Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Who Owns the Future?” as Want to Read:
Who Owns the Future?
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Who Owns the Future?

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,439 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Jaron Lanier is the father of virtual reality and one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers. Who Owns the Future? is his visionary reckoning with the most urgent economic and social trend of our age: the poisonous concentration of money and power in our digital networks.

Lanier has predicted how technology will transform our humanity for decades, and his insight has never
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 7th 2013 by Allen Lane
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Who Owns the Future?, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Who Owns the Future?

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
The recent exposure of government surveillance of tech companies and their private consumers is sobering, but I confess it is not wholly unexpected. After all, the corporations monitor our tastes and actions already for advertising purposes. Who is to say the intelligence services would not have caught on to this rich new vein of information, free for the taking?

The purpose of this book is a critique of this new trend of information control, and Lanier, our author, has a reputation of lambasting
Rachel Bayles
I liked this book, and I can't recommend it, except for the most dedicated technophile. This book is like being stuck in an elevator with your most brilliant friend, and a bottle of wine. Some of the conversation will be interesting, and some of it may seem brilliant, but you won't be able to remember half of it later. His musings range from mild to extreme, and much of it I did not feel like I had the brain power to understand its implications. I would have to read it a second time, just to get ...more
Documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis remarked on the increasing fragmentation of stories that the world could use a little less whimsy ("Wes Anderson") and a little more Tolstoy. Jaron Lanier makes a similar point regarding the pitfalls of digitalization and the economic and human cost of erasing context. Even better, he does so without sounding like a raving Luddite. He proposes a system of micropayments that would weave individual contributions into a more stable economic narrative. My cynical si ...more
“To my friends in the “open” Internet movement, I have to ask: 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.

The inevitable endgame was always that we would lose control of our own personal content, our own files.

We haven’t just weakened old-fashioned power mongers. We’ve weakened ourselves.” (p.207)

This book is a labor of love. We humans are being gifted the
Should you read this book? Yes. There are three reasons why: 1. His prescriptions may be useful. 2. Even if his prescriptions are unrealistic, the first two-thirds of the book are still a worthwhile way of looking at what's presently going on in our economy. 3. Even if he's totally wrong, he's entertaining, rather like Antonin Scalia. I haven't read any coherent negative reviews of this book, mostly negative reviews by people who have grasped 1% of the argument from reading about it online and a ...more
Stephanie Sun
"We do know that Siren Servers can die. It happened to Lehmann Brothers... Individual Siren Servers can die and yet the Siren Server pattern perseveres, and it is that pattern that is the real problem. The systematic decoupling of risk from reward in the rising information economy is the problem, not any particular server."

I'm sure much savvier readers and technologists than me will roll their eyes at a neologism like "Siren Servers," Jaron Lanier's nickname for the entities (Amazon, Facebook, G
The first half of Lanier's book is a strong critique of the current trend in computing and business toward aggregation and exploitation of consumer data. He calls companies like Facebook and Google, as well as financial companies route rapid trades and find loopholes in the markets algorithmically, "Siren Servers." This is a helpful concept and framing of the problem. Lanier then looks to a future dominated by Siren Servers while technological innovation continues to make humans less relevant an ...more
Basic premise: The internet was supposed to make life easier for artists and entrepreneurs who were going to sell their art, music, information, etc. to a worldwide audience. Instead, with the rise of the internet, the middle class has dissipated, the wealthy have become superwealthy, and many have become poor in the process. Jaron Lanier looks at why this has happened and how to solve the problem. The problem seems to be caused by what he called siren servers which are organizations like google ...more
Brian Warren
Computer scientist and tech visionary Jaron Lanier has spent his impressive career contributing to many of the most ubiquitous technologies of our time. From virtual reality (a term he coined) to start-up companies that are now a part of Adobe, Oracle and Google, Lanier is a man forever out in front of Silicon Valley’s most forward thinking gurus.

In his new book, “Who Owns the Future?” Lanier laments the current state of the middle class and points part of the blame for the loss of middle class
I found "Who Owns the Future?" (I won an advance copy on Goodreads) to be an intriguing forward looking piece with a hypothesis that made me stop and reconsider my current ideas, especially with regard to the Internet. Lanier suggests that rather than creating jobs and stimulating the economy, the Internet is actually taking jobs away and not producing the new knowledge-based jobs as expected. He proposed solutions that truthfully I doubt that I'll see implemented in my lifetime, or that will ev ...more
Lanier raises a lot of provocative points here about the trends of big data and Siren Servers / cloud computing. Warning against the economic impact of tech-fueled market disruption, he makes the case for a middle class of users feeding into the servers. In a future of 3D printers and automated-everything, it will otherwise be easier than ever to be marginalized. Compare the number of employees at Instagram to the number at Kodak in its prime, etc.

