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You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,016 Ratings  ·  548 Reviews
A NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A programmer, musician, and father of virtual reality technology, Jaron Lanier was a pioneer in digital media, and among the first to predict the revolutionary changes it would bring to our commerce and culture. Now, with the Web influencing virtually every aspect of our lives, he offers this provocative critique of how digital design is shaping societ
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Vintage (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mykle
Oct 25, 2011 Mykle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jaron's dealer
This book is all jism and dope smoke.

Jaron Lanier is really, really bothered by a laundry list of standard arch-conservative nemeses (Marxism! today's kids! filesharing! the breakdown of the social contract! foreigners stealing our jobs!) as well as a basket of useful-yet-imperfect modern technologies (Wikipedia! Blogs! MIDI! Linux!) He is aware of a sinister cabal of cybernetic totalists who are hard at work on a machine to xerox his brain and force him to use Facebook to meet girls. But they'
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Patrick Brown
Mar 07, 2010 Patrick Brown rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Patrick by: Stephanie Anderson recommended this to me via her blog.
Ever since I read about this book at Bookavore's excellent blog, I feared this book. How could I not -- I'm currently employed by a social media company. Surely this manifesto would make me rethink my career, my hobbies, how I spend my time. It had the potential to be a paradigm-shifting reading experience, the kind of experience I hadn't had since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma a few years back.

That it didn't realign my thinking on all things digital -- thankfully -- is not entirely Lanier's fa
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Will Byrnes
UPDATED - 1/5/13 - at bottom

There are many ideas floating about in the mind of Jaron Lanier, the guy who popularized the term virtual reality, was with Atari in the beginning and has, for decades, been involved with VR as a teacher, consultant and architect. One of his notions, the core argument of this book, is that much of current internet interface design, so-called Web 2.0, is hazardous to users.
certain specific, popular internet designs of the moment—not the internet as a whole—tend to pu
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Gordon
Mar 10, 2014 Gordon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a slim book that should have been slimmer. In fact, it should probably have been a couple of articles in Wired Magazine instead. I think the Wired readership is pretty much the core target audience for this book. The author is a long-time software engineer, musician, and philosopher of technology. I’m not sure I’ve ever read any book by a philosopher of technology, but that’s definitely what he is. The upside of that approach is that he thinks of technology within a framework of ethics a ...more
Szplug
Jun 06, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it
Amongst other things, Lanier has opened my eyes to the fact that, in a world both more just and ideally situated for a continuation of the entrepreneurial capitalist culture that has raised the tide of global wealth like nothing before, each one of you moochers and looters would be paying me a fee for the opportunity to peruse these book reviews which appear upon your computer screens only after a tortuous, strangled combat producing rivulets of overly-descriptive and yet still somewhat nebulous ...more
Trish
Lanier is something different altogether; he is an original. It took longer than I expected to read this book, but I loved learning that there was someone who was thinking about our human connection by electronic device. Computer expression is a result of, and limited by, human biology. Therefore, it is entirely appropriate to consider them together.

Lanier discusses the possibilities inherent in technology, as well as the concepts of the Singularity, the hive mind, and the “wisdom of crowds.” H
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Spencer
May 29, 2012 Spencer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As anyone who knows me could tell you, I'm a pretty heavy internet user. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and reddit. I've kept a smartphone on me since freshman year of college, and I use it regularly. The internet is a rather inextricable part of my life.

Jaron Lanier is a techie too; he's been involved in technological innovation since the '70s. And he, too, loves the internet. But Lanier is also a philosopher and a humanist, and in You Are Not a Gadget, he turns a critical eye toward the gr
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Emily
Jul 26, 2011 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
In this book, a rather strange man who plays a "Laotian mouth organ" and admires cephalopods tries to convince us to promote humanism in computing. I started this book in a skeptical frame of mind, since the argument could be pompous, point-missing, or Luddite, but it's none of those things. The author throws a lot of ideas out, and some of them are half-baked, and a few I disagree with, but overall there's a lot to think about here. His main argument--that computers give us amazing powers to be ...more
Cow
Nov 26, 2010 Cow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had decided to give this four stars, but then I read the other Goodreads reviews.

Everyone I could see was giving it five or one, based on whether or not they agreed. My personal favourite review was one where the reviewer hadn't read the book at all, but had read a New York Times review of the book and reviewed the book based on that alone. I don't know if the author would find that hilarious or horrifying, as it both validates his entire thesis and goes against everything the book hopes to in
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Phil
Jun 20, 2011 Phil rated it did not like it
Reading this book was like sitting next to your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving and listening to his rant full of unsubstatiated, uninformed opinions stated like they were the words of God himself.

