Salon Q&A: Tech visionary Jaron Lanier on Thomas Piketty, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, how to save the creative class
His latest book, published in the U.S. last May, covers an enormous amount of ground in what’s often a personal and eccentric style. “Who Owns the Future?” describes in especially stark terms the Internet’s false promise to artists – “trinkets tossed into the crowd spread illusions and false hopes” — and the larger creative class. “The clamor for online attention only turns into money for a token minority of ordinary people, but there is another new, tiny class of people who always benefit,” he writes on the book’s opening page. “Those who keep the new ledgers, the giant computing services that model you, spy on you, and predict your actions, turn your life activities into the greatest fortunes in history.”
The book received mostly positive reviews, though some objected to his proposed solution – that citizens be reimbursed with micro-payments whenever their personal information led to the generation of revenue. Since people’s Facebook preferences help companies sell, for instance, and the work of human translators provide the basis for online translation programs, these people should be compensated: “A new kind of middle class, and a more genuine, growing information economy, could come about if we could break out of the ‘free information’ idea and into a universal micro-payment system.”
We spoke to the Berkeley-based Lanier about “Who Owns the Future?,” the explosion of surveillance, Amazon’s policies, Kickstarter and his role as a critic both inside and outside the beast.
READ THE INTERVIEW AT SALON: