Jaron Lanier is a technology inventor and philosopher who has been dubbed the prophet of the digital age. He coined the phrases 'Virtual Reality' and 'digital Maoism'. His last book, You Are Not A Gadget, was a hugely influential and hotly debated critique of the 'hive mind'. Here he talks about his new book, Who Owns the Future?, with artist and writer James Bridle.
Digital technologies dawned with the promise that they would bring us all greater economic stability and power. That utopian image has stuck. But, Lanier argues, the efficiencies brought by digi-techs are having the effect of concentrating wealth while reducing overall growth. He predicts that, as more industries are transformed by digital technologies, huge waves of permanent unemployment are likely to follow those already sweeping through many creative industries.
But digital hubs are designed on the principle that people don't get paid for sharing. Every time we apply for a loan, update Facebook, use our credit cards, post pictures on Instagram or search on Google, we work for free says Lanier. He argues that artificial intelligence over a network can be understood as a massive accounting fraud that ruins markets. Past technological revolutions rewarded people with new wealth and capabilities. He will explain why, without that reward, the middle classes - who form the basis of democracy as he sees it - are threatened, placing the future of human dignity itself at risk.
Lanier discusses his analysis of the deep links between democracy and capitalism, and shares his thoughts for how humanity can find a new vision for the future.
This event was part of The School of Life's 'In Conversation' series and took place at Conway Hall on 6th March 2013.