As I have prepared for finals, I took time during my study breaks to finish the book Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier. The news cycle relating to economics and politics can be very distracting (addicting) at times. During these times it is necessary for me to get a fresh take on things, especially if it allows me to see a bigger picture. This book does an amazing job of painting a picture of the economic and political landscape of the early 21st century. The issues Lanier raises illuminate some of the seemingly unconnected problems I have been trying to parse. He very adeptly draws the link between the Obamacare debates, and broader issues of the cost of healthcare, the ridiculousness that was the 2016 presidential election cycle, and the apparent shrinking of the middle class. In Jaron’s eyes these problems orbit around the major advances in computing and artificial intelligence.
The paperback version of this book was published in 2014 with some additions to the original version. He scarily predicts our political future as well as theorizing rationally about our present and recent past economic situation. All of this is based on his deep understanding of technological trends relating to Big Data analytics and Artificial Intelligence. As a technologist and futurist, Lanier skillfully exposes problems associated with these technological trends without detracting from their positive impact. Later in the book he theorizes about how to minimize these negative outcomes so that the positive effects of the advancement of technology can be maximized. The solutions he proposes are by no means exhaustive and I’d like to explore and expound on what better solutions may look like.
I encourage everyone to read the book, but below I’ve posted a (short) video of Jaron summarizing his thoughts. He’s an eccentric dude, but his ideas touch on some very important issues.