"Google might eventually become an ouroboros, a
Paul McNeil
Obviously, the future turned out quite a bit different from what we thought it would, almost completely devoid of space travel or robot butlers, while our cell phones do things the U.S.S. Enterprise's communications devices never could. One thing that we really did not think much about in the past was the rise of big data, and how the internet's number one way of making money would one day be putting ads in front of our faces. In Who Owns the Future?, Jaron Lanier, a pioneer of virtual reality t ...more
Denise Rolon
I found this book to be pretty dry, requiring some discipline to complete (and that was just listening to the audiobook, which is faster than reading for me.) It was worth it though. The situation he describes here is very familiar to me and probably to you too, our changing digital world, but the conclusions he draws, the patterns he defines, those were not as clear. I agreed with some, but not all of what he said, but that's not really the point. The point is to think it through yourself; and ...more
Lanier presents thought-provoking ideas about the role the internet has played in reducing the middle class and sending us on a road towards a new feudalism. One of his principal ideas is that networks like the internet facilitate the power of what he calls "siren servers" (e.g., Facebook and Google), which, like stars coalescing in a new galaxy and increasing in gravity, attract more users, and power, the more users that they have. These siren servers then make a killing off of the personal inf ...more
Some interesting ideas, but so far from the present reality that I don't know how useful they are.
Viet Nguyen
Vài nét về tác giả: Jaron Lanier là nhà nghiên cứu khoa học máy tính tại Microsoft Research, người tiên phong trong lĩnh vực Virtual Reality (thực tại ảo). Ông là người đồng sáng lập một số start-up, sau đó được Oracle, Adobe, Google mua lại. Ông cũng viết nhạc giao hưởng và chơi rất nhiều loại nhạc cụ hiếm.

Trong cuốn sách thứ hai này (tiếp nối cuốn "You are not a gadget"), Lanier chỉ ra vấn đề với nền kinh tế dựa trên công nghệ số hiện nay, và đưa ra một tương lai mới để khắc phục những nhược

This book is mostly a waste of time. Here, I'll save you the time of reading it by summarizing everything that the author has to communicate:

Digital networks have contributed to the hollowing out of the ability to earn a living in some occupations, such as creation of music content, and have concentrated wealth into a very few, very wealthy hands that control 'siren servers'. What we ought to do to combat this is to come up with a magical way to change the internet such that everybody gets paid
June 21. Lanier is a futurist, but he's a realistic one: no fluffy science fiction technological utopias are dangled here. There's this idea among some popular futurists of a "post-scarcity economy" -- that humans will become digital and upload themselves into the cloud. How this will happen seems to be explained with much hand waving, along the lines of "and then a miracle occurred." However, Lanier argues that the way we use digital technology today is not going to make everything all right in ...more
Jaron Lanier is one of the extraordinary people of our time, with charisma, intelligence, and imagination off the charts. He was a fearless maverick as an adolescent, hitchhiking to Mexico City to meet (unannounced) with an author he respected, and somehow was able to hang around (while non-matriculated) MIT professors from whom he wanted to learn. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, do it. I think I'd follow him like Peter followed Jesus. He is a visionary. Read it and see.

He is
Ann Evans
For a while, I have been thinking that the structures of government, religion, economics, education, family -- virtually every part of our communal life -- need to be re-thought and re-constuctred. People tinker at the edges, with a sequester here, a charter school there, an independent church over there, but few people have gone back to the root and re-thought the very way we interact and influence each other. Jeron Lanier does.

His book is not even presented as persuasive. He just says what he
Hans de Zwart
This book can be split in two parts. In the first two-thirds Lanier lays out what he considers to be the problem. He thinks the current way we are shifting into an information economy is shrinking the economy and destroying the middle class. If you want to be successful going forward you need to own a 'Siren Server' or at least be close to one. These servers (owned by large banks, Google, Amazon, etc.) capture the majority of the value while eschewing any of the risks. I agree with many of Lanie ...more
David Dinaburg
In 1955, the play Inherit the Wind—a courtroom drama about teaching evolution in the American 1920s—was a circumspect way to critique the communist witch hunts that dominated the era. Time has wiped away the subtext, leaving a fictionalized version of events as the touchstone for contemporary debate. Pinning down the precise moment Inherit the Wind stopped representing McCarthyism and was reborn as an overt discussion of public science education is all but impossible; Who Owns the Future? seems ...more
Jonathan Norton
Reading this book next to Berardi's "After The Future" showed up the similar traits and failings in both books, even though they purportedly came from different ideological spaces and cultural backgrounds. Both writers are really concerned with broader issues that are not specific to the modern tech economy, yet they feel obliged to make that the central peg that all their points have to hang off.

