Sunday, August 8, 2010

Celebration of the real person

To those hassled by technology, the title of Jaron Lanier’s book – You Are Not a Gadget: A manifesto ( – can be very reassuring. The book, written for people, not computers, begins with the question ‘What is a person?’ Drawing inspiration from Publilius Syrus’ statement that speech is the mirror of the soul, the author defines that a person is not a pat formula, but a quest, a mystery, a leap of faith.

He acknowledges that his words will mostly be read by non-persons, ‘minced into atomised search-engine keywords within industrial cloud computing facilities located in remote, often secret locations around the world,’ and ‘copied millions of times by algorithms designed to send an advertisement to some person somewhere who happens to resonate with some fragment. Alas, fragments are not people, he frets.

Something started to go wrong with the digital revolution around the turn of the twenty-first century, narrates Lanier. The World Wide Web was flooded by a torrent of petty designs sometimes called web 2.0; and this ideology promotes radical freedom on the surface of the web, but that freedom, ironically, is more for machines than people, he adds.

Full report here Hindu

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