The Visionary

A digital pioneer questions what technology has wrought.

Jennifer Kahn 

Jaron Lanier, at home with his daughter, believes that social-networking sites devalue friendship. Photograph by Martin Schoeller.

Jaron Lanier, at home with his daughter, believes that social-networking sites devalue friendship. Photograph by Martin Schoeller.

One day in June, Jaron Lanier was lounging barefoot in the living room of his house in the Berkeley hills. Stretching back on a worn sofa, he began musing about the connection between Representative Anthony Weiner’s tweeting of lewd photos and Facebook’s controversial deployment of facial-recognition software, which automatically scans uploaded photos and identifies a user’s friends.

To Lanier, a computer scientist and author, the common thread is that the Internet in general—and social networking in particular—has become difficult for the ordinary person to use with any security. “I’ve really been struck that a lot of people have said, ‘Why would powerful men risk so much for some sexual adventure?’ ” Lanier said. “But risk can be very sexual.” He briefly considered the possibility of two alternate Internets: one in which everything was viewable by anybody, and one in which users had absolute control over their private information. In neither case, Lanier said, would Weiner have sent his illicit snapshots. “What makes it erotic is the risk,” Lanier speculated. “If you had either perfect competence or no need for competence, because everything was a hundred per cent transparent, there would be no risk. So, in a way, the whole erotic risk factor of the Internet is being able to use it but not very well.”

Read More>>

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: