I've read - skipping about from end to middle to beginning- about a quarter of the new Jaron Lanier book, "Who Owns the Future," and thought I would share a few initial impressions.
The work is like a thought collage. Units of two or three pages of text raise a concept, double back on the verbal logic of an arresting metaphor, then recede quickly to give way to another unit that might be framed around another industry.
But that other industry will be framed in a consistent metaphor. For example, money, throughout its history and at all times, has been a means of information exchange and thus essentially a kind of information technology. (That leap is a bridge too far for me. More productively provocative is his simple juxtaposition of Instagram as the digital economy's replacement for Eastman Kodak - I can't help but doubt the comparison is fair, but it does challenge you and reset some assumptions.)
Jacob Silverman has suggested that the organization of the book is over-determined. Silverman calls out in particular the length and complexity of the table of contents. I wonder though if Lanier isn't subverting the tropes of better business and self-help books, which use unnecessary headers and insets as though conceding that the intended readership has neither the attention span nor analytic reach to actually read a narrative.
Perhaps Lanier's table of contents, and indices at the end of his book, should be thought of as after-the-fact hyperlinks, or a kind of browser history log that needs to be granular enough to be useful when you are possessed to retrace a step, to revisit a paragraph that might have germinated in your subconscious since first encounter.
Lanier is reaching for a literary code, but making due for the most part with a discursive, personal voice. Some of the units seem like exercises whereby Lanier justifies to himself the extent and limits of his critique. (He seems to so much value identification with Silicon Valley, that all targets of his critique must be identified by that metaphor, too. Even Amazon is part of Lanier's Silicon Valley, though I am fairly confident that Amazon is about a half mile from the downtown Seattle window I am looking from as I type this. It is taking a surprisingly long time for Amazon's geography to be absorbed in the culture.)
It's a provocative work. Hope to have time this week to read the rest. The subject could not be more momentous.
The picture is borrowed - for the editorial purposes of this non-commercial review - from this site, which I think is picking it up from a third site.