Jaron Lanier: What It Means to be #Human

Jaron Lanier: I think there's two ways to get people to use your digital stuff.  One way is to lure them into a regimentation scheme and the other way is to offer them something beautiful that they love.  You can kind of mix the two, but those are two distinct things.  So, in my view, and I realize this is not a mainstream view, a lot of what goes on is people get into some scheme like a social networking thing and then, because they're so invested in it, it's like just the way that they live and they keep—they sort of keep on doing it, and I feel like, in the long term, it's a lot of effort that they're doing for both inadequate reward but also in a weird, stealthy way they're regimenting themselves.  Like, when you work in social networking, you have to run your life according to the categories of it.  Like, you start to parse yourself into hash tags and circles or whatever the scheme is of the particular social network.  And it's one of these things where in the short term it doesn't matter.  It's fine.  But after 10 years or 20 years, I think it does matter.  I think it decreases the degree to which people are really inventing themselves from scratch, and it increases the degree to which they're conforming to the expectations and the categories of others.

And so this incredible wave of conformity really concerns me.  I think excessive conformity is a soul-killer, and it also can lead to just sort of bad group behavior if we look at human history, so I really don't think it's the right way to use information systems.  But what I do think is beautiful is to create something of value and put it out there in a way that you're taking responsibility for it and also getting a reward for it, but in a way that you're really adding to the world, not as some fragment in a giant statistical effect, but in some specific thing you can draw a circle around and say, "This is what I've offered.  This is me."  Apps do that.  Kickstarter ventures do that.  Products like Kinect do that for the people who make them and design experiences on them.  That's where the future is.  I really want to promote that side of using information technology.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


New businesses in Silicon Valley and Alley have tremendous power over what it will mean to be human in the coming decades. And with great power comes great responsibility. We hear often that the world is changing fast – we talk less about what we’d like it to change into.

Is it ethical to pay people to get vaccinated?

It could lead to a massive uptake in those previously hesitant.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

A financial shot in the arm could be just what is needed for Americans unsure about vaccination.

Keep reading Show less

Every 27.5 million years, the Earth’s heart beats catastrophically

Geologists discover a rhythm to major geologic events.

Credit: desertsolitaire/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • It appears that Earth has a geologic "pulse," with clusters of major events occurring every 27.5 million years.
  • Working with the most accurate dating methods available, the authors of the study constructed a new history of the last 260 million years.
  • Exactly why these cycles occur remains unknown, but there are some interesting theories.
Keep reading Show less

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Galactic wind from early universe detected

Researchers discovered a galactic wind from a supermassive black hole that sheds light on the evolution of galaxies.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds the oldest galactic wind yet detected, from 13.1 billion years ago.
  • The research confirms the theory that black holes and galaxies evolve together.
  • The galactic wind was spotted using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile.
Keep reading Show less