Jaron Lanier: the Conscience of Silicon Valley

By Zach Baron in GQ.

The Good: “In the information age,” Lanier said, “we’re all workers and consumers and entrepreneurs at the same time.” What if, Lanier suggested, we got paid for our labor in this system? By recognizing the roles we play in building the future, Lanier said, we might give ourselves a chance to be meaningful participants in it. “When a person is empowered to make a difference, they become more of a full person,” he said. “They awaken spiritually.”

But also the baaaaad: “Facebook might have won already, which would mean the end of democracy in this century,” Lanier said. “It’s possible that we can’t quite get out of this system of paranoia and tribalism for profit—it’s just too powerful and it’ll tear everything apart, leaving us with a world of oligarchs and autocrats who aren’t able to deal with real problems like pandemics and climate change and whatnot and that we fall apart, you know, we lose it. That is a real possibility for this century. I’m not saying I think it’s what’ll happen, but I wouldn’t count it out. There’s evidence every single day that it’s what’s happening.”

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