Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier is an expert on digital networks and media, and is known as a pioneer in virtual reality, a term that he created.  He has been involved in numerous Silicon Valley start-ups that have been bought out and are now parts of Adobe, Oracle, and Google. His thesis in "Who Owns the Future?" is that essentially every human enterprise will become almost exclusviely a digital one, and that the owners of the future will be those who control what he calls the Siren Servers, the digital utilities that attract hundreds of millions or billions of users.  Owners of access to the "Big Data" that ordinary citizens provide freely can build both huge fortunes and defensive strategies that prevent others from challenging their dominance. Although I should have guessed it, I was unaware until reading this book that Amazon uses bots to scan the prices of its competitors and lowers their prices to undercut the competition. Lanier sees the trend toward dominance of the coming digital world by a few players as alarming, and he suggests that the game be changed, so that "Big Data" is no longer free to those exploiting it, but that it be priced so that the creators of the data (that's you and me) are compensated for our contributions to the data that is mined. Lanier is not very specific about how such a system might work practically, but his thoughtful book is worth considering.  I must mention, however, that the future he projects, in which pharmaceuticals are custom-made and injected directly from digitally-programmed synthesis-on-a-chip modules did not seem likely to me, even in the distant future.

Publication information
Publication Date: 
Saturday, June 15, 2013