Jaron Lanier is one of these pumped up ‘digirati‘ that gets paraded about like Edward Snowden’s long-lost, weed-addled, basement-dwelling, Marxist brother every time Wired or Scientific American or whatever other two-bit shiny rag needs to gloss over something vaguely tech related that they don’t understand and have little business pretending to explain to well-meaningi ignorati who sadly for us all, and our children, and our children’s children, have the franchise.
Lanier, therefore, is the sort of full-sized stuffed animal that idiots hold tight and dear because the real world is a large, frightful, and really very complex place that’s woefully too powerful for their meager existences and markedly less meager senses of self-worth. He’s soft and plump around the edges, has long shaggy hair just like the doll your sister used to carry around with her absolutely everywhere, and he uses a series of disconnected but comfortingly familiar buzzwords that ring bells without conveying any appreciable meaning to anyone of any appreciable intellect whatsoever.
After quite regrettably flipping through a few pages of “Who Owns The Future,” one of Lanier’s somewhat recently published books, and beyond nauseated by the fucktardery I gleaned therein, I had a right mind to go to his house, chop him and his idiocy up into bite-sized pieces, skewer them with a whittled-down birch tree, roast them over an open-pit fire, and feed a little slice of his medium-rare meat to each and every one of the magazine editors and conference hosts who has ever held tenure while one of Lanier’s lamentable and detestable excuses for words was wedged recklessly in between the comparatively unobjectionable advertorials.ii
See what I mean from his 2014 lecture and Q&A at something, somewhere called “Techonomy” :
I’m using a Windows phone these days. Not because of Microsoft, I couldn’t care less, but because I have a bit of a nonconformist streak and the Windows phone is the only way you can express that in your phone choice these days.
Really ?? The only way to express yourself in a phone choice is a Winbloze phone ????!!!11 Motherfucker I swear to you I just fell off my chair. If this isn’t sufficiently damnation of everything that follows from this man’s mouth, nothing is. Seriously, “Windows” and “nonconformist” in the same breath ! Whatever happened to using a flip phone or a Nokia brick or something ? Now that’d be nonconformist.
When you start to optimize the world with digital technologies, there’s kind of this dangerous pothole you can fall into, or this sort of mistake you can make, which is to turn yourself into a sort of a Communist central planner, where whoever’s the closest to the most central and most influential computer gets to sort of run everything. And when do that, you can reap incredible, incredible near-term benefits, but you also undermine the project that got you into it in the first place. So I’m a little concerned we’ve gone down that fake road.
This, in a nutshell, pretty much summarises what drives me bananas about Lanier’s apparent authority : he creates a strawman around his ideas of how the world should work based on goodness only knows what, constructs a convenient and to my ear entirely implausible narrative about how the Internet and other computer-based technologies functionally operate, and then has the audacity to suggest that it’s not him that’s wrong, it’s not him that’s an utter failure of a human being, oh no, it’s everyone else !
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that Lanier doesn’t get laid much and that this has less to do with his sloppy and “I haven’t showered this month” appearance and more to do with his rampant stupidity.
Right at the start of digital networking, the first proposal for a design came from Ted Nelson, who’s still with us and lives on a boat in Sausalito. And he did it while he was a student at Harvard. And so the initial digital architecture proposed a universal micropayment structure where two things would happen at once. One is we’d gradually let go of a lot of the traditional regulation of information, particularly things like copyright. Those sorts of all or nothing decisions about this person owns this and these other people don’t, and they have to pay for it, those things would fade away and instead there’d be a sort of universal ability for people to use information from each other, but at the same time, people would get paid when their information was referenced, even indirectly or very indirectly. There’d be this sort of rolling wave of payments where if you did something that referenced somebody else and that referenced somebody else, all the people down the line would get a little bit.
This is apparently called Content Centric Networking (CCN), which means that it focuses on the specific content instead of the network connections, and to me sounds like a platform-cross between the stillborn Maidsafe networkiii and an out-of-box attempt by the USG to kill net neutrality and therefore not help the less fortunate, as Lanier and Turner propose, but markedly hurt them – y’know, just like every other populist effort at “reform” in the long history of humanity.
And so what he knew, and what all of us knew from the start, was that with digital efficiencies you could end up automating a lot of that stuff and having only the stars left. And so the problem isn’t a lack of wealth. The problem is a loss of a bell curve in economic outcomes. And this is a really key point and it’s very hard to make because the vocabulary we use creates this blind spot around something that should be incredibly obvious.
Here again, Lanier presents solutions as problems. Life isn’t Gaussian, not really, and certainly not on any appreciable timescale. There may have been historical exceptions to this, we may even be emerging from one such exceptional happenstance now, but the automation of business and politics, and the resultingly less equal economic outcomes, aren’t to be waved away with a fat-fingered hand just for the saying of it. You have to be really sick and pretty fucking twisted to stand up in front of a room of people who want to better themselves and have paid $$$ to be told how, only to tell them with a straight face that “the future will happily accommodate you, don’t change a thing, fairness and equality are here to stay” instead of the altogether more sane (and accurate !) suggestion that “the world is changing and it appears to be heading in the direction of greater inequality, you haven’t a moment to lose if you want to find yourself on the right side of the dinner table, much less history. Adapt or else your wife will end up turning tricks on the street just so your dumb children don’t starve.”
