Jaron Lanier is a very talented computer scientist who has been active in the field for decades. Many claim he is the person who invented the term virtual reality and all of the associations that go along with it. At the very least, he was very influential in virtual reality catching on as a mainstream term.
But Jaron was also influential in a variety of other technologies from Atari to Internet2 and even the massive multiplayer game Second Life. He also worked on the complicated and multi-functional Kinect for the Xbox 360. Lately, Jaron has been better known for his discussions on technology and the future of tech and human relations.
In 2010, Jaron wrote a book titled “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto.” This book was essentially a critique of the entire web 2.0 movement and the direction it has gone in for the last decade. What he is most worried about is seeing technology constrained by software design. Jaron thinks that choices software designers make could create “defining, unchangeable rules” that will not be questioned in the future.
Jaron ultimately wants more freedom between humans and technology. He doesn’t want us to be completely reliant on tech or held back in any way from experiencing our humanism. He is someone that argues that humans cannot and should not be compared to biological computers, as we have so much more to our species than electrical signals.
Many of his criticisms are certainly valid. Social media and other web 2.0 ideas have brought people closer together, but Jaron is not convinced it’s having a positive impact on our humanity. Of course there are many sides to a story, but he states that the culture of many online is one “of reaction without action.” It’s hard to argue against that observation in many instances.
Jaron is certainly an interesting person to read about if you have interest in great thinkers in tech. He has been around for some time and definitely has the credentials to back up what he’s saying.