Notes on Jaron Lanier

My Jaron Lanier interview is now live at Pajamas Media. It's worth listening to for Lanier's memorable description of Alan Turing's suicide. The conversation is classic Lanier -- sometimes brilliant, occasionally annoying or elusive, always provocative.

I met Jaron for lunch at the Jupiter in downtown Berkeley. Spikey, thin skinned, unusually thoughtful, he's the best that Silicon Valley has to offer in terms of generating original and independent ideas. His recent Digital Maoism piece is a classic. I wish he would turn it into a book length critique of Wikipedia and the unwise digital crowd.

What distinguishes Lanier from other technology intellectuals, like Lawrence Lessig, is his refreshing absence of priggishness. In spite of being a founder of the idea of virtual reality, Lanier seems ambivalent (and a little bored) by the Web 2.0 revolution. While he is an adviser to Second Life and is excited by advances in virtual reality technology in the medical field, there is nothing messianic about his thinking.

My hope is that Lanier begins to play a more visible intellectual role in contemporary Silicon Valley. There's a desperate need for grown-up technologists like him to balance the silliness of the Web 2.0 fanatics.