v2.2.1 Professional
Wiki About this wiki Volume 1 Volume 2 Test Page Vol 1 - v053 - Errata Vol 1 - v053 - Aux Book Features Vol 1 - v053 - Alternative Format Vol 1 - v054 - Notes Vol 1 - v054 - Pages Vol 1 - v054 - New Paragraph Sources Vol 1 - v055 - The Delivery Method Vol 1 - v055 Notes Vol 1 - v056 Notes Vol 1 - v057 Notes Fundamental Images test -paste in table Test Buttons New Page New Page Where is the Password for Additional Features? Next Word Version FR Issues with TOC and Book Interleaving Dynamic Text Display Everywhere Very Large Books Book content mapping New Behavior Evolutionary News Microsoft Courier Literate Programming Currently Reading We're going to Mars - Mission to Mars 2 New Big Book Links Circular library Wiki Distribution The Mind's You Preservation in the Digital Age - REPRINT Introduction If Words were Flowers Foreword and | or Preface HyperTextopia and the Docuverse Chronology Time Quantum Self Reference print paragraphs of text in pseudo KANJI - Paul Haeberli - 1996 Hypertext that works Les Sous-Sols du Revolu Napoleon romance novel finally released Books and architecture The Archivist - Schuiten -- Peeters Authoring Bots More Book Stats Non-Ownership Collaborative Writing Literary Evolution and the Russian Formalists New Printing Surfaces Failed Time Capsule Methods Toilet Paper Novels Bed Cover Non-Fiction Texting Jargon Finding books in other books with x-rays Data in Motion is Safer Data Rosetta disk Calendar Based Update What we can learn from slow music Media that last for ever Plastic Logic E Books Future or Libraries by Thomas Frey This Book's Seven Wonders Oreilly Montly Subscription Book Borrowed for the Longest time v055 stats Count how many dragees results - January 1 Jen and William's Annual Hangover Brunch- Experiment Results My Name is Zachary, I am 21 and I am hot 10 Literary Exploits - Commented The Tyranny of Gadgets RSVP techniques Book Pricing Algorithn New Links Political Parametrics - 2d to 3d conversion of the American Political Landscape TOPANGA to DOWNTOWN LA - Good Books Graze, Hunt and Browse Expedition Typing without a keyboard Computing_Timeline Software Cracking for the Mass by Google, inc. Fixes for Multi-Level Moving-Image Semantics Chalkbot Hardware Accelerated Bible Code extreme poetry New Page New Page New Page New Page Interview with a chatbot - (c) New Scientist anthropomorphic middle 'man' Reinterpreting Mount Rushmore Books that became algorithms Reading old stones Norsam Technology 219 Years of bets at Cambridge Long Term Backup strategies Recovering Mesopotanian Tablets Carlos Ruiz - Book Cemetary Flexible OLED Foldable displays - what happened to Readius Copyright law issues that inline linking raises Deep Linking - Printing the internet with the Google clause New Page Math Tables keyword reading scheme - teaching reading Best Man Speech Flowchart comments New Page


Just read "you are not a gadget", jaron lanier, 2011 edition, Vintage Book.

Some comments: Lanier does cover some of the themes we cover in this volume. Jaron particularly emphasizes how in a way we dumb down human beings so they work better with hardware and software automated processes. He uses the word gadget to put a light on the idea that we commoditize the human nodes in the computational net. Also what follows is nothing personal and I want to say he actually has a great mastery of english writing and is a good read, and actually a recommanded read.

A bit like I would say that humans adapt to speech recognition by changing how they speak so the machine better parse the audio stream. And that this certainly has a consequence on our culture. The following is neither an abstract of what he discusses, neither an argumentation but a discussion with myself about things I read in the book, sometimes to also evaluate some of my own arguments about human life and digitized fragments in general.

I see some quoted reviews tag Lanier as a key inventor of virtual reality etc...  without sometimes distanciating doubts or precisions by Lanier. So I will preceed this with a few notes and then use that to analyze/criticize the main theorical streams of the book. The purpose here is not technology history but also to discuss the balance between attribution of an idea to a person and too much humility which leds others even less valuable contributions eventually shadow your own. Imagine also in the overall spirit of compilation of this work that the next paragraph is a time-stamped capsule with a note to a future historian whose function is to re-consensualize various claims.

Inventing Virtual Reality?

Jaron Lanier (born 1960) certainly helped to popularize the concept of virtual reality. The term itself I heard first from the mouth of Scott Fisher at a presentation in Montreal (Convergence) and at that time he had just been appointed to go work at NASA Ames. I read that this became between 1985 to 1990, Fisher was founding Director of the Virtual Environment Workstation Project (VIEW) at NASA's Ames Research Center. They attempted to develop a simulator to enable space station maintenance rehearsal. The gloves and goggles often associated with virtual reality were developed there, along with the dataglove, head-coupled displays and 3D audio. I also note that Fisher primarly used the term "Virtual Environments" earlier on and switch later on to possibly fit the popular press term in vogue. Some people like Myron Krueger can certainly claim to be predecessors (of a previous generation). I did read Krueger 1983 book Artificial Reality  before I saw Fisher talk in 1984 (winter 84-85) as I remember the book fell on the floor while I was talking with him. Krueger can certainly maintain that he did some work in that area on the 1970's. Of course all this has serious parenting to  Ivan Sutherland's head mounted display work. In 2011 the term Augmented Reality is more widely used and the term virtual reality is actually almost more reserved to describe an era that got a lot of media attention in the 1990's and then for a while faded away. Although all this is just words (sort of like rebranding apple tv to iTv).  One could nonethelses say that through cyberpunk associations (by both projecting creative and technological opportunities), Jaron Lanier also contributed to oversell the idea of virtual reality (sell the idea way ahead of technological deployment ability). In a sense, one could retrospectively say that there is probably a cost as well to get associated to John Perry Barlow.

As I write this the xbox Kinect, a device with an infrared and video camera allowing to record human motion to in effect control the game in a different manner then a joystick/controller device is perhaps the most successful gadget technology launch ever, beating the iPad 2 launch (a touch sensitive screen surface) itself the most popular gadget on introduction. The Kinect in a way being Krueger's interactive artwork now landing as a mainstream activity. To be complete, I believe Lanier attributes Thomas Zimmerman (at some point a business partner) for having invented the data glove (US Patent 4542291, 1982), which was the initial popular science press ackowledgement of virtual reality which in a way by 1987 (Nintendo Power Glove - the gadget) became a popular culture idea.

History de-write note

Technological Innovation is often at it's root a combination of factors. In 2011 the best example of a gadget is iOs (iPhone,iPad) software apps. Apps could be defined as single purpose small programs one can download for $1 without trying them and in general people play with them a few times. In general such apps are not only single purpose but standalone, unlike say the unix tradition of small programs one pipes into other ones. In a way it's a massively fragmented vision of software, and it's perhaps also bringing software to a commercial model much more like a music tune distribution format rather then a utilitarian thing you use as part of operating your life, as something that helps you accomplish your work. One could also if they listen to kids these days idea about inventing a new software and realizing they mean an app for Facebook, iPad or for a Google Android phone that not software might be following music in terms of future. It's so cheap that you don't really care if it does not work.

In a way we can observe clear cycles of staying at the same place in software much like the effect Lanier describes with the case of original music production. We can imagine a person who first used special-purpose hardware to accomplish a task, then general purpose computers, then redeploy within an internet browser, then now to a mobile devices. Actually if you have been developing software or been involved in a related endeavor you probably know such person. An observation I make (in part my own work as case of that) is if such person has some success tagging it's name through such progression he has a lot more cumulative power in claiming towards history a fundamental role as "inventor".  In fact such person might never even need to claim having invented anything. At each iteration such person can simply claim via selective memory an intellectual continuum. In practice it might be more adaptation then innovation. That is if you are 50 years old (like me next month) and have been doing the same thing since you are 20, and if someone is 20 and starts to do the same thing as you, you have the potential to rewrite history by aggregating the recognition of these 20 years old joining the parade. Another thing that happens when we drift from more pure art and science towards entertainment and technology is the innovation/inventor aspects turns into something more akin to a cult of celebrity. In a way we commoditize a personality to culturally simplify and organize an idea.

