You Are Not a Gadget - Jaron Lanier

You Are Not a Gadget

By Jaron Lanier

  • Release Date: 2010-01-12
  • Genre: Engineering
Score: 3.5
From 31 Ratings



A programmer, musician, and father of virtual reality technology, Jaron Lanier was a pioneer in digital media, and among the first to predict the revolutionary changes it would bring to our commerce and culture. Now, with the Web influencing virtually every aspect of our lives, he offers this provocative critique of how digital design is shaping society, for better and for worse.
Informed by Lanier’s experience and expertise as a computer scientist, You Are Not a Gadget discusses the technical and cultural problems that have unwittingly risen from programming choices—such as the nature of user identity—that were “locked-in” at the birth of digital media and considers what a future based on current design philosophies will bring. With the proliferation of social networks, cloud-based data storage systems, and Web 2.0 designs that elevate the “wisdom” of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and wisdom of individuals, his message has never been more urgent.


  • I am not an emergent quality, either

    By DoC611
    From the first paragraph of the book (which is all that you might read before forming an opinion) it's clear that the author is confused by the outpouring of human creativity on social networks. Expecting that each utterance should be comparable to the few ancient Greeks' whose writings have survived the test of time is crazy. Just because, all of a sudden, everyone is writing something, that does not lessen what the rare great writer will produce, and certainly does not reduce expectations of what a person can be. The author seems limited in his exposure to social networks to some amorphous mob of illiterate, purposeless, yet technology-literate people. His put down of anonymous crowd-sourced content refuses to see that it should be treated in its own terms. Wikipedia is not the Bible, it is not Shakespeare, and it is not the Encyclopedia Britannica. But neither is any of those the others. A simple example to refute his hypothesis is the use of social networks for social revolution. Surely this could not have come about if some very clever programmer had set out to create software for that purpose. What's great about these amorphous crowd contribution systems is their emergent properties, including uses that could not have been foreseen by some intelligent design. Having started off with a flawed basis, the book continues to build a flawed edifice to contrarian thought. Certainly useful for defining what to disagree with.