Who Owns the Future?

Warning Note: I understand that I’m being cynical, but what’s the point of having your own website and blog if you cannot indulge yourself in occasional cynicism? And give yourself a chance to blame others. I blame Jaron Lanier. My cynicism wast’t fully crystallized until I read Lanier’s “Who Owns the Future?” (To be fair, Lanier offers unique solutions… but will they happen?)

Sometimes the online world seems outrageously silly. Not just the everyday kind of absurdity that we’re all familiar with, the ranting and raving, but our intelligent enlightening comments that we hope are improving the human condition. We fool ourselves into believing that our comments are worth something. Maybe they are. In fact, I know they are, but only to our sense of self. Maybe they are worth more than you think to huge corporations with super-powerful supercomputers and servers. Think of the effort you might put into evaluating a book or product. People respond with likes and dislikes and other comments. Who profits from all this feedback, all this evaluating, all this clicking? Who profits when readers quickly go to the comments section of online newspapers? Monetarily speaking, you get ZERO. Nada. Nothing. Who pays for your work? Of course you say that it’s okay because all the info is free so it balances out. But does it? Are you sure? Nothing is free. With every click, do you give up a bit of your soul? Who pays for that? Meanwhile after we’ve rated the product, we can go back to stocking plastic at Wal-Mart.

I recommend the Nieman Journalism Lab article and interview, “Jaron Lanier wants to build a new middle class on micropayments” by Eric Allen Been.  “Anybody can blog and all that — and I still like that stuff — but the bigger problem is that an incredible inequity developed where the people with big computers who were routing what journalists did were getting all the formal benefits. Mainly the money, the power. And the people who were doing the work were so often just getting informal benefits, like reputation and the ability to promote themselves. That isn’t enough. The thing that we missed was how much power would accrue to the people with the biggest computers.”


Jaron Lai

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