Behavior and Identity

There is certainly a different decorum model across various forum types, places where people share opinions on the internet. For example, how scientific forums tend to be more polite conversations while other areas of our culture are totally bullish. The later very common behavior is perhaps essentially in a way a mixture of lack of education and the availability under anonymity of such public places to teenagers. I noticed for example that in my company youtube channel many comments have nothing to do with the videos there but are sort of like a class of teenagers releasing hormones or something.  It's not unlike a teenage kid learning to masturbate (which is not hard these days with the internet), except it's learning to be irreverent and experimenting not getting caught. I won't address the complex issue of parental guidance and such but there has been scientific studies for example that girls that did not have sex before 16 are better lovers. There are some mental activities that have to happen for development purpose at certain age. The development of self-identity being one of them. In a way both anonymity and temptatively single identity enforcement a la facebook, are probably neither the answer. This is a complex multi-dimensional problem in 2011 since leaks in the digital world can often easily be fabricated -- repackage and redistributed-- at the reception node in a manner where one looses control on self-representation ideas necessary to one's proper self modeling. Ideally what we want is multiple personalities that we maintain over time. Even without anonymity multiple identities is a desirable thing as it is a convenient way to address a specific group of people at once.

Economics and Personalization

Anyone in the same age bracket as me (is alive in 2011 and was born before the spread of personal digital devices) has seen certain "functions" like music be very decimated in terms of production / revenue models. Lanier brings it down to the ever shrinking middle-class phenomena as a way to illustrate the asocial product of social networks if you like. The simple economic principle that if something is free then only the person delivering the music can make money and if there is no money in the system there is no incentives / model for people to maintain a proper living exercising such function. Lanier provides the example of music production. In a way he argues, it's harder to differentiate music of the last 20 years then the century before and according to Lanier the innovation is just not there and the explanation is the depletion of incentives by a combination of expectation of it to be free or dirt cheap. In a way despite the flooring of the entry-point for new acts, at the same time to caricature a bit we could say that in a way Apple becomes towards musicians much like Walmart is to it's 1 000 000 worker bees. The downward spiral also probably affects even live venues where cover bands and DJs are safer acts and normal bands get low fees to play in clubs. The same is true for most fields of expression, where aggregators collect advertising fees without redistributing in a fair way their appropriated work. Such depletion of the creative source Lanier argues create an over emphasis culturally on the retro, work that were produced in a period prior to that distribution state.

1 000 000 programmers on staff

I recently read somewhere in some notes by someone about Larry Page rebecoming CEO of Google about how Page likes big numbers, and as an example of how he can sometimes be not quite realistic, that mr Page imagined that google could one day have 1 000 000 programmers on staff. For reference this is probably the order of magnitude in terms of employee count of the hamburger chain McDonald's world wide in 2011. I think this makes sense as possibility and here's why. Our understanding of history of technical products and services since the industrial revolution tells us that successful deployment of technology companies operate on about a 30 years cycle. Within that cycle, by some law of least effort from a consumer point of view, a single idea company eventually becomes a monopoly (or one of 2-3 options) and at some point peaks and need to redefine itself (not unlike Apple moving from a desktop computer vendor to something else in the 2010 decade). So, some approximate facts for the sake of discussion: At least for non-starving nations, it is agreed upon that something like 2% of human overall labor goes into feeding us. And on that basis for example think of the market share of Mosanto in seeds in that equation. Assuming in say 2024 that 5 billion people have some non-starving status, 2% of 5 billion = would be 100 000 000 people world wide that make a living generating food for all of us. Another random illustrative fact is I saw on some chart comparing cities over a certain size in the US that 2 to 4% of the population falls in the category "arts/creative" was the proportional variance per city. It sort of make sense that it varies per city and probably per activity. For example if one wants to be a dancer, there is probably more dance  "jobs" in New York and Las Vegas then in Pittsburg or Atlanta. If in 2024 5 billion people have a device capable of performing computation and connect to the internet,  does it make sense that in 2024 the complexity of our technical infrastructure require 2% of the world wide population to maintain it. I think so and if so, then 1 000 000 programmers is 1/100% labor force to maintain that function.  Notice the word used here "maintain", in a similar sense that each year cycle require food to be grown and distributed again. This sounds realistic to me, although the definition of programmer might need some tweaking to fit. For example when I came to US to work I became legally a software developer rather then a programmer as according to INS a programmer was someone who punch cards to enter code in a computer... :)

