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Jaron Lanier Interview on What Went Wrong With the Internet

🔒 nymag.com

I think it would be amazing to have dinner with Jaron Lanier. He is incredibly articulate and has thought deeply about how technology impacts our social lives. In this interview Lanier reflects on Silicon Valley and Big Tech”, specifically hitting on the social platforms. He points directly at the economic model of ad driven platforms as the cause for much of the problems of social media.

And there’s only one way to merge the two things, which is what we call the advertising model, where everything’s free but you pay for it by selling ads. But then because the technology gets better and better, the computers get bigger and cheaper, there’s more and more data — what started out as advertising morphed into continuous behavior modification on a mass basis, with everyone under surveillance by their devices and receiving calculated stimulus to modify them.


Because as long as you have advertising, you have this perverse incentive to make it manipulative. You can’t have a behavior-modification machine with advertisers and have anything ethical; it’s not possible. You could get away with it barely with television because television wasn’t as effective at modifying people. But this, there’s no ethical way to have advertising.

Lanier’s position on social media is intense, and thought provoking.

It suggests that you’re just a cog in a giant global brain or something like that. The rhetoric from the companies is often about AI, that what they’re really doing — like YouTube’s parent company, Google, says what they really are is building the giant global brain that’ll inherit the earth and they’ll upload you to that brain and then you won’t have to die. It’s very, very religious in the rhetoric. And so it’s turning into this new religion, and it’s a religion that doesn’t care about you. It’s a religion that’s completely lacking in empathy or any kind of personal acknowledgment. And it’s a bad religion. It’s a nerdy, empty, sterile, ugly, useless religion that’s based on false ideas. And I think that of all of the things, that’s the worst thing about it.

A worthwhile and thought provoking read.

📌 Posted on April 26, 2018

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