Jaron Lanier's Strange Fantasy

A social critic has a bizarre proposal to save the middle class.

Who Owns the Future?, by Jaron Lanier, Simon & Schuster, 396 pages, $28.

If proposals could be judged solely by their good intentions, Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future? would be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it has to be judged on the quality of its prescriptions, and on that count this tome is a train wreck.

Originally known for his work as a computer scientist and pioneer of virtual reality, Lanier has over the past decade become a social commentator and critic of what he sees as Silicon Valley’s anti-human vision of the future. In his new book, which has attracted a lot of media attention, Lanier frets that an advancing network economy is eviscerating the middle class. The Internet has destroyed more jobs than it has created, he writes: While the bankrupt Kodak once employed 140,000 people, Instagram only employed 13 when Facebook bought it.

Journalists, photographers, and musicians are the canaries in the coal mine, Lanier continues. Networking and automation will eventually disrupt all professions, and no one—not surgeons or attorneys or construction workers—will be safe. “What sort of economic impact will self-driving vehicles bring?” he writes. “It could be catastrophic.”

Yet it’s historically ignorant to obsess about the job-killing potential of technology. As the George Mason economist Don Boudreaux notes, agriculture at its height employed 90 percent of the population and accounted for more than half of GDP. Today it employs just one percent of the workforce, yet we’re all the richer for it (and we don’t suffer 80 percent unemployment). Wealth comes not from jobs, as Lanier seems to think, but from doing more with less. Jobs that don’t create wealth are a cost, not a benefit.

Lanier might argue that it’s not just any jobs that he’s concerned about; it’s middle-class jobs in particular. Without middle-class jobs, there would be no middle class, and without a middle class he fears for the future of democracy and capitalism. Today, he writes, we have a bell curve distribution of wealth and opportunity, but network economies create winner-take-all systems in which one super-efficient superstar dominates a field, leaving little opportunity for anyone else. For example, Lanier argues, Amazon.com’s algorithms search for competing prices, both online and off, and adjust its own prices to undercut everyone else, even if it has to set a price of zero. A small bookseller can’t compete with this, having lost the protection Lanier calls “locality”—essentially the pre-network barrier that search costs imposed on consumers. (Lanier does not address the large number of small booksellers who sell books to distant consumers via Amazon.)

Without protections, Lanier argues, there would be no middle-class jobs. He is as concerned about “natural” barriers like locality as he is with “artificial” ones such as academic tenure, union membership, taxi medallions, cosmetology licenses, and copyright. (Yes, he lists all of those approvingly.) He calls these barriers “levees,” and he laments that they are under attack from two directions: from above by “the rich,” who see them as the impediments to efficiency that they are, and from below by ordinary people who don’t have a levee of their own and resent those that do.

Copyright is under assault from file-sharing, academic tenure is threatened by online education, and closed shops are increasingly irrelevant in a world of outsourcing. In each case we think we benefit because we’re getting something free or cheap, but there’s no free lunch, Lanier says, and eventually we must pay the piper.

The notion that today technological change, and especially automation, is moving faster than workers can adapt is not novel. A much more elegant, and mercifully shorter, account of this concern can be found in Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s 2011 ebook Race Against the Machine. Their proposed solution is for human beings to stop racing against machines and start racing with them, forming a symbiotic partnership. While machines are infinitely better at computation and repetitive tasks than humans, they lack intuition and creativity, which humans have in spades. A workforce that focuses on leveraging automation to augment human ingenuity could unlock greater wealth than we’ve ever seen, they argue.

Lanier has a different solution in mind. He wants to reengineer the Internet—and indeed all networks—to reintroduce the inefficiencies we’ve overcome. He wants a new digital levee.

How is it, Lanier asks, that a company like Instagram can sell for $1 billion based on the value its users create while those users get none of the money? The value that ordinary people create online is “off the books,” he says, and his plan for a “humanistic information economy” is to account for that value and make sure people are paid. Every tweet, every Facebook “like,” every cat video on YouTube, and every snapshot on Instagram is valuable, so in Lanier’s world every time they are accessed or reused, their authors would receive a small micropayment to compensate them for their creation. Make a small edit to a Wikipedia article? Get a nanopayment from each reader that benefits.

“A world in which more and more is monetized, instead of less and less, could lead to a middle-class-oriented information economy, in which information isn’t free, but is affordable,” Lanier writes. Sure, you’d now have to pay for stuff, but you’d also be earning “royalties on tens of thousands of little contributions made over a lifetime of active participation on the ’net.”

And since everything will be networked, almost anything you do could be “monetized.” “Today ‘cool hunters’ comb impoverished neighborhoods, sniffing out fashion trends,” Lanier writes. “In the future, kids in those neighborhoods should earn wealth for their fashion trendsetting.” Presumably the first guy who didn’t cut off the manufacturer label from his baseball cap would have been set for life.

To implement his vision, Lanier notes that we will have to have government-issued online identification in order to account who created what and who owes whom, and that the prices in his system “might be centrally regulated.” One might think this all could put a damper on the Internet as we know it, yet Lanier tells us, “Do not worry: It’s not excessively expensive or a threat to the efficiency of the Internet to keep track of where information came from. It will actually make the Internet faster and more efficient.” He doesn’t explain how.

It’s almost embarrassing to have to point out all the ways this proposal won’t work, but here’s a go.

