Home > Book Review > Book review : You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto

Book review : You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto  is a 2010 book by Jaron Lanier. Lanier argues that Web 2.0 doesn’t interactivity, customization, and participation. According to the author, the unfettered–and anonymous–ability to comment results in cynical mob behavior, the shouting-down of reasoned argument, and the devaluation of individual accomplishment. Lanier traces the roots of today’s Web 2.0 philosophies and architectures (e.g. he posits that Web anonymity is the result of ’60s paranoia), persuasively documents their shortcomings, and provides alternate paths to “locked-in” paradigms. Though its strongly-stated opinions run against the bias of popular assumptions, You Are Not a Gadget is a manifesto, not a screed; Lanier seeks a useful, respectful dialogue about how we can shape technology to fit culture’s needs, rather than the way technology currently shapes us.



Lanieralso  argues that the problem is not inherent in the Internet or the Web.  Deterioration only began around the turn of the century with the rise of so-called “Web 2.0” designs.  These designs valued the information content of the web over individuals.  It became fashionable to aggregate the expressions of people into dehumanized data.  There are so many things wrong with this that it takes a whole book to summarize them.  Here’s just one problem:  It screws the middle class.  Only the aggregator (like Google, for instance) gets rich, while the actual producers of content get poor.  This is why newspapers are dying.  It might sound like it is only a problem for creative people, like musicians or writers, but eventually it will be a problem for everyone.  When robots can repair roads someday, will people have jobs programming those robots, or will the human programmers be so aggregated that they essentially work for free, like today’s recording musicians?  Web 2.0 is a formula to kill the middle class and undo centuries of social progress.

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto 

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