Instead, Lanier pumps up his audience with dreams of being paid to fart.
But what I became interested in is let’s apply this to big data. Let’s say that your translation of the day is used in Google and Bing and perhaps in IBM or whoever else a bunch of times to do things. Shouldn’t you get some pennies from that? So if we start to think of a world where things are more and more automated, where perhaps vehicles are driving themselves and factories are highly automated or manufacturing’s highly distributed with 3D printers or whatever—whatever scenario you like. You can think of any industry and you can imagine the version where there’s a lot fewer people directly doing whatever it is and instead they’re mediated by some kind of cloud software. Well, why not pay them through the cloud for their contributions? It’s honest, it’s true, it’s fair. But even more interesting to me is that the topology of that arrangement would be a thickly connected graph, and so I think it might create a bell curve.
Because really, what could be more honest, more true, more fair, and more likely to result in a bell curve distribution than paying people based on the duration, noxiousness, and size of impact zone of their flatulent excretions ? Seems like a reasonable idea to me !
Perhaps the next Apple Belt can have a biometric sensor that beams your fartdata to the fartcloud so that your insurance company can pay you for having healthier farts than average. That won’t result in some ultra-fit and digestively unimpeachable triathlete wearing 100 belts on his body as he games the system for fun and profit ! Nope, not a chance ! This is the future !!1
On the one hand, there’s this idea of income inequality, as if income equality would be a good thing. Because to really make incomes equal, there’d have to be some sort of force that would pound people down and say, “We will all be equal.” Surely, any world of freedom is going to create a variation of outcomes. That’s just by definition. So if you believe in freedom, if you believe in agency in people, you have to accept distribution of outcomes. On the other hand, the Zipf distribution, where there’s an incredible concentration in a tiny minority, is just not sustainable.
So let me get this straight, “sustainable” doesn’t mean “long-lasting, likely to perpetuate, and likely to lead to the fullness of human flourishing” so much as “designed to give idiots resources without also teaching them how to think well enough to distribute said resources with a view towards the long-term.” This is as objectionable an abuse of language as the libertard definition of progess !
The only difference between now and the past is that now we’re pretending the people who do the real work are actually not doing the real work.
I’m afraid that the only ones pretending anything at this point are Jaron Lanier and his merry band of lemmings heading right off the cliff and into digital oblivion. The Internet is here, Bitcoin, The Most Serene Republic Of ~ is here, and no amount of hoping, fist-shaking, and prayers to Ba’al will change any of this. “Real people” are well-defined and only we determine what “real work” is.iv You pumping out methane and tweets into the atmosphere is no more deserving of reward nor merit than the confessioner who sends up Hail Marys to heaven. Your “social media” cred is nothing but a 100% tax on your freedom and mental health. It’s therefore quite the opposite of what Lanier imagines is could be : it’s an expense, not a source of revenue.
Needless to say, Lanier is a mean joke : deluding the already deluded, keeping sheltered the already woefully sheltered, and generally making a hash of technological proselytising and prophesying.
In the Q&A period following his lecture, Lanier was axed about Bitcoin, with which he responded :
Right now, whoever hoards a bunch of bitcoins early can just wait for other people to innovate to make bitcoins more and more valuable, and they and their descendants automatically become super rich. What you need to be able to have is a little bit of printing money, so to speak, a little bit of inflation, in order for the overall wealth of the society to be acknowledged as people get better and better at doing things. To have a fixed money supply, that would work in a society absolutely absent in innovation where everything was static. So to me, it’s at the macroeconomic level I think bitcoin is really bad, bad, bad design. Really, really retrograde and really cruel, ultimately.
Lanier either has the driest sense of humour aroundv or the worst reading of history, the worst understanding of economics and the worst understanding of innovation of anyone on the ‘digirati’ speaking circuit – worse even than Peter Diamandis – and listening to him can only harm you.
I’ll put a bitcent on the latter.
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- Which is to say hell-bound. [↩]
- This is really saying something given that “marketing” and “ads” are functionally rape. [↩]
- Seriously, I called out these fuckheads and their altcoin scam, what, 14 months ago and they’re still lost somewhere on their “roadmap” between “Test Network 2″ and “Test Network 3,” only about half-way to “BETA Launch.” But really, why develop when you’re already paid and the idiots who funded you have no recourse ? Not that this chumpatron was all used up, as apparently further chumps are being tron’d with FAKE MaidSafeCoins. Man alive, these guys… [↩]
- And to a lesser extent, our L1 – that is, assbot’s L2. [↩]
- And hasn’t read Bitcoin is unfair. That’s the point, and so it shall remain. [↩]