Although I had devoured three other of Lanier’s books, I originally wasn’t going to get this one, because I’m not terribly interested in virtual reality. But having read a sample of the personal memoir section (it alternates between memoir and general VR discussion), I was hooked enough to make the purchase. Lanier seems remarkably un-self-conscious about what an extraordinary upbringing he had. As a young teen, he was allowed by his single parent father to DESIGN their house. Which they then BUILT. And LIVED IN – I think his father was there till his old age. You have to see the picture and read the descriptions of this structure. Moving on, Lanier also downplays what an extraordinary polymath he is; his young adult years are full of wonder and interest in almost everything life throws his way. What an extraordinary individual! Alas, I’m still not very interested in virtual reality; and he dwells an awful lot on the his company in the 80s, the people and the physical surroundings, which really don’t make as good a read as the multi-dome structure in the middle of the desert designed and built by a lunatic teenager. The appendices trod over territory familiar to those who’ve read his other books, but serve as excellent summaries of his positions on AI and social media, which endear him to me.
I won’t try to summarize why you should delete your social media accounts right now; I’ve done so elsewhere, and it was the inspiration for me starting this paid-for blog. But as for AI, and the singularity, and how AI is going to get smart and kill us all, I’d like to bring up an old joke: Son of Sam was crazy. Son of Sam was crazy because he said he killed people because his dog told him to. A sane person knows, if your dog tells you to kill people, you say: “NO! BAD DOG!”
So, if AI programs start trying to kill us? We say, “NO! BAD PROGRAM!”
I think that sums up his take.