Jaron Lanier

you are not a gadget

Jaron Lanier [lah-neer] (b. 1960) is an American computer scientist and artist. In the early 1980s he popularized the term ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR) for a field in which he was a pioneer. At that time, he founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. His current appointments include Interdisciplinary Scholar-in-Residence, CET, UC Berkeley. In what is probably his most famous paper ‘One-Half of a Manifesto’ (Wired, 2000) Lanier opposes the prospect of so called ‘cybernetic totalism,’ which is ‘a cataclysm brought on when computers become ultra-intelligent masters of matter and life.’

Lanier’s position is that humans may not be considered to be biological computers, i.e., they may not be compared to digital computers in any proper sense, and it is very unlikely that humans could be generally replaced by computers easily in few decades, even economically. While processor performance increases according to Moore’s law, overall performance rises only very slowly. This is because our productivity in developing software increases only slightly, and software becomes more bloated and remains as error-prone as it ever was. He warns that the biggest problem of any theory is not that it is false, ‘but when it claims to be the sole and utterly complete path to understanding life and reality.’

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