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Publisher's Summary

Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley visionary since the 1980s, was among the first to predict the revolutionary changes the World Wide Web would bring to commerce and culture. Now, in his first book, written more than two decades after the Web was created, Lanier offers this provocative and cautionary look at the way it is transforming our lives for better and for worse.

The current design and function of the Web have become so familiar that it is easy to forget that they grew out of programming decisions made decades ago. The Web's first designers made crucial choices (such as making one's presence anonymous) that have had enormous and often unintended consequences. Whats more, these designs quickly became locked in, a permanent part of the Web's very structure.

Lanier discusses the technical and cultural problems that can grow out of poorly considered digital design and warns that our financial markets, and sites like Wikipedia, Facebook, and Twitter, are elevating the wisdom of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and judgment of individuals.

Lanier also shows:

  • How 1960s antigovernment paranoia influenced the design of the online world and enabled trolling and trivialization in online discourse
  • How file sharing is killing the artistic middle class
  • How a belief in a technological rapture motivates some of the most influential technologists
  • Why a new humanistic technology is necessary
  • Controversial and fascinating, You Are Not a Gadget is a deeply felt defense of the individual from an author uniquely qualified to comment on the way technology interacts with our culture.

    ©2010 Jaron Lanier; (P)2010 Random House

    Critic Reviews

    "Computer scientist and Internet guru Lanier's fascinating and provocative full-length exploration of the Internet's problems and potential is destined to become a must-read for both critics and advocates of online-based technology and culture." (Publishers Weekly)

    What members say

    Average Customer Ratings


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    • Overall
    • Ahmed
    • Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    • 03-17-10

    Thought Provoking

    This is a thought provoking book that presents interesting questions about how we're influenced by technology for better or for worse.
    While I don't agree with some of its assertions the author makes it clear that it is not agreement he seeks but merely to provoke thinking.
    The book is a very enjoyable listen and the narrator is excellent.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful

    • Overall

    A very good counterpoint piece

    The book is a manifesto and it not only makes that clear in the title, but the author cops to it and while taking a strong position, LEAVES ROOM and GIVES PERMISSION for the reader to think differently or disagree.
    So, while a manifesto, it didn't feel myopic and it wasn't merely a "preaching to the choir" confirmation piece -- it is a thoughtful take on some modern issues that doesn't require one "join this side" nor throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Agree or disagree or something else (I found myself doing all 3, sometimes on a single issue) -- I think it's worth a listen

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful

    • Overall

    Interesting content, amazingly well read

    I really enjoyed the pace of the reading of this book. The reader seemed interested in the content he was reading and had just the right pace for the absorption of the content.

    The content of the book itself is also very good. You may not agree with everything Jaron says but there are definitely some insights that are worth thinking about and investigating for yourself. He finishes off with a personal account of his research interests which I found both enlightening and heart-warming.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Thom
    • Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • 12-11-10

    Mind blowing!

    I will never look at web 2.0 sites, human learning, midi or the open source movements the same way again. Jaron handles each complex topic in extremely precise and well-considered language. Unfortunately, the chapters are not ordered with the same precision. Normally the rambling around would probably cause me to loose interest, but there are so many truly insightful and mind-bending ideas in this book that it is well worth the ramble. I consider this one of the most amazing books I've ever read.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Martin
    • Yuen Long NT, Hong Kong
    • 08-11-10


    This is a thought-provoking listen, helped by an excellent narrator. Mr. Lanier's expertise makes his skepticism about Web 2.0 culture all the more interesting, but he never rants or preaches. His insistence on the primacy of the individual and of individual creativity in the face of crowd-sourcing and aggregation is particularly convincing and timely.
    Warmly recommended.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Performance
    • Story

    A Flawed Presentation but Well Worth the Effort

    Any additional comments?

    This book offers some compelling arguments that Internet technology has put the essence of humanity at risk of annihilation from the destructive forces of mob rule. The book starts out strongly, effectively framing the evolution of Internet technology up through the current domination of hive-mind social engineering interfaces and systems, and effectively stoking a fire for a technological counter revolution needed to save humanity.

    Many important arguments are made regarding the dangers of the hive mind, such as the societal costs of devaluing individual first-order creativity, the corrosive effects of anonymous discourse, the disenfranchisement of productive individuals by profiteering aggregators, and the denial of the role that closed systems and competition must play in the ongoing forward evolution of humanity. In my opinion, these are conversations are desperately prescient -- which is why I gave this book a positive review.

    As a book, however, the narrative suffers from inconsistent organization, superfluous content, and failure to drive home many ideas which should be treated with more centrality. As a computer scientist / technologist with musical endeavors of my own, I am perhaps more adapted to this particular author's perspective than the average reader. Yet, I still found much of the book to be self-indulgent, often abandoning efforts to relate to lay people and periodically drifting from its stated flight path.

    That said, the overarching questions and warnings explored in this book are of profound importance to the future of humanity. This alone makes the book worth reading. That these questions are being explored by a productive computer scientist, rather than, say, a theologian, makes this book required reading -- even you skim through the second half.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    • Performance
    • Story
    • Dan
    • Broadlands, VA, United States
    • 07-03-12

    Put your seatbelt on, this book is intense.

    Where does You Are Not a Gadget rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The book is written like a series of math problems and explores many topic areas from IT and economics to an estimated outcome of social applications of our time. The book is intense and can distracting if you are driving. Highly recommended.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Luke
    • Westminster, CO, USA
    • 05-28-10

    Great book! Highly Recommended!

    I really enjoyed the insight and thought provoking points in this book!

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Naomi
    • San Francisco, CA, United States
    • 08-22-10

    Naive, luddistic, and ultimately pointless.

    I'm giving it a 2 because he does raise some interesting points in the beginning, particularly about how the more metaphorically stringent we are about how we define our virtual world (e.g. "files", "folders", "windows"), the less able we are to move freely into alternative and possibly better modes of thought.

    Sadly, further chapters simply place Lanier squarely in his own generation's misunderstanding of media sharing and the attendant fear of creative-economic collapse imagined to go with it.

    The book further wasted my time with implausible, consumeristic scenarios about how to "fix" the music industry. I should have stopped with the 3rd chapter, but I was holding out for Lanier to come back around to making sensible, insightful statements again. Oh well.

    9 of 17 people found this review helpful

    • Overall
    • Performance
    • Story

    Some good thoughts for perspective.

    Some great ideas, but can sound depressing at times. Not the easiest book to listen to, but worth it after all.