Jaron Lanier, fully Jaron Zepel Lanier

Lanier, fully Jaron Zepel Lanier

American Computer Philosophy Writer, Computer Scientist and Composer of Classical Music

Author Quotes

To expand the circle indefinitely can lead to oppression, because the rights of potential entities (as perceived by only some people) can conflict with the rights of indisputably real people. An obvious example of this is found in the abortion debate. If outlawing abortions did not involve commandeering control of the bodies of other people (pregnant women, in this case), then there wouldn't be much controversy. We would find an easy accommodation.

We?re losing track of the vastness of the potential for computer science. We really have to revive the beautiful intellectual joy of it, as opposed to the business potential.

Whereas the optimists are those who say, wow, I see problems, but I think I can start to see glimmers of solutions even though they are hard. Those are the real optimists.

To my mind an overleveraged unsecured mortgage is exactly the same thing as a pirated music file. It's somebody's value that's been copied many times to give benefit to some distant party. In the case of the music files, it's to the benefit of an advertising spy like Google [which monetizes your search history], and in the case of the mortgage, it's to the benefit of a fund manager somewhere. But in both cases all the risk and the cost is radiated out toward ordinary people and the middle classes--and even worse, the overall economy has shrunk in order to make a few people more.

Web 2.0 ideas have a chirpy, cheerful rhetoric to them, but I think they consistently express a profound pessimism about humans, human nature and the human future.

Why do people deserve a penny when they update their Facebook status? Because they'll spend some of it on you.

Turing presented his new offering in the form of a thought experiment, based on a popular Victorian parlor game. A man and a woman hide, and a judge is asked to determine which is which by relying only on the texts of notes passed back and forth.

What actually happens is that the companies that do automatic translation have scraped the Internet for preexisting translations. The result is just a statistical pastiche of preexisting translations done by real people. There are all these real people behind the curtain, and they aren?t being paid for their work.

With an eBook, however, you are not a first-class commercial citizen. Instead, you have only purchased tenuous rights within someone else?s company store. You cannot resell, nor can you do anything else to treat your purchase as an investment.

Turing replaced the woman with a computer. Can the judge tell which is the man? If not, is the computer conscious? Intelligent? Does it deserve equal rights?

What did you think would happen? We in Silicon Valley undermined copyright to make commerce become more about services instead of content: more about our code instead of their files.

Without even using a regulator, this design for an information economy would ding you for lock-in rent taking, and the result would be a more productive society. The thing about digital networks is that they can both increase productivity and dramatically decrease it. The difference is whether people are paying money purely for blackmail network effects or for actual value-adds. Paying corpus contributors would provide an acid test for where that line is. This approach provides a way to reduce the role of regulators but still have a regulated digital economy.

There are at least two ways to believe in the idea of quality. You can believe there's something ineffable going on within the human mind or you can believe we just don't understand what quality in a mind is yet, even though we might someday. Either of those opinions allows one to distinguish quantity and quality. In order to confuse quantity and quality, you have to reject both possibilities. The mere possibility of there being something ineffable about personhood is what drives many technologists to reject the notion of quality. They want to live in an airtight reality that resembles an idealized computer program, in which everything is understood and there are no fundamental mysteries. They recoil from even the hint of a potential zone of mystery or an unresolved seam in one's worldview. This desire for absolute order usually leads to tears in human affairs, so there is a historical reason to distrust it. Materialist extremists have long seemed determined to win a race with religious fanatics: Who can do the most damage to the most people?

Unfortunately, by forcing more and more value off the books as the world economy turns into an information economy, the ideal of free information could erode economic interdependencies between nations.

What digital networks have been doing is walloping all those positions, crashing them down, and that?s been the primary mechanism by which the Internet has been harming the middle classes.

Wouldn?t it be easier just to treat the information space as a public resource and tax or charge companies somehow for the benefit of using it?

There are many, many questions that this opens up, and understandably, many people are skeptical that it would be worth it or even plausible to track all of these chains of value. But in terms of technology, it can absolutely be done. Some of the people who worry it would be too complicated have no idea how bizarrely ad hoc and complex what we already do today is. A complete information economy with honest accounting would actually be a simplification, and it would be more efficient than what we do today. The engineering doesn?t scare me, and the cost doesn?t scare me. What is very difficult to describe, and the puzzle I?m most challenged by is: what?s the scenario that would transition us from the system we already have, where there?s a huge imbalance, to a system along the lines I?ve just described?

