Find your next favorite audiobook

Become a member today and listen free for 30 days
Who Owns the Future?

Who Owns the Future?

Written by Jaron Lanier

Narrated by Pete Simoneilli


Who Owns the Future?

Written by Jaron Lanier

Narrated by Pete Simoneilli

ratings:
4/5 (25 ratings)
Length:
12 hours
Released:
Jul 16, 2013
ISBN:
9781442368408
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

The "brilliant" and "daringly original" (The New York Times) critique of digital networks from the "David Foster Wallace of tech" (London Evening Standard)-asserting that to fix our economy, we must fix our information economy.

Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality and one of the world's most brilliant thinkers. Who Owns the Future? is his visionary reckoning with the most urgent economic and social trend of our age: the poisonous concentration of money and power in our digital networks.

Lanier has predicted how technology will transform our humanity for decades, and his insight has never been more urgently needed. He shows how Siren Servers, which exploit big data and the free sharing of information, led our economy into recession, imperiled personal privacy, and hollowed out the middle class. The networks that define our world-including social media, financial institutions, and intelligence agencies-now threaten to destroy it.

But there is an alternative. In this provocative, poetic, and deeply humane book, Lanier charts a path toward a brighter future: an information economy that rewards ordinary people for what they do and share on the web.
Released:
Jul 16, 2013
ISBN:
9781442368408
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

About the author

Jaron Lanier is a scientist, musician, and writer best known for his work in virtual reality and his advocacy of humanism and sustainable economics in a digital context. His 1980s start-up VPL Research created the first commercial VR products and introduced avatars, multi-person virtual world experiences, and prototypes of major VR applications such as surgical simulation. His books Who Owns the Future? and You Are Not a Gadget were international bestsellers, and Dawn of the New Everything was named a 2017 best book of the year by The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Vox.


Related to Who Owns the Future?

Related Audiobooks

Related Articles


Reviews

What people think about Who Owns the Future?

4.2
25 ratings / 8 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    A very interesting book that proposes that the information about themselves people are currently giving away for free to Facebook, Google, Twitter etc (or as the author calls them "Siren Servers") should instead be sold so people can benefit by making money - a good read.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I've read many books on society's current economic predicament resulting from networked information technologies clashing with outmoded political economic systems, but Jaron Lanier tries tackling the problem from a prescriptive engineering approach which I find refreshing and fruitful. To clarify, by taking an engineering approach I don't mean simple technocratic reductionist thinking which presupposes technical fixes to be silver bullets that trump political or social advances, I mean a holistic and humanistic engineering of technosocial systems that incorporates social and political dynamics into the foundation of our networked technologies. Larry Lessig coined the phrase 'code is law', and Lanier builds on this idea in his new book to show us that 'code is economics'.Ironically, one of Lanier's major gripes is centered precisely on the free/open source/creative commons ideology that Lessig helped popularize and which has become a dominant mindset of information technology designers, entrepreneurs, and activists. While filled with good intentions, this movement, according to Lanier, is the seed of much of the problems we are facing and can only lead to a dystopian future. This movement wants information to be free because information is abundant in a digital network where the cost of copying bits is close to zero. However, when information is free, the only way to make sustainable profits within the information economy is to become spying platforms and gatekeepers of information that act as intermediaries between consumers and producers/advertisers, exploiting both in the process. For those lucky enough to be close to these gatekeepers, which Lanier calls siren servers, huge benefits can be had, but for most people any significant economic benefits from producing information becomes either a crap shoot within digital markets dominated by winner-take-all power law distributions or promotional material for unsustainable offline activities such as singing for your money. As our society increasingly transforms its activities into information processing (software is eating the world as Marc Andreesen put it), the logical conclusion of a free information economy dominated by siren servers is a drastic shrinking of the overall economy, huge social inequalities, and massive civil unrest.Lanier's proposed solution to this nightmare is to revisit an old idea by Ted Nelson that predates the internet and personal computer revolutions by decades. Nelson was one of the first people to sketch out a vision for hypertext and a networked information system, but the main differences between his ideas and what eventually became the web was the bidirectional nature of the links that form the networks instead of the one-way links of the current www, and the persistence of single identities of information objects with cached local images instead of the copying and duplication of disparate data in use today. With two-way links to atomic chunks of information, metadata that identifies the ownership and use rights of each atom, and a micropayment system that compensates actors at all levels of the information economy, the remixing/mashup dreams of the creative commons can be had while still enabling a true information economy that grows instead of shrinks, and with a large portion of that growth happening in the middle. People will become active and compensated actors within all information processes they engage in instead of being exploited passive users of spying gatekeeper siren servers. Not only those who engage in commercial transactions will profit like they do now with e-commerce, but micro-royalties will propagate to each individual whenever their information property is used in those transactions, enabling not only income generation but wealth generation for the masses. If you're going to have a capitalist society, might as well digitize capital completely, not just the markets. Lanier's outline of such a system is just a rough draft vision document, the devil surely is in the details, and bootstrapping such a system within the current regime is a nontrivial task to put it mildly, but as a plausible vision for how to move forward I find it an optimistic and worthy direction to pursue.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This book is a little hard to judge. It does not really break new ground (promoting micro-payments, ownership of your own data; pointing out the true bargain we make when we "get" things for "free"; pointing out the lopsidedness of current views of technological advancement of efficiency; and so forth) but it does tie all these together in a conceptual/social-economic framework