To be fair, the author does warn the reader that the negativity will eventually end and that the end of the book has some positive messages, but I never got to the positive part. The concepts of the internet making us dumber as a people were all very well written opinions. Unfortunately, the data backing
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Elijah Meeks
As a disclaimer, Jaron Lanier was roommates with Richard Stallman, with whom I had a bit of an argument regarding epistemology while I was attending a conference at Harvard Law School a few years back. I was young and freshly baccalaureated with a degree in philosophy, and I realized that Richard Stallman, while by all accounts an excellent coder, was a miserable philosopher. Unfortunately, his former roommate isn't much better, either as a philosopher, a sociologist or a musicologist. You Are N ...more
0spinboson
Sep 06, 2011 0spinboson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
From reading the NYTimes review of the book, there seem to be major problems with this book, that mark it out to be a book containing pompous drivel.
Allow me to offer an unread critique of one of the main suggestions that are "argued for" in the book. From a NYT review:
Like Andrew Keen in “The Cult of the Amateur,” Mr. Lanier is most eloquent on how intellectual property is threatened by the economics of free Internet content, crowd dynamics and the popularity of aggregator sites. “An impenetrab
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Aaron
May 30, 2013 Aaron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is, unfortunately, very poorly argued.

I was really interested in reading this book to get some ideas on how technology can be better applied to work for people in a more humanistic way. Unfortunately, the first three quarters of the book involve the author ranting against "web 2.0 technologists" without clearly attributing any specific arguments.

The last quarter of the book is where the author starts actually providing ideas on how technology can be applied in a more humanistic way, bu
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Shawn
This is a rather difficult book to review since it falls outside my usual purview. A good friend suggested I check it out and so I got a copy from the library and buzzed through it instead of adding it to the endless "To Be Read" list.

As others have noted/griped about, it's not a drawn-out, reasoned argument so much as it is the author putting down his basic thoughts on the topics of computers, the internet, technology and how general and specific forms of same, and our interactions with them, a
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Andy
Feb 15, 2010 Andy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Its a shame, Lanier has some interesting theories and plenty of experience to back them up but he kept losing me with his metaphors.

Here's two thoughts that do warrant consideration:
1. I'm not Facebook's customer, the advertiser is. I'm just another product on Facebooks shelf giving their business added value.
2. Young people (including people that "think" they're young) announce every detail of their lives on services like Twitter not to show off, but to avoid the closed door at bedtime, the em
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Surfing Moose
Dec 03, 2013 Surfing Moose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and was already of the mindset that Jaron writes about. I do believe that sites like Facebook diminish the word "Friend" and give individuals a false sense of community. Sites like Facebook will go away eventually to be replaced by the next thing but hopefully something better and more meaningful.

I am an individual, not a member of a hive, not classifiable for marketing purposes (man does Amazon's recommendations get it wrong 95% of the time), and refuse to have my rig
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Jason
May 03, 2010 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The core ideas of this book are great, but they're explained in such a scattershot fashion that it's tough to recommend the book to people not heavily interested in technology's effect on culture. Buried here is a great criticism of the design philosophies of the current generation of web entrepreneurs and the wide leeway users have given them. Lanier's criticism, on the surface, can seem like an indictment of techno-utopianism in general, but in my opinion he is only focusing on techno-utopian ...more
David
Jaron Lanier recollects that, a couple of decades ago he remarked to a friend: You know, this is probably the most interesting room in the entire world. And--he was probably right. He was a pioneer, helping to develop the first true virtual reality; in fact, he popularized the term "virtual reality".

If you like Wired magazine, then you will love this book. It is about the philosophy of the digital age. Lanier is a true visionary. He is very opinionated, but his opinions are fascinating. In the b
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Christy Stewart
There are a few problems with this book...

1. The author mentions himself too often, it comes off as self-indulgent. This is a topic that would be better analyzed by statistics than personal opinion.

2. A ton of books are being printed all the time on what being human IS, and this book tries to tackle what being human is NOT while never attempting to define his parameters of humanity.

3. It's full of bull shit about how technology has changed society. Nothing has changed. Not since one dude said to
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Michael Burnam-fink
Jaron Lanier is very angry about computers. While this book is a necessary antidote to the usual silicon valley cyber-utopianism, Lanier is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and this manifesto is plagued by conceptual and organizational difficulties.

The first target of Lanier's wrath is the Singularity, the idea that increasingly powerful computers will lead to an intelligence explosion and the rapture of the nerds. Singulatarians are easy targets for mockery, and Lanier's attack is based
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Jill
Jun 15, 2010 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I have the feeling that I'm not going to finish this. When I first started to read it, I felt it should have been required reading for iSchool (or, as seemed more likely, underground reading for iSchool) -- the digital Maoism and techno-wishful thinking Lanier describes certainly corresponded to my experience in several classes (I KNEW I was right about the weirdly free-market language and the hints of libertarianism). Lanier's points about dehumanization are on target. But the book is starting ...more
Jesse Toldness
tl;dr: Damn Hippies. Damn Old Computer Hippies

Longer Version: This is not a book. This is what it says on the title. A Manifesto. A stream of consciousness outpouring, unfiltered and unedited and unbound, from the author's mind. This isn't any one single thing because the old Computer Hippy couldn't stay on any one topic long enough to really flesh anything out. Major concepts get brushed over with a mention, while long, tedious personal fixations get pages and pages of skippable twaddle. Lanier
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Nick
Feb 09, 2011 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not a tech guy. I consider myself technologically savvy but not sophisticated: I understand software but not hardware; I’ve created a website but don’t know html; etc. I picked up this book because it was amongst the “Best New Non-Fiction” at a local bookstore.

