In his latest book “Who Owns the Future?”, computer science pioneer, Jaron Lanier makes his case for how the internet has undermined the social contract that gave rise to the middle class throughout the industrial age and threatens our democratic underpinnings.
His comparison between Eastman Kodak and Instagram is valid and shocking. At it’s prime, Kodak employed 140,000 people – when Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, it employed 13 people.
We don’t realize that our society and our democracy ultimately rest on the stability of middle-class jobs. When I talk to libertarians and socialists, they have this weird belief that everybody’s this abstract robot that won’t ever get sick or have kids or get old. It’s like everybody’s this eternal freelancer who can afford downtime and can self-fund until they find their magic moment or something.
The way society actually works is there’s some mechanism of basic stability so that the majority of people can outspend the elite so we can have a democracy. That’s the thing we’re destroying, and that’s really the thing I’m hoping to preserve. So we can look at musicians and artists and journalists as the canaries in the coal mine, and is this the precedent that we want to follow for our doctors and lawyers and nurses and everybody else? Because technology will get to everybody eventually.
He’s stating a position that has been on my mind for some time – the wealthy have made virtually all the financial gains since 2008 while the 99% are losing ground. It’s unsustainable.