    In particular, it argues against the current "free" model of the web: users exchange their information (demographics, location, shopping habits, appliance repair expertise, how to change a car headlight, restaurant reviews... book reviews) for "free" services such as Facebook, YouTube, or GoodReads. This seems like a great deal. But: over the medium to long term, this shrinks the economy. There are fewer car headlamps to change, less need to pay book reviewers, and (in Lanier's favorite example) fewer paid musicians. So you give away your information/expertise/time for free, and get something for free, and the "Siren Server" (in Lanier's coinage) makes money; but *only* the "Siren Server" (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) makes money. This all might look fine, until the expertise being given away is your's, and hence in the longer term the economy starts to unravel. This is the direction that Silicon Valley (which he uses to mean both Silicon Valley, but also the larger technophile/libertarian culture) is and wants to move in.

    There is a lot more to this book, as well. For instance, the repeated (and, to me agreeable) assertion that the economy is not some thing outside of us, with some innate, external purpose like efficiency; that we can choose to make human contributions "worthwhile" -to make the economy humanistic- or continue down the path of making everything "free" and hence human contributions worth nothing. Note that this is similar to the main point, but from a different perspective.

    Some cons: Lack of conciseness, a bit of a choppy composition, a bit too personal (as we are being asked, essentially, to change the world/future.)

    The book has the feel, a bit, of a manifesto: it doesn't try to be academic or scientific. Or perhaps its better to say it feels, a bit, like science fiction, in the best possible sense: possibilities and difficulties are being laid out in a narrative fashion. In either case, it is a bit vague: he does proposes some partial solutions, while acknowledging that they are not fleshed out, as well as some -not sure what I want to call them- target values.

    To be honest, I think I am still processing the book a bit; while it has it's issues, that right there is a very good thing.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    2 people found this helpful

    "Who Owns the Future?" (2013) by Jaron Lanier is the natural companion to "To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism” (2013) from Evgeny Morozov. Both authors try critique approaches to the current state of technological affairs, namely the internet, and the power it mediates. Both are highly lucid and support ideas with large evidence, however Morozov emerges from a plain academic domain, while Lanier is a technologist, born within the Silicon Valley culture.
    Both books are must reads, but in this case, Lanier doesn't critique only, he goes further and presents possible solutions for the main problems being potentiated by the internet like the disappearance of jobs and the frightening rising of inequality.

    Will do an extensive review in my blog soon.

    2 people found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I want to write a full review later. For now, I'll say it is the best technology book I've read this year. Lanier seems to have matured since he wrote You are Not a Gadget. Gone are the polemics and personal attacks, replaced with reasoned arguments and perspective.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (2/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Important problem, terrible solution. Lanier notes that many people are increasingly providing free content to large online services, at the same time as many traditional jobs are being destroyed or their conditions becoming immiserated. Proposed solution: everyone should be entitled to micropayments for their online contributions, which would be I guess netted out at regular intervals (he doesn’t really say). I am befuddled by his theory that you can have monetized microproperty rights without government involvement. He criticizes libertarians and then reenacts them. His micropayment idea explicitly disparages government, when only an unwaivable, inalienable right would get the job done that he wants done (and at that point we should have a guaranteed basic income instead; why should your financial well being depend on whether you entertain others?). He says that in his world, instead of government mandates, lawyers would come in and renegotiate deals on behalf of ordinary users to protect their microinterests, as if lawyers hadn't already tried! Many times! And lost, because unless a contract term is unlawful it is enforceable. Perhaps relatedly, his treatment of the mortgage crisis is ridiculous; he argues that it was caused by the same speeded up information flow as that which produced Google/inability to control one’s own information. But the crash wasn't a crisis of lack of transparent information about who had your mortgage, something that wasn't under the borrower's control anyway. He's a very smart dude who thinks his intelligence makes him an expert in anything.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Jaron Lanier is an expert on digital networks and media, and is known as a pioneer in virtual reality, a term that he created. He has been involved in numerous Silicon Valley start-ups that have been bought out and are now parts of Adobe, Oracle, and Google. His thesis in "Who Owns the Future?" is that essentially every human enterprise will become almost exclusviely a digital one, and that the owners of the future will be those who control what he calls the Siren Servers, the digital utilities that attract hundreds of millions or billions of users. Owners of access to the "Big Data" that ordinary citizens provide freely can build both huge fortunes and defensive strategies that prevent others from challenging their dominance. Although I should have guessed it, I was unaware until reading this book that Amazon uses bots to scan the prices of its competitors and lowers their prices to undercut the competition. Lanier sees the trend toward dominance of the coming digital world by a few players as alarming, and he suggests that the game be changed, so that "Big Data" is no longer free to those exploiting it, but that it be priced so that the creators of the data (that's you and me) are compensated for our contributions to the data that is mined. Lanier is not very specific about how such a system might work practically, but his thoughtful book is worth considering. I must mention, however, that the future he projects, in which pharmaceuticals are custom-made and injected directly from digitally-programmed synthesis-on-a-chip modules did not seem likely to me, even in the distant future.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Jaron Lanier, although a legend in the techie world, values people above technology. His latest book continues his examination of our current Internet universe, and finds it wanting in fairness and economic incentives for innovation. Lanier offers one possible solution, one that is plausible and workable in my opinion. Should be read, carefully, by as many as possible.

    1 person found this helpful