Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
1Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
21-05-13 The Internet is hollowing out the middle class

21-05-13 The Internet is hollowing out the middle class

Ratings: (0)|Views: 3|Likes:
Published by William J Greenberg
“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” Lanier writes in _Who Owns the Future_'s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sImpd to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”
“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” Lanier writes in _Who Owns the Future_'s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sImpd to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”

More info:

Published by: William J Greenberg on May 27, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

10/10/2013

pdf

text

original

 
Published on
 Alternet 
Home> The Internet Is Slaying the Middle Class
[1]
/
By 
 
[2] 
The Internet Is Slaying the Middle Class
May 21, 2013
|Jaron Lanier is a computer science pioneer who has grown graduallydisenchanted with the online world since his early days popularizing the ideaof virtual reality. “Lanier is often described as ‘visionary,’ ” Jennifer Kahn wrotein a 2011New Yorker profile, 
[3]
“a word that manages to convey both acapacity for mercurial insight and a lack of practical job skills.”Raised mostly in Texas and New Mexico by bohemian parents who’d escapedanti-Semitic violence in Europe, he’s been a young disciple of RichardFeynman, an employee at Atari, a scholar at Columbia, a visiting artist at NewYork University, and a columnist for Discover magazine. He’s also a longtimecomposer and musician, and a collector of antique and archaic instruments,many of them Asian.His book continues his war on digital utopianism and his assertion of humanistand individualistic values in a hive-mind world. But Lanier still sees potential indigital technology: He just wants it reoriented away from its main role so far,which involves “spying” on citizens, creating a winner-take-all society, erodingprofessions and, in exchange, throwing bonbons to the crowd.This week sees the publication of “Who Owns the Future?,” 
[4]
which digs intotechnology, economics and culture in unconventional ways. (How is a piratedmusic file like a 21st century mortgage?) Lanier argues that there is littleessential difference between Facebook and a digital trading company, or  Amazon and an enormous bank. (“Stanford sometimes seems like one of theSilicon Valley companies.”)
 
Much of the book looks at the way Internet technology threatens to destroythe middle class by first eroding employment and job security, along withvarious “levees” that give the economic middle stability.“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’sprelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodakemployed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They eveninvented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the newface of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was soldto Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Wheredid all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all thosemiddle-class jobs created?”“Future” also looks at the way the creative class – especially musicians, journalists and photographers — has borne the brunt of disruptive technology.The new book – which has drawn a rave in the New York Times — hasalready received a serious challenge from Evgeny Morozov in the WashingtonPost. The Internet-skeptic author of “To Save Everything, Click Here: TheFolly of Technological Solutionism” 
[5]
[6]
Lanier’s proposed solutionthat regular people be rewarded in micropayments when their data enriches adigital network.But more important than Lanier’s hopes for a cure is his diagnosis of thedigital disease. Eccentric as it is, “Future” is one of the best skeptical booksabout the online world, alongside Nicholas Carr’s“The Shallows,” 
[7]
RobertLevine’s“Free Ride” 
[8]
and Lanier’s own“You Are Not a Gadget.” 
[9]
We spoke to the dreadlocked, Berkeley-based author from the road, wherehe’s on a massive book tour.
 You talk early in “Who Owns the Future?” about Kodak — aboutthousand of jobs being destroyed, and Instagram picking up the slack —but with almost no jobs produced. So give us a sense of how thathappens and what the result is. It seems like the seed of your book in away.
Right. Well, I think what’s been happening is a shift from the formal to theinformal economy for most people. So that’s to say if you use Instagram toshow pictures to your friends and relatives, or whatever service it is, there area couple of things that are still the same as they were in the times of Kodak.One is that the number of people who are contributing to the system to make
 
it viable is probably the same. Instagram wouldn’t work if there weren’t manymillions of people using it. And furthermore, many people kind of have to usesocial networks for them to be functional besides being valuable. People haveto, there’s a constant tending that’s done on a volunteer basis so that peoplecan find each other and whatnot.So there’s still a lot of human effort, but the difference is that whereas beforewhen people made contributions to the system that they used, they receivedformal benefits, which means not only salary but pensions and certain kinds of social safety nets. Now, instead, they receive benefits on an informal basis. And what an informal economy is like is the economy in a developing countryslum. It’s reputation, it’s barter, it’s that kind of stuff.
So instead of somebody paying money to get their photo developed, andsomebody getting a part of a job, a little fragment of a job, at least, andretirement and all the other things that we’re accustomed to, it worksinformally now, and intangibly.
Yeah, and I remember there was this fascination with the idea of the informaleconomy about 10 years ago. Stewart Brand was talking about how brilliant itis that people get by in slums on an informal economy. He’s a friend so I don’twant to rag on him too much. But he was talking about how wonderful it is tolive in an informal economy and how beautiful trust is and all that. And you know, that’s all kind of true when you’re young and if you’re not sick,but if you look at the infant mortality rate and the life expectancy and theeducation of the people who live in those slums, you really see what thebenefit of the formal economy is if you’re a person in the West, in thedeveloped world. And then meanwhile this loss, or this shift in the line fromwhat’s formal to what’s informal, doesn’t mean that we’re abandoning what’sformal. I mean, if it was uniform, and we were all entering a socialist utopia or something, that would be one thing, but the formal benefits are accruing atthis fantastic rate, at this global record rate to the people who own the biggestcomputer that’s connecting all the people.So Kodak has 140,000 really good middle-class employees, and Instagramhas 13 employees, period. You have this intense concentration of the formalbenefits, and that winner-take-all feeling is not just for the people who are onthe computers but also from the people who are using them. So there’s thistiny token number of people who will get by from using YouTube or Kickstarter, and everybody else lives on hope. There’s not a middle-classhump. It’s an all-or-nothing society.

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->