Who Owns the Future?
The short answer to the question posed in the title of Jaron Lanier’s latest take on the digital dispensation is “siren servers”: an infelicitous new term that basically just means the powers at the top of the information economy food chain. Despite the difficult and unnecessary terminology he invents (he even has “antenimbosia” for computing “before the cloud”), Lanier has a pretty direct and easy-to-follow take on where things are heading and steps we might take to create a new, more sustainable economic model based on a strong middle class and long-term planning (for his earlier manifesto on the crisis, see my review of You Are Not a Gadget). In short, Lanier’s solution is that information should not be free but rather monetized through a system of micropayments to its creators. Such a program probably won’t be acted on, as power elites (siren servers or whatever) usually prefer to go down in flames rather than surrender any part of their privilege, but it’s an interesting alternative that highlights much that is wrong with the present system as well as the likely roots of its eventual and inevitable demise.