The New York Times has a lengthly interview with Jaron Lanier, a pioneering cyberpunk turned internet skeptic, whose new book is Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. Lanier suggests that VR has the potential to transform human relations in a more empathetic direction, but only if its development is taken out of the hands of tech giants like Google and Facebook. Read an excerpt from the article below, or the full piece here.
Mr. Lanier believes that Facebook and Google, with their “top-down control schemes,” should be called “Behavior Modification Empires.”
“The whole internet thing was supposed to create the world’s best information resource in all of history,” he says. “Everything would be made visible. And instead we’re living in this time of total opacity where you don’t know why you see the news you see. You don’t know if it’s the same news that someone else sees. You don’t know who made it be that way. You don’t know who’s paid to change what you see. Everything is totally obscure in a profound way that it never was before.
“And the belief system of Silicon Valley is so thick that my friends at Facebook simply still really believe that the answer to any problem is to do more of what they already did, that they’re optimizing the world.
“The Facebook business model is mass behavior modification for pay. And for those who are not giving Facebook money, the only — and I want to emphasize, the only, underlined and in bold and italics — reward they can get or positive feedback is just getting attention. And if you have a system where the only possible prize is getting more attention, then you call that system Christmas for Asses, right? It’s a creep-amplification device.
Image: Jaron Lanier at his home in Berkeley, California. Via NY Times.