Jaron Lanier’s new book WHO OWNS THE FUTURE? is a horror story for anyone who doesn’t have control of the world’s computer servers. About a month ago I asked my friend Kevin, “What will happen when computers can program computers and robots can program robots?” This is the point when humans become unnecessary. “Will we become experiencers?”
Jaron Lanier addresses these questions in Who Owns the Future? He sees the bottom of the market for everything falling out quickly just as it did for musicians in the internet age. Self-driving cars and semis will be better and safer than human-driven vehicles. Robotic doctors and nurses will have steadier hands and fewer human failings. We already see databases of law rulings replacing leagues of junior attorneys whose job it was to rifle through reams of case law. And there are schools where the kids watch Khan’s Academy videos under the guidance of teachers—but how much longer will there need to be a teacher at all?
How do we stay relevant? Kevin and I talked about going into fields where computers cannot compete…such as poetry. (Okay! Maybe not.) Lanier mentions crafting musical instruments, raising food on small farms, and other things to which a human touch adds value. Perhaps religion will find its voice again, because a religious entity can still push back against a corporate power who sees only numbers and not the human heart.