Will we be gadgets?


While getting deeper into Jaron Lanier’s You are Not a Gadget, I couldn’t help but feel like a gadget (a gadget that wasn’t computing information well). While often times I am able to see his point of view on society, other times I feel flung the other way with some of his extreme positions. I am often not sure about what he exactly wants the world to look like. Although I have a pretty clear understanding of what he thinks the world will look like.

Before getting into the grit of this book I posed questions about some of Lanier’s beliefs and how he sees the world changing (and changed). The first question had to do with the standardization of the Internet. Although slightly confused about my question now, I think what I was questioning was if standardization was taken away from the Internet, would it still be as functional? A main theme Lanier discusses is the loss of the individual (and thus becoming a gadget). While the Internet can do amazing things, there are still limitations. The individual and how/what they want to create also becomes limited. Rules (standardization) and large companies have now taken over. The individual may no longer create how and what they wish, they must now go through channels and programs that others have created. The individual is forced to work for the machine instead.

After having now read most of Lanier’s book I am able to see some of his ideas on a broader scale. The second question I asked had to do with “what we can do” to combat amateurization, anonymity and to inevitably become a gadget. I first saw these suggestions as minute and of no real importance. Although now I am seeing that these would definitely be steps for people to not become the machines Lanier sees people to be in the future. When the Internet and personal postings on it become anonymous, there is no longer a person behind it. There is no way to find out who or where the information is coming from. Instead, it basically becomes the Internet’s and it now “owns” the information. I do see Lanier’s point on this. I do believe ownership is important and taking time to become creative and even to just think deeply is unbelievably important.

I don’t think Lanier has great hope for future users of the Internet unless we were to take action against almost all of the practices the Internet is being used for currently. People are losing themselves to programs like Facebook and are becoming a digital self rather than their real self. Sharing of music and video has become so rampant that these industries aren’t able to be sustainable. And amateurs are able to post anything they want anonymously. These trends will only continue unless the structure of the Internet is changed and those who use it use it for deeper and more powerful purposes.

We are in charge of what technology can do. Ultimately we have to decide if we become the gadgets Lanier thinks we will. The Internet is powerful and what we can do with it is powerful too.


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