The funny thing is that I feel as if I was the perfect audience for the book since most of the information presented felt very fresh and new to me while perhaps much of what he writes might already be known to the self-described “tech
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Mark Rayner
I would like to give this work a higher rating, but I'm afraid it's a bit too hard to read. That said, I think anyone who is interested in our future as a species should spend some time with Lanier and this manifesto, because he raises some pertinent questions about what technology does to us as human beings; specifically, he is interested in how the design of technology affects us as human beings.

I agree with much of his criticism. I'm worried that humans are now having to adapt ourselves to ou
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Donna
Jul 27, 2010 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-read
I was so blown away by the excerpt of this book in Harper's that I deleted my facebook account before I even finished it. I also enjoyed the book, though I got lost about one exit after the 'songle'. But this is to be expected. Manifestos have a good first half or however much is apportioned to stating the problem. Therein lies recognition and the endorphin bath of connected dots. Solutions are harder to express. There's maybe one* person born per generation who can show us those unseen patterns ...more
Guy Gonzalez
Mar 18, 2010 Guy Gonzalez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Guy by: Stephanie Anderson (Bookavore)
Shelves: favorites, research
YOU ARE NOT A GADGET is the 21st Century's AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH, shining a bright light on the dark side of Web 2.0, "open culture" and the dehumanizing effects of technology for technology's sake. Jaron Lanier is a thought-provoking genius and his manifesto is a must-read, especially for my digitally minded publishing colleagues.
Rick Wilcox
So who is Facebook's customer? You? Yes, someday when you have to pay for access to feed your habit, but you are not the big ticket. Facebook's real customer is the advertiser of the future. Vast data is being collected about people's likes and dislikes, habits and preferences, and the engine to truly mine all this data has yet to be created.

Even though the data here under-represents reality, Facebook still gets closer than any other social graph thus far.

Read the quote below from the book I am
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Ben
This book is about disappointment. Jaron Lanier is a “programmer, musician, and father of virtual reality technology,” and he’s bummed about how computer programming and the Internet have turned out so far. I don’t understand a lot of the technology and virtual-reality jargon he speaks, but I do get disappointment. I mean, F-book is really lame, isn’t it? I’ve joked that if I was on F-book, I would set the following auto-response to every message posted on my wall: “I don’t care.” Of course, alm ...more
D.M. Dutcher
Jun 20, 2012 D.M. Dutcher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, weird
Erudite if incoherent book by a very smart person that rambles far too much for it's own good.

The loose idea is that the Web 2.0 is a very bad thing, but the book devolves into whatever Jason finds interesting, be it dongles to unlock music so people can make a living off of it, to how MIDI is bad because it limits music, to how cetaceans would take over the world if they only had childhood (seriously) to how GenX's blandness is bad because it gives birth to retro sensibilities. What's worse, th
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Alana
Jan 31, 2011 Alana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I'm a fan of the Singularitarian branch of speculative tech writing, I was completely fascinated by this book, flaws and all. While I don't agree with many of the arguments presented, mostly what I perceived as his rejection of the potential of the 'cloud'/'hive mind' to solve problems, he still raises many good points and I do very much agree with his warnings that we are locking ourselves into a mindset that our current path is the ONLY path worth pursuing.

On another note, I LOVED hi
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Goodreads Librari...: wrong title? 6 29 Aug 16, 2012 12:24PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: You Are Not a Gadget 1 2 Feb 03, 2012 06:49PM  
  • The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry)
  • The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom
  • Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives
  • The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You
  • The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking
  • Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age
  • What Technology Wants
  • The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It
  • Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age
  • Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science
  • Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?: The Net's Impact on Our Minds and Future
  • Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future
  • Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide
  • The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
  • And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture
  • Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room
  • Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back
  • Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age

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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
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More about Jaron Lanier...

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“A real friendship ought to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other.” 88 likes
“But the Turing test cuts both ways. You can't tell if a machine has gotten smarter or if you've just lowered your own standards of intelligence to such a degree that the machine seems smart. If you can have a conversation with a simulated person presented by an AI program, can you tell how far you've let your sense of personhood degrade in order to make the illusion work for you?

People degrade themselves in order to make machines seem smart all the time. Before the crash, bankers believed in supposedly intelligent algorithms that could calculate credit risks before making bad loans. We ask teachers to teach to standardized tests so a student will look good to an algorithm. We have repeatedly demonstrated our species' bottomless ability to lower our standards to make information technology look good. Every instance of intelligence in a machine is ambiguous.

The same ambiguity that motivated dubious academic AI projects in the past has been repackaged as mass culture today. Did that search engine really know what you want, or are you playing along, lowering your standards to make it seem clever? While it's to be expected that the human perspective will be changed by encounters with profound new technologies, the exercise of treating machine intelligence as real requires people to reduce their mooring to reality.”
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