The Full Wiki

Jaron Lanier: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Jaron Zepel Lanier (born May 3, 1960 in New York Citymarker, USAmarker) is an American computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author. He was a pioneer in, and popularized the term "Virtual Reality" (VR) in the early 1980s. At that time, he founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. His current appointments include Interdisciplinary Scholar-in-Residence, CET, UC Berkeleymarker.


Early life and education

Lanier was born in 1960 in New York Citymarker, but raised in Mesilla, New Mexicomarker. On May 18, 2006, Lanier received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technologymarker.


Lanier has appeared in several documentaries, including the 1992 Danish television documentary Computerbilleder - udfordring til virkeligheden, the 1995 documentary Synthetic Pleasures, and the 2004 television documentary Rage Against the Machines. Lanier was credited as one of the miscellaneous crew for the 2002 film Minority Report. Lanier stated that his role was to help make up the gadgets and scenarios.

In mid-1997, Lanier was a founding member of the National Tele-Immersion Initiative, an effort devoted to utilizing computer technology to give people who are separated by great distances the illusion that they are physically together. Lanier is a member of the Global Business Network, part of the Monitor Group.

In 1994, Lanier released the classical music album Instruments of Change which has been described as a Western exploration of Asian musical traditions by Stephen Hill on "The Crane Flies West 2" (episode 357) of Hearts of Space. Lanier is currently working on the book Technology and the Future of the Human Soul, and the music album Proof of Consciousness, a collaboration with Mark Deutsch.

Lanier has served on numerous advisory boards, including the Board of Councilors of the University of Southern Californiamarker, Medical Media Systems (a medical visualization spin-off company associated with Dartmouth Collegemarker), Microdisplay Corporation, and NY3D (developers of auto stereo displays).

Lanier is a visiting scholar with the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University, a visiting artist with New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, and a founding member of the International Institute for Evolution and the Brain.

Lanier received an honorary doctorate from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2006, was the recipient of CMU's Watson award in 2001, and was a finalist for the first Edge of Computation Award in 2005.

Lanier recently contributed the afterword to Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008) edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky.

Lanier received the IEEE Virtual Reality Career Award in 2009.

Computer science

Lanier’s interests include biomimetic information architectures, user interfaces, heterogeneous scientific simulations, advanced information systems for medicine, and computational approaches to the fundamentals of physics. He collaborates with a wide range of scientists in fields related to these interests.

In the late 1980s he led the team that developed the first implementations of multi-person virtual worlds using head mounted displays, for both local and wide area networks, as well as the first "avatars", or representations of users within such systems. While at VPL, he and his colleagues developed the first implementations of virtual reality applications in surgical simulation, vehicle interior prototyping, virtual sets for television production, and assorted other areas. He led the team that developed the first widely used software platform architecture for immersive virtual reality applications. Sun Microsystems acquired VPL's seminal portfolio of patents related to Virtual Reality and networked 3D graphics in 1999.

From 1997 to 2001, Lanier was the Chief Scientist of Advanced Network and Services, which contained the Engineering Office of Internet2, and served as the Lead Scientist of the National Tele-immersion Initiative, a coalition of research universities studying advanced applications for Internet2. The Initiative demonstrated the first prototypes of tele-immersion in 2000 after a three-year development period. From 2001 to 2004, he was Visiting Scientist at Silicon Graphics Inc., where he developed solutions to core problems in telepresence and tele-immersion.


As a musician, Lanier has been active in the world of new classical music since the late 1970s. He is a pianist and a specialist in many unusual musical instruments, especially the wind and string instruments of Asia. He maintains one of the largest and most varied collections of actively played rare instruments in the world. Lanier has performed with artists as diverse as Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, George Clinton, Vernon Reid, Terry Riley, Duncan Sheik, Pauline Oliveros, and Stanley Jordan. Recording projects include his acoustic techno duet with Sean Lennon and an album of duets with flautist Robert Dick.

He also writes chamber and orchestral music. Current commissions include an opera that will premier in Busan, South Korea. Recent commissions include “Earthquake!” a ballet that premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in April 2006; “Little Shimmers” for the TroMetrik ensemble, which premiered at ODC in San Franciscomarker in April 2006; “Daredevil” for the ArrayMusic chamber ensemble, which premiered in Torontomarker in 2006; A concert-length sequence of works for orchestra and virtual worlds (including "Canons for Wroclaw," "Khaenoncerto," "The Egg," and others) celebrating the 1000th birthday of the city of Wroclaw, Poland, premiered in 2000; A triple concerto, "The Navigator Tree," commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Composers Forum, premiered in 2000; and "Mirror/Storm," a symphony commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which premiered in 1998. Continental Harmony was a PBS special that documented the development and premiere of “The Navigator Tree” won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. His album Instruments of Change was released on POINT Music/Philips/PolyGram Records in 1994.

