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Works by Jaron Lanier

Associated Works

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 (2011) — Contributor — 287 copies
The New Humanists: Science at the Edge (2003) — Contributor — 230 copies
The Best American Science Writing 2012 (2012) — Contributor — 90 copies
Malaparte: A House Like Me (1999) — Contributor — 51 copies

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Reviews

People either love or hate Jaron; while I am one of the rare cases that find him both interesting and intermittently right and wrong about different ideas. This book is a must read for those of us that believe in the perfection of current digital technology, and while Jaron seems to see half-empty glasses, his ideas are challenges that deserve serious consideration.
Overall things are always more complicated than you can convey in a book so I would also not take this book as the last word on the subject, but I would hope that in particular people that dream about technologically enabled perfect futures would take into consideration its strongest critics and address these ideas in their scenarios.
The writing organisation is always a bit difficult to organise, it's an unsystematic critique, that is just a step above being a rant. If Jaron would set his attack in a well organised bottom-up manner, we might find less emotive responses to his critique and more productive engagement with these issues.
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yates9 | 54 other reviews | Feb 28, 2024 |
Lanier summons pointed criticism to the technological optimist phylosophy that permeates digital startups and established digital business alike. His critique is not well organised but is still a relatively unique perspective which one needs to consider for futurology.
I rate the book less for its overall quality but for those key thinking points which should be evaluated while we look at technological and cultural development. Its a book I find myself arguing against but these arguments lead me to understand the issues.… (more)
 
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yates9 | 19 other reviews | Feb 28, 2024 |
Sometimes this book is a little hard to read if you've never heard of words like "neotony" or "juvenilia" or "Cephalopods." That's ok. I like to learn new words. And I like Lanier's brand of humanism. It's a refreshing antidote to Silicon Valley snuff.
 
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MylesKesten | 54 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
I found a copy of Jaron Lanier's Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now at a library book sale in Watson Lake, Yukon, over the summer. This 2018 work provides a superficial, but compelling, look at how social media sucks.

I agree with many of the other LT reviews of this work. It is light, somewhat biased against specific individuals, and clunky at times (e.g., "BUMMER"), but it is still a worthwhile read. In this review, I'm going to look at the work holistically, suck out the golden nuggets from the author's arguments, and make an action plan for implementing his ideas. Warning, spoilers follow. If you want a quick and dirty summary of the author's key points and how to implement them in the real world, keep reading.

About the Author (Briefly)

Lanier is a pioneer in the field of virtual reality. He left Atari in the mid-1980s to found a company focused on developing the first commercial VR products, avatars, and multiperson virtual-worlds. He later worked for Microsoft Research. Look him up on Wikipedia -- he's lived an interesting life.

Key Points

Here's a bullet-point summary of Lanier's ten arguments:

  1. You Are Losing Your Free Will: Lanier argues that social media platforms are designed to manipulate user behavior, effectively eroding individual autonomy. These platforms are intentionally addictive, keeping users engaged and influencing their decision-making processes.

  2. Quitting Social Media is the Most Finely Targeted Way to Resist the Insanity of Our Times: This argument suggests that disconnecting from manipulative social media platforms can be a powerful form of resistance. It's a way to counteract the overwhelming chaos and misinformation prevalent in the digital age.

  3. Social Media is Making You into an Asshole: Social media, according to Lanier, often encourages conflict and superficial interactions, leading to more aggressive and less empathetic online behavior. This contrasts starkly with more nuanced and empathetic communication typically found in real-life interactions.

  4. Social Media is Undermining Truth: Lanier points out the proliferation of fake news and misinformation on social media. The online ecosystem is dominated by bots and fake accounts, creating a misleading sense of popularity and undermining the truth.

  5. Social Media is Making What You Say Meaningless: Lanier argues that the lack of context in social media communication leads to a dilution of messages. Snippets and soundbites shared on these platforms often fail to convey the depth and complexity of real-world issues.

  6. Social Media is Destroying Your Capacity for Empathy: Lanier highlights how social media's echo chambers and algorithmic filtering limit users' exposure to diverse perspectives, reducing their ability to understand and empathize with differing viewpoints.

  7. Social Media is Making You Unhappy: Citing studies, Lanier discusses the link between social media use and decreased happiness. The mechanisms of ranking and comparison on these platforms foster a sense of discontent and inadequacy among users.

  8. Social Media Doesn't Want You to Have Economic Dignity: This argument critiques the advertising-driven model of social media, which benefits a select few at the expense of many. Lanier discusses the challenges faced by users attempting to earn a living on these platforms.

  9. Social Media is Making Politics Impossible: Lanier observes that social media amplifies political polarization and spreads misinformation. The initial promise of social media as a tool for positive political engagement has severely deteriorated.

  10. Social Media Hates Your Soul: In this argument, Lanier equates social media to a soulless entity, critiquing its dehumanizing aspects. He argues that the nature of digital interaction on these platforms strips away the essence of genuine human connection.


My Takeaways

I didn't know what to expect with this book. It is most certainly an easy, entertaining, and well-cited read. Nearly every page is footnoted with interesting articles to learn more. I think the most important things I took away from this are the subtle yet profound ways in which social media shapes our thoughts, behaviors, and even our self-esteem. Lanier's insights into the psychological and societal impacts of social media are particularly striking, especially the parts about loss of free will and empathy. These points resonated with me, prompting a deeper reflection on my own social media use.

After discussing this with my wife, we decided on a short "Action Plan" to help implement some of Lanier's ideas:

Action Plan for Curtailing Social Media Use

  1. Reflect on Our Social Media Usage: Take stock of the time and emotional energy spent on social media. Identify which platforms contribute positively to our lives and which don't.

  2. Detox: Take a short-term break from one or more platforms (facebook, twitter...um, I mean "X", Google News). During the break, watch for changes in moods, productivity, and relationships.

  3. Curate Our Digital Environment: Unfollow or mute accounts that trigger negative emotions. Choose to engage with content that is informative, uplifting, or meaningful.

  4. Seek Alternatives for Connection and Information: Reconnect with friends and family through direct communication methods like phone calls or physical visits. Explore news sources outside social media or television for unbiased information.

  5. Cultivate Our Offline Interests and Activities: Invest more time in hobbies, physical activities, or volunteering. Develop skills or pursue interests that don't rely on digital validation.

  6. Stay Informed and Critical: Critically analyze news and information encountered online.


All in all, another good, thought-provoking read. Now to post this to LibraryThing....
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howermj | 35 other reviews | Nov 12, 2023 |

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Works
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