Danger, Will Robinson!

Jaron Lanier is often referred to as “the father of virtual reality.” A computer scientist at the forefront of computing breakthroughs that have changed our lives, his book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto asks us to slow down and evaluate those changes. He points to the tendency of software to “lock in” a particular way of doing things that may not always be the best. For example, the MIDI standard for music files, designed by a keyboard-playing geek, doesn’t work as well for other types of music, and now we’re stuck with it. He also talks about the mess created by the online anonymity standard (bane of many a blogger), and the way that social-networking templates have actually reduced our individuality by putting our identities into a series of slots. Lanier’s not a Luddite by any means; he just suggests we should be conscious that the computing design choices we make today have long-term consequences.