Pi Attitude Zone: Connectivity & Drive

Facebook Friends And Other Enemies

Not everyone sees Facebook as the world’s best and biggest propagator of friendship.  Some who don’t are among the giants of the computer world. 

One such is beefy, dreadlocked Jaron Lanier, computer-science guru and writer who has worked since 2006 as an emeritus consultant to Microsoft, helping devise virtual worlds and tools for navigating them.  Previously he worked on early electronic-glove-driven video games, and pioneered face-recognition technology.  He took time out to advise on the script for Minority Report, Steven Spielberg’s movie about a dystopian future.  The man is a card-carrying computer visionary.

In a profile of him by Jennifer Kahn, writing in The New Yorker, Lanier voiced curiously downbeat views on social media in general, and Facebook in particular.  “Teenagers”, he observed, “may vigilantly maintain their online reputations, but they do so driven more by fear than love”.  They create “ a fakey-fakey social life... like what happened in communist countries where people had a fake social life that the Stasi (secret police) could see, and then this underground lifeIt’s... as if we’ve sworn allegiance to a dwarf world”. 

In his book You are not a Gadget: A Manifesto, Lanier described Twitter and Facebook as dehumanizing, and designed to encourage only shallow interactions.  Advertisers love them, of course, since picking up on consumers’ shallow interactions is just great for triggering product sales.

Ms. Kahn’s profile of this interesting counter-culturist reveals what Jaron Lanier finds most bothersome about Facebook.  And it’s exactly what appeals to most people: the way it mediates and filters social contact, and creates a buffer zone between the real person and other people who might be *erk* judgmental *OMG!* of that person.  Prof. Andy van Dam of Brown University points out that “We use technology this way all the time, to create a layer of insulation.  We send an e-mail so we don’t have to call someone on the phone.  Or we call someone so we don’t have to go over to their house”.

Is internet socializing as real as real communication, then?  Lanier thinks that the purpose of digital technology is to enrich human interaction, and that it should “expand what it means to think”.  He once spoke at an interactive conference in Austin TX, and started by asking the audience not to blog, text or tweet until after he was done talking.  “If you listen first and write later”, he explained, “whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and You Will Be In What You Say.  This is what makes you exist.  If you are only a reflector of information, are you really there?

Pi says:  please think about that before you blog, text or tweet this to anyone else...

Zone: Connectivity & Drive Country: USA / North America Product – Communications