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  • AlmightyJB||

    I got about half way through the first page to the part about "levee's" and had seen enough. Nothing ever new from the left , just the same tired old shit.

  • Ted S.||

    to the part about "levee's"

    If Jerry Brito had raped the apostrophe that badly, I'd be complaining too.

    More seriously, Lanier, as with Thomas Frank in What's the Matter With Kansas, gets a respectful hearing because he confirms the right people's biases.

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    "Nothing ever new from the left"

    I find I have to explain why tech and automation are good even when they displace jobs to my conservative acquaintances as much as I do for my liberal ones.

    Most recently to one of my coworkers who said he had trouble believing the economy of the 30's could have been bad because people dressed nice and were moral church goers.

  • ||

    Nothing new ever comes from the left because all of the different flavors of their philosophy are based on the same basic misunderstandings of economics.

    If you take the same wrong turn over and over you always end up at the same dead end.

  • ||

    bout where I got. I am sure this fellow was an advocate of the trillion dollar coin as well.

    his reasoning suggest he wants to live as the amish do to protect dem middle class.
    fails to realize the net gain for cheaper products.

  • Irish||

    Most important, Lanier ignores the fact that we are already compensated for the value we create online. Sure, we don’t get paid to put our cat videos on YouTube or to edit Wikipedia articles, but the fact that we do so “for free” signals that we feel we’re getting something in return.

    If you have an enormous number of viewers on youtube, you do get paid for it. There aren't many people who make a lot of money on youtube, but some people actually make six figures if they're popular enough.

    Lanier isn't even right that you can't get paid on the internet. It's just a different payment scheme.

    It's true that it is harder to make money writing a blog than as a reporter, but that's mostly the result of the low entry costs to blogging. You might make less money, but you don't have to go get an expensive degree to blog unlike being a journalist.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Four hundred years ago, on the planet Earth, workers who felt their livelihood threatened by automation flung their wooden shoes, called sabot, into the machines to stop them... hence the word: sabotage."

  • fish_remote||

    So it's Fist of Valeris now?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    VILF alert!

  • AlmightyJB||

  • Sevo||

    So, how does this guy make a living? It's hard to believe he gets paid to write such dreck.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Actually, he's paid because he can get idiots to read it.

  • Ted S.||

    “Today ‘cool hunters’ comb impoverished neighborhoods, sniffing out fashion trends,” Lanier writes. “In the future, kids in those neighborhoods should earn wealth for their fashion trendsetting.”

    Oh, shit. I posted my previous comment before reading this far. This shit is comedy gold.

    When Clark Gable went without an undershirt in It Happened One Night, it set a trend among American men not to wear undershirts. How much moiney does Lanier think Gable should have earned for this, and how does Lanier feel about Gable putting some of the undershirt makers out of business?

  • Boisfeuras||

    You know who else was a fan of It Happened One Night...?

  • Generic Stranger||

    Tony DiNozzo?

  • Banjos||

    Yes, this is exactly what our faltering economy needs, an even larger arbitrary-based IP bureaucracy.

  • Sevo||

    Lanier should have it engraved on every screen he has so he has to read around it to do anything:
    "When a third party disrupts a voluntary transaction between two interested parties, no good ever comes of it"

  • WomSom||

    Those guys seem to know which way is up. WOw.

    www.AnonStuff.tk

  • Warrren||

    So he's read Bastiat and decided that the idea of cutting rail lines at each city in order to increase the amount of work needed to transport goods is a good one?

    Idiot.

    And here is another: Booby Reich tweeting his own economic incompetence http://www.economicpolicyjourn.....ns-to.html

    And yet people listen to these morons.

  • Ted S.||

    Bring back the octroi!

  • ||

    My day was going well until I clicked that link.

    Fuck you Warrren.

  • RBS||

    Damnit, I just had to look myself once I saw your comment. That statement is so idiotic I wonder how Reich manages to perform basic daily tasks. Like breathing.

  • Cytotoxic||

    FUCKING

  • Gilbert Martin||

    It's strange that a guy who made his living in an advanced technology industry would become a latter day Luddite.

    I guess he got a little too much virtual and not enough reality in his virtual reality.

  • Sevo||

    "It's strange that a guy who made his living in an advanced technology industry would become a latter day Luddite."
    Dunno. I think the luddism is secondary to the fear of self-organizing systems. They're so messy and uncontrolled; someone who spent their life exercising control over some technology could easily find that frightening.

  • juris imprudent||

    Lanier frets that an advancing network economy is eviscerating the middle class.

    I'll give him this much credit - he sees what is going on in California better than the assholes in Sacramento. Unfortunately, he misdiagnoses as badly as they do - it isn't technology that is driving the middle class out of this state.

    ...who don’t have a levee of their own and resent those that do.

    OK, the credit is now a debit. Just another Top Man talking about the problems of the little people.

    *barf*

  • ||

    Originally known for his work as a computer scientist and pioneer of virtual reality, Lanier has over the past decade become a social commentator and critic of what he sees as Silicon Valley’s anti-human vision of the future. In his new book, which has attracted a lot of media attention, Lanier frets that an advancing network economy is eviscerating the middle class. The Internet has destroyed more jobs than it has created, he writes: While the bankrupt Kodak once employed 140,000 people, Instagram only employed 13 when Facebook bought it.

    No one can possibly be this stupid and successful, right? I mean why not simply ban the internet? It would certainly revitalize the USPS and create lots of redundant and unnecessary jobs.

