"Who Owns the Future?" by Jaron Lanier (2013)
"The endgames of contests between Siren Servers are not meaningless. Siren Servers are not interchangeable. While they all share certain traits (narcissism, hyperamplified risk aversion, and extreme information asymmetry), they also represent particular, more specialized philosophies. The requirements of being a Siren Server leave enough room for variation that contests between them can be collisions of contrasting ideas.
"Facebook suggests not only a moral imperative to place certain information on its network, but the broad applicability of one template to compare people. In this it is distinct from Google, which encourages semistructured online activity that Google will be best at organizing after the fact.
"Twitter suggests that meaning will emerge from fleeting flashes of thought contextualized by who sent the thought rather than the content of the thought. In this it is distinct from the Wikipedia, which suggests that flashes of thought be inserted meaningfully into a shared semantic structure. The Wikipedia proposes that knowledge can be divorced from point of view. In this it is distinct from the Huffington Post, where opinions fluoresce."
I know that it's not fair to judge a book by its cover, but I had high hopes for "Who Owns the Future?" The blurb on the back of the book jacket displays a wonderful sense of paranoia, and the picture of the author, shadowed and dreadlocked, promises the kind of weird, conspiratorial fun that the Loompanics catalog was often celebrated for.
Looks, however, can be deceiving. As books on the future of technology go, this one didn't blow my mind the way I hoped it would. Instead it offers a fairly straightforward (if overlong) report on the state of the information economy. It also proposes ways in which we might monetize personal information.
"Siren Servers," by the way, are online concerns that have an inordinate amount of power over how we use the Internet. Companies such as Google and Amazon would be Siren Servers, as would national security organizations. These Siren Servers concentrate wealth within a powerful elite, and are able to do so through the information that we (often foolishly) provide at no cost.
I think the first half of this book is worth reading. It offers an insightful view into the workings of the online world, and the ways in which our use of sites such as Facebook influence our behavior. The second half of the book, however, grows a bit too speculative for my taste. It's not that the author doesn't offer some interesting solutions to the problems of disenfranchisement, loss of privacy, and lack of transparency, but it's too easy to imagine obstacles between ourselves and the future meritocracy he proposes. Monetizing the common man's information, I think, would prove a herculean task.