Templatized Creativity

In an effort to optimize, acts of expression also get templatized. Popular outlets have very specific content management formats dictated by system pragmatism.  There are areas where such low level constraints work (example there a a few common video format sizes, e.g 1080P, which is 1920x1080 pixels). And there are areas that are not yet a success in terms of redeployment, textbooks and other work where layout of the information is very cumbersome production wise still in terms of multiple deployment. That said, and probably more importantly is a large part of so-called information then become more focused on meta-data abstraction and background AI like processing of data streams producing a form of consistence that appears at first glance to make sense as it uses the same display formats of traditional media it mimicks. We then end up as noted by Lanier with financial analysis delusions that lead us to finanical crisis and so-called analyst trained to interpret what the software returns rather then actually analyze a multi-variate situation. So again it's not all black and white. True creativity works well within a limited vocabulary constraint, as it becomes exploring unique combinations and workarounds within some shared rules. However at the same time if anyone who perceives something they never saw just blindly copy it on that basis and mash it with other things (your movie and some pop start song over it...), the novelty gets trivialized immediately and is already "old" the following week.

The Value of Delayed Responses

Another phenomena is the constant expectation of more and more immediate response even if a human is involved in the loop (needs to). We replaced the postal mail by electronic mail but the time to author the content in the letter might not be that different. Yet we probably expect one to answer immediately because the time to communicate back has been reduced to an instant. I even as a defence mechanism now use the cellular phone very rarely, and actually turned off text messaging service. I have 1 fiend on facebook, none on linkedIn. Yet, I could hardly I think be called a luddite. There is probably a few additional reasons for my own state with regards to these technologies. First I am an independant entrepreneur with a very clear stable over time way to find me. I don't move on to work for different companies at different email addresses. So for me there is some stability in the email address. Second, I am educated enough in technology and intellectual work to understand the negative impact of random sollicitation of my time. If you are a programmer, it might take like 15 minutes before your brain actually can focus throughly on a particular problem, so to accomplish anything you quickly learn the discipline to pause external signals inputs ( to turn off ). Another thing if like me you end up with hundreds of emails a day, is you learn not to both not answer right away to people you don't know and as fast as possible to people you know. Essentially you learn to parse out the one who thinks aloud and asks first and then think later about it, and that person you want to give him just enough time so he can try to think for himself first. Even if that person does not know the answer, it will understand because of that the answer better. However if it's someone you know, like a working colleague, then fast response even if it's I will respond to you in 2 hours, is very productive.

