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Saturday, November 9, 2013

WHO OWNS THE FUTURE (audiobook) by Jaron Lanier

Published by Simon and Schuster in 2013.
Read by Pete Simonelli
Duration: 12 hours, 2 minutes

Computer expert (to say the least, the man was a pioneer in the field of virtual reality and was at the ground floor in multiple Silicon Valley projects and companies) Jaron Lanier discusses possible futures of the economy and the online community in this rambling, interesting audiobook.
The author, Jaron Lanier

Lanier spends quite a bit of time discussing what he calls Siren Servers. Siren Servers are massive collectors of data such as search engine sites, credit bureaus, the NSA, and some very large retail sites. These servers collect "free" data from you that is provided by tracking your searches, purchases, phone calls or GPS location on your cell phones and sell it to advertisers. Facebook is a sterling example.

Lanier believes that you should be reimbursed for this information through a series of hundreds or even thousands of micropayments which would be used to support a middle class that will be increasingly squeezed by technological improvements that will destroy traditional middle class jobs. He calls this an Advanced Humanistic Information Economy.

Lanier's rambling style eventually gets to the details of this point about 10 hours or so into a 12 hour audiobook. It's not that he wasn't interesting as he was building up to his point, it's just that he has a hard time getting to the point. Along the way he tells about his favorite musician as a child and how he got to visit him, why the Laffer curve in economics is wrong (but why it is hopeful that so many people have a grasp of the concepts behind it), how Steve Jobs used guru techniques to motivate his people, including outright bullying some of his employees. He also talks about e-books vs. paper books and Singularity University and motivational speakers and why he is not on Facebook and on and on and on. He even has truly off topic chapters called "interludes."

Note: this meandering conversation was usually interesting but was also a serious case of thesis drift. I listened in the car over the week and decided to listen as if the experience as a giant one-sided conversation with an especially talkative and intelligent companion. This impression was helped by the style of the reader, Pete Simonelli, who kept everything very approachable and friendly - like a conversation between friends.

Did I agree with everything presented? No. Did I find it interesting? Absolutely.

Note: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher through the Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Review program in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5 and it can be found on Amazon.com here: WHO OWNS THE FUTURE (audiobook) by Jaron Lanier.

Reviewed on November 9, 2013.

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