Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier: 'the last place you can seek information without being spied on'

'The library budget cut is just one little tiny fractal piece of the much larger story of the rise of income inequality.

When I was pretty young, I must have been 13 or something, I remember finding the first journal publication of a solid 3d object rendered by a computer in some article in the New Mexico State University library and I checked it out and I was so excited that I was running down the street outside the library stopping strangers to make them look at it like an idiot, but I just used to be so filled with enthusiasm that I couldn't help it. [I] just like showed things to random people.

So, I remember that, and I also remember in that same library, I would say that the New Mexico State University Library was my first sort of major library experience, and I remember sort of coming through, in the weird back corners there would be collections of strange art journals and stuff like that were just a terribly alien, and you know, what's funny is when I think back on that, I have to say I'm not sure that that romantic degree of uncovering of weird things has ever quite matched from experiences online, although some those have been really good, too.

Well, you know the library budget cut is just one little tiny fractal piece of the much larger story of the rise of income inequality. The centers of wealth tend to be around the biggest computers these days. Thet tend to gather where people are gathering and analyzing data about other people. Right now,the library is the last place you can seek information without being spied on, and there's really none other left.

Well, you know, funny things happen because of the rise a big computers, because in the old days the most important issue was probably censorship and whether information was made available. And probably right now the even more important issue is a whether spying information about people as being gathered based on what they read, what they're interested, what they look at and that creates an imbalance of power that's even worse than being able to censor what information people have access to.

So, given that, suddenly there's this allegiance between people who are gathering spy information about people and being  anti-censorship and open access, because, of course, the more information people can have access to, the more openly and easily they can, the easier it is to gather spy data about what information they access.

So it's no longer enough to say, well I'm against censorship and I'm for open access, because if the way people have access to information is creating an even worse inequity than denial information used to, then we're not really getting anywhere.

In fact, we might be backpedaling, so we have to be very careful.

Okay, well the book's called "Who Owns the Future." It's proposing a way of understanding how computation interacts with the the economy and with society. It proposes that there've been some surprising effects that tend to increase income inequality and do damage to the middle classes, or whatever term you prefer for that, people who are in the middle block of society and that in turn does damage both to capitalism and society and markets. And it proposes, at least a first sketch at alternatives for thinking about how networks can interface with all that. It's a bit of a complicated book that acts on alot of levels. And I can imagine it might be frustrating book in that it doesn't provide all the answers, but I don't have all the answers yet. I'm saying yet because they believe that we will find answers. I'm quite confident about that. I'm very much an optimist.

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Library Name: 

New Mexico State University Library