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You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto [Paperback]

Jaron Lanier
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Feb 2011

In You are Not a Gadget digital guru and virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier reveals how the internet is deadening personal interaction, stifling genuine inventiveness and even changing us as people.

Something went wrong around the start of the twenty-first century. The crowd was wise. Social networks replaced individual creativity. There were more places to express ourselves than ever before... yet no one really had anything to say.

Does this have to be our future?

Showing us the way to a future where individuals mean more than machines, this is a searing manifesto against mass mediocrity, a creative call to arms - and an impassioned defence of the human.

'A provocative and sure-to-be-controversial book ... Lucid, powerful and persuasive'
  The New York Times

'There is hardly a page that does not contain some fascinating provocation'
  Guardian

'Short and frightening ... from a position of real knowledge and insight'

Zadie Smith, New York Review of Books

'Poetic and prophetic, this could be the most important book of the year'
  The Times

Jaron Lanier is a philosopher and computer scientist who has spent his career pushing the transformative power of modern technology to its limits. From coining the term 'Virtual Reality' and creating the world's first immersive avatars to developing cutting-edge medical imaging and surgical techniques, Lanier is one of the premier designers and engineers at work today.

A musician with a collection of over 700 instruments, he has been recognised by Encyclopedia Britannica (but certainly not Wikipedia) as one of history's greatest inventors and named one of the top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by Prospect and Foreign Policy.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (3 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141049111
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141049113
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 33,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Fabulous - I couldn't put it down and shouted out Yes! Yes! on many pages . . . This is a landmark book that will have people talking and arguing for years into the future. (Lee Smolin)

Lucid, powerful and persuasive . . . Necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)

There is hardly a page that does not contain some fascinating provocation (Guardian)

Mind-bending, exuberant, brilliant (Washington Post)

A pioneer in the development of virtual reality and a Silicon Valley veteran, Mr. Lanier is a digital-world insider concerned with the effect that online collectivism and the current enshrinement of "the wisdom of the crowd" is having on artists, intellectual property rights and the larger social and cultural landscape. In taking on such issues, he's written an illuminating book that is as provocative as it is impassioned. (Michiko Kakutani's Top 10 Books of the Year 2010 New York Times)

In the world of technologists, Jaron Lanier is that rare combination: a pioneer and a skeptic. A legendary computer scientist, he did crucial early work in the field of virtual reality (the phrase is his). But he now recoils at the way Web 2.0 and social media sell us short as human beings, both in our relationships and in our sense of who we are. In purposeful, reasoned steps, always informed by a profound understanding of how software really works, he lays out his vision of where it all went wrong and champions the power of the human brain in an age of ever smarter machines. (Lev Grossman Time Magazine Top 10 Non-Fiction Books of 2010)

About the Author

Jaron Lanier is a philosopher and computer scientist who has spent his career pushing the transformative power of modern technology to its limits. From coining the term 'Virtual Reality' and creating the world's first immersive avatars to developing cutting-edge medical imaging and surgical techniques, Lanier is one of the premier designers and engineers at work today. Linked with UC Berkeley and Microsoft, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the IEEE in 2009.

A musician with a collection of over 700 instruments, he has been recognised by Encyclopedia Britannica (but certainly not Wikipedia) as one of history's 300 or sogreatest inventors and named one of the top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by Prospect and Foreign Policy.


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The essence of the book is Lanier's attempt to answer the question: "What happens when we stop shaping technology and technology starts shaping us?"

An early Silicon Valley visionary, Lanier's book essentially has two halves. The first is an inquiry into what happens to human relationships the more we cede our social interaction to technology. He then shifts gear and expounds a new philosophy as he explores possible future directions for human society and our relationship with technology. I got a little lost in the latter, and I suspect the book could have done with a bit more editing (or my brain is not big enough; you decide....)

The strongest sections are when Lanier paints a coherent picture of what happens when technology is elevated above humanity. He talks of the "digital hive growing at the expense of humanity", and in many ways the first few chapters are a re-stating of the primacy of physical reality when it comes to the lived experience of human society. It argues that the 'noosphere' - a supposed global brain formed of the sum of all the brains connected to the internet - leads us to become little more than computer peripherals. Social networking is seen as something that reduces us as people. And 'the wisdom of crowds', increasingly invoked by some as both a 'good thing' and a possible solution to helping society find answers to the more intractable challenges we face, is challenged.

If you look at what Lanier is saying through the lens of a systems thinking, he is arguing for a reappraisal of the patterns that we are creating around human society and technology, and exploring what conditions we might change or add in order to improve things e.g. a reappraisal of how we pay for data/content.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and useful 15 Feb 2010
Format:Hardcover
If you have ever felt uneasy about the way things are developing on the internet... how creativity and originality seem to be being buried under a landslide of mash-ups, viral jokes and cut-and-paste blipverts... how the opinions of thousands of idiots seem to be more important than those of experts.

Read this, and find out why you are right to feel uneasy.

