Monday, December 13, 2010

You are not a gadget: A manifesto

Book Club... And Then Some!

You are not a gadget: A manifesto 


by Jaron Lanier

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

There are at least two characteristics of this book (and Lanier’s approach) of which you should be aware before selecting this as one to read.  First, it is a philosophical rant (a manifesto) (which I enjoyed immensely!) That celebrates humanity by contrasting technology (in all its various forms) with personhood and the limitations that “automatically” take place.  One reviewer at wrote, “Lanier eloquently and passionately refutes this entire mindset [that technology can produce better results than individual perspectives] while demonstrating the subtle, often unforeseen, yet pernicious effects this software design choices have in restricting the ways we are able to think about our relationships to information, the world around us and, most importantly, other people.”

The second characteristic of this book results from Lanier’s technology-driven background.  This book is full of computerese.  One unfamiliar with technology will find this book difficult to comprehend.  One reviewer wrote that the book is “a compilation of jargon filled columns and short bits written for other outlets mashed into a book.”

Despite this, and if you haven’t read Lanier’s work before (as I have not), this is, as another writer on said, “This is the most thought-provoking, human and inspiring critique of the computerized world of information that has yet been written.”

I want to add my own evaluation to these: I found the book interesting, if not fascinating, well-written (easy-to-follow) and wonderfully provocative.  There is so much meat here to digest and absorb, and although I agree with his essential premise, I don’t think it will make any difference at all in the larger scheme of things.  That is, the dehumanization that is occurring and that has taken place already will continue unabated and with complete abandon, and there is nothing that can be done about it except, as Lanier has offered, observe it, detail it, write about it, even rant about it.

Lanier’s reminder is simple, as a reviewer of the book has noted: “ . . . knowledge is much more than information and that being human is something that no machine is meant to approach.”

I highly recommend this book because it forces you to think deeply, and it clearly delineates where the digital world is leading us.    

This book is available from You are not a gadget: A manifesto. 

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