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Tomorrow (should) belong to me...,
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This review is from: Who Owns The Future? (Hardcover)
Jaron Lanier's new book is all about asymmetry - asymmetric ownership leads to asymmetric power, and this leads to appropriation of rights (property - in this case, personal information, but also in markets in general).
Lanier maps the future as seen by Silicon Valley "visionaries" driven by unspecified motives (fear of death) towards the singularity - this is the time when the cybercrats upload themselves into some digital nirvana.
Of course, the rest of us already upload a lot about ourselves, but not quite our souls. This is where the book really nails the problem with today's cloud philosophy from a number of angles.
To be reductionist,
Napster (just to pick unfairly on one example technology) allowed wholesale music piracy, which deprived large numbers of minor musicians of future revenue from past efforts.
Friendster (to pick another dead tech, to avoid the obvious live , bigger example) wholesale pirated personal info, depriving large numbers of every joe day public of future revenue from past activities.
This dual concentration of information (music, video, photos, blog thoughts, preferences and the "like") in the Siren Servers (as Lanier terms the cloud boxen)
together with the shifting of future monetization of past contributions by individual, to current monetizing of said individuals' past efforts by said siren services
breaks some kind of grand social contract - (I am reminded of books like Bowling Alone, by the great Robert Putnam, as well as Future Perfect,
Treasure Islands, and even the Spirit Level, which all show how concentrating the assets from the large area under the Bell Curve, into a small number of pockets at the head of the Power Law, is bad for everyone).
This has a corrosive effect on the way the information market can grow.
Lanier (while admitting he is no economist) talks about the way money and finance have evolved in similar ways and alludes to the financial collapse of recent years as being perhaps a harbinger of a Cloud Burst to come
(bubble burst - hey, what's wrong with mixed metaphors anyhow?:-)
Lanier's solution to his is to (somehow) restore symmetry - we should get recompensed for our thoughts - shouldn't I be charging Amazon for this review, for example? (Even if its just a discount on Lanier's next book:)
He's hazy on details of how to succeed at this, and I am not surprised at that - it is difficult to figure out how to replace the monopoly tech giants. However, it has happened in the past.
And a lot of people are trying (look at all the wannabe decentralized privacy preserving social network tech startups out there).
However, I think that the missing piece is in the books I mention above written by social scientists, rather than in either technorati thoughts, or in economics theory, or law, policy or regulation.
While I would love to see a steady evolution from the current eyeball-centric, advert crazy "free" at the point of use, so long as you give up all your privacy and ownership of ideas, and life (Lanier covers future healthcare too)
I think the way to build this will be through some social capital creation scheme that builds participation in real world activities - perhaps the key to this will be mixed real
ity (cyber-physical systems -
aforesaid healthcare being one) where large crowds of individuals won't get fooled again into giving up valuable information by, for and of themselves to the Titan Sirens, because it will be so much more obvious to individuals how valuable that information is -
they will want to be paid, on the nose, for their preferences for rhinoplasty. They will extract an arm and a leg for the technical specs of the optimal prosthetic for their sports hobbies. They won't be the product any more - they will be the owners
of the means of production.