    Why do people still listen to the Luddites?

  • ||

    I mean why not simply ban the internet?

    Damn it Irish! If we ban the internet my vitriol extraction costs are going to soar through the roof. I might need to hire urchins to heckle at Raiders games, or English football matches. Now I can plop down in front of my computer and drink deep at the well of hate that is H&R.

  • ||

    I don't know why I said Irish, sorry Serious.

  • Irish||

    I assume it's because whenever you see someone make a good point, you just assume it's me.

    It's okay, we all do it. Whenever I see a good point that I didn't write, I'm always like 'Man, I don't remember saying that!' Then I realize it's not me and have a good laugh.

  • Almanian!||

    That was a really good point...WHEN I MADE IT FIRST.

    You owe me $1.25.

    /J Lanier

  • ||

    Then I realize it's not me and have a good laugh.

    And then break down crying when you realize we can't distinguish you from other people?

  • ||

    That is clearly what was at play here. You know me so well!

  • ||

    That is clearly what was at play here. You know me so well!

    It'll be okay, Irish... *squints*... uh, I mean, jesse.

  • Warrren||

    Irish is a spuddite.

  • PH2050||

    It's not stupidity, it's sour grapes.

    A control freak is butthurt that other humans are using technology he helped develop in ways he doesn't approve.

    Primate dominance games. Yawn.

  • robc||

    Does he really think digital cameras wouldnt have been invented without the internet?

    It isnt Instagram that put Kodak out of business but Sony. Photography is bigger than it was, there is probably MORE money being made from manufacturing cameras than in the film days. Its just that no one is making money from film anymore.

  • l0b0t||

    "...no one is making money from film anymore."

    Even that is not entirely accurate. The overwhelming majority of film stock used in television and movies comes from Kodak (Fuji is another big player in the film biz); it runs about $2 - $3 per foot (plus another $1 or $2 per foot for developing/printing at the giant Kodak lab in Manhattan) and a simple commercial shoot will easily burn through 30,000 - 50,000 feet in a day.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Journalists, photographers, and musicians are the canaries in the coal mine, Lanier continues. Networking and automation will eventually disrupt all professions, and no one—not surgeons or attorneys or construction workers—will be safe.

    Sounds awesome - can't happen soon enough for me.

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    yep almost everything he said in what I assume was meant to be negative tone was positive in my head. I got excited thinking about how cool the future will be lol.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Lanier has a different solution in mind. He wants to reengineer the Internet—and indeed all networks—to reintroduce the inefficiencies we’ve overcome. He wants a new digital levee.

    Scarcity is makes us richer and poverty=wealth.

    It's amazing how many dumbasses believe this.

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    I find this is one of the issues that is easy to win people over on, you can use bastiat or make up your own examples. But almost everyone seems to agree with me after talking about it, as opposed to say legalizing meth which almost no one agrees with me even after talking about the harm illegalization does.

  • robc||

    reintroduce the inefficiencies we’ve overcome

    Anyone saying things like this can easily be ignored. And probably should be sterilized.

  • ||

    OT: Man armed with illegal semi-automatic assault rifle kills four, two at Santa Monica College.

    So: California's assault weapons ban did not work and neither did the fact that the campus is a gun free zone do anything to stop the violence. What's the solution?

    The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates it’s a $32 billion industry. But all told, firearm injuries cost the United States more than $174 billion in 2010, according to new data from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Most of that expense came from deaths; fatalities accounted for $153.3 billion. There is a huge economic cost to 100,000 Americans killed or injured by gun violence every year in the U.S. The Gun Industry, the NRA, and gun nut thugs are bad for the economy, very bad. Everyone knows it. Gun fanaticism is bleeding us to death in more ways than one.

    Blame the all-powerful NRA!

  • ||

    Whut?

    "Most of that expense came from deaths; fatalities accounted for $153.3 billion."

    I think that is complete bullshit.

  • ||

    Of course it's complete bullshit. It's in the comments, not sourced, and from a rabid BAN BONER moron. No breakdown of what those costs are, and has ipse dixit statements like "everyone knows it".

    You can safely ignore it.

  • Warrren||

    They don't have the arguments or the numbers.

    Check out any gun story at Yahoo and look at the comments.

    Pro-rights comments ratio of upvotes to downvotes is 5-1 or better, sometimes 10, 12 or even 20 to 1.

    And it's not like Yahoo is a particularly right-wing site. If anything their editorial bent is left-collectivist than right-collectivist.

    So if you can't even generate downvotes (or upvotes for your own comments) at a site that is free and easy to join just how much support do you really have?

  • Warrren||

    In the comments of this story concerning the free shotgun giveaway there is a lot of Underoo wetting going on.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....08632.html

    The mere fact that people are getting trained to use a break-top shotgun is causing them panic. They are opposed to even this type of gun. A slow-loading close-range low-capacity weapon. Which proves that there is no gun or training combo that they will support for mundanes.

    And then the "tactical advice". As if they are in any way competent to discuss any aspect of firearm selection or use.

    There was one person who made the straight-faced claim that the best defense weapon is a .25 ACP! Yes, an underpowered, short-sight radius gun that is so small the controls can be a bad fit for most folks is the PERFECT gun to try to use is a crisis situation.

    So they are totally ignorable.

  • Irish||

    thesslazarus
    What year did Jesus think it was?

