What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?
I asked Lanier about his decision to rebel against his fellow Web 2.0 “intellectuals.”
“I think we changed the world,” he replies, “but this notion that we shouldn’t be self-critical and that we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves is irresponsible.” [...]
The mistake of our age? That’s a bold statement (as someone put it in Pulp Fiction). “I think it’s the reason why the rise of networking has coincided with the loss of the middle class, instead of an expansion in general wealth, which is what should happen. But if you say we’re creating the information economy, except that we’re making information free, then what we’re saying is we’re destroying the economy.” [...]
And here’s where Lanier says something remarkable and ominous about the potential dangers of anonymity.
“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.”
“Social lasers of cruelty?” I repeat.
“I just made that up,” Lanier says. “Where everybody coheres into this cruelty beam....Look what we’re setting up here in the world today. 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.”