Book Review – You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier

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Hopefully I won’t be accused of being a troll, because I’m not hiding behind anonymity here on this blog. However, I can’t find any way to sugar coat this: I found this book both disappointing and frustrating.

Disappointing because my expectations had been built up by the promotion surrounding the author and this book. Frustrating because the critical thinking I was expecting lacked clarity and depth.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting ideas in the book. Certainly, we should explore issues such as how the Internet affects our ability to be creative (and earn a living from being creative), and how it changes how we think and behave. But I’m simply not convinced by the author’s arguments (or rather, the way they are articulated in this book). Also, while the main thrust of Lanier’s manifesto is focused on the impact of information technology on dumbing down and control of how we create and exchange meaning, I think he fails to address another important aspect of people and culture, being relationships.

If anything I formed the impression that far from being unhappy with the digital world, the author is simply disappointed with the industrial revolution that is taking place online. He says on many occasions that he isn’t anti-Web – in fact his concluding argument attempts to demonstrate that point – but his nostalgia for the past is obvious. His problem then is perhaps that the Web has suddenly been invaded by the Proles*. And perhaps that is the core of the warning in this book that you will need to answer for yourself – has 1984 come to pass or is this just another conspiracy novel?

BTW Compared to the book, Lanier’s essay on Digital Maoism is worth reading.

*Yes, the irony of linking to Wikipedia is noted 🙂

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2 thoughts on “Book Review – You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier

  1. I’m in a dilemma here. To debate (or even fully appreciate) your review, I’d have to buy the book. But after a review like this, why should I?And there are those who’d say that the proles began their invasion of the Web on day 1 .

  2. To be fair, you might want to check out some other reviews. Many people rave about this book. Perhaps its just me, not getting it? 🙂

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