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Hardcover, Deckle Edge, Jan 12 2010
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (Jan. 12 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307269647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269645
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 2.3 x 22.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #253,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“A provocative and sure-to-be-controversial book . . . Lucid, powerful and persuasive. It is necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Important . . . At the bottom of Lanier’s cyber-tinkering is a fundamentally humanist faith in technology, a belief that wisely designed machines can bring us closer together by expanding the possibilities of creative self-expression . . . His mind is a fascinating place to hang out.”
—Ben Ehrenreich, Los Angeles Times
“Persuasive . . . [Lanier] is the first great apostate of the Internet era.”
—David Wallace-Wells, Newsweek
“Thrilling and thought-provoking . . . A necessary corrective in the echo chamber of technology debates. You Are Not a Gadget challenges many dominant ideologies and poses theoretical questions, the answers to which might start with one bright bulb, but depend on the friction of engaged parties. In other words, Lanier is acting like a computer scientist. Let’s hope he is not alone.”
—John Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle
“A call for a more humanistic—to say nothing of humane—alternative future in which the individual is celebrated more than the crowd and the unique more than the homogenized . . . You Are Not a Gadget  may be its own best argument for exalting the creativity of the individual over the collective efforts of the ‘hive mind.’ It’s the work of a singular visionary, and offers a hopeful message: Resistance may not be futile after all.”
—Rich Jaroslovsky, Bloomberg.com
“Provocative . . . [Lanier] confronts the big issues with bracing directness . . . The reader sits up. One of the insider’s insiders of the computing world seems to have gone rogue.”
—Sven Birkerts, The Boston Globe
“Sparky, thought-provoking . . . This is good knockabout stuff, and Lanier clearly enjoys rethinking received tech wisdom: his book is a refreshing change from Silicon Valley’s usual hype.”
—Paul Marks, New Scientist
“Lanier’s detractors have accused him of Ludditism, but his argument will make intuitive sense to anyone concerned with questions of propriety, responsibility, and authenticity.”
The New Yorker
“Poetic and prophetic, this could be the most important book of the year. The knee-jerk notion that the net as it is being developed sets us free is turned on its head . . . Read this book and rise up against net regimentation!”
—Iain Finlayson, The Times (London)
“From crowd-sourcing to social networking and mash-ups, Lanier dismantles the tropes of the current online culture.”
—Bloomberg.com, “Five Top Business Books of 2010”
“Lanier asks some important questions . . . He offers thoughtful solutions . . . Gadget is an essential first step at harnessing a post-Google world.”
—Eli Sanders, The Stranger (Seattle)
“Lanier turns a philosopher’s eye to our everyday online tools . . . The reader is compelled to engage with his work, to assent, contradict, and contemplate. In this, Lanier’s manifesto is not just a success, but a meta-success . . . Lovers of the Internet and all its possibilities owe it to themselves to plunge into Lanier’s [You Are Not a Gadget] and look hard in the mirror. He’s not telling us what to think; he’s challenging us to take a hard look at our cyberculture, and emerge with new creative inspiration.”
—Carolyn Kellogg, Flavorwire
“Inspired, infuriating and utterly necessary . . . Lanier tells of the loss of a hi-tech Eden, of the fall from play into labour, obedience and faith. Welcome to the century’s first great plea for a ‘new digital humanism’ against the networked conformity of cyber-space. This eloquent, eccentric riposte comes from a sage of the virtual world who assures us that, in spite of its crimes and follies, ‘I love the internet.’ That provenance will only deepen its impact, and broaden its appeal.”
—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent (London)
“A must read for 2010.”
Library Journal
“Lanier’s fascinating and provocative full-length exploration of the Internet’s problems and potential is destined to become a must-read for both critics and advocates of online-based technology and culture . . . He brilliantly shows how large Web 2.0–based information aggregators such as Amazon.com—as well as proponents of free music file sharing—have created a ‘hive mind’ mentality emphasizing quantity over quality.”
Publishers Weekly
“Jaron Lanier’s long awaited book is fabulous—I couldn’t put it down. His is a rare voice of sanity in the debate about the relationship between computers and human beings. This is a landmark book that will have people talking and arguing for years into the future.”
—Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics
“This is the single most important book yet written about our increasingly digital world. It will be remembered either as the manifesto that rescued humanity from the brink of extinction, or as the last cogent missive from an obsolete species.”
—Douglas Rushkoff, author of Life Inc., Media Virus, and Cyberia
“In this sane and spirited critique of Internet dogma, Jaron Lanier also delivers a timely defense of the value of the individual human being.”
—Nicholas Carr, author of Does IT Matter? and The Big Switch
“Important . . . Highly relevant . . . An impassioned and original critique of what the digital world has become . . . A much-needed defence of the humanist values that are being trampled underfoot . . . If ever there was an answer to the question, ‘Who needs thinkers when you have Wikipedia?’, this book is surely it.”
—John Stones, Design Week (UK)

