Jaron Lanier: Why Facebook Isn't Free

Internet pioneer Jaron Lanier argues that free technologies like Facebook come with a hidden and heavy cost – the livelihoods of their consumers. 

What’s the Big Idea?  

Facebook shares start trading today, at a price that will value the company at close to $100 billion, or roughly the 2011 GDP of Sudan. The difference between this and other comparably enormous initial public offerings is that Facebook's product, or service, is free. Its business model is based on the value to advertisers of the rich data its users provide by sharing their changing interests and relationship networks in real time. 

The "big data" that Facebook and other networks gather is especially valuable because of its level of detail. It goes far deeper than registration demographics: geography, age, gender, education - enabling marketers to target you, the consumer, based on up-to-the moment details like your favorite music, what shoes you bought last week, or your shifting political opinions.  

Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer (widely credited with inventing the term 'virtual reality'), musician, author of You Are Not A Gadget, and vocal opponent of what he sees as the widespread social conformity and economic unsustainability of Web 2.0, sees a hidden cost in the "free" services of the social web. 

Video: Jaron Lanier wants to see new technologies creating jobs and wealth, rather than undermining them. 

Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

7 fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Here are 7 often-overlooked World Heritage Sites, each with its own history.

Photo by Raunaq Patel on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites are locations of high value to humanity, either for their cultural, historical, or natural significance.
  • Some are even designated as World Heritage Sites because humans don't go there at all, while others have felt the effects of too much human influence.
  • These 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites each represent an overlooked or at-risk facet of humanity's collective cultural heritage.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less