    101 Fans
    5 minutes ago ( 5:56 PM)

    These are Christian neighborhoods, right? How about trying to pray the robbers away?

    Well, they've got the support of the dipshit, evangelical internet atheists who make every issue about how much they hate Christianity.

    I read the article and see nothing about religion, but minor quibbles like that do nothing to deter the rabid, pseudo-intellectual internet atheist.

  • SweatingGin||

    If it's always in your pocket? Granted, a leather jacket may be a limiting factor.

    My pocket carry is a .380, though, don't see a need to go below that.

  • Guy Laguy||

    Do you put the gun on the table at a fancy restaurant?

  • ||

    It's generally considered more polite to tape it to the bottom of the table.

  • ||

    assault rifle

    Assault weapon /=/ assault rifle. Assault rifles are selective fire.

  • juris imprudent||

    It was apparently black, which makes it very assault-y and scary.

    Not that it matters since it wasn't legal in this state if it actually was an AR.

  • Cytotoxic||

    That's racist, straight up.

  • ||

    It matters. When we allow the gun control activists to treat all guns the same, we cede part of the argument to them. They want the public to believe that all the guns they cry about are super-military-death weapons, which is far from the truth. Let them conflate these categories, and they control the conversation.

  • juris imprudent||

    It matters not in California. This place believes that ignorance is bliss. It is a lost cause that must be utterly destroyed before it can ever be rebuilt and relevant.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Oh man, I went to the Pacific Institute for whatever and saw what they're about. It's a basic neo-puritanical progressive operation. They are against everything fun in life. Things like booze, drugs, sex, tobacco, guns, etc.

    If you look their breakdown of the costs of firearms there are a lot of squishy definitions that make up a good percentage of these costs. They have loss of tax revenue and a quantified dollar value for quality of life loss to firearms. Also, their main citation is from the Children's Safety Network which is an organization that is not noticeably different from theirs.

    Couldn't find their methodology, which is expected for studies such as these. You probably have to be a friendly organization to get them in full detail.

  • ||

    I think I am going to give up on this for a while and go eat at Robbie G's. I think crawfish season is over but they are still the only place around that will serve me raw oysters.

    Have fun.

  • SIV||

    Crawfish season should be over in mid-May at the latest. Louisiana seems bound and determined to try and extend it to July 4th.

  • Scarecrow Repair||

    What pisses me off the most about luddites is their simple failure to actually carry their thoughts through to the logical conclusion. I'm no economist, don't have any publications, so I'm probably even more ignorant than the published luddites. Let me take a stab at it.

    Suppose replicators became a fact of life. The only labor required would be mining raw resources, transporting, packaging, retail, and of course government. Suppose the price of products fell in half and employment fell in half.

    The remaining employed would have half their pay to spend which wasn't available before. They'd buy twice as much, some of it old products and some new stuff that wasn't even available before.

    Some of the newly unemployed would notice all that increased demand and invent new things or make fancy custom toys.

    The doubled demand would require double the work force. Bingo! Back at full employment. Not to mention the average hours for a full time work week would probably drop because people got to have time to spend all that new money.

    Well, I probably farqed it up somewhere. Can't be that simple, and I am a moron. Please Mr Lanier, will you show my the error of my ways?

  • ZackTheHypochondriac||

    "Not to mention the average hours for a full time work week would probably drop "

    This is the one I bring up when talking with people about the benefits of automation. Let's say the new technology did cut the labor force in half like in your example, we could make up for this by redistributing some of the wealth, or more preferably redistributing the workload so you have the same number of workers working half as much. Then we'd have more time for all that instagraming he was yakking about in the article.

  • Warrren||

    In David Brin's Kiln People, a book about a future where you can make clay copies of yourself and send those off to work while you did other things, he says the same thing that there would be massive unemployment.

    He didn't think it through that so much more wealth could be created and so many new things would result that there would still be an over-abundance of things for meat-people to do.

    And no one would ever have to do dangerous or drudge work again except by choice.

    There would be A LOT of leisure time, and that is a good thing.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    David Brin


    He didn't think it through

    Those two phrases are tautologous.

  • Fluffy||

    Those of you who are confused that he's a Luddite because you read that he's a "computer scientist" should look at a picture of him.

    He's a fucking no good hippie who plays bullshit music on deliberately nerfed equipment he scavenges from archaeological digs researching retard cultures.

    He comes down on the side of people whose work has no value because that's the core of his ethos. Fat guys with dreadlocks who think they're creative used to be able to eke out a living doing black and white photography or writing for weekly newspapers in third-tier cities, and now they can't. And this pisses him off. He's not concerned so much with the "death of the middle class" as he is with the destruction of the "fat guy with dreadlocks who has a state school humanities degree" economy. His tech industry association seems much less fundamental to him than his conviction that white people with a patina of education and the proper SWPL social markers should have well-compensated jobs, regardless of their actual contribution.

  • RBS||

    Just in case ya'll didn't get a good enough mental image.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    What a choad!

  • Sevo||

    Just last week, I was told by an anti-GMO whacko that you can't be a luddite if you use a computer.
    Well, I'm pretty sure not only can you be a luddite, you get to be a hypocrite at the same time. Like this guy.

  • Irish||

    So if an original luddite, after breaking a factory machine in protest, went home and ate bread that was only made possible through modern technology, he wouldn't be a luddite?

