Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On The Most Intriguing Book I've Read In Recent Months

"Without an independent press, composed of heroic voices, the collective becomes stupid and unreliable..."

"Anonymous blog comments, vapid video pranks, and lightweight mashups may seem trivial and harmless, but as a whole, this widespread practice of fragmentary, interpersonal communication has demeaned interpersonal interaction."

I could quote several more passages from Jaron Lanier's You Are Not A Gadget (and maybe, at some point, I will), but I implore you to read it instead; I am halfway through, and I find it is the kind of cogent and rational and humane and hyperknowledgeable treatise about a subject--the Internet, and specifically, the hive mentality of Web 2.0--that might actually be able to transcend the knee-jerk criticism and inhumanity generated the medium itself. I don't know if it will become a seminal text of this era--though Lanier's credentials as a computer scientist/programmer/thinker certainly give it added weight--but I hope it does, because I agree with pretty much everything he says. And just for having said that, I presume my entire life will be hacked and the comments section of this entry overrun by anonymous commenters calling me a Luddite Communist homosexual.


Leroy Genius said...

Yes. But is it "too narrative"? That is my fear.

WarningTrack said...

I'm a programmer as well, and thought I haven't read the book, it sounds like I would agree with its conclusions.

I'm sure I'll sound like an old fogey for saying this, but the problem is those damn kids. Adolescents are already predisposed to be shy and introverted (moreso than adults, I mean), and technology has allowed them to indulge this and transform it from temporary awkwardness into a permanent state of affairs.

I love technology, and I love what it's done for my life and for others, but like all things it does have its downsides. The biggest one, by far, is how personalized devices and content (good things for the most part) have bred a very quick sense of entitlement and self-centeredness. It's a lot easier for people to think they really are the center of the universe when an entire industry is dedicated to making them feel as if it's true, by bringing everything they desire to them as quickly as possible.

We'll figure it out eventually. We always do. But until we get there, we're going to have a lot of narcissistic tools pointing cameras at themselves and turning the contrast way up and telling us what they had for lunch.

But at least they'll all be able to type. (I've still got the whippersnappers licked there, though! Eat my 100 WPM dust, junior).