Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jaron Lanier and "digital Maoism"

JARON LANIER - Photo by Robert Holmgren for Smithsonian Magazine January 2013


Internet visionary and guru, Jaron Lanier, was central to the early development of the faster, more capable Web 2.0, which enlivened the World Wide Web and made possible the eventual virtual interconnection of everyone to everything ... instantly. 

But Lanier, who is sought after worldwide as a lecturer, high octane teacher and consultant, has now become a "defector." He is severe critic of the dangers of burgeoning social media like Facebook, Twitter and similar instant sharing enablers which he labels as "spy agencies."

These addictive apps encourage the propagation of every thought, photo, video or whim from people who blithely post and forward potentially damaging personal information which is then mined and sold to be marketed, stored and available for eons in the social media "Cloud."

All this has developed what Lanier now calls "the hive mind" which he warns will become a "social catastrophe." After reading a recent interview of Lanier in Smithsonian Magazine* and discussing it with friends, a few thoughts have come to me.

We have, in fact, already watched the development of Lanier's "hive mind" in the last two years or so as malcontent, poorly informed, angry, non-intellectually curious, and fearful "wanna-bees" have been fed the nectar of nonsense, nonstop. 

Energizing but artificially sweet flowers, trees and grasses were quietly planted and brought to bloom by the billionaire Koch brothers whose well paid worker bees then spread out to do intricate cyber-bee dances across America to  waiting wanna-bee colonies.

The wanna-bee hives are uniformly narrow, have a reddish tinge and are easy to identify. The messenger bees did their wireless waggle dance to indicate the direction and amount of Koch nonsense nectar to all the narrow interconnected, and like-thinking wanna-bee hives. 

Once all fattened on the free Koch nonsense-nectar, the wanna-bees didn't even notice as the Koch smoke was also slowly being blown up their apian arses.

In an astonishingly short period of time the idealistic and ignorant worker wanna-bees were stocking their hives and providing their queen wanna-bees not only with nonsense-nectar but with their discovery of a the new artificially sweetened, free wireless high speed connections to the buzz from all the other hives. 

All this nourishment and new social interconnection was courtesy of the calculating Koch brothers, though few of the wanna-bees had ever heard of them. Now all queen bees could coordinate the coming swarms across their states. And when the swarms began with the wanna-bees adopting, curiously, tea bags as their rallying symbol, the nation's TV camera crews swarmed after them.

Now, it seemed, the wanna-bees for the first time in their lives were able to buzz and be heard far and wide. Some of them were actually able to deliver an occasional sting from their normally vestigial stingers. It had cost the Koch brothers  hundreds of millions of dollars but they had finally started the swarm they had long dreamed of right from their own exclusive titan hive of contrarian apians.

The vast social networking interconnections among the wanna-bees soon became a threat to the balance of the long standing nectar chain feeding the head hive located inside the unmistakable huge marble dome up near the Potomac river.

The "hive mind" had been born. Now everyone could potentially have their own bully pulpit. It was easy and empowering to rant, obfuscate, delay, confuse and frustrate others with a flap of a wing ... or the click of a mouse key. The sense of order and government as we had always know it, was already being threatened by an early form of Lanier's feared "digital Maoism."

And the cranky Koch creation was abuzz with a large hive of wanna-bees already gnawing off tiny pieces of the Constitution, laboring busily, using their bitter saliva to glue those pieces together so to form their own huge, narrow mega-hive up near the Potomac.

But the central life-giving nonsense nectar source would slowly become harder and harder to find as the seasons changed. The bright blooms covering the Koch brothers' groves and meadows seemed to disappear as quickly as they had appeared. Nonsense-nectar, it seems, almost always comes only from annuals not perennials.

However, wanna-bees will now still always be able to find something or someone to feed them, but perhaps not quite  as bountifully. At least it is much easier to find and share their beloved nonsense-nectar with established wanna-bee hives which are now all interconnected and abuzz, all in a twitter, day and night.

Some of the queen wanna-bees are already laying eggs double time in preparation for another planned mega swarm just two years from now.

The coming "social catastrophe" Lanier describes already seems to be faintly visible through that seemingly innocent, sweet smoke.


*READ Smithsonian Magazine interview



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