Tech guru says Internet destroying middle class

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Jaron Lanier isn't a Luddite. He can't be dismissed as a crackpot, whiner critic who is jealous of the success of others. He virtually invented virtual reality; he was a tech guru when most of today's tech titans were still in diapers. So when he says that the Internet is destroying the middle class, maybe everyone ought to stop for a second and listen.

Okay, as I've said before: The Internet didn't destroy San Francisco. Technology is a tool; it can be used in good ways and bad ways, and its impacts on society, particularly on the poor, can be mitigated by government action (or greatly worsened by inaction).

But Lanier is concerned that the business boom that has been created by high tech has made social inequality worse and is wiping out the middle class that is so essential to a stable country. He talks about how Kodak had 140,000 workers, many of them middle class, and Instagram has 13:

You have this intense concentration of the formal benefits, and that winner-take-all feeling is not just for the people who are on the computers but also from the people who are using them. So there’s this tiny token number of people who will get by from using YouTube or Kickstarter, and everybody else lives on hope. There’s not a middle-class hump. It’s an all-or-nothing society.

More important, the youth-driven culture of the current economic boom ignores that fact that some people are old, and have families, and get sick and disabled, and need a kind of stability that our current march of "disruptive" capitalism is destroying:

We don’t realize that our society and our democracy ultimately rest on the stability of middle-class jobs. When I talk to libertarians and socialists, they have this weird belief that everybody’s this abstract robot that won’t ever get sick or have kids or get old. It’s like everybody’s this eternal freelancer who can afford downtime and can self-fund until they find their magic moment or something.

And Lanier IS a guy who can afford downtime and self-fund. But he's also 53, and has a little more perspective on life. He recognizes that the middle class has always had, and needs, some sort of public-sector support, whether it's through tax policy or education or job creation, particularly in unstable economic times. It's fine for capitalism to be disruptive -- as long as there's a safety net to make sure that all the people disrupted out of their livelihoods aren't disrupted out of their homes.

Young people, Googlers, Facebookians, Twitterati: Maybe you should listen to your elders.

Comments

You imposed that on his "thinking".

And in fact if SF's middle class is smaller only because more of us are now millionaires, then where is the basis of your argument?

Would it be better to live in some godforskaen midwestern rust-bely disaster metropolis like Detroit? You think?

Except that they wouldn't tolerate someone like you there even for a minute.

Posted by Guest on May. 14, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

sf has gotten too expensive for anyone who's not an a millionaire. it's not as if everyone in sf got rich. they moved and rich folks moved in.

i don't agree with lanier but what actually happening is rich people are forcing everyone else to live in squalor since that's the only place that's affordable (due to the policies of the rich). high tech didn't create detroit. the banks and wall st/corp greed did that.

lanier falls into the same BS that we've "always" had this mythical middle class. the real truth that the middle class had maybe a 40 yr run (post ww-2 to reagan)...after that it was back to the plutocrats stealing everything not nailed down, freeing the banks up to run rampant creating boom-and-bust bubble cycles that always create havoc for the rest of us.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

Why is it that the trolls are so quick to blame the struggling middle-class (like public workers) and never the wealthy, the banks, or Wall Street? That said, it's not just the plutocrats who are taking us down. What about the sell-outs who jump on their bandwagon -- so-called "progressives" like Obama or Jeff Adachi (the enablers of the plutocrats' neoliberal agenda). If the middle class is going down, they're just as responsible, and we need to call them out.

Posted by Unapologetic Public Worker on May. 16, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

the democratic party are not progressives and the only difference between the neo-cons and neo-libs is one wears an iron fist and the other a the velvet glove. they're both imperial dogs working for every weapons producer to protect the global assets of the rich. but even that is no longer entirely true. obama's "drone/assassinate us citizens" makes him one of the biggest (war) criminals in this nation's history. the dems's are total sell-outs and a huge disappointment to the progressive movement but they're still a million times better than romney or mccain or anyone in the gop. unfortunately for the progressives is that the cons are so bat-s**t crazy, that there's no other options. if the gop want to get back in power they need to move back to the center so people like me, who would normally vote far-left as a message to the dems) will now hold my nose and vote for the dems because the rw have turned into the retard party.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

Because they are paid by the rich to troll, companies seem to also do this, paying people to PR their agenda all over the net.

Posted by Kiljoy616 on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

I do it only for the sport.