Lanier's work with Asian instruments can be heard extensively on the soundtrack of Three Seasons (1999), which was the first film ever to win both the Audience and Grand Jury awards at the Sundance Film Festival. He and Mario Grigorov are currently scoring a new film called The Third Wave, which premiered at Sundance in 2007. He is working with Terry Riley on a collaborative opera to be titled Bastard, the First.

Lanier has also pioneered the use of Virtual Reality in musical stage performance with his band Chromatophoria, which has toured around the world as a headline act in venues such as the Montreux Jazz Festival. He plays virtual instruments and uses real instruments to guide events in virtual worlds.

Philosophical and technological ideas

Some of Lanier's speculation involves what he dubbed "post-symbolic communication." An example is found in the April 2006 issue of Discover, in his column on cephalopods (i.e., the various species of octopus, squid, and related molluscs). Many cephalopods are able to morph their bodies, including changing the pigmentation and texture of their skin, as well as forming complex shape imitations with their limbs. Lanier sees this behavior, especially as exchanged between two octopuses, as a direct behavioral expression of thought.

Criticism of any single (simple) paradigm on knowledge approach

In Edge magazine in May 2006, Lanier criticized the sometimes-claimed omniscience of collective wisdom (including examples such as the Wikipedia article about himself), describing it as "digital Maoism". He writes "If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we're devaluing those people [creating the content] and making ourselves into idiots."

His criticism aims at several targets which are at different level of abstraction:
  • any attempt to create one final authoritative bottleneck which channels the knowledge onto society is wrong, regardless whether it is a Wikipedia or any algorithmically created system producing meta informations,
  • sterile style of wiki writing is undesirable because:
    • it removes the touch with the real author of original information, it filters the subtlety of his opinions, essential information (eg. incl. graphical context of original sources) is lost,
    • it creates the false sense of authority behind the information,
  • collective authorship tends to produce or align to mainstream or organizational beliefs,
  • he worries that collectively created works may be manipulated behind the scene by anonymous groups of editors who bear no visible responsibility,
    • and that this kind of activity might create future totalitarian systems as these are basically grounded on misbehaved collectives which oppress individuals.

This critique is further explored in an interview with him at the Philosopher's Zone where he is critical of the denatured effect which "removes the scent of people".

In December 2006 Lanier followed up his critique of the collective wisdom with an article in Edge titled "Beware the Online Collective."

Lanier writes:

I wonder if some aspect of human nature evolved in the context of competing packs. We might be genetically wired to be vulnerable to the lure of the mob.

and that:

What's to stop an online mass of anonymous but connected people from suddenly turning into a mean mob, just like masses of people have time and time again in the history of every human culture? It's amazing that details in the design of online software can bring out such varied potentials in human behavior. It's time to think about that power on a moral basis.

Lanier criticism seems to be partially contradictory. In his paper he values web search services which add only one level of page ranking and do not intervene the author's own style. Yet the seemingly lacking diversity of the web is not because of such pages suddenly disappeared but rather only because of the first part of Lanier's sentence: "Since search engines are now more likely to point you to the wikified versions, the Web has lost some of its flavor in casual use."

Lanier argues that the search for deeper information in any area sooner or later requires that you find information that has been produced by a single person, or a few devoted individuals: "You have to have a chance to sense personality in order for language to have its full meaning." That is, he sees limitations in the utility of an encyclopedia produced by only partially interested third parties as a form of communication.

One-Half of a Manifesto

In his probably most famous paper One-Half of a Manifesto (Wired, 2000) Lanier opposes the prospect of so called "cybernetic totalism", which is a cataclysm brought on when computers become ultra-intelligent masters of matter and life. The paper was written before the internet bubble burst when many people expected rapid computer intelligence and performance progress and when many quite wild digital fiction technology ideas, such as immortality or hostile nanobots, became popular.

The aim of the paper is to encourage people who fear such a possibility. Lanier's position is that humans may not be considered as the biological computers, ie. they may not be compared to digital computers in any proper sense and that it is very unlikely that humans could be generally substituted by computers easily in few decades even economically. