Jaron Lanier on the “Local-global flip”

August 30, 2011

Instead of recalling why this seemingly innocuous chubby Rastafarian is and has been one of the spearheads of contemporary debate about future for .. three decades now, let’s focus on this monologue of his recently recorded by EDGE.

Lanier debates that the widespread usage of networking has reduced the individual to a trade object of corporations and markets, rather than empowered a new middle class that “creates value out of their minds and hearts”.

The promise of the early Internet, to horizontally connect individuals in a heterogeneous global but ultimately personalized trading ground, transformed in a brutal ecosystem where there is no strategy, no planning, only instantaneous profit-oriented logic.
In this heavily peaked pyramid, players that are unable to perform real-time, ubiquitous information gathering and decision making are simply left out, as a necessary byproduct of an “early adopter” effect: the first takes all.
(Can this be considered a consequence of finite resources/finite “context size” and/or of small-world network characteristics? Just my personal note, will think about this)

He also points at possible interpretations of up-and-coming technological developments and their use in counteracting this “trend” to restore the production of value to the individual user, which is, he argues, the only way for civilization not to end as either “Matrix or Marx” (avoidable catchy quote).

Enjoy this hour-long thought-provoking rollercoaster blah blah, it will crack your mind open like a veritable crowbar!

[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/hLJxgs77WAA%5D

(A few notes and objections from the top of my head)

anarchistic societies “oppressive if you don’t fit in” (See Q.1)

current tradeoff of personal freedom and economical prospect vs. ability of projecting self thru network out as ego gratification and living w/parents, “internet usage as denialism of future prospects”
—> Extrapolated into the future, leads to grim projections of HGWells and KVonnegut, of “enough virtual bread and circuses for everyone, hardly enough to keep the poor in check and perhaps not breeding and ,somehow, withering away..”

2 ways of coping w/ machines getting good:
Marxist-socialist, powerful state providing through politics for welfare of ppl, instead of more abstract form like money, but unlikely to be realistic “due to human nature” (see Q.2)
people just suffer, higly sectarian medicine capping total population, which seems to be scary norm right now
—>THIRD possible way (orig by Ted Nelson), original idea for Internet (60’s): universal marketplace wh ppl would buy bits from each other, “information would be paid for”, reconstitute middle class that creates value from head- and heart-work (since manual labor is quickly being taken over by automation) and trades it; this type of system preserves personal freedom.

Silicon Valley in the 80s and 90s was growing the middle class through the ubiquitous introduction of the PC; little mom&pop shop with computer, owning their information
–other scenario evolved:
Google and Apple models (bla bla slutting about how many contacts he has in silicon valley) instead emerged; instead of “personal” computer, store model (business thru apple portal, creates more elitist polarization). google model: give away computation, keep data “disaster”.
—> there’s no such thing as a “middle class” but only dishomogeneities in the uniform landscape: most online activity does not translate into actual value that could be transferred to others (e.g. bloggers and freelancers and hobbyists aren’t connected by economy of exchange vs. economy of uploading and copying)
—> build middle back with a “social contract”: people would pay online if they could be paid out of it, ppl expect “free stuff” from the internet, but not wealth, which does not yield to an online social coalescence. Ppl wouldn’t vandalize the net if they could buy into it, gain a revenue from it.

DRIVERLESS CARS as automated service to society as system: power, crash prev.
economy of advert. placement by e.g.programming movement toward billboards
improved UIs (augm.reality?) for drivers as service added

3D PRINTING, deprinting; creativity liberated, fast and systematic recycling made possible (Q.3), destabilizing lower-level manufacturing countries like China, creating new classes of knowledge workers involved in this distributed production ecosystem (see “Thingiverse”)

WHY ECONOMIC PAIN ALL OVER THE WORLD “all of a sudden”? Networked markets (…)


  1. SF bikers mobs & Burning man closed toward outsiders as instances of failure of Marxism? wtf
  2. why and how would “human nature” privilege one societal framework than another. Compare against voting patters of Homo Sapiens Sapiens in the past 5e3 years
  3. 3d printing as networked production -> easier recycling embedded in designs? HOW? e.g. materials re-meltability

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