Virtual Reality is a very different situation than movies or television. I'm going to say something roundabout but it comes back to exactly the point you're bringing up. Movies and television are, first of all, broadcast media, so one facility has to generate the material that you see. Furthermore, it's very expensive to generate this material so very few people are in a position to do it. Therefore, the material becomes supernaturally remote and universal. It has a numbing effect on people and it reduces empathy. Television ultimately reduces empathy because people live in a world in which they can't act or have responsibility or meet each other. The shocking statistics about the number of hours that people in the United States spend watching television explain, I think, all too much about our actions in the world and our lack of empathy. When a person chooses to spend that much time watching television, it's equivalent to death as far as society is concerned. They cease to function as a responsible or social persons during the time that they're simply perceiving media. Now Virtual Reality is just the opposite. First of all, it's a network like the telephone where there's no central point of origin of information. But, much more importantly, since nothing is made of physical matter, since it's all just made of computer information, no one has any advantage over anyone else in their ability to create any particular thing within it. So there's no need for a studio. There might be occasional needs for one, if somebody has a bigger computer to generate a certain kind of effect, or certainly if somebody's assembled people of a certain talent or reputation. But in general there's no built-in difference from one person to another in terms of ability to create. This means that there's going to be such a profusion of different forms. There will be movie studios that get involved in making Virtual Realities, but I think more there will be little entrepreneurs who will be like Reality Troubadours who will travel about spinning realities, if anything. What'll happen is that there will be such an enormous variety of form that "things" will become cheap. Basically, in a Virtual Reality everything is in infinite supply, except for one mysterious thing called creativity. And time, certainly, and health, and other things that are really still inside your body. But in terms of external things, they're infinite and wonderful and abundant and ever-varied and all equally valuable because they all can be made as easily. So what really is of value, what really will stand out as a foreground against a background in Virtual Reality is quite different than what stands out in the physical world. In the physical world mere excess or novelty will often make something stand out. A thousand dollar bill will stand out in the physical world. In the Virtual world there is absolutely no difference between a thousand dollar bill and a one dollar bill; they are simply two different graphic designs and they are both as plentiful as you can make them. Other people are the life of the party in Virtual Reality. Other people are the unique things that will animate Virtual Reality and make it astonishingly unpredictable and amazing. Personality will be accentuated since form will be so cheap; since form will be so non-precious, personality will be quite accentuated.

What does it mean to not be alone? I've approached that question through music, technology, writing and other means.

Wright offers the hive a way to play with what he has done, but he doesn?t create using a hive model. He relies on a large staff of full-time paid people to get his creations shipped. The business model that allows this to happen is the only one that has been proven to work so far: a closed model. You actually pay real money for Wright?s stuff.

There are other mechanisms we can imagine. One of the things I?ve been talking to colleagues like Noam Nisan about lately is trying to figure out what very efficient, constant, incremental, large-scale collective bargaining on a digital network would be like. If there are a bunch of people contributing to a corpus, they would set their price to some sort of median rather than a race to the bottom. I believe mechanisms like that can be brought into existence.

Virtual Reality is conceived of as an expansion of reality, the provision of alternate realities for people in mass in which to share experiences, and so the types of metaphors that come up are things like cars, travel, different countries, different cultures. For instance, you might very well have a virtual car that you ride around even though physically you're in one place. It would go through different territories in Virtual Reality so that you could get around them - or transporter booths, perhaps. So you could have geographical metaphors. There might very well evolve a new geography, let's say - a fictitious planet with new continents that you can dive into to find new realities.

What I propose in the book is a brutally mathematical system that I?m sure would under-represent reality, as such systems always do, but nonetheless would be pretty straightforward. It?s based on ?what-if? calculations. The question is, if my bits had never existed, what would be the value differential for a particular cloud scheme? If I hadn?t provided a translated book from which a lot of examples were taken, what difference would it make to the market value of new cloud-based translations?

Writing and thinking is not economically sustainable.

There are various reasons that software tends to be unwieldy, but a primary one is what I like to call "brittleness". Software breaks before it bends, so it demands perfection in a universe that prefers statistics.

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American Computer Philosophy Writer, Computer Scientist and Composer of Classical Music