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Who Owns the Future?

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,628 Ratings  ·  276 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
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Hardcover, US, 367 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published March 7th 2013)
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Hadrian
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
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Rachel Bayles
May 29, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Emily
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Maciek
Imagine yourself reading the latest article from your favorite news source on the screen of your smartphone; you might have enjoyed the article enough to share it with your friends on Facebook. You might have also decided to check your e-mail and converse with your friends via a messaging app; all the while paying nothing for the services you used, except the monthly phone bill - or possibly not even that, if you used a device such as a tablet and free wi-fi.

But are these services - which infor
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Sara
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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
Trish
“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
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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
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Erhardt Graeff
Oct 17, 2013 rated it liked it
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 that make 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 relevan ...more
Brian Warren
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Stephen
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Merry
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Wendy Liu
This book was a rollercoaster ride.

I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments about needing to reshape technology to suit the needs of human beings and not vice versa, and I think he does a good job of diagnosing the ways in which technology is transforming the economic landscape.

That's where my praise ends. From the blurbs, I was expecting something "wildly imaginative" and "ambitious" from a "radical thinker" who has been called the "David Foster Wallace of tech". Instead, I was extremely disa
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Adam
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Ellyn
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent. In it, Jaron Lanier attempts to design a more humanistic economy in such a way that does not require government enforcement. Rather, the idea is to make large-scale changes so that the forces governing the economy naturally bolster the middle class.

As things stand now, we are accustomed to giving our data away for free in exchange for free services such as Facebook (or Goodreads for that matter). The short term gains seem enticing, but Jaron argues that over the long run,
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Viet Nguyen
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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Patrick
Jul 16, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Paul McNeil
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, nonfiction
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
Karel Baloun
Aug 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Lanier aims for a “humanist information economy”, and as a long participant in the non-free software economy including at Microsoft, Lanier carriers some biases about the price of information, which fatally undermine his very well written and carefully argued, very long exposition.  

In an homage (far longer than i believe is deserved) to Ten Nelson’s fundamental (yet so far technically unimplementable) idea that information should not be free, but rather compensated my micro royalties to creator
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Juliana
I'm giving Jaron Lanier's work five stars for the fact that I must have turned down the corner on a hundred pages because the book is thought-provoking. Three stars go to the editor. This is my second review of a book where I blame the dev edit of a book. In this case I think Jaron's work could have been more concise and a hundred or so pages lopped off and nothing would have been lost. I blame the loss of that editor on exactly what Jaron writes about in his book--the loss of a middle class due ...more
Oliver Brackenbury
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
We all know that we create value for gigantic companies by providing information, voluntary as well as involuntarily, and that this is "just the price you pay" for getting to play with services like Facebook, Uber, or Meerkat.

BUT

I think if more people read this book, we might have a better idea as to how unbalanced that exchange really is. Reading "Who Owns the Future?" not only explores that concept in more depth, it also looks at how the giant Internet companies which influence all our lives h
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Atila Iamarino
Muito bom, me trouxe uma série de questionamentos que eu não tinha pensado a respeito. Como grandes servidores como AirBnB e Über terceirizam o risco para quem consome e quem presta o serviço, enquanto capitalizam em cima, e concentram e controlam de forma sem precedentes. Me deu uma perspectiva mais cética sobre o futuro onde tudo é grátis, que eu favorecia mais cegamente. E também reforçou a necessidade de pagar pelo que consumo e gosto, ao invés de piratear. Só acho que o autor se estende dem ...more
Darnell
Jan 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Some interesting ideas, but so far from the present reality that I don't know how useful they are.
Noreen
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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
David Dinaburg
May 11, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Julie Mickens
Amidst our gadget-swoon, nobody is talking about what Jaron Lanier talks about: Who OWNS the massive, vast sea of data that we've all collectively generated over the last twenty years. Lanier is absolutely not anti-technology. Rather, he's seeing further ahead than most of us about its socioeconomic implications -- no, not the implications of USE, the digital divide or shortened attention spans or any morphing of social etiquette -- but the implications of big-data capitalism: Who's gonna OWN it ...more
Aaron Thibeault
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
*A full executive summary of this book is available here: http://newbooksinbrief.com/2013/06/05...

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
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Ava Huang
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The primary business of digital networking has come to be the creation of ultrasecret mega-dossiers about what others are doing, and using this information to concentrate money and power. It doesn’t matter whether the concentration is called a social network, an insurance company, a derivatives fund, a search engine, or an online store. It’s all fundamentally the same. Whatever the intent might have been, the result is a wielding of digital technology against the future of the middle class.”

“Al
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Rd
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book with a very promising proposal: turning our current information society into something that would benefit the average person instead of disenfranchising us all and killing the economy. This would be done by paying every person for the use of all the data gathered about that person in the form of nanopayments. If facebook gathers information about you and then uses it to sell ads, facebook would owe you a small part of their profits. A tiny payment to be sure, but if w ...more
Jonathan Norton
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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Daniel Cornwall
Jan 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Useful read for anyone concerned with where the digital economy is headed and how its gains are distributed. I think Mr. Lanier's diagnosis is spot on - our current digital economy is harvesting great economic value from people's online activity and transferring that wealth to themselves "off the books." I also agree with him that this approach is unsustainable and would eventually result in the destruction of the middle class.

He documents his work well and makes it clear when he's talking from
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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  
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  • Free Ride: How Digital Parasites are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back
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  • Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
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  • The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You
  • The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves
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  • No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart: The Surprising Deceptions of Individual Choice
  • What Technology Wants
  • Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science
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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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“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.” 9 likes
“Wouldn’t it be easier just to treat the information space as a public resource and tax or charge companies somehow for the benefit of using it?” 4 likes
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