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Publisher's Summary

The dazzling new masterwork from the prophet of Silicon Valley

Jaron Lanier is the best-selling author of You Are Not a Gadget, the father of virtual reality, and one of the most influential thinkers of our time. For decades, Lanier has drawn on his expertise and experience as a computer scientist, musician, and digital media pioneer to predict the revolutionary ways in which technology is transforming our culture.

Who Owns the Future? is a visionary reckoning with the effects network technologies have had on our economy. Lanier asserts that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class. Now, as technology flattens more and more industries - from media to medicine to manufacturing - we are facing even greater challenges to employment and personal wealth.

But there is an alternative to allowing technology to own our future. In this ambitious and deeply humane book, Lanier charts the path toward a new information economy that will stabilize the middle class and allow it to grow. It is time for ordinary people to be rewarded for what they do and share on the web.

Insightful, original, and provocative, Who Owns the Future? is necessary listening for all who live a part of their lives online.

©2013 Jaron Lanier. All rights reserved (P)2013 Simon & Schuster Audio

Critic Reviews

"Daringly original... Lanier's sharp, accessible style and opinions make Who Owns the Future? terrifically inviting." (Janet Maslin, The New York Times)
"Lanier has a mind as boundless as the internet.... [He is] the David Foster Wallace of tech." ( London Evening Standard)
"One of the triumphs of Lanier's intelligent and subtle book is its inspiring portrait of the kind of people that a democratic information economy would produce. His vision implies that if we are allowed to lead absorbing, properly remunerated lives, we will likewise outgrow our addiction to consumerism and technology." ( The Guardian)

What members say

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THRESHOLD OF CHANGE

Society is at the threshold of change. Jaron Lanier writes about the information age in “Who Owns the Future”. Just as the industrial revolution and two world wars mechanize human production, the computer and internet “informationize” mechanical production. Lanier bluntly explains human employment will decline in proportion to computerization of production.

Lanier is neither posturing as a Luddite nor abandoning the principles of democratic’ capitalism. He suggests human beings need to understand their changing role in society. Lanier infers a failure to understand human’ role-change will compel disastrous reactions; i.e. reactions like the Luddites of the Industrial Revolution or socialist, fascist, and communist sympathizers of the post-industrial world.

Lanier begins to explain the concept of information monetization. Information monetization is something that exists today but is mistakenly understood as something that is free. Examples are Facebook, Google Search, Amazon.com, Microsoft Windows 10, Apple ITunes, governments, and other organizations that Lanier calls Siren Servers. Nothing is free. The price humans pay is information about themselves, their needs, desires, habits, interests, etc. Every phone call, every web search, every email, every purchase made tells Siren Servers what product they can sell, what price they can sell it at, and how much money, power, and prestige they can accumulate.

Lanier suggests that the concept of Siren Servers should be expanded to include defined populations, common-interest groups, and individuals. Lanier argues that information, humans now give for free, should be monetized. Every person that produces information that increases another’s money, power, or prestige should be compensated.

“Who Owns the Future” is an insightful view of the modern world. Unlike those who revile modernity and pine for a return to an idealized past, Lanier offers an alternative. Lanier strikes one as a Socratic seer of modernity.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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good combinatiion of stories and facts

I appreciate his blended experiences and perspectives as both an artist and a technologist of conscious integraty. Short segments made up the chapters which reminds me of normalized learning nuggets. My second time through I know will reveal even more low hanging mass imicro information monitary creation deliberately aggregated into diverse sustainable strategies for greater involement in arts and teknowledgy life styles, ithat ncludeds me..

On another note he mentioned the linux community, several times, as being the other extreem that is not seconomically sustainable, either so it begs the question of what operating systems does he use and what other system exit or needs to be established to facilitate communications and transactions between us?

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Jaron Lanier is a visionary thought leader

I read this book with great anticipation and I was not disappointed. Although to be fair, Jaron Lanier is a technologist and computer scientist and not an economist, policy maker or philosopher. He does have understanding of social sciences and some humanities though. Lanier's book is a warning about "siren servers" like Facebook, Amazon, Google and the like. And written in 2012 before the 2016 election, it has proven very prescient about the harm that a siren server like Facebook or Twitter can do. Beside taking away fields like journalism (which he said has already taken place in 2012), Facebook proved poison to the idea of democracy itself, selling data to Cambridge Analytica and thus sowing the seeds of discord and fake news to swing the election to a conman. He has many solutions to the problem of the siren servers and the "non humanistic" economy that we have now because we gave away our data for free. The solutions seem to me to be abstract and he says he can't really get specific with them because no one knows what the future will bring.. Even so, one must look at his solutions carefully to see if there are ideas that can be borrowed from him. He says the economy must be fairer and more "humanistic" and I can't agree more.

One shortcoming according to me is that the book keeps coming back to the same point: the siren servers and how to reduce their monopoly. But perhaps that was his intent all along. After all, he is a top level technologist of the same caliber as say Steve Jobs.

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Good information, dry book.

Very good approach to the way our society has been changed by the information age. The book is very very dry though. You need patience to get through it all, even if it's only 12 hours long. If you do, it is worth it.

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My new favorite book of all time

If you are interested in how network effects, social media, and just internet industries in general shape our society—and how there might be a much better way of structuring these things for everybody's well-being—then you absolutely must read this book. Truly a compelling and thought-provoking work.

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Pure Lanier

An extremely informative book detailing the true inner workings of our current "siren server-centric" internet and postulating an alternate future in which people are the proprieters of their own contributions to the information economy. Written with pure heart and yet cautious optimism, Lanier succeeds at making a technologist's world more accessible to the average curious person.

The musical accompaniment (beginning and end) is also a welcome addition.

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humanistic technocrat - a rare and needed species

Jaron impresses me as a human being and as a technologist. outspoken, educated, presenting well-thought ideas, abstaining from extremed, being pragmatist - just what the world needs today.

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  • Roy
  • Mawson Lakes, South Australia
  • 05-21-16

real insights into our rapidly changing world

The narrator was very dry, hard to tell if it was the material but had the feeling that the author would have brought this subject to life with greater nuances in tone

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An important dissenting view

Lanier is skeptical about the aspects of contemporary tech that often generate the most exuberance, yet hopeful for things that many have resigned.

The reader (not so much the content) had a demonstrably soporific effect on my wife, but I didn't mind it as much.

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Interesting idea proposed but short on detail

Is there anything you would change about this book?

More justification of how Lanier's economy would be implemented. How secure would it be and what would be done to mitigate issues that arise.

Would you be willing to try another book from Jaron Lanier? Why or why not?

Maybe, I think it would really depend on the topic

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Performance was decent, the book is a bit tough at the end. No reader is going to compensate for that.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Oh god no!

Any additional comments?

I really like his thinking here. I believe to a certain degree you have to be out there to innovate and this concept qualifies. That said, there is a lot more justification and details on implementation that need to be addressed.