You Are Not a Gadget is a book written by an American computer scientist named Jaron Lanier. It is a thought provoking commentary on the digital world and what kinds of things it has done to us—and in effect, what kinds of things we have done to the digital world.
In his book, Lanier describes the internet as a type of paradise, a kind of intellectual library that has no limits. In his view, the web is a place that gives people the chance to read and learn about anything they feel like learning about, and it also gives us a place to talk about how we feel and what we do in our daily lives. In essence, Lanier says that the digital world should be a place where people can connect and learn new information in an endless stream.
But soon, Lanier’s words shift from the peaceful cadence of a wonderful digital world of peace to a harder, more accusing tone. He says that people can’t make anything truly like the paradise he describes, and this is because he believes that people have a kind of tunnel-vision, and they are taking the internet away from its original purpose and turning it into something close minded and locked. In other words, the internet is no longer for the simple purpose of learning new information, but now it has a purpose based on harder principles. He laments about Wikipedia and Linux, saying that open content and source are rare. Because of anonymity, and the introduction of Facebook and other websites like it, the internet has fallen into nothing more than a mind scheme.
Lanier says that because of the internet, people the days don’t have it in them to go out into the world. They stay locked in their rooms breathing in the internet and becoming more and more at a loss with society, trading real relationships for cold digital ones. He says that the way it is now, people are locked in a frozen world, unchanging and no longer progressing. Lanier attempts to apologize for helping to create this digital space, and laments that it was a mistake.
He says that we must have a balance with this digital world and the real one. We have to get out of the funk online surfing delves into us, and in the end, show that we are not mindless machines, but living, breathing beings, humans with minds.