future in which the individual is celebrated more than the crowd and the unique more than the homogenized. . . . You Are Not a Gadget may be its own best argument for exalting the creativity of the individual over the collective efforts of the ‘hive mind.’ It’s the work of a singular visionary.”
“A bracing dose of economic realism and Randian philosophy for all those techno utopianists with their heads in the cloud. . . . [Lanier is] a true iconoclast. . . . He offers the sort of originality of thought he finds missing on the Web.”
—The Miami Herald
“For those who wish to read to think, and read to transform, You Are Not a Gadget is a book to begin the 2010s. . . . It is raw, raucous and unexpected. It is also a hell of a lot of fun.”
—Times Higher Education
“[Lanier] confronts the big issues with bracing directness. . . . The reader sits up. One of the insider’s insiders of the computing world seems to have gone rogue.”
—The Boston Globe
“Gadget is an essential first step at harnessing a post-Google world.”
—The Stranger (Seattle)
“Lanier turns a philosopher’s eye to our everyday online tools. . . . The reader is compelled to engage with his work, to assent, contradict, and contemplate. . . . Lovers of the Internet and all its possibilities owe it to themselves to plunge into Lanier’s manifesto and look hard in the mirror. He’s not telling us what to think; he’s challenging us to take a hard look at our cyberculture, and emerge with new creative inspiration.”
“Poetic and prophetic, this could be the most important book of the year. . . . Read this book and rise up against net regimentation!”
—The Times (London)
“[Lanier’s] argument will make intuitive sense to anyone concerned with questions of propriety, responsibility, and authenticity.”
—The New Yorker
“Inspired, infuriating and utterly necessary. . . . Lanier tells of the loss of a hi-tech Eden, of the fall from play into labour, obedience and faith. Welcome to the century’s first great plea for a ‘new digital humanism’ against the networked conformity of cyber-space. This eloquent, eccentric riposte comes from a sage of the virtual world who assures us that, in spite of its crimes and follies, ‘I love the internet.’ That provenance will only deepen its impact, and broaden its appeal.”
—The Independent (London)
“Fascinating and provocative. . . . Destined to become a must-read for both critics and advocates of online-based technology and culture.”
About the Author
Jaron Lanier is known as the father of virtual reality technology and has worked on the interface between computer science and medicine, physics, and neuroscience. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Visit the author's website at www.jaronlanier.com.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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Lanier's personal interest in exotic music fits with his own form of personal revolt against the dehumanizing forces at play. Laced with insightful snippets, Lanier appears "locked" into his own matrix. Lanier fears and believes in a digital future. It's economic and socially revolutionary potential intersects with a growing proportion of humanity. Yet just as Latin (then French) dominated intellectual discord in the West (and arguably English in a more global sense today), the very breadth of intellectual resources will eventually require the return of specialists and revitalize demand for "original" sources in much the same manner that ideas from classical times became the passion of Renaissance humanists.
Lanier identifies the forces and possible implications of modern information technology. As the law of unforeseen consequences would suggest, Lanier defines a window with extensive potential to remake the world as we know it -- or at least perceive it. However, anticipating future trends (the mantra of the human existence) carries a burden of having only the present to project into the future. Lanier's critique of contemporary culture is insightful but it is also limited in application to a passing generation.
Lanier aspires to pull us away from the dehumanizing abyss of current technology. His own evidence regarding the expanding capacity of computers and information technology generally, however, could as easily prove its own undoing as data evades quantification under the weight of its own quantity. Qualitative analyses (along with an appreciation of music) require a mature intuitive cherry-picking of reliable evidence. Or as previous leading thinkers have noticed, logical constructs preclude non-logical outcomes, which in turn preclude progress beyond what is commonly viewed as reasonable or rational. Or as Einstein once noted, paraphrasing, if you want your children to better understand math, teach them fairy tales. Perhaps Lanier can bridge this gap in his next book.
One of the many points he makes in this book is that the internet, contrary to early expectations (still held by many), has not caused an explosion in creativity and originality but, on the contrary, the opposite. One reason is that the internet has and will make it more difficult for those making their living through the production of intellectual media (i.e., music, books, films, etc.). This is so for the obvious reason that it has enabled and will enable much more so in the future due to increased bandwidth) these works to be downloaded for free via piracy over the internet. Hence many artists, especially those at the marginal levels, will no longer be able to sustain themselves in these professions. Piracy, however, is not the only reason this will happen. The internet also makes it possible for anyone to pose (especially amateurs) articles, photos, etc. on the internet which will further erode the financial value of these works. Lanier also points out that this is not the only reason that works will diminish, in terms of both quality and diversity, but also that amateur works themselves are of much lower quality. Hence a case of the bad driving out the good. In addition, it feeds a mindset whereby everything is expected for free or at very low price (there is no shortage of reviews on Amazon, for example,
complaining of Kindle books being over $10).
Lanier also puts forth the view that the internet, on a net basis, is more a force for homogeneity than heterogeneity. Witness the fact that music has become more homogeneous across both styles (i.e., Rock, Pop, etc.) as well as time (especially the latter). For most of the last century, for example, it was possible to tell musical styles across decades (rock between the 1960s and 1970s or Jazz between the 1920s and 1930s) but today it is much more difficult to do so. Music between today and the early 2000s, for example, is much more difficult to differentiate, even in the same "class" (i.e., Rock, etc.). The same has happened across countries and cultures. Not that this was not happening before (i.e., national "styles" of cinema in the mid 20th century were disappearing by the end of the century) but the internet has greatly speeded up the process.
Lanier also puts to rest the commonly held view that the internet necessarily fosters greater understanding and expanded individuality of expression amongst its participants. He points out that it also, conversely, can facilitate mob behavior.
Those who believe the internet is a force for the improvement in the quality and diversity of intellectual works, culture, greater cross-cultural "understanding" and greater individuality in general, would be well to read this book.