Finally for some reason, I have never been good in real-time conversation. My mom even had to sent me to sub-theater class for lack of better word as I was speaking so fast as a kid that no one could comprehend anything I would say. Over the years,  I have worked with people that can simply respond much more quickly then me in business relationships, are much more agile in meetings for example. Part of it might have roots though in what we could call cultural training. To illustrate what I mean, I do remember from my dad who was an industrial suburb of montreal city manager (industrial as in new industry) and back then it was all about attracting japanese companies to set subsidiary offices employing people locally (and as well from his perspective tax revenues).  The inherited behavior of a classical japanese in a way he explained to me probably in simpler terms back then is to enter in relationship in a very iterative manner. My dad would say that it takes like 6 months of ritualistic confidence building steps after which when they entered into a business relationship they would do it with lot less contractual agreements then a north-american company. This is different then the classical american way which is much more direct but then much more legally defined in nature (if you have seen a typical business agreement with an american company), and so less honor bound. It also has other impacts over time. I noticed too that as indian companies start to buy software rather then pirate it, that part of their culture is to negociate. In US if I say the price is $100 then the price is $100, as opposed to the negociation starts at $100. In US someone can always ask can I get it for cheaper I am a poor struggling artist or I am doing this for a charitable purpose... will if they want to negociate pricing have at least some argument. In south east asia it's sort of like at the market where people ask for $1 but the price is really $0.50. Another thing I noticed along these lines, is that there seems to be a strong correlation between software and data piracy and the locus of production of such data and software. In a way if as a kid you see people around you making money a certain way, there is one less degree of separation in understanding where the $ you pay goes to in the end. For example ukrainians and west russia developers might be very good, but the argument here would be that because they are the world best software crackers it create a feedback where the action is disconnected from the potentiality. There is of course the counter-argument that says that disruptve brute forces often wins against the established order, but in this situation it seems the winner in the end is the large multinational corporation and it leads to concentration of wealth and apoverishment of the others. In a way once in a while a temporary opportunity open to all shows up, last year might have been someone a few kids in Belarus can now create an app and make money... which in a pure capitalistic view would be saying that there are corrective windows of opportunites that moves through the system so the overall system can still project opportunities which is necessary to create motives for people to sustain the beast. To come back to music, sometimes people say that although hip hop dominates radio waves, only 2 guys make huge amount of revenues from their songs (the others are Apple main shareholders maybe).

Cultural Retro-Feedbacks

I also remember when I first moved to California how the teenager kids on my block were much better in marketing then where I grew up. A pure cultural distinction to simplify for someone who has not grown up in California, is a kid in California would say I know how to do this while where I come from except from a small inner circle of friends it would be considered bragging. It is not surprising that in 2011, ideas like a social graph has lot more resonance in a place like California. I tried at some point in a sort of self-anthropological exercise to further think about this. Essentially the short answer is the culture you grew up in programs you in a way and as a case study mid-size answer  I was born french speaking in a geographical territory known as Canada. Historically the french speaking population are related to people coming from France and a war was lost against the english speaking people coming from England, and that happened multiple generations before my time. Note the english speaking population of Canada is essentially the same that lost the war against who would form the initial core of USA. And the French were historically aligned with who formed the USA and at some point even owned a part of what is now the united states territory. I was born right when this french speaking population essentially emancipated from being what pure separatist would called back then "white negars", the labor force in manufactures, constructions sites... Historically upon loosing the war, that population that was financially weak and consequently low-educated and as well very catholic. The church leaders (who were also at least educated) formed a sort of resistance to the English assimilation plans, known as Lord Byron plan I think if I remember high school history . The response was labeled "La revenge des berceaux" which might translate to the revenge of the cribs. My grand-mother for example was the first of 17 children and family of 15-21 children was quite the norm her days. Also of interest, religion leaders did not accept inter-breading with the english but did accept irish immigrants on the basis of they being catholics. As well during the war with the english, the "american indian" population itself got divided in it's own war with it's own alliances. So in pure blood line genetics, there are a lot of inter-breeding with irish immigrants and some american indian tribes although genealogic trees usually mask that as it was a sort of taboo (sort of like "don't ask, don't tell"). 

