In my last post, I highlighted some of the more memorable excerpts of Jaron Lanier’s latest book, “You are Not a Gadget.” Here are three more that especially caught my attention:
How to use a crowd well (pp. 56-58) – “Collectives can be just as stupid as any individual – and, in important cases, stupider…Signal processing is a bag of tricks engineers use to tweak flows of information…Wikipedia had to slap a crude low-pass [signal processing] filter on the jitteriest entries, such as ‘President George W. Bush’…What is crucial about modernity is that structure and constraints were part of what sped up the process of technological developments, not just pure openness and concessions to the collective.”
An ideology of violation (pp. 65-67) – “The internet has come to be saturated with an ideology of violation…The ideology of violation does not radiate from the lowest depths of trolldom, but from the highest heights of academia…A summary of the ideology goes like this: All those nontechnical, ignorant, innocent people out there are going about their lives thinking that they are safe, when in actuality they are terribly vulnerable to those who are smarter than they are. Therefore, we smartest technical people ought to invent ways to attack the innocents, and publicize our results, so that everyone is alerted to the dangers of our superior powers. After all, a clever evil person might come along.”
Pick your poison, aka, the case for scarcity (pp. 102-103) – “It is a common assertion that if you copy a digital music file, you haven’t destroyed the original, so nothing was stolen. The same thing could be said if you hacked into a bank and just added money to your online account…The problem in each case is not that you stole from a specific person but that you undermined the artificial scarcities that allow the economy to function. In the same way, creative expression on the internet will benefit from a social contract that imposes a modest degree of artificial scarcity on information.”
The very next section of the book addresses socialism, describing it as a potential, legitimate (although risky) alternative to a universal scarcity model of digital content. Interesting that in his annual Southby rant-fest, Bruce Sterling also addressed the topic of socialism, remarking that he was surprised that there haven’t been more online “socialist” start-ups like Good Neighbors or a viable venture based on “creative commons communism.”
With the wrap of the Interactive portion of SxSW yesterday and transition into high-gear of the Music portion festival today, I’ll be really interested to hear what the business people from the music industry have to say this year about the future of new artists, especially in light of this “pick your poison” argument Lanier makes about society’s obligation to pay for creativity.
Always eager to hear the readers’ thoughts, so jump in if you have something to say.