2014 Keynote Address

 Jaron Lanier, photo by Lena Lanier, courtesy of Steven Barclay Agency

2014 Western Arts Alliance Keynote Speaker

Jaron Lanier

Tuesday, September 2 from 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave @ Seneca St

Who Owns the Future?

If technology didn’t keep on getting better, mankind wouldn’t have the latitude to become more ethical.  In just the last century or two, lower infant mortality and longer lives have given us the room to think about lovely things like universal human rights.  But technology can be designed in many ways, and some of those designs can screw up our best intentions.  The way we’ve create digital businesses lately, along the lines of what’s called the “sharing economy,” has turned out wrong.  Despite the best of intentions, we’ve created what might better be called a “surveillance economy” that gradually concentrates wealth and power and undermines middle classes and democracy.  We can and must design our technologies better.

Scientist, Musician, Visual Artist & Author

A Renaissance Man for the 21st century, Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, artist, and author who writes on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the social impact of technology, the philosophy of consciousness and information, Internet politics, and the future of humanism. In 2010, Lanier was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. He has also been named one of top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines, and one of history’s 300 or so greatest inventors in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In 2009 Jaron Lanier received a Lifetime Career Award from the IEEE, the preeminent international engineering society. A pioneer in virtual reality (a term he coined), Lanier founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products, and led teams creating VR applications for medicine, design, and numerous other fields. He is currently a computer scientist at Microsoft Research. In January 2010, Knopf published Lanier’s book You Are Not a Gadget, A Manifesto, which became a New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe bestseller. You Are Not a Gadget was chosen as one of the best books of the year by Time Magazine and The New York Times, among others.

According to Zadie Smith, in The New York Review of Books, “Lanier is not of my generation, but he knows and understands us well, and has written a short and frightening book, You Are Not a Gadget, which chimes with my own discomfort, while coming from a position of real knowledge and insight, both practical and philosophical.” Michiko Kakutani, writing in The New York Times Jaron Lanier called Lanier’s book “Lucid, powerful and persuasive. . . . Necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace.” Jaron Lanier’s second book, Who Owns the Future? was on the Amazon 2013 Best Books of the Year list. It was also awarded the 2014 Goldsmith Book Prize.

Jaron Lanier is also a musician and artist. He has been active in the world of new “classical” music since the late ‘70s, and writes chamber and orchestral works. He is a pianist and a specialist in unusual and historical musical instruments, and maintains one of the largest and most varied collections of actively played instruments in the world. Recent works include a symphony with full choral settings about William Shakespeare’s contemporary and friend Amelia Lanier, commissioned for the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. He has performed with a wide range of musicians, including Philip Glass, Yoko Ono, Ornette Coleman, George Clinton, and Steve Reich. He composes and performs frequently on film soundtracks. Credits include composer on Sean Penn’s 2010 documentary, The Third Wave, and principle instrumental performer for Richard Horowitz’s score for Three Seasons (1999), which won both the Audience and Grand Jury awards at Sundance. Lanier’s paintings and drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and Europe.

Part of the Opening Plenary Session