This book, from a man who helped design the way things are now, is explaining what has gone wrong and how it could get much worse if things are not fixed. It's not too technical, and he does a good job of linking it to current theories about artificial intelligence and linguistics, among other fields.

He's better at saying what's wrong than how to fix it, but very much worth a read if you have the slightest interest in modern computer technology and how it is affecting society.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dystopia 2.0 anybody? 20 July 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Back in the 1990's, my friends and I would listen to Terence McKenna's spellbinding talks on the subject of the then embryonic information super highway. McKenna was convinced of the utopian possibilities of the internet. Cultural free for alls and other fun ontology's promised by the internet would free our minds from our Gnostic drudgery, awaken the collective unconscious, demolish the cultural pillars of Christian civilisation and kick the doors off heavens hinges; phew!. This brave new world was going to herald the cultural singularity and the new dawn; and finally, we were all to transcend to silicon light, (You had to be there I guess).

According to McKenna and indeed Jaron Lanier -and most silicon entrepreneurs at the time- the internet will allow us all an existence in the radiant afterglow of a post-western civilisation. Capitalist values will be swept away, along with adverts and 'male dominator' politics, "We'll go there and we'll leave the Earth and dance forever in the astral imagination" (McKenna)!

Jaron Lanier now admits this was foolish and he's trying to warn us all before 'lock in' will halt our humanness and turn us all into technological serfs.

Lanier is arguing that if we fast forward 20 odd years from now, then capitalism is indeed wobbling at the foundations (but not at the top you see). This means that we serfs are suffering down bellow; and it gets worse. While we work for nothing, like when we write unpaid reviews on Amazon or 'help' Wikipedia, the 'lords of the clouds' have monopolised the creative surplus and are squeezing the middle class until the pips squeak!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
"You are Not a Gadget" by Jaron Lanier is a book written by a Silicon Valley visionary since the 80s, a man who predicted the changes Internet would bring to our lifestyle, culture and commerce.

Lanier who is father of virtual reality technology and founder of once popular Atari software company, was also a pioneer in digital media business therefore he was able to realize long time ago what revolutionary changes would development of the World Wide Web bring to our world.
Due to that, he had every right to write this book that offers provocative critique of how digital world changed and still is changing our world, in good, but also less good way.

In his book, Lanier due to his rich experience and computer expertise speaks about the technical and cultural problems that have appeared due to the rapid development of technology, especially regarding the nature of user identity.
He warns that with social networks entering in all aspects of our society and life, artificial intelligence of computers and different gadgets all people use these days are elevating over the intelligence of humans.

The result, as he sees it, is that certain specific, today popular Internet designs, not the Internet as a whole, tend to pull users into life patterns that slowly degrade the ways in which human beings exist as individuals.
He continues with critics that those people who live from their creativity like writers or different artists, are under enormous pressure by Internet providers who want their art only as the background, as way that will enable them to generate large revenues from advertising.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and wide ranging
I really enjoyed this book. Its good to hear the argument for maintaining a core of humanism/personality in the digital world with the freedom from being labelled a Luddite. Read more
Published 4 months ago by NKW
5.0 out of 5 stars Not even close to being a gadget
‘You are not a gadget - a manifesto’, by Jaron Lanier

Have carried this book around with me for a couple of years. Just finished it today. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Barry
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you in The Cloud ?
Can you avoid The Cloud ? Are you what The Cloud says you are ?Can you change ?
Read this book ! Read more
Published 13 months ago by J.S.Callaghan
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read book for anyone interested in Internet culture and social...
An amazing book, easy to read and follow despite what might feel like heavy subject matter, I would heavily recommend this book to anyone who consumes Internet culture, uses social... Read more
Published 16 months ago by jade M
1.0 out of 5 stars Promises so much!
I was really looking forward to reading this book, but it was a real letdown. It promised so much but delivered so little and never really came to anything more than a bunch of... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Avid Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Lanier has to reconsider his vision of language
This book is small by its size but it is enormous by the subject it discusses. He starts in an extremely positive way by saying: "Technologies are extensions of ourselves." (p. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jacques COULARDEAU
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Jaron Lanier is a genius. This book shows how important culture is in developing technology and how we should keep in mind that we can shape the way that new media is used.
Published 19 months ago by Etan Ilfeld
4.0 out of 5 stars Provocative
Lanier is a computer scientist and philosopher and this is his eloquent statement on Web 2.0 and where he thinks things are heading. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Philtrum
5.0 out of 5 stars A great humanist analysis
There are now a number of excellent academic books about the dark side of the Internet, for example Jonathan Zittrain's 'The Future of the Internet' and Goldsmith and Wu's 'Who... Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2011 by JKLeeds
3.0 out of 5 stars Why is the electronic version double the price of the paperback?
Why is the Kindle version *double* the price of the paperback? I thought electronic delivery was meant to be cheaper :-/
Published on 2 Feb 2011 by J. Houghton
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