You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier | A Book Review

You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier surprised me in the sense that he somehow slipped through the cracks. He has a background in virtual reality and while I’m not deeply immersed, his relationship with technology in general as well as being a musician makes it odd that I’ve never crossed paths with him. I also found myself in agreement with him more often than not. Wish I had found this book when it came out.

I did take a few notes:

One of his primary points is about how the Web (a content layer atop the internet, has become a “Grand Unified Scam” — it’s hard to argue against this when you understand how silo’d the experience is by the biggest players now compared to how wild it was in the early and mid 1990's.

Ted Nelson, the person behind the concept of Xanadu and man who coined the phrases “hypermedia” and “hypertext” wants a monopoly. It might be fair to say that has in some senses been achieved.

Gen X failed, I won’t explain.

There’s a direct line between the success of The Sims game series by Will Wright and Instagram, the gamification of observing the mundane as episodic events.

He is completely wrong about hip hop though, the form has been stale for three decades (though at the time he wrote this it was only two). While vocal presentation has “evolved” (if you really want to stretch that meaning), the actual music has been stagnant. I have been waiting for the music to intelligently expand beyond 4/4 time signatures and incorporate key changes but this day has not arrived.

The concept Computationalism compares the brain to a computer, it isn’t but the analogy is a decent way to interpret the basic ideas of how we process information and our environment. However, it fails at the notion of mind and spirituality.

All in all: listen to musicians instead of tenure track academics.

Thanks for reading!



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