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What Turned VR Pioneer Jaron Lanier Against the Web 212

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-enough-cat-pictures dept.
i_want_you_to_throw_ writes "Details of Jaron Lanier's crusade against Web 2.0 continue in an article at Smithsonian Magazine. The article expands upon Lanier's criticism of Web 2.0. It's an interesting read, with Lanier suggesting we are outsourcing ourselves into insignificant advertising-fodder and making an audacious connection between techno-utopianism, the rise of the machines and the Great Recession. From the article: 'As far back as the turn of the century, he singled out one standout aspect of the new web culture—the acceptance, the welcoming of anonymous commenters on websites—as a danger to political discourse and the polity itself. At the time, this objection seemed a bit extreme. But he saw anonymity as a poison seed. The way it didn’t hide, but, in fact, brandished the ugliness of human nature beneath the anonymous screen-name masks. An enabling and foreshadowing of mob rule, not a growth of democracy, but an accretion of tribalism. ... 'This is the thing that continues to scare me. You see in history the capacity of people to congeal—like social lasers of cruelty. That capacity is constant. ... We have economic fear combined with everybody joined together on these instant twitchy social networks which are designed to create mass action. What does it sound like to you? It sounds to me like the prequel to potential social catastrophe. I’d rather take the risk of being wrong than not be talking about that.'"
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What Turned VR Pioneer Jaron Lanier Against the Web

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:57PM (#42413127)

    If he hates Web 2.0, I hate to be the one to tell him he's not going to feel any better about Web 3.0. This "sell yourself as the product" (either on purpose or out of blindness and ignorance) mentality isn't going anywhere, and it's not going to get any better until privacy becomes important to the masses again.

  • Re:Oblig. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:58PM (#42413129)

    Lanier is under the impression that he, and others on his behalf, somehow obtained, or already had, the right not to be offended.

    Not so.

    I'll go back to completely ignoring him now.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:59PM (#42413135)

    I’d rather take the risk of being wrong than not be talking about that.'"
    OK, you're wrong. One aspect of the raw, awfulness that is anonymous internet commentary is far more important than polite reasoned discourse. It represents the true feelings of the participants, unhindered by social inhibitions and cultural conditioning. It is digital drunkenness, and like drunkenness, often reveals ugly facts about human nature, which remain facts, nonetheless.

    Perhaps you prefer the sweet simpering smiles of courtesy. I do not. I would rather know who and what people really are. Reality rules. Fantasy is for fools.

  • 'Tis alright (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lightknight (213164) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:01PM (#42413167) Homepage

    While it has taken some time, the internet has evolved defenses to many of these social problems.

    Adblock is so effective that advertisers want it outlawed. Spam Assassin cuts down on hideous amounts of junk mail, and Microsoft is offering bounties for the heads of spammers. Encryption is evolving at a frightening rate, spurred by overreaching agencies. Darknets are springing up, complete with obfuscated addresses. VPN is now a common term among the laymen.

    The only people getting cut out are the technically illiterate, and their numbers are dwindling each day.

    Yes, it shouldn't be like this, but realize, its adaptations are a direct result of our interactions with it; it's a mirror of our society, and it tells us that we have a very dark soul.

     

  • by icebike (68054) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:04PM (#42413187)

    Lanier seems to cavalierly disregard the potential for being locked up simply for expressing the truth in open discourse.

    I wonder if he, in his wisdom, foresaw a time where government agents or Islamic assassins appear at one's door step simply for expressing an opinion.
    I can't imagine someone with even a modicum of historical hindsight would dismiss this so easily.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:06PM (#42413219)

    We can only be honest when we're anonymous. That *is* our real self. It's when we have to be out in the open that we hide behind bullshit politeness and "civility" (aka "We both bullshit each other rather than being honest").

  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:11PM (#42413265) Homepage Journal
    People should be required to use full names and titles. After all, the opinion of a professor is much more worthy than that of a manual worker.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:15PM (#42413303) Homepage

    Or as the Romans put it: In vino veritas.

  • by evil_aaronm (671521) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:21PM (#42413351)
    Exactly. I don't know the kind of circles in which this chucklefuck runs, but he must be fairly well sequestered from reality if he thinks people can rise above our baser nature. People are animals: nothing more, nothing less. We grok tools pretty well, but we're still animals, prone to the same kinds of behaviors as lions, tigers and bears. Oh, my! Anyone who thinks highly of us, as a species, is in for some serious disappointment.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:23PM (#42413375)

    â"the acceptance, the welcoming of anonymous commenters on websitesâ"as a danger to political discourse and the polity itself.

