cover image You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto

Jaron Lanier, . . Knopf, $23.95 (209pp) ISBN 978-0-307-26964-5

Computer scientist and Internet guru Lanier's fascinating and provocative full-length exploration of the Internet's problems and potential is destined to become a must-read for both critics and advocates of online-based technology and culture. Lanier is best known for creating and pioneering the use of the revolutionary computer technology that he named virtual reality. Yet in his first book, Lanier takes a step back and critiques the current digital technology, more deeply exploring the ideas from his famous 2000 Wired magazine article, “One-Half of a Manifesto,” which argued against more wildly optimistic views of what computers and the Internet could accomplish. His main target here is Web 2.0, the current dominant digital design concept commonly referred to as “open culture.” Lanier forcefully argues that Web 2.0 sites such as Wikipedia “undervalue humans” in favor of “anonymity and crowd identity.” He brilliantly shows how large Web 2.0–based information aggregators such as—as well as proponents of free music file sharing—have created a “hive mind” mentality emphasizing quantity over quality. But he concludes with a passionate and hopeful argument for a “new digital humanism” in which radical technologies do not deny “the specialness of personhood.” (Jan.)