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Who Owns the Future?

Who Owns the Future?

Jaron Lanier


A fascinating, if ultimately incomplete, exploration of the alternatives to the current web architecture that prioritises the needs of companies over those of consumers – or producers, if the truth be told. Lanier approaches the problems strictly from the perspective of information and information processing, with a clarity that I, even as a computer scientist, find refreshingly complete: it's as though he's willing to encompass some of the logical consequences that even professionals shy away from.

The central argument is that internet users, and especially users of social networks, are providing too much information for free to companies that then profit from it. Lanier suggests some alternative approaches to this, where content and expertise give rise to micro-payment compensation in cash or some other medium of exchange. The problem is that this is a tall order against the structures that have already grown up, and it's unclear that it's now possible to change tack as radically as would be required. Still, in many ways that makes this work all the more important, and it's a great contribution to the broader literature on e-commerce and digital living.

3/5. Finished 18 June 2016.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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