    That's a ridiculous argument. The original luddites weren't even opposed to all technology, just the technology that hurt them.

  • Sevo||

    "That's a ridiculous argument"
    Yep, that's what I told the guy. Along with pointing out that he was a hypocrite.

  • SweatingGin||

    I like it, but instead, how about:

    "An original Luddite, after smashing the loom, goes home and whines about it on Facebook."

  • Sevo||

    Or, a neo-luddite, after writing a book on how we should all eat lichen, brags about it on Salon?

  • SweatingGin||

    That really is the key, isn't it? Publish a book, then write thumb suckers on slate or salon.

  • juris imprudent||

    Now he claims to have been really important in helping a number of companies into bankruptcy. Well, that isn't exactly what he claims but it does appear to be his track record. That and convincing people how smart and deep he is. I think he just knows how to work his marks.

  • SIV||

    . Fat guys with dreadlocks who think they're creative used to be able to eke out a living doing black and white photography or writing for weekly newspapers in third-tier cities, and now they can't. And this pisses him off. He's not concerned so much with the "death of the middle class" as he is with the destruction of the "fat guy with dreadlocks who has a state school humanities degree" economy.

    Some of them used to hold jobs at major city dailies. I know the female equivalent who got paid around
    $50k a year to do 1/4 of the "arts calendar" weekly and a 5 or 6 paragraph concert review every other week. Those jobs are history. God Bless the Internet.

  • Sevo||

    "Those jobs are history."
    Yeah, and the twits that held them are now pushing for 'non-profit' (read: "government supported") newspapers.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    YUP

  • Intn'l House of Badass||

    The thing about disruptive technology is, it's disruptive.

    That's what scares Lanier so much he shits all over the pages of everything he writes.

  • ||

    Perhaps, before writing his own book, he should have read Free: The Future of a Radical Price.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Epic takedown of Slate's "epic takedown" of libertarianism.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    He's Canadian!

    SUCK IT

  • General Butt Naked||

    Nope, born in Ireland.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    He mentions at least once he's Canadian.
    He also mention's Trudeau and Rogers Communications.

  • Ted S.||

    He also mention's Trudeau and Rogers Communications.

    Is this some bizarre Canadian version of English?

  • Ted S.||

    He also mention's Trudeau and Rogers Communications.

    Is this some bizarre Canadian version of English?

  • ||

    Ireland

    HE'S A PLANT!

  • ||

    He's Canadian (or so he claims), he was just born in Ireland. If you believe Irish-dominated Wikisheepia, that is.

  • SweatingGin||

    Are you suggesting there is a pro-potatoe-face bias on Wikipedia?

    Your ideas intrigue me, and I'd like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • ||

    Well, you can't trust the official story, can you? The Red Menace's tentacles reach everywhere, I wouldn't be surprised if Wikipedia was one of those places.

    If you're really interested in the truth (and not another plant), here are some good places to start. Unfortunately, not many people as yet are aware of the true power behind the throne.

    Irish Conspiracy for World Domination

    Beware the Irish Conspiracy

    Ignore the admonition at the end of the second link about satire. That was just to get it past Big I's eyes.

  • SweatingGin||

    Has American weighed in on this yet? (ducks)

  • ||

    Aside from the conspiracy aspect, he's weighed in against the Irish before. When I saw it, I couldn't believe it. It was as if my parody comments had come to life and adopted his persona.

  • ||

    It was in this thread: http://reason.com/archives/201.....sm#comment

    Unfortunately his comments were all deleted, and I didn't have the foresight to quote his lunacy for posterity, but there are references to his anti-Irish sentiments.

  • SweatingGin||

    I *may* be working on a reason archiver, to record American and Mary's rantings for posterity (among other things)

  • ||

    That would be just awesome. In the meantime I found his depraved ramblings via the Wayback Machine:

    American| 4.28.13 @ 12:59PM |#

    You got that right. Everybody sees the Irish as such a great example of integration and assimilation, proof that we can assimilate the messicans. Yet until fairly recently this population, along with the KGB and Muammar Gaddafi, was giving money to the IRA terrorist group. And the Irish-dominated democrat party prevented the government from doing anything to stop it.
  • ||

    So it actually DOES have some of that conspiracy flavor.

  • SweatingGin||

    I remember that one. Jesus, what would Sean hannity think reading hat? Really, american.

  • Sevo||

    BTW, a google on the guy shows he's oh-so-cool as a 'visionary' to lefty posters, (he posts on the WELL!) but Forbes does a good job of blowing all the arm-waving to pieces:
    "Those 140,000 middle class jobs did not create wealth and the disappearance of them did not diminish wealth. The wealth creation was in the consumer surplus of being able to take photographs."
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ti.....ing-about/
    Lanier, of course, confuses money with wealth.

  • ||

    The commenters there are a piece with Lanier. They really seem to think that economic and technological progress are bad things that should be inhibited.

  • Sevo||

    I didn't bother to read the comments. I guess the concept of wealth is still tied to Jacksons.

  • ||

    It's protectionist thought at it's finest. The people in those industries lose their jobs, thus government must step in and protect those valuable whale-oil and horseshoe blacksmithing jobs, innovation be damned!

  • ||

    government must step in and protect those valuable whale-oil and horseshoe blacksmithing jobs, innovation be damned!

    Everyone should follow the path of buggy whip manufacturers and turn their product into a fetish accessory. Instant market. Maybe write a novel about it like rope makers did with 50 Shades of Grey.