Posted by anon on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement. As shown in the diagram, what you post on a regular basis can be hardly considered refutations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Graham%27s_Hierarchy_of_Disagreement1...

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 2:03 pm
Posted by anon on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

>"He talks about how Kodak had 140,000 workers, many of them middle class, and Instagram has 13:"

So lets see...with the Kodak model you had to buy film, you had a limited amount of exposures and you couldn't see your pictures until you paid more money and waited hours.

Now you get virtually unlimited exposures at no incremental cost and you can see them within seconds, as can Grandma on the other side of the world.

Sorry, 140,000 Kodak workers but that is a lot to ask the rest of us to turn down so that you can keep you old job.

Plus the comparison is absurd. Kodak was a big manufacturer of film and cameras, why would you just compare it to one mobile app, owned by Facebook.

Posted by Troll on May. 14, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

GREAT POINTS.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2013 @ 12:48 am
Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

140,000 jobs versus a drop off in middle class jobs, largely due to the tech industry boom. Even the Keystone XL, which is being heavily promoted for the jobs it would (supposedly) create won't create that many jobs. But if the pipeline goes through, the excelleration in climate change would be an unmitigated environmental disaster. But if Kodak had been quicker to transition to digital photography, it would still be a viable company. And those jobs would still be around -- not to mention, a saner approach to job creation and safeguarding the environment for future generations.

Posted by Guest on May. 16, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

I agree up to a point, the issue is this, as we progress we need people only for peasant jobs. Its the reality of life, just like democracy is not the norm so is middle class not the norm.
Reason religion exist, to give hope to the masses of peasants about a glorious future after death which has no rich people in it.

There is power and then there is peasantry and basically nothing else, except maybe armed thugs controlling the peasants.

Posted by Kiljoy616 on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 12:24 pm

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/boilermakers.htm

Can't even credit the glib nobody as a facile-minded techie, since it's just a troll. Not interested in the troll's discourse on photography either.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 15, 2013 @ 1:32 am

It's an outrage that there used be a million blacksmiths in the US and now there are hardly any.

Posted by anon on May. 15, 2013 @ 6:41 am

Come and visit my buggy-whip factory in SOMA! All May we're giving away free tubs of molasses with every purchase!

Posted by Chromefields on May. 15, 2013 @ 7:21 am

White man in dreadlocks. Ignore.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2013 @ 9:44 am

This troll is a perfect window onto the soul of reactionary fugheads.

Posted by lillipublicans on May. 15, 2013 @ 11:38 am

I've also worked in tech for many years. Trust me. Ignoring the white guy in dreads will save you lots of time.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

you have worked in tech for many years because......

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 4:47 pm
Posted by anon on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

posed to "Guest"? This is the second time today you have done this.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 30, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

The anonymous one?

Posted by anon on Jul. 01, 2013 @ 6:00 am

It wasn't just in the internet, but the computer, the printer, the copier, the TV, the car, the plane, the ATM and the list goes on.

Posted by Garrett on May. 15, 2013 @ 11:02 am

I don't agree, I work in web production and I am middle class...my company has a ton of employees who both work for a website and support our stores/ digital in store.

Posted by Guest on May. 15, 2013 @ 11:40 am

Car accident is a very common now a day and also it is a great problem. When someone buying a car in loan and accident happens to the same car then there will be a loss to the loan provider. While purchasing a car the car provider providing us insurance this helps the person who faced accident to get some money for treatment and to repair the car also. Car are luxurious in look and also the color and parts of a car are very expensive .To protect a car from the sun ray and the chemical dust we should cover our car. Covering a car totally means to protect the vehicle from many dust, from scratches also. So better cover our vehicle. You have this intense concentration of the formal benefits, and that winner-take-all feeling is not just for the people who are on the computers but also from the people who are using them. So there’s this tiny token number of people who will get by from using YouTube or Kickstarter, and everybody else lives on hope. There’s not a middle-class hump. It’s an all-or-nothing society.You should take care about your car properly.
Mercedes Service West Los Angeles

Posted by Belin on Jun. 01, 2013 @ 1:26 am

You have this intense concentration of the formal benefits, and that winner-take-all feeling is not just for the people who are on the computers but also from the people who are using them. So there’s this tiny token number of people who will get by from using YouTube or Kickstarter, and everybody else lives on hope.
website

Posted by website on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 12:33 am

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