The Free Thinker: Jaron Lanier
Lanier built his reputation on virtual reality, and is often credited with coining the term while developing immersive headgear during the 1980s.
But the part-time musician has more than one string to his bow, boasting interests as diverse as biomimetic information architectures, based on copying natural thought processes with computers, to computational methods for highlighting the fundamentals of physics.
Lanier has founded and worked for several start-ups, designing surgery simulators and 3D simulations for vehicle interiors in the process. He also has a habit of ending up at larger companies – including Sun and Google – after they bought the technologies he’d been working on. His experience in virtual reality saw him hired by Microsoft, where he worked on the successful gesture-based controller, Kinect.
A firebrand in an often staid industry, Lanier was among the first to criticise the isolating effect of social networks, where subscribers lose any sense of perspective outside of their immediate circle. His book You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto argues that conformity to network norms and following trends is strangling creativity, with a herd mentality channelling today’s thinkers down the same well-trodden paths.
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