Computer scientist, composer and artist Jaron Lanier spent a day at CalArts last month discussing the “information economy” with the Institute’s Board of Trustees and holding a performance/workshop for the CalArts community in The Wild Beast.
Named in 2010 as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world, Lanier is considered a Silicon Valley visionary and a pioneer in the field of virtual reality. (In fact, he’s often credited with coining the term.)
With a body of work that includes a number of writings on Internet politics and the future of humanism, his latest book, You Are Not a Gadget, a Manifesto, was published by Knopf last year. The book was well-received and Lanier has become a leading tech contrarian of sorts, decrying the direction that technology and social media are forging.
…Lanier has continued to argue that the purpose of digital technology should be to enrich human interaction. One of his most recent ventures has been to help Microsoft construct a new, joystick-free gaming system, called the Kinect, which uses a computerized camera to match the movements of a player’s body to the avatar in the game—allowing someone to kick a virtual ninja using her actual foot. In an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Lanier cited the Kinect, which this spring became the fastest-selling electronic device of all time, as an example of technology that could “expand what it means to think.” Unlike more Luddite critics, Lanier complains not that technology has taken over our lives but that it has not given us enough back in return. In place of a banquet, we’ve been given a vending machine.