    Anonymity is not optional in a free society. If we all had to put our names on our ballots, if cash were outlawed and everyone had to pay by credit card with their name on it, if we truly became the transparent surveillance society tech pundits keep pointing to as the future, then democracy is dead. Anonymity is the one thing that can change the status quo -- it allows expression of ideas, themes, and alternatives to it without retribution or revenge being brought down on the speaker. Without anonymity, the government can simply disappear anyone who disagrees. Corporations can lock out political and social undesireables from key markets. When you make speaking out against the establishment impossible without painting a big target on your ass, you've killed democracy. It simply cannot survive without it.

    The internet's free-wheeling and democratic nature, complete with our Anonymous cyber-terrorist groups and our Anonymous Cowards (mostly harmless, sometimes annoying), to cyber-bullies and cyber-other-things-left-unmentioned, is probably a shock to a dreamer like this guy. As a self-described pioneer, he's clearly an idealist. He doesn't see the practical long-term problems, only the ones keeping him from taking whatever his next step is on his ideological journey. For him, he's decided anonymity is the next problem to be kicked out on the way to utopia.

    Sir, with respect to your accomplishments, there are no digital utopias anymore than there are real ones. The analogues between our world, here, and the world out there, and your desire to bridge the two, is noble. But you cannot pick and choose ideological values for your new world. All you can be is a humble medium through which social change occurs. All the great inventors of the world know this. When Maxwell was approached by a politician on the usefulness of electricity, he remarked, "One day sir, you will tax it." I'm sure he envisioned homes lit by power 'from the ethers', and buggies that no longer needed horses as he slaved away in his lab, but he kept enough perspective to realize that what he was discovering would one day integrate into the fabric of society in ways even he couldn't imagine... and the idea of free power for humanity, while noble, was less practical in light of the fact (no pun intended) that it would be regulated and taxed. He knew that, before it even existed.

    Show some humility, sir. You are not the first, nor will you be the last, to become frustrated that the world you created did not develop at all like you imagined.

  • Re:Oblig. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by preaction (1526109) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:25PM (#42413399)

    In support of your comment, anonymity is a requirement for free speech. In fact, forcing someone to attach their identity to their speech is "a danger to political discourse and the polity itself" moreso than anonymity. I will deal with assholes on the Internet because I know that requiring them to identify themselves so they can be tried in the court of public shame leads down a very bad road.

  • by BitZtream (692029) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:30PM (#42413437)

    No, that just makes you a pussy.

    If you don't have the balls to say something with your name attached to it then don't say it.

    Very few people actually have anything to fear other than making it obvious to others that they are morons with a retarded opinion.

    One in a billion people have something to actually fear about what they say getting them killed or otherwise harm, the rest just use is as a pathetic excuse to talk out their ass with no repercussions at all.

    No intelligent person with half a clue takes anonymous posts seriously even when they have merit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:30PM (#42413447)

    It represents the true feelings of the participants, unhindered by social inhibitions and cultural conditioning.
     
    Please. I use it to troll. I don't represent any point of view aside from the one I think will get the most reaction out of fools like you. I come off as either a leftist or a rightist depending on who's ire I'm trying to rise and a preach against products that I use daily just to see how much of a twist the fanbois get in. And I don't just do that here, I have accounts across dozens of websites that I do this with. Not to mention areas where I make my voice known but I'm not even a real member of the conversation, like on IMDb where I'll vote films I've never even seen with a 1 or a 10 on a whim. It might not be much but I still do it. And if I could tell you the number of times I've made outragous statements and got modded up on Slashdot when I was 100% trolling is amazing. It has nothing to do with facts or my true feelings. It's me understanding my audience and playing them. Entertainers of all kinds do it daily and make millions, I do it as a troll and feel smug in realizing that supposedly educated people are duped just as easily as the bumpkins on the street. In the end it makes me feel that most of what goes on in the Interwebs is either a scam outright or is likely a scam that draws in people with the best intentions. A great waste of other peoples' efforts. Hurhay!
     
      It is digital drunkenness, and like drunkenness, often reveals ugly facts about human nature, which remain facts, nonetheless.
     
    Anyone who's a serious drunk will tell you that what comes out of the mouths of your average drunk after about 2/3rds of a fifth of Jim Beam can't be trusted as either fact or true feelings. I've seen it happen a handful of times but most of the time it doesn't. This is why most of the "digits" guys get off of girls after a few hours of drinking get tossed in the garbage. It's a good idea, at the time, but once reality sets back in they realize that they're lucky that it never went any further.

  • by bmo (77928) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:39PM (#42413517)

    If you don't have the balls to say something with your name attached to it then don't say it.

    Then why are you using a nom-de-plume, or is your real name BitZtream?

    Hypocrite.

