Jaron Lanier, tech geek and pioneer of the web as we know it, talks to John Naughton about our “open culture” and its drawbacks. He’s much less of an optimist nowadays:
JN: Is this partly about ageing – that we’re getting older, that we’ve been around a long time?
JL: It might be. In fact, I’m sure it is. Becoming a parent changed my perspective because I realised with my daughter that I have to think about the society in which she will grow up and that if she’s growing up in a society that’s hollowed out – that doesn’t have a middle class any more – she’ll live in a much less comfortable world than I would wish for her.
Another factor for me was just watching what happened to the lives of flesh-and-blood musicians under the open culture regime. Also writers and photographers that I knew. I was one of the people who made up the give-away-your-music thing. The other day, a young editor was reciting to me the spiel about how you give away your music and then you get gigs and it’s actually better and you’re free from the tyranny of the labels and I was thinking: “You don’t understand: I made that up; that’s my old spiel.” It’s so strange to me to hear that stuff coming back at me.