Technology criticism shouldn’t be left to the luddites

Jaron Lanier - You Are Not a Gadget

When it comes to technology, I listen to both optimists and skeptics.  I agree more with the optimists, (how can you not be a technology optimist?), but I don’t like their religious fervor.  The best of the skeptics are not luddites, they’re people who, precisely because they know and love technology, don’t just blindly accept whatever some tech company throws their way.  They know that technology is accidental, not inevitable.  They know we have a choice in how we use it.

In You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier warns that Web 2.0 pushes people into behavioral patterns that reduce their individuality.  Technology is not neutral, and it never lets us express more than a fragment of our selves.  It is easy to reduce our idea of who we are, in order to conform to the demands and limitations of some technology.

Lanier also believes that the search for the highest possible meta, the aggregator of aggregators, becomes a form of collectivism.  There’s a strain of mysticism here, a dream of merging with the hive mind, seen as a higher level of being.  But crowds are not wise.  The best human qualities are reserved for individuals.

This sounds obvious, but this is not a book of platitudes.  What I find inspiring is how Lanier reminds us of the possibilities in technology, and how some of the technologies that impress us most today actually represent a lack of ambition.  We’re walking one path, but there are thousands other. Take a step side-ways.

One Response to Technology criticism shouldn’t be left to the luddites

  1. Pingback: It’s not a revolution if nobody loses « Bjørn Stærk's Max 256 Blog

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