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You are not a gadget

Review of Jaron Lanier's book

Joanne Even

on 30 April 2014

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Transcript of You are not a gadget

Main Theme - The madness that if it can be free, it should be free
Main Theme - We lose ourselves when we go online
It's complicated.
Main Theme - It is important to be aware of what you might be missing
Main Theme - How do we make sense of information?
Main Theme - "enriching the depth of communication"
by Jaron Lanier
you are not a gadget
A Manifesto

Can we purposely choose to “step to the right of our left hemisphere” and be more expansive on our thinking?

Adult education is already morphing into something new, e.g., MOOCs.

What if we could drop the rigid protocols and create something new?
Implications for Adult Learning
Language will still exist “but it would give rise to a vivid expansion of meaning.”

Cephalopods and their ability to morph – “a change in the image or texture visible on the… surface, and a change in the underlying shape itself.”
Postsymbolic Communication
“A fluid kind of concreteness might turn out to be more expressive than abstraction.”
“Childhood is the very essence of magic, optimism, creativity, and open invention of self and the world… It is the time in life when we learn to use our imaginations without the constraints of life lessons.”
According to Taylor, the right hemisphere “thinks in pictures” taking energy in and creating a “giant collage of what this present moment looks like… smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what is sounds like. I am an energy being, connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere.”

The left hemisphere “thinks in language… it’s that little voice that says to me, ‘I am.’ says Taylor. “…and as soon as my left hemisphere says ‘I am.’ I become separate… from the energy flow around me.”
“It turned out that people could quickly learn to inhabit strange and different bodies and still interact in the virtual world.”

“The body and the rest of reality no longer have a prescribed boundary.”
Brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor studied her own stroke as it happened – “an infant in a woman’s body” – and saw the world as if only through the right hemisphere of her brain as if “consciousness had shifted away from my normal sense of reality.”
Phenotropic computing: reject the software protocol in favor of “emergent generic pattern-recognition techniques”
Postsymbolic Communication
Schema theory - “The brain is so desirous of associations that it will then amplify any tiny potential linkage in order to get a useable one.”

Cognitivism vs. Constructivism - "The learner is more than a cognitive machine. The learner is a whole person made up of the mind and the body and comes to a learning situation with a history, a biography that interacts individual ways with the experience that generates the nature of the learning." (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, p. 101 in Learning in Adulthood)
Implications for Adult Learning
Realistic Computationalism
“The world can be understood as a computational process with people as subprocesses.”
“a significantly voluminous computation will take on the qualities we associate with people”

“a computer program with specific design features [i.e, 'strange loop'] ... is similar to a person”

“any information structure that can be perceived by some real human to also be a person is a person” (e.g., Turing test)
"Three Less Than Satisfying Flavors"
“The idea is that humans, considered as information systems, ... are the result of billions of years of implicit, evolutionary study in the school of hard knocks ”
V. S. Ramachandran, neuroscientist at the University of California at San Diego and the Salk Institute, and his experiment with bouba and kiki

Cross-modal abstraction - “the ability to make consistent connections across senses.” In the case of bouba and kiki, meaning was formed from both the visual aspect of the combination of letters along with the sound of the new words
"Lngwidge iz a straynge thingee."
Should education be offered for free? Are MOOCs a sustainable (or even desirable) model?

Will traditional universities succumb to the same fate as the newspaper?

Will the quality of education suffer?
Implications for Adult Learning
Nelson - sociologist, philosopher, and pioneer of information technology - is credited with the digital link and proposing “hypermedia”
Ted Nelson's Hypermedia
“The combination of hive mind and advertising has resulted in a new kind of contract. The basic idea of this contract is that authors, journalists, musicians, and artists are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellect and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind..”

Cents: Galaxie 500
Bloggers vs. Woodward & Bernstein: “Instead of facing up to tough press, the [Bush] administration was made vaguely aware of mobs of noisily opposed bloggers nullifying one another.”
How can any musical artist make dollars and cents when there is so much open access on the web?

Dollars: Taylor Swift
“...we should effectively keep only one copy of each cultural expression -- as with a book or a song -- and pay the author of that expression a small, affordable amount whenever it is accessed.”

“This arrangement would celebrate personhood in full, because personal expression would be valued.”
Digital Literacy - the ability to discern credibility and authenticity of digital resources

Critical analysis of material to discover meaning - both your own and the original author's
Implications for Adult Learning
One aspect of cybernetic totalism allows for “a crowd of people connected to the cloud through anonymous, fragmentary contact is supposed to be the superhuman entity that gets smart.” This is the wiki approach.

“Wikipedians always act out the idea that the collective is closer to the truth and the individual voice is dispensable.”
Hive Mind...
Musical Statis and Mashups
“A digital image of an oil painting is forever a representation, not the real thing.”
“... online culture is fixated on the world as it was before the web was born.” There is a love of everything retro.

Where are the new, creative forms of expression that were supposed to be a result of all this interconnecteness?

“...the politically correct dogma that holds that open source is automatically the best path to creativity and innovation is not borne out by the facts.”
Failure of Open Source
What defines the music from that last 10 years?

What meaning lies in mashups? If you take bits from here and there and mash them together, have you created new meaning or simply destroyed the original meaning?

“Context has always been part of expression, becuase expression becomes meaningless if the context becomes arbitrary. ”
Computational neuroscientist Jim Bower suggests the way we think is based in the sense of smell

“Smells are not patterns of energy, like images or sounds.” Smell comes from molecules (bits) that “require input from other senses. Context is everything.”
The Smell Dictionary
“While language has become richer over time, it has never become absolutely precise.”
"...a new way of browsing that dispenses with the web’s rigid rules of presenting content..."

"...cast aside many then-predominant orthodoxies of web design..."

"We start with what we want people to feel and what we want them to do, and there’s a design that feeds into that..."
Is Pinterest an example of this?
“Already, gamers who play the online game Foldit have cracked the code of the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus, which has eluded scientists for years, and could lead to a new drug.” http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/09/what-can-135-million-video-gamers-add-to-our-collective-iq/

Gamers might even save
the world.
... or Collective IQ?
"...if Wikipedia suddenly disappeared, similar information would still be available for the most part, but in more contextualized forms, with more visibility for the authors and with a greater sense of style and presence."
Earlier this year, Taylor Swift's new album sold over a million copies in its first week - almost unheard of these days. According to Planet Money's Zoe Chase, Swift's "strategy for releasing this album was maybe the best ever." Limited outlets, full price only; singles were not released on Spotify
For 7,800 plays of their song 'Tugboat' over a three month period earlier this year, the three songwriter split a check from Pandora for $0.21

Band member Damon Krukowski “feels there are still fortunes being made in the music industry, but maybe by the wrong people.”

“Someone is making an enormous profit,” says Krukowski, “and it's not the musicians.”

Not Even Wall St. Is Immune
The financial crisis that started in 2008 has its roots in the same cloud-based, anti-humanist behaviors.

"In finance, the rise of computer-assisted hedge funds and similar operations has turned capitalism into a search engine."

And apparently, we didn't learn our lesson: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-06/million-dollar-traders-replaced-with-machines-credit-markets.html
Some Are Starting to Figure it Out
What is the value of intellectual property? If someone uses a “bit” from my blog, would it cost the same as a “bit” from George Siemens's blog?
Was the demise of the daily newspaper a flaw in the business model or a victim of the noosphere?
It's not simply the technology that makes learning online good. Lanier reminds us that “the printing presses in themselves provide no guarantee of an enlightened outcome. People, not machines, made the Renaissance.”

Can students and teachers create authentic social presence online?

“You have to be somebody before you can share yourself.”
Implications for Adult Learning
Credit: Nathan Jurgenson, social media theorist and a sociology graduate student at the University of Maryland
Digital Dualism
Is this the same man who said, “The value of a tool is its usefulness in accomplishing a task. The point should never be the glorification of the tool.” ???
Wait a minute…
Meet my friend Kathy
“A real friendship ought to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other… The idea of friendship in database-filtered social networks is certainly reduced from that.”
The Turing Test: “What the test really tells us,… is that machine intelligence can only be known in a relative sense, in the eyes of a human beholder.”

Deep Blue – Kasparov chess match: “In the wake of Deep Blue’s victory, the poker side of chess has been largely overshadowed by the abstract, algorithmic aspect…”
“We know a little about what Aztec or Inca music sounded like… but the bits that were trimmed to make the music fit into the European idea of church song were the most precious bits… Some melodies and rhythms survived, but the whole is lost.”
… and More Bits!
“The deep meaning of personhood is being reduced by illusions of bits.”

“…but the bits don’t mean anything with a cultured person to interpret them.”

“Information is alienated experience.”
Bits, Bits...
“The central mistake of recent digital culture is to chop up a network of individuals so finely that you end up with a mush. You then start to care about the abstraction of the network more than the real people who are networked, even though the network by itself is meaningless. Only the people were ever meaningful.”
PLN, with an extra shot of ‘N’
“The interesting question is whether it’s possible to map out where the one is smarter than the many.”

“There’s an odd lack of curiosity about the limits of crowd wisdom.”
Hive Mind...
“Emphasizing the crowd means deemphasizing individual humans… and when you ask people not to be people, they revert to bad moblike behavior

“…the user interface designs that arise from the ideology of the computing cloud make people – all of us – less kind.”
The noosphere is a collective brain, maybe even a collective consciousness, made up of everyone connected on the internet
Noosphere (Hive Mind)
"It is impossible to work with information technology without also engaging in social engineering. The most important thing to ask about any technology is how it changes people."
“self-reduction in order to create a profile on a social networking site”
Digital Reduction
“Authorship - the very idea of the individual point of view - is not a priority of the new ideology.”

Wikipedia: “knowledge of human authorship is suppressed in order to give the text superhuman validity. Traditional holy books work in precisely the same way and present many of the same problems.”
AI Examples
Lanier argues against the notion that quantity, at an extreme scale, will produce quality.

His response?
“classifying people into bubbles, so you meet your own kind”
“causal element, mediating contact between friends”
“information underrepresents reality”
Excerpted from a presentation by Henry Blodget, CEO of Business Insider. Full slide show at: http://www.businessinsider.com/future-of-digital-slides-2012-11#-1
Sourced from Google Images.
Sourced from Google Images.
Sourced from Google Images.
Sourced from Google Images.
Sourced from Google Images.
Sourced from Google Images.
Excerpted from a presentation by Jasmin Cheng, TwistImage. Full slide show at: http://www.slideshare.net/jasmincheng/the-creative-brief-a-research-project
Full transcript