  • Sevo||

    Oh, for pete's sake! I just did read the comments.
    I can only say: Government Schools.

  • ||

    Has to be more than that. We at least learned supply and demand at my school.

  • Sevo||

    So where is the gap between data and comments? Do these bozo think humanity is worse off from the 'lose' of those jobs?

  • ||

    They seem to have different understandings, but all yammer on the common thread of job loss. To them, any loss of jobs due to automation in any sector is proof of market failure.

  • Sevo||

    ..."any loss of jobs due to automation in any sector is proof of market failure."

    Hey, Ned! Let's attack the looms tomorrow!

  • juris imprudent||

    To them, any loss of jobs due to automation in any sector is proof of market failure.

    Proving their unfamiliarity with all things agricultural save one.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Oh jesus, that sounds like this book that I have to read for a class this summer.

    There's actually a chapter defending the luddites that talks about how they only destroyed property that took away jobs. And also, that rioting was a commonplace occurrence back then so rioting is okay, too.

  • SweatingGin||

    General butt naked shouldn't take that shit from nobody. obviously the only answer is to go in there butt naked, and threaten to eat their organs.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Fuckin' luddites won't die unless you stab them with an unsharpened stick. This cramps my machete wielding style considerably.

    In the book, there is actually a sob story about secretaries being put out of work by computers. This reminded me of the sarcastic cry about the buggy makers being out of work because of the invention of the automobile.

  • SweatingGin||

    Don't forget about bank tellers and ATMs, called out specifically by His Lord and Savior.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Yup, they were featured as well. If you really want to read some infuriating nonsense, then check out the book I linked above. It's some bullshit.

  • Ted S.||

    No Amazon reviews yet. Why don't you write one?

  • SweatingGin||

    Night shift reason drunks, checking in.

    Wings are out, tigers won. I'm running on a mixture of mint juleps and gin and tonics, and my neighbors seem to be having a Mexican birthday party of some sort (I think it's Spanish, and occasional whistles).

    How the fuck is everyone else tonight?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    How the fuck is everyone else tonight?

    Could be better, could be worse. I've discovered a load of new music today, having received a long awaited order from a small label in Europe (I still order physical copies of everything I can whether it be vinyl or CD), and went through some older reviews on a favorite music site of mine, http://www.theneedledrop.com where I found a couple of new-to-me bands that are right up my alley.

    Been sick for a few days so today was spent recovering.

    Overall things are okay though.

    Thanks for asking.

  • SweatingGin||

    I'll resist calling you a hipster for talking about music we probably haven't heard of.

    I had a bigger response typed, but bad signal between house wifi and cell.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Thanks for the restraint. I fucking hate hipsters. That said I'm fully aware I'm a huge music nerd and snob. There's a real good chance most people wouldn't recognize 7 out of every 10 records I own. I'm okay with not having many people to discuss my musical tastes with. I share with the commentariat out of love, not screaming out "look at this band you've never heard and will likely hate!"

  • SweatingGin||

    I just got back from Austin, the place is rotton with hipsters.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I'll just slide this right here.

    Literally and figuratively.

  • SweatingGin||

    Damn you. Can't un-see.

  • SeaCaptain(Yokeltarian)||

    Ugh. I got your atypical hipster English major as a professor this summer.

    I repeat, UGH.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Hey, me too and I'm a freakin' chemist. Check out the bullshit I linked above for a sample of my reading requirements.

  • ||

    Not bad. Finished a summer course. Starting 2 more this next week.

  • ||

    How the fuck is everyone else tonight?

    I'm about to go have some grey market foie gras. Hoping there are protesters so my dinner companion and I can talk about how delicious it is while walking past them.

    She'll be totally into making protesters have a sad.

  • SweatingGin||

    In other words, winning.

  • ||

    Eh, we ended up not finding it on the menu. The menu stated it was new as of Wednesday (06/05), so I'll be miffed if I missed that opportunity. The food was still very tasty.

  • General Butt Naked||

    You probably have to know the secret handshake, or something.

  • Sevo||

    "She'll be totally into making protesters have a sad."
    Please offer her my best wishes.

  • General Butt Naked||

    How the fuck is everyone else tonight?

    DOWNER ALERT!!

    Well...

    Just learned that my dad, who's been sick for over a year, has a week to a month to live. I've trying to help get everything in order for the inevitable and have no idea how one goes about this. I do have some help, but he's been alone for the last 18 years, so it's tough.

    I have completed every class that is pertinent to my major, but must spend the summer writing bullshit that I don't care about for flaky humanities professors to get my piece of paper. They want me to be "well rounded", I guess.

    I'm drunk though, so that's good.

  • SweatingGin||

    Oh jeez, sorry about my last rant, and sorry to hear that.

    I had a big scare with my dad 10 or 12 years back, bit he's still he.

    I wish I had something to offer for help.

  • General Butt Naked||

    It sounds cliched, but when someone has been sick and in extreme pain for a long time, the end is almost a relief for everyone.

    Some people lose those they love suddenly, without ever getting to to spend quality time with them. I've probably spent more honest time with my dad over the last year than I did during my entire life. I'm thankful for that.

    And if he doesn't get the pain relief that he needs, I *will* go in there butt naked, with a machete, and demand compassionate care.

