Will Google and Facebook Destroy the Middle Class?

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Jaron Lanier is one of the most interesting minds you’re ever likely to come across – flat out.

He’s off the charts smart. He’s articulate. He’s a polymath, a computer science guru, and he’s a man with seriously unconventional hair, as this New Yorker profile from 2011 shows.


And he’s worried the Internet, as it works today, could gut the middle class.

Who is he to make such predictions? Well, Jaron helped create virtual reality in the 1980s and 1990s and he’s still active in any number of high-tech ventures, including a part-time role as a research scientist at Microsoft. He’s advised governments and helped launch successful start-ups.

And, yet, Jaron has become the most authoritative critic of the today’s technologist culture and Internet business models. He fears the current architecture of digital networks will leave the middle class poorer, despite promises to the contrary.

I first met Jaron after his first book, “You Are Not A Gadget,” came out. In it, he offered his early thinking on the Internet and what’s wrong with where it was headed. I had him on when I guest hosted on MSNBC and he also appeared once on “Left Right & Center” to talk tech news. His new book, “Who Owns The Future,” is a brilliant critique of today’s emerging internet economy, and offers Jaron’s vision of a “humanistic information economy” that could capture the benefits of this wondrous digital world while at the same time preserving an economy in which human dignity – and middle class incomes – flourish.

You won’t get more outside the box than Jaron Lanier – but that’s exactly where we must go to find out how to cope with what’s coming. He’ll be the first to admit that his vision isn’t fully formed, but he’s trying to spark a national and global conversation. I hope you’ll find him as fascinating, provocative, and important as I find him.   



Matt Miller