JCL Blog

People are not Computers

Last week a very interesting book came out, "You Are Not a Gadget" by Jaron Lanier. I am about half way through it and will post a review on this page soon. I had the good fortune of meeting Jaron this morning when he make a short presentation at Emerald City Rotary Club in Seattle. Here are the two main thoughts I took away from his talk and the discussion after:

People are not Computers (or visa versa)

The book goes into this in great detail, but Jaron does a good job of encapsulating the danger of thinking of computers as capable beings. He uses Facebook as an example of a system that we may think tracks in parallel with humans. He went on to point out that Facebook does not come very close to approximating the richness of human relationships. If we give Facebook enough authority in our society we will subject ourselves to its inadequacies. If we subject ourselves to Facebook, and Facebook cannot approximate real life, we will start to limit ourselves in real life to only the things that Facebook can recognize. So what you ask?

In America we are all big fans of reinvention. We built our country on the idea. Those of us that grew up before Facebook never thought twice about creating a whole new self if it suited us. We may not have gone as far as Don Drapper, but I know I tried on many personalities before I decided who I was. It is true that Facebook cannot stop us from doing that (or anything), but we can stop ourselves from doing it because we are worried about how it will be represented on Facebook.

We are giving away both ends of the value creation chain

Some time ago we came to the conclusion that inventing was the place to be, and the making could be done somewhere else. This follows our belief that labor is the main component of making and that ideas are the main component of inventing and we want to be the idea people. Some time later, about ten years ago, we decided that ideas should be free. We decided that writing, music, software, and many other pursuits of the mind should be shared freely (on the Internet) and that money would be made some other way. Sure these two changes were separated by about half a century. So we can forgive ourselves for not connecting them together. But now that we don't make things, and we give our ideas away for free -- what part of value creation do we own?

I am really looking forward to getting to the end of the book because Jaron has made some pretty good arguments that we are driving the bus right off the cliff. I for one don't want to go off the cliff. When I get to the part about what we should do -- I will report back. I suspect education and privacy will be involved.

Here is a link to Jaron Lanier's web page.  

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