David Mytton

Book Review (4/5) – Who Owns The Future? (Jaron Lanier)

Published (updated: ) in Book Reviews.

Originally published on Goodreads.

Although somewhat rambling in places, it is interesting to read Lanier predict pretty much exactly what happened in the years following its release. It was good to get into some real depth about what the problems are, and how we got there.

My biggest issue is that the solution proposed is too radical. I definitely agree that the most effective way to address the issue of ownership of data is to get into the economics of incentives. Really, everything ultimately comes down to what incentives are at play. But the solution as proposed by Lanier requires such major changes to the way the industry works that I can’t see how it could ever be implemented.

If we were starting from the beginning with complete hindsight of what we know today, then sure, this is how we might want to go about implementing the mechanisms for compensation for data / code usage. It’s just that as of today, there is zero incentive for those with power (Google, Facebook, etc) to implement this. Even though it will supposedly benefit them in the future, why would they want to give up something which appears to be working for them today.

So this means the book is essentially an academic discussion of how we might have solved the problem if we could rewrite everything from scratch. It’s the classic engineer’s solution. Unfortunately, it fails to address the biggest challenge of all – we already have decades of the current system and can only hope to change it through iteration, not revolution.