Jaron Lanier

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One World science

Jaron Lanier’s [Virtual] Voyages through Society

Jaron Lanier declares that “Consciousness is more fundamental than form,” but when Deepak asks Lanier if he perceives himself as a consciousness, his reply is ambiguous. Regardless of how Lanier perceives himself, he has undeniably contributed to the expansion of human consciousness. In this episode of Deepak Chopra’s One World, we are granted an intimate audience with this technological visionary of our time. Jaron Lanier is an internationally best-selling author, an active participant in the world of new classical music, and a pioneer in the field of virtual reality. Jaron Lanier has been listed on Time’s list of the 100 most influential people, cited by Foreign Policy Magazine as one of the top 100 public intellectuals, and identified as one of the top 50 World Thinkers by Prospect Magazine.

When asked by Deepak what it is he wants, Lanier replied that “Paying attention to what one wants often is a losing game, I’ve just been trying to move into things that come naturally.” Such a philosophy can account for the versatility and innovation on display throughout his career. As a teenager who managed to enroll in graduate level courses at New Mexico State University, he received a grant from the National Science Foundation. This grant began as a means for him to study mathematical notation, but eventually led him towards computer programming, and work on educational digital simulations. During a stint at Atari in the 80s, he met Thomas Zimmerman, inventor of the data glove, and together the two of them went on to form VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. During the 80s, Lanier was the actually the one to popularize the term “virtual reality.”

Today he is one of the world’s leading technology writers, and describes to Deepak how involved he is in the politics of the technological world, as he is known for his humanistic admonitions concerning society’s advancements. The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani included Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget on her ten best books of the year list in 2010, and Joe Nocera called Who Owns The Future? the most important book of 2013. The latter book was also the recipient of Harvard’s Goldsmith Book Prize in 2014, and that same year he also won the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Lanier is also a pianist and specialist in unusual non-Western instruments, and has performed with a multitude of artists, including Yoko Ono, George Clinton, Sean Lennon, Duncan Sheik, and Philip Glass.

Lanier tells Deepak that “We have to learn to think of ourselves both in a timeless way but also as temporally bounded in order to create the freedom for the future.” As a renaissance man with serious investment in the evolutions of contemporary culture and technology, Jaron Lanier’s conversation with One World provides a valuable flash of insight into the present and future of human society.

24:55 | 2013

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