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You Are Not a Gadget

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  5,854 ratings  ·  675 reviews
Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley visionary since the 1980s, was among the first to predict the revolutionary changes the World Wide Web would bring to commerce and culture. Now, in his first book, written more than two decades after the web was created, Lanier offers this provocative and cautionary look at the way it is transforming our lives for better and for worse.

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Hardcover, 221 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Alfred A. Knopf
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Jake Newfer For sure man I actually found out about this book when I stumbled on a page about how Thom York of Radiohead said it was one of his favorites at the m…moreFor sure man I actually found out about this book when I stumbled on a page about how Thom York of Radiohead said it was one of his favorites at the moment. Very eye opening, and like Lawrence said mind-blowing.(less)

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Will Byrnes
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 pull us into life patterns tha
Oct 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
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'
Patrick Brown
Jan 12, 2010 rated it liked it
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
May 14, 2010 rated it liked it
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
May 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Elijah Meeks
Feb 17, 2010 rated it liked it
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
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 17, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 28, 2011 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
Jan 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jen from Quebec :0)
This book had a LOT of great ideas, but read like a textbook that had been translated from a different language. Terrible writing style for what I thought I was buying....---Jen from Quebec :0)
Kara Babcock
My first reaction upon starting this book was trepidation regarding how long I had put it off. Published in 2010 (and therefore probably finished in late 2008 or early 2009), You Are Not a Gadget is nearly 10 years old. That’s an eternity in the world of technology. I’ve had this sitting in my to-read pile for years, just haven’t gotten around to it! I was curious to see how well Jaron Lanier’s self-titled manifesto would hold up, considering that 9 years is an eternity in the tech world.

The ans
Apr 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Surfing Moose
Jun 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jim Nail
May 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this twice but I still don't feel youngsmart enough to review it, especially after reading the reviews, some of them not so postive, written by the youngsmart people. I am 68 years old. When I was a kid I had to call the operator (a real person with a headset on) to talk to my best friend 8 miles away. I can remember the invention of color television. Now I am using the internet, texting on a cell phone, dependent on Wikipedia for instant information. I have read numerous books on the sub ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jun 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mark Rayner
May 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jan 20, 2012 added it
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
Ben Bush
Sep 20, 2017 added it
Shelves: read-in-2017
In style and structure, this made me think of Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. People who are into this might dig Astra Taylor's The People's Platform or her great essay "Serfing the Net" ...more
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
The first half of this book does resemble a manifesto of sorts. Lanier keeps interrupting himself to say that he's not a Luddite, probably because his fierce critique of what he calls "cybernetic totalism" really makes him sound like one at times. Cybernetic totalism is what he calls the dominant culture of the internet, including such ideas as simple anonymity, open culture, cloud computing, trolling, mash-ups, and the singularity. He fears a future in which machines and bits are more important ...more
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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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