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What Turned VR Pioneer Jaron Lanier Against the Web 212

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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  • Lanier is a dipshit (Score:5, Informative)

    by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @03:54PM (#42413067)

    He got in early on 3D graphics and had dreadlocks, which made him a darling of the "Wired" and "Mondo 2000" (remember that?) crowd.

    But he is clueless.

  • Re:Anonymity (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:00PM (#42413719) Homepage

    However, I'm still having trouble seeing where this all fits in to be anti "Web 2.0". If anything sites like Facebook have taken things in the opposite direction, making it more difficult to be anonymous (or at the very least, encourage the majority of people to simply use their actual identity online). At the end of the day there isn't any "real" ramification to these "poison seeds" of anonymity.

    Agreed, if anything the anonymous voice is being shut out from more and more of the public debate because sites increasingly use debate systems with a real name policy. You could of course register a fake Facebook account but that only lasts until someone cares to report it as possibly fake. People's perception of what the public opinion is, is now formed more and more on places like Facebook and less and less on places like slashdot where nicks are the norm. Sure it cuts down on the spam and trolling and generally obnoxious behavior but it also cuts down on the truth, but is presented as just as good or even better than the real thing.

  • Re:Oblig. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:09PM (#42413801)

    Absolutely. I would rather suffer through a thousand trolls or genuinely extremist comments from anonymous persons than not be able to read the thoughtful comments a more timid person may not have written had they been required to attach their name to them.

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

  • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @05:09PM (#42413803) Homepage

    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.

    I think the poster neglects something very important here, that the nature of our discussions and interactions changes us. If our default level of discussion is the internet equivalent of a bar room brawl, it will tend to bring out, to accentuate, to amplify those irrational and cruel tendencies. If this becomes too widespread, it will not end well for society.

    The poster refers to the "ugly facts" about human nature. If I want to discover these "ugly facts", a quick survey of Roman history [gutenberg.org] will suffice. Roman legions entering a town and indiscriminately kill 300 000 men, women and children. The mad emperors Caligula, Nero and Commodus committed atrocities that would make most readers want to throw up upon reading about them. Never mind the barbarism of slavery. We humans are quite messed up. We have the potential to be good, but we also have the potential to be monsters. Does that mean that we should tolerate, nay, encourage those traits?

  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Friday December 28, 2012 @06:32PM (#42414533)

    The pseudo-cloak of anonymity would reveal perhaps less than that, but maybe more. When you came here, your IP was recorded. Go anywhere, and using that, they know you and correlate you.

    Oh, you used a proxy? Didn't hide much. You can be figured out fairly quickly. That means you, where you're sitting, reading this. They know. The ostensible mask of anonymity is vaporously thin.

    The hoops you need to jump thru to really randomize yourself are getting farther and farther from practical. Sure, it might be on a vast ten-dot network with thousands of machines behind a few IP addresses. Doesn't take long to figure out the local IP, and to correlate that. Just using a single email send will start to reveal oodles about you and your machine. The more you send, the more is corroborated and the less is guessed.

    The guise of anonymity is important, but on the interwebs today, it's plainly a thin veneer that's easily vaporized. Spew what you want; the direction and velocity of the chunks will give you away. True anonymity is pretty much gone.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments