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Information can't be free if the digital economy is to thrive, argues this stimulating jeremiad. Noting that the Internet is destroying more jobs than it creates, virtual reality pioneer and cyber-skeptic Lanier (You Are Not a Gadget) foresees a future when automation, robotics, 3-D printers, and computer networks will eliminate every industry from nursing and manufacturing to taxi-driving. The result, he contends, will be a dystopia of mass unemployment, insecurity, and social chaos in which information will be free but no one will be paid except the elite proprietors of the "siren servers"-Google, Facebook, Amazon, and the like-that manipulate our lives. Lanier's extrapolation of current trends to an economy where almost everyone will be judged redundant is incisive and scary. Unfortunately, his proposal for safe-guarding the middle class-micropayments for the supposedly valuable but currently free information that ordinary people feed into the Web, from consumer profiles and friending links-feels as unconvincing and desperate as the cyber-capitalist nostrums he derides. Lanier's main argument spawns fascinating digressions into Aristotle's politics, science-fiction themes, Silicon Valley spirituality, and other byways. Even if his recommended treatment seems inadequate, his diagnosis of our technological maladies is brilliant, troubling, and well worth the price. Agent: Max Brockman, Brockman Inc. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
The author, a computer scientist and digital-media pioneer, describes the negative effects on our economy (such as the recent recession and damaged middle class) by digital networks, defined as not only the Internet and the Web, but also other networks operated by outfits like financial institutions and intelligence agencies where the phenomenon of power and money becomes concentrated around the people who operate the most central computers in a network, undervaluing everyone else. Information is considered free, for example, free Internet services for consumers and data that financial-services firms collect and use without paying for it. The author's solution is a future in which people are paid for information gleaned from them if that information turns out to be valuable. Lanier describes a future in which most productivity will be driven by software and software could be the final industrial revolution. This is a challenging book about a future information economy that the author suggests does not need to be dominated by technology.--Whaley, Mary Copyright 2010 Booklist