In the early days of digital culture, Jaron Lanier helped craft a vision for the internet as public commons where humanity could share its knowledge — but even then, this vision was haunted by the dark side of how it could turn out: with personal devices that control our lives, monitor our data and feed us stimuli. (Sound familiar?) In this visionary talk, Lanier reflects on a “globally tragic, astoundingly ridiculous mistake” companies like Google and Facebook made at the foundation of digital culture — and how we can undo it. “We cannot have a society in which, if two people wish to communicate, the only way that can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them,” he says.

Jaron Lanier is a scientist, musician and writer best known for his work in virtual reality and his advocacy of humanism and sustainable economics in a digital context.
Why you should listen

Jaron Lanier is interested in the idea that virtual reality might help us notice the magic of ordinary reality and the idea that paying people for the data that is now taken from them might be the best path to a sustainable, dignified future economy.

Lanier’s 1980s start-up created the first commercial VR products and introduced avatars, multi-person virtual world experiences and prototypes of major VR applications such as surgical simulation. Lanier coined or popularized the terms “virtual reality” and “mixed reality.” He recently released a new book, Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. Both of his previous books, Who Owns the Future? and You Are Not a Gadget are international bestsellers. His most recent book (May 29, 2018) is entitled Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Lanier was a mainstay of the earliest TED conferences; he still thinks of TED as a charming little gathering.