Lanier is concerned with the erosion of the US middle class (shifts in class structure elsewhere, in
The rise of information technology, big data, and what Lanier calls "siren servers" has developed into an economic structure where value goes one way- from the consumer to the business that holds the siren server. It is no wonder that the public refuses and is enraged against paying for anything or even being exposed to advertising. Lanier offers what he believes is an economic solution, as well a nuanced explanation of why the solution is necessary for a stable society. I'm not sure he ever str ...more
I listened to this book on and was captivated by Jeron's comprehensive and compelling argument that the current system of "Free" Internet is inevetably leading to a concentration of pwer and wealth from the many to the few, further eroding the middle class. I was not convinced of his argument about the possible implementation of a Nelsonian Humanistic Economy as a solution, and a little disappointed the author did not offer a more practical solution(s). Regardless, his perceptive ana ...more
Aaron Thibeault
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

The main argument: Not so long ago the Internet was seen as the next great economic engine. The optimism was never higher than at the peak of the dot-com boom in the late 1990s, of course; but even after the dot-com bust in the early 2000s, many believed that this was but the growing pains of an emerging industry, and that in the long run the Internet would yet provide the foundation for a new and i
This book is so amazing. Imagine you meet a brilliant technologist at a coffe shop. he takes a shine to you and starts meeting with you to explain exactly how information technology is progressing to concentrate wealth to fewer and fewer people at the expense of all of us. He explains how technology if it progresses as it is will continue to wipe out middle class jobs and explains a solution where information is monetized to benefit most people rather than a diminishing selct few. He is optomist ...more
Sara M. Watson
I want to agree with a lot of Lanier's points, namely his focus on human-centered technology (and in this case economies). But his meandering argumentation, his lack of disciplinary rigor in talking about economic concepts, and the overall structure of the book itself get in his way. The concept of the Siren Servers consolidation of capital and power in their winner take all structures is helpful for those who don't really understand the costs of free services. But the characterization suggests ...more
Don O'goodreader
When you are smart enough or crazy enough (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference), the world is rife with structure and causality. It's not hard to tell with the author of Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier; he is one the smart ones and he lives in a world of clockwork information dominated by Silicon Valley.

His analysis leads to a rather dystopian view of the future, but Jaron Lanier has a remedy. I'd say the first half of this book (problem statement) is a must read for anyone intereste
Babak Fakhamzadeh
Probably mostly preaching to the easy to convert, Lanier pleads for an egalitarian digital world. The introduction to the paperback alone is already pretty much an eye opener, although the mindset Lanier warns against, accepting a little inconvenience, like handing over personal data, in exchange for perceived benefits, like free social networking, is the mindset of the masses, who have now become accustomed to 'free' as an economic model, while not being too impressed by Snowden-like revelation ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Are there different titles for this book? 3 16 Sep 28, 2014 08:11PM  
Goodreads Librari...: ISBN: 9781451654967 3 19 Jan 22, 2014 08:34AM  
  • To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism
  • The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business
  • Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back
  • The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires
  • Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
  • The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves
  • This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks, and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World's Information
  • Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better
  • Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy
  • The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet
  • Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
  • The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism
  • What Technology Wants
  • Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World
  • After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
  • Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
  • Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away
  • The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future
Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author.
In the sciences:

Jaron Lanier scientific interests include biomimetic information architectures, user interfaces, heterogeneous scientific simulations, advanced information systems for medicine, and computational approaches to the fundamentals of physics. He collaborates with a wide range of scientists in fields related to t
More about Jaron Lanier...
You Are Not a Gadget Information Is An Alienated Experience The Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality The Dawn of the New Everything: A Journey Through Virtual Reality La dignità ai tempi di Internet. Per un'economia digitale equa (La cultura)

Share This Book

“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face. At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only thirteen people. Where did all those jobs disappear to? And what happened to the wealth that those middle-class jobs created? This book is built to answer questions like these, which will only become more common as digital networking hollows out every industry, from media to medicine to manufacturing.” 1 likes
“Distributions can only be based on measurements, but as in the case of measuring intelligence, the nature of measurement is often complicated and troubled by ambiguities. Consider the problem of noise, or what is known as luck in human affairs. Since the rise of the new digital economy, around the turn of the century, there has been a distinct heightening of obsessions with contests like American Idol, or other rituals in which an anointed individual will suddenly become rich and famous. When it comes to winner-take-all contests, onlookers are inevitably fascinated by the role of luck. Yes, the winner of a singing contest is good enough to be the winner, but even the slightest flickering of fate might have changed circumstances to make someone else the winner. Maybe a different shade of makeup would have turned the tables. And yet the rewards of winning and losing are vastly different. While some critics might have aesthetic or ethical objections to winner-take-all outcomes, a mathematical problem with them is that noise is amplified. Therefore, if a societal system depends too much on winner-take-all contests, then the acuity of that system will suffer. It will become less reality-based.” 1 likes
More quotes…