So traditionally in Montreal the labor force was french-speaking but business was conducted in english. It might be hard for someone to imagine how these two societies were partitioned. When I was 5 years old for example there was some english speaking kids living in apartment buildings across the fence from our backyard and we would never interact with them. My mom did sent me to english speaking cubs around 6 so I can start learning english speaking. That said, it should also be mentioned that Montreal historically had a third business class in the 1800's, the jews. The jews in Montreal have a lot of historical relationship with the ones from New York. In Montreal for example there was a lot of textile shops, owned by jews with french speaking labor force. That revenge of the crib generation grew up and needed to work and somehow became a large part of New England industrial revolution labor.  Actually one could sort of say that jews from Montreal immigrated to New York (not to imply they formed the basis of New York jew population), french canadians to New England (e.g. massachussets, some towns like Lowell,Ma were for some time french speaking) to operate their  industrial golden age (talk about insourcing if you want), and the english moved west and formed cities like Toronto which eventually became the financial center of Canada. So there is a lot of relationship between the jews in Montreal and the ones eventually doing at a more massive scale the same  in New York (again setting commerce and cloth manufacturing jobs first...) and as well later, in for example how attorney jews left out of the big play by anglo-protestant establishment got into the litigation business in New York against the wasp decorum, and eventually again in the disruption of the wall street order.  I am trivializing and simplifying here but essentially I have 3 operational models as a growing kid and the last one I have not talked about is that this emancipation also brought closer link to France. Where France in my personal history is much more socialistic and a top-down society if you like, where for example an engineer would be an engineer and not a business man ("that's commercial!" he would say...). This is a completely different cultural paradigm in classical northern california where many startups are started by engineers or technology-driven people. And it's also a different culture in that it systemizes disruption to capture opportunities but to do it uses as well much more the cult of personalities as a vehicule to assimilate as it's own. And also where the measure of success is never the quality but the quantity. The ultimate goal is commoditization. A society like Japan has always been in recent time a gadget oriented society and in an hidden sense people play with gadgets as a sort of beta testing society on the basis that recent tradition (within average citizen lifetime) japanese companies delivered success gadgets to the rest of the world. California is still distinct then Japan as it delivers personalities (not just rock stars, movie stars but as well animated characters and technology celebrities...).  Cultural influences is something difficult to deprogram oneself of. And in an age of global trading exchange there is a sort of world tempo that is new to all cultures. All sort of have to assimilate the virtualization of the immigrant work force if you like.

Cybernetic Totalism

Another theme Lanier addresses under the expression "cybernetic totalism" is of mention here. I think it's a brillant expression. It very well explains the unwanted end-game of our evolutionary struggles. I have not been so far as successful in defining it as he does here. I do try to compile as many conceptual ideas about world brain, depletion of our sense of control on our destiny caused by massive unrestricted AI. But I have not so far labeled it as simply and properly as he does with the expression "cybernetic totalism". I am I think careful (but not always enough since it's hard not to be enthousiastic about a new possibility when you are a developer of technology yourself) in repositioning an idea like the singularity absolutism as essentially just a futoroligical measure of the falloff of an era we live in and I often simply call the digitization age. I do I hope however try to place it as much as it's possible within a larger evolutionary context and attempt in my own way to steer us (the homo sapiens) towards a new enlightment age (a white age) rather then a new dark age...  and I use different metaphors like the super-white age which also has a way to blind us from reality if we consider as an evolutionary layer a robo sapiens strata over our next 10 000 of evolution and the turning of us as a form or pet (if our goal is to become domesticated cats for the most part).  As I said elsewhere, that man cannot fly as fast and far as an airplane does not dehumanize us, it overall empowers us. However to say simple here, progress is that only 2% of the population can feed the rest, and further progress is when such feed our primary need with the minimal energy consumption needed and the most pleasure in eating result. In the same way, user-generated content is not an idea that at the end wins because it would be like democratizing food making so everyone can now grow and make their own food. (We've done that before). There has to be a future that lays somewhere between the dystopia of all breaks down and most of us die and also probably because we lost any basic survival skills... and the subsuming of our destiny to a set of clever algorithms that enslave and dumb us down. I remember passing through Ojai north of LA on my taking the long road to Santa Barbara to see a friend and electricity was out. It was straight out of a science-fiction story. The public restrooms did not flush, the gas station pump did not work, the coffee shop could not serve coffee, and the clock in the middle had stop...  A longer term black-out will happen to you one day. Are you prepared?