About the Author

Jaron Lanier is known as the father of virtual reality technology and has worked on the interface between computer science and medicine, physics, and neuroscience. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Barry Linetsky on March 16 2010
Format: Hardcover
Lanier was an early developer and designer of computer software, including virtual reality. In this "Manifesto" he takes aim at the dehumanizing aspects of computer technology and warns that designers must be careful that the infrastructures they build are flexible enough to promote and encourage, rather than stifle, human individuality and creativity.

For me, his explanation of "lock-in" - the ease by which later software developers build on early foundations thereby forcing users to adapt to their structures - was interesting. Instead of encouraging creativity across digital culture, lock-in results in overwhelming blandness. This has a pernicious effect on society, and, along with a developing ideology, is a contributing factor to what Lanier sees as an emerging cybernetic totalism.

It is against this totalism that his manifesto is primarily aimed.

Lanier puts forward some interesting observations about how an anarchist anti-man/pro-machine ideology permeates the high ranks of digital and web culture. Many believe he web to be a living force - a conscious mind - giving it the status of being god-like, while actual living human beings are but a collective and undifferentiated mass. Lanier calls it the hive-mind. A pack mentality replaces the phenomena of individual intelligence.

Like Marxists of old, these new-age sci-fiists who consider themselves enlightened to the new world order act to promote the coming meta silicon consciousness and thereby strike out at naive individualism. It is the new religion of a collectivist 'singularity' in which people 'hope to become immortal by being uploaded into a computer someday.' This active ideology in which artificial intelligence replaces human intelligence does not require human morality.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 100 REVIEWER on Jan. 31 2010
Format: Hardcover
What Jaron Lanier does is take us up 20,000 meters and allow us to view things with perspective. We have been overwhelmed by the unnoticed "lock-in" and simply adjust and reduce ourselves to fit the requirements of online dating, social media, forums, and the software we employ. He says Web 2.0 is homogenizing humanity, taking us down to the lowest common denominator instead of allowing or encouraging us to bloom in different directions. Everything we now "enjoy" seems to be backward looking - music is sampled and retro, news is criticized mercilessly, but very few are creating it any more, relationships are Tweets...

Friends don't let friends communicate via Facebook - they do it on the phone or in person. But the direction we are taking instead reduces interaction, kills creativity, journalism, music, science....it's not as pretty as predicted, he says. And he's one of those more responsible for it all.

These are truly valuable criticisms, and this is an important, if flawed book. Flawed because after a hundred page pounding of logic and evidence, Lanier spends the second hundred pages telling us how wonderful it is to be a scientist and play with humans and cuttlefish. I was particularly annoyed with a gratuitous couple of paragraphs devoted to swearing, which he says might be connected to parts of the brain controlling orifices and obscenity. To my knowledge, swearing is cultural, not physiological. In Quebec, the worst swearing is against the Catholic Church, Translated into English "Christ Tabernacle" sounds like something WC Fields said to skirt the censors. But it's the most vile thing you can say in polite conversation in Montreal. On the other hand Motherf----r doesn't translate into French at all. And what's any of this got to do with online reductionism?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a thought-provoking and engaging "manifesto" that targets the digital world, in many cases highlighting the sinister or deleterious effects of what many of us perceive as advances and achievements in digital technology. There are fascinating explorations of how musical expression is limited by digital technology, and also of how musical creativity has seemingly stagnated in recent decades since the internet and technology has been superimposed on and consumed music. In addition to music, Lanier touches on the effects on other arts and sciences throughout the work. For the most part, the book has a negative outlook, sending out a warning of what may come to pass if we continue to encourage the "hive mind" to thrive, but there are positive notes interspersed.

One of the over-arching themes here is that although we often find the internet, and technology and all things spawned from these areas as outstanding advances that have improved society and humanity, there is a general trend towards lack of innovation rather than towards true novelty. Lanier makes this point well and it seems we as a species would do well to heed his warning and make conscious efforts and choices to encourage innovation and creativity, while not entirely quashing technological changes and growth at the same time.

From a sociological point of view and psychological side of things, Lanier provides us with some gems of insights when dealing with the perils of social media. One of my favourite is this (page 180): "Young people announce every detail of their lives on services like Twitter not to show off, but to avoid the closed door at bedtime, the empty room, the screaming vacuum of an isolated mind".

This is a great book, small in size but not quality, providing the reader with much to ponder.
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