    --
    BMO

  • by bmo (77928) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:50PM (#42413635)

    Yup. He'd be the one in the Warsaw Ghetto talking about safety and cooperation with the Nazis.

    The doublethink in this boy is strong.

    No, this is not a Godwin.

    --
    BMO

  • by seandiggity (992657) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:58PM (#42413707) Homepage
    The primary victim of "Web 2.0" seems to have been anonymity. We are tracked. Everywhere on the Web. And we have to work much harder than we should not to reveal ourselves...and it's not just our identity, it's our location, our friends, our habits, our pleasures.
  • by JWW (79176) on Friday December 28, 2012 @04:59PM (#42413709)

    One in a billion people have something to actually fear about what they say getting them killed or otherwise harm

    Um, while this may be true for the whole population of the world. It is demonstrably NOT true for the populations of China, Syria, Iran, Egypt, North Korea, Venezuela, Russia, Cuba, ........

    Hell, I'm beginning to think its not even true for the whole world and that you're quite wrong.

    Anonymity is unimaginably important when you are standing up to a power structure that does not want you saying what you are saying.

  • Re:ok AC? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:05PM (#42413757)

    what i got from the article,
    he would like us to continue to be enslaved by "social norms" by being punished for brandishing a position that may widely differ from the norm. Being as we are in a "normal" society and are judged for thinking "abnormally", tying anonymity to abnormal behavior is just a way to enforce entrenched behaviors.
    i for one applaud Anonymity online.
    case: http://allthingsd.com/20121224/china-poised-for-crackdown-on-internet/ [allthingsd.com]

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:05PM (#42413763) Homepage

    He got in early on 3D graphics and had dreadlocks

    I know, I know. I met him back when he had his original VR system, with a pair of SGI machines hooked up to 320-line or so goggles and about a second of lag between the head tracker and the video. Turn head, wait 1s for image to stabilize, repeat. Once people figured out that all you could do well in VR was move and shoot, interest declined. Even for gamers. (Autodesk had a big interest in VR at one time; the idea was that you'd be able to do architecture in VR with an intuitive interface. Pick up window, walk to wall, insert window in wall, step back, look at result, slide window to different position... Didn't work out. Without force feedback, manipulation in 3D VR is clumsy.)

    Lanier's main complaint seems to be that being a second or third-tier musician doesn't pay well any more. Historically, it never did. The notion of musical stardom came from a brief period in history when duplicating phono records was a very expensive process. There are now somewhere between 5 and 8 million bands on Myspace. (Some of which might not suck.) So being a "musician" isn't a big deal any more.

    Interestingly, he's against anonymity, which encourages ranting. But nobody listens to online ranting from anons much any more. Post on Slashdot as Anonymous Coward and you're lucky to get a rating above 0. Post on Wikipedia without logging in, and unless you have something really productive to say, you'll probably be reverted, Rant at people via e-mail and spam filters block you. Grief in a MMORPG, and you get kicked out and have to restart as a noob with low stats. Problem solved. (Mostly.)

    Facebook and Google, on the other hand, are against anonymity because it interferes with monetizing data about their users. That's not a good reason.

  • by bmo (77928) on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:07PM (#42413773)

    Anonymity is unimaginably important when you are standing up to a power structure that does not want you saying what you are saying.

    The SCOTUS has come down time and again saying that anonymity is crucial to free speech, and nearly everyone cites the Federalist Papers as a shining example.

    In China, the Communist Party has a great big problem with corruption, and online communication is exposing that. So they try to cover it up by making people fear for their lives for posting about corruption under their real names.

    Remove anonymity and you remove the last check against an abusive government.

    --
    BMO

  • by GlobalEcho (26240) on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:13PM (#42413835)

    capacity of people to congeal—like social lasers of cruelty

    How many similes and metaphors can this guy pack into 10 words? Let's count...

    • 1. Capacity of people
    • 2. people congeal
    • 3. people like lasers
    • 4. social lasers
    • 5. lasers of cruelty

    Simile and metaphor constructs are supposed to help us understand ideas, not make them more obtuse. I think he is trying to make an analogy to the resonance of lasing, but good grief! How many people understand laser physics better than the social dynamics of internet forums?

  • Re:Oblig. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by owski (222689) on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:36PM (#42414023)

    However I'm not sure I would draw a parallel between The Federalist Papers and the drivel many current anonymous posters write.

    That's only because the barrier to entry has dropped so low. There are many pamphlets from the same era which have been lost to history because they were drivel. There would have also been some real gems that never got out there because costs prevented them from being published.

    I think the point that Lanier is really missing is that anonymity is not new, just that pen and ink is now nearly free.

  • Re:Oblig. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:55PM (#42414221)

    But at least you don't stand in jail.

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