    And did you know that it's illegal to burn a dead relative in a 55 gallon drum in the backyard? We have to pay someone to incinerate my dad, which is a final insult considering how much he hates the government. Maybe I'll airlift his dead ass to somalia for a proper regulationless funeral.

  • SweatingGin||

    And did you know that it's illegal to burn a dead relative in a 55 gallon drum in the backyard? We have to pay someone to incinerate my dad, which is a final insult considering how much he hates the government.

    Those bastards!

    Maybe Viking/lord vader funeral?

  • ||

    Maybe I'll airlift his dead ass to somalia for a proper regulationless funeral.

    I would donate money for this cause.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I would too, but sure there would be other regulations that would need to be followed by transporting a dead body overseas, thus defeating the entire purpose. The only way is to bring his body out the middle of the desert (or some other equally large swath of space only known in the west) and burn him there, hoping you don't get caught.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I'm thinking of inventing a libertarian body disposal device.

    It monitors your vitals and when it senses that you are dead it detonates the small c4 charge that was previously implanted in your chest.

    It would also use an algorithm to figure out how to scatter your estate among chosen loved ones with a minimum amount going to the government.

  • Sevo||

    "I've probably spent more honest time with my dad over the last year than I did during my entire life. I'm thankful for that."
    You are very fortunate. I envy you, and good luck.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Thanks Sevo, I appreciate that.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I was going to post some super whoop-ass, brand new avant-garde black metal, but it's so cutting edge that it isn't on the YouTubes yet. I had another Prog Metal band in mind, but their new album too is so new that it isn't on YouTube yet either. But in lieu, I give you Ash Borer!

    Ash Borer is an American Black Metal band from CA in the vein of Wolves in the Throne Room or heavier Agalloch. "Descended Lamentations" is the opening track off of their 2012 album, Cold of Ages, a full length LP with all of 4 songs, all of which are over 11 mins in length.

    Enjoy!

  • SweatingGin||

    Add a VoiceOver to the first thirty seconds repeating "we have assumed control" and I'm in.

  • Boisfeuras||

    Have you heard of Aloeswood?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I hadn't. Thanks for that!

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    Pretty intense. Cradle of Filth is usually about as far as I go into those sub-genres of metal. I like Draconian, but they sound positively subdued next to these guys.

    thanks for the tip.

  • ReeceExaminer||

    Jaron Lanier would do well to read Chapter 7: The Curse of Machinery out of Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. He should also read Stephan Kinsella's writings against intellectual property.

  • Sevo||

    JL isn't going to read anything by Hazlitt.
    If you're not familiar with The Well, it's the Bay Area lefty gathering place on the web, where idiots like Lanier and the Chron (lefty; do I need to add that?) columnist J. Carroll agree that computers must be bad!
    Carroll wrote some idiocy on this a week or so ago. I'm sure he wrote the manuscript with a quill and delivered it by homing pigeon!

  • Warrren||

    Homo pigeon.

  • ||

    What??? Those homing pigeons put human couriers out of work. And quills are devastating for the stone chiseler manufacturers.

  • ||

  • General Butt Naked||

    I totally thought that story was gonna be about the first lady. What a tease.

  • Robert||

    I'm involved in a similar operation called Fanbox. Apparently it's some mutual admiration society whereby we all get paid by each other for providing & promoting our own & each other's content. Looks like a pyramid scheme, but it might make a tiny amount from legit advertising. I got into it from a recommendation by a friend named Marcy who goes for that sort of thing. All I've used it for is to host some articles I've written on making the center-quarterback exchange easier in children's football, by doing it in the manner of the sidesaddle T of yesteryear.

    There have been times in the past I've thought, if only I could make money by charging people for the little favors I was doing, I could make a living. Trouble is, there are all these little things we do for friends that it wouldn't pay for someone else to pay us for, nor for us to charge for. I don't know if automating it and making it impersonal would improve the chances of making money, or just take away the personal relationships that make us want to do them at all.

  • Sevo||

    FUCKING SQUIRRELS ate two paragraphs and gave me some goddam pop-up. Mike A, FIX THAT!
    Anyhow, you're presuming that voluntary exchanges must involve money. That's only one expression of value in an exchange.
    I've offered data/information to folks who are can return the 'favor' in kind; we have both won and improved the wealth of mankind in the process.
    To take an example, I would never offer knowledge to shreek or shithead for any presumed return knowledge; either of those exchanges would require me to put a dollar value on what I was offering.
    We won't deal with the stupidity of the counter offers.

  • MJGreen||

    I've been working all day (it's Saturday, damn it!), and I return to you with more idiocy:

    "If you live on the west coast of Canada or the United States, you’re pretty much already screwed at this point thanks to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011."

    It gets a whole lot better.

  • Sevo||

    "Jeromie Williams has rock solid experience in the social media world"

    Well, that right there is, uh, well, uh,...

  • mad libertarian guy||

    That's a whole lot of derp. Goddamn you for goading me in.

  • ||

    The commenters are having none of it. The only highly rated comments are calling him on his bullshit, to which he either says nothing or responds with casual dismissal. There are plenty of vocal fools, but even more silent readers with the wisdom to see him for the scaremongerer he is.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Oh man, is anyone taking this guy seriously? He seems like your run of the mill crank.

    Shit, he gets his data from WorldTruthTV which seems to primarily concern itself with illuminati conspiracy mongering.

    Imagine the pants that would be shat in if this guy knew how much radiation is given off by stone structures.

