Technophobia, Luddism and techno-scepticism are topics close to my heart. I have heard about Jaron Nanier’s You Are Not a Gadget, but I have not read it yet. That is why I want to point people towards this excellent review by the Technology Liberation Front (one of my new favourites). As I have not read the book yet, I can only recommend the review. I found this particularly relevant to some topics that interest me:

“Lanier is refocusing the inquiry (about the Net’s impact on society & culture) around the question of whether it has bettered the lot of the individual human being, not the group. What he laments is that the early cyberspace dream was supposedly guided by “a sweet faith in human nature,” but this “has been superseded by a different faith in the centrality of imaginary entities epitomized by the idea that the Internet as a whole is coming alive and turning into a superhuman creature.” (p. 14)  Referring to these folks as “digital Maoists,” Lanier argues that this movement “starts to look like a religion rather quickly”:

The Singularity and the noosphere, the idea that a collective consciousness emerge from all the users on the web, echo Marxist social determinism and Freud’s calculus of perversions. We rush ahead of skeptical, scientific inquiry at our peril, just like the Marxists and Freudians. (p. 18)

I too have grown tired of such quixotic techno-utopianism and those Internet pollyannas who sound like they long for the Singularity, global cybernetic consciousness, and life in The Matrix. (Kevin Kelly, I’m looking at you!) But I think Lanier casts this critical net far too wide by suggesting that this thinking has become the dominant mindset among modern digerati. While I agree it has caught on in some circles, I think plenty of others have called out this kookiness or refused to embrace it as a enthusiastically as Lanier suggests.”

Very good! I am also highly sceptical of the Singularity. However, according to the review, there are many other areas where Lanier’s book seems to be siding with the techno-sceptics perhaps too much. In other words, it seems like a typical contrarian book.

I have now ordered it, expect a full review in the future.



Andrew Ducker · February 17, 2010 at 3:48 am

I've seen snippets of the book floating about and it just looks like a grumpy man grumbling that the internet didn't turn out how he wanted it to.

On a related note, _a_ singularity seems inevitable to me – unless civilisation crashes instead. I can't really see any other options outside of those two. I don't see it as necessarily being a good thing though.


Amelia Andersdotter · March 16, 2011 at 8:45 am

But but but… Singularity! It is when we are all one, like the Conjoiners of Alastair Reynolds. I simply cannot not wish for this to happen. The Conjoiners are possibly the best thing that's happened to Space Opera ever. Isaac Asimov – go away!

I'd sign up in a second.

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