Some of the biggest web companies have instituted a creepy arrangement with their users. You may use their service for free, but they will spy on you. Jaron Lanier has been a fierce critic of this arrangement, and not only because it is creepy.
In his book, Who Owns the Future, Lanier, a computer scientist and virtual reality pioneer, bemoans the underlying economics of Web 2.0. Some billion dollar companies may only employee a handful of people. If you look at the employment disparity between a dinosaur like Kodak and an upstart like Instagram, it becomes clear just how destructive Web 2.0 has been to the middle class.
Lanier therefore proposes a novel system of micropayments whereby users no longer receive services for free, and conversely, get paid if others chose to access their work.
In today's lesson, Kas Thomas scrutinizes Lanier's argument that the stealing of people's Internet-usage habits is both unethical and unsustainable, with the eye toward moving the dialog forward. For instance, how exactly would Lanier's two-way accounting system work and what might a web user's earning potential actually be?