Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels 2014 voor Jaron Lanier

Friedenspreis des deutschen Buchhandels 2014 voor Jaron Lanier

Aan de Amerikaanse computerwetenschapper en schrijver Jaron Lanier werd gisteren in de Frankfurter Paulskerk de Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels uitgereikt.

De Amerikaanse computer wetenschapper, schrijver, componist en beeldend kunstenaar Jaron Lanier werd geboren in New York op 3 mei 1960. Hij is de auteur van “You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto” en “Who Owns The Future?” Laniers naam wordt ook vaak geassocieerd met het onderzoek naar Virtual Reality Hij bedacht dan wel populariseerde de term ‘Virtual Reality’ en in de vroege jaren 1980 richtte hij VPL Research op, het eerste bedrijf dat VR producten verkocht. Hij leidde het team dat de eerste veelgebruikte software platform architectuur ontwikkelde voor immersieve virtual reality-toepassingen. Van 1997 tot 2001 was Lanier de Chief Scientist van Advanced Network en Services, waar het Ingenieursbureau van Internet2 deel van uitmaakte en werkte hij als de Lead Scientist van de National Tele-immersion Initiative, een coalitie van universiteiten die onderzoek deden naar geavanceerde toepassingen voor Internet2. Van 2001 tot 2004 was hij Visiting Scientist bij Silicon Graphics Inc, waar hij oplossingen voor kernproblemen in telepresence en tele-immersie ontwikkelde. Lanier ontving o.a. een eredoctoraat van de New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2006, de CMU’s Watson award in 2001 en een Lifetime Career Award van de IEEE in 2009 voor bijdragen aan Virtual Reality. Hij schrijft en spreekt over tal van onderwerpen, met inbegrip van hightech bedrijven, de sociale gevolgen van technologie, de filosofie van bewustzijn en informatie, internetpolitiek en de toekomst van het humanisme. Zijn artikelen verschenen in The New York Times, Discover, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harpers Magazine, The Sciences, Wired Magazine en Scientific American.

Uit: Digital Passivity (Artikel in The Herald Tribune, 2013)

“I wish I could separate the two big trends of the year in computing — the cool gadgets and the revelations of digital spying — but I cannot.
Back at the dawn of personal computing, the idealistic notion that drove most of us was that computers were tools for leveraging human intelligence to ever-greater achievement and fulfillment. This was the idea that burned in the hearts of pioneers like Alan Kay, who a half-century ago was already drawing illustrations of how children would someday use tablets.
But tablets do something unforeseen: They enforce a new power structure. Unlike a personal computer, a tablet runs only programs and applications approved by a central commercial authority. You control the data you enter into a PC, while data entered into a tablet is often managed by someone else.
Steve Jobs, who oversaw the introduction of the spectacularly successful iPad at Apple, declared that personal computers were now ‘‘trucks’’ — tools for working-class guys in T-shirts and visors, but not for upwardly mobile cool people. The implication was that upscale consumers would prefer status and leisure to influence or self-determination.
I am not sure who is to blame for our digital passivity. Did we give up on ourselves too easily?
This would be bleak enough even without the concurrent rise of the surveillance economy. Not only have consumers prioritized flash and laziness over empowerment; we have also acquiesced to being spied on all the time.
The two trends are actually one. The only way to persuade people to voluntarily accept the loss of freedom is by making it look like a great bargain at first.
Consumers were offered free stuff (like search and social networking) in exchange for agreeing to be watched. Vast fortunes can be made by those who best use the personal data you voluntarily hand them. Instagram, introduced in 2010, had only 13 employees and no business plan when it was bought by Facebook less than two years later for $1 billion.
One can argue that network technology enhances democracy because it makes it possible, for example, to tweet your protests. But complaining is not yet success. Social media didn’t create jobs for young people in Cairo during the Arab Spring.
To be free is to have a private zone in which you can be alone with your thoughts and experiments. That is where you differentiate yourself and grow your personal value. When you carry around a smartphone with a GPS and camera and constantly pipe data to a computer owned by a corporation paid by advertisers to manipulate you, you are less free. Not only are you benefiting the corporation and the advertisers, you are also accepting an assault on your free will, bit by bit.”

Jaron Lanier (New York City, 3 mei 1960)