  • Agammamon||

    No, that article starts off bad and just gets worse.

    2 paragraphs in is an ad for an article about how plants won't grow near wireless routers - never seemed to stop any plants I've seen.

    The whole basis for his article is a picture with some pretty colors and a lot of made up bullshit about how (in 2 years yet) there's been a noticeable increase in radiation linked thyroid problems in newborns, oh and how the government is changing its allowable limits in products shipped from Japan.

    1. Being able to detect radiation from Japan doesn't mean that the radiation levels are even close to dangerous. We're pretty damn good at detecting even the most infitesimal amount of radiation.

    2. In only 2 years you're not going to see an increase in radiation linked health problems unless you've got Chernobal ground zero levels of radioactivity reaching CA. And if that was happening then we wouldn't need to monitor the birth wards - the Japanese would be dropping dead.

    3. there's no - you know what fuck it. If you believe this shit there's nothing I can do for you son.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    there's no - you know what fuck it. If you believe this shit there's nothing I can do for you son.

    This is the only appropriate response.

  • Sevo||

    Just looked, and I'm not posting a link.
    Lanier's 'home page' (as if there reason for more stupidity in another page) suggests that while some of us tried and enjoyed some really screwy dope, and learned that it's not conducive to regular activities, he has yet to reach that conclusion.
    Truly stupid; kidnapper copy.

  • PapayaSF||

    Lanier is certainly a mixed bag. He came to a party of mine circa the early '90s. I tried to get him to speculate about future uses of VR. He thought that First World surgeons would use it to perform operations on poor people in Africa, but any speculation beyond that seemed to annoy him. He was doing something quite science fictional, but didn't seem friendly to technological speculation.

    I love the idea of micropayments, and it ticks me off that no system has ever caught on. But of course setting prices centrally would never work.

  • Sevo||

    "I love the idea of micropayments, and it ticks me off that no system has ever caught on."

    Per above, are you sure that such 'payments' aren't already in effect? do such 'payments' need to be expressed in 'legal tender'?

  • General Butt Naked||

    Is micropayments that system where you buy online content individually for small amounts of money?

    For instance, you want to read an article in the WSJ but don't want to buy a full subscription, so you pay a quarter to read just that article.

    If so, I remember a lot of people thinking that that was the way we would be purchasing information online in the future (now).

    Wonder why that never picked up.

  • PapayaSF||

    I mean micropayments in real money, and true micropayments, in cents or even fractions of a cent. The idea is that the amounts are individually trivial, but on a national/global scale would add up and actually support digital work. E.g. a penny to read a blog post, or listen to a new song, or see a graphic, and 10,000 buyers = $100. Creating digital content becomes something that can support far more individuals.

    This could also save newspapers as well. I'd pay a penny to read an article. 500,000 readers = $5,000, more than enough to pay the writer with lots left for the paper. But I am not going to subscribe to a website for $XX/year, nor will I pay $2.95 to read an article from the archives.

    The problems: 1) The overhead such a system would require: I doubt VISA/Mastercard could operate with everyone spending less than a dollar a day in scores of different transactions. 2) Adoption: You need to get as many people doing this as possible, overcoming the "everything online is free" belief. I'd pay ISPs to implement it, and give people $5 free every month, to prime the pump.

    If someone could crack the problems, internet commerce would really take off in wonderful and unimaginable ways.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I think it would take a company separate from the major CC companies to get it started, and as you say, getting over the free shit mentality in regards to online content.

    Say a company that you could have an online account with that you'd either deposit money in as you go, or have an automatic payment through your checking account. They would give you a user name and password, and you would use this to sign on to to consume content (perhaps automatically with a big red READ button). They would make money by charging a fee or percentage of a content provider's total income over a period of time, instead of a per transaction fee.

    I would use a service like this as I experience many instances that you describe above, i.e. having to pay for a whole subscription or some ridiculous amount for an archived view of one article.

    This kind of system would be great for is academic journals, which as you probably know, are fucking expensive as a mofo if you're not reading them at a university computer. I wonder if anyone actually pays the $40 to read a journal article, and if they wouldn't make more money by making them cheaper.

  • PH2050||

    Stellar idea. If I wasn't still in school I'd have practically zero access to the journals.

  • Robert||

    When I needed quick access to an article for a project for a client recently, I did pay $31.50 and put it on his tab.

  • PapayaSF||

    My idea would be for a consortium of newspapers and other dead-tree publishers threatened by the internet to back it. It might even be worth running at a loss, at least at first, because it may be crucial for their transition to online form.

    Music publishers couldn't succeed at selling music online before iTunes forced them to sell songs individually and for a low price, and dead-tree types haven't learned that yet.

  • ||

    It would depend on if the money were primarily being used within the system or if you'd be paying out quite a bit in cash. As long as the funds are staying in the system they're just chips and there's no real transaction cost.

    If quite a bit is getting paid out you might have a system like those shishi odoshi fountains: funds accrue in an escrow account until they reach a value where the transaction makes sense. Maybe every $10 you get a payment into your account. They would incentivize it by making their cut smaller if you use larger brackets (lowering their transaction costs).

  • ||

    Seriously, well meaning economic illiteracy is pretty much par for the course from the left. Is anyone shocked?

  • Redmanfms||

    I actually asked about this guy last week because BookTV aired the book launch.

    The man is fucking stupid, and a really rather ironic Luddite.

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