Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Q & A on Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns the Future?"

I spent the last week in Seattle, visiting my college roommate and good friend Bill Carleton (@Wac6 on Twitter). Bill is a lawyer with expertise in securities and intellectual property law, and lots of experience with start ups.

Bill Carleton
Over cigars and scotch, we had a long discussion/debate over the NSA revelations, which then morphed into a discussion of how private companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook are amassing big data on all of us as well. Bill referred me to the work of Jaron Lanier, a technologist and author of You Are Not a Gadget. He also gave me his copy of Who Owns the Future?, which I read.

Lanier's argument, as I see it, is essentially this: these companies seduce the user with the lure of "free" services, and then mine all of us for valuable data. Lanier refers to these as "Siren Servers." The information we voluntarily cede has value, which those companies then convert into profits. But we users are never compensated for that valuable data. Lanier proposes a new model, which would acknowledge the monetary value that data has, so that each time we surrender such data, we receive a "nanopayment" to reflect that value.

Our resulting discussions led to this Q & A, which Bill has posted on his blog, William Carelton, Counselor @ Law.

I intend to expand on these preliminary thoughts on MOOCs in a future post here, but for now, this gives some sense of where I'm heading.

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