Dreadlocked Futurist Jaron Lanier Thinks Facebook and Google Should Pay Us for Our Private Information


Jaron Lanier (pictured above) is a 250+ pound ‘mossy’ futurist who is responsible for huge breakthroughs in virtual reality, and is currently building a ‘lighter-than-air railgun to launch spacecraft’ with Microsoft Research. He is also deeply, deeply disillusioned with the Silicon Valley elite, and his most recent book, “Who Owns the Future?” compares tech giants with Wall Street, according to the New York Times.

His main beef is with the ‘mining’ of personal data and free content. He believes that the Facebooks and Googles of the world — the ‘Siren Servers’ — should compensate (in some form) the millions of consumers whose privacy they impinge on and whose profiles they own.

It’s certainly contrarian — like any good economic philosophy — but overall not all that different from recent critiques of tech giants for being near-monopolistic. He also draws intriguing parallels to the present “Occupy Wall Street” complaints and the shrinking middle class, explaining that data is essentially becoming devalued as more and more of it is concentrated in the hands of the elite. Unfortunately, the system is not even sustainable for the elites, since they rely on a strong middle class to continue sharing and providing data.

Ain’t no one wanna share in a depression, evidently.

In a TechCrunch interview, Lanier’s advice for entrepreneurs — having previously sold companies to Google, Adobe and Oracle — is to “make your customers rich,” noting that the “informal economy [Facebook providing us informal photo benefits, etc.] is what the third world is trying to get out of.”

Lanier’s a jolly guy and a compulsively readable — and watchable — writer, but it’s a little hard to really penetrate some of his more esoteric theories. If anyone out there has a startup — big data in particular — which aims to make their customers wealthy, I will certainly be the first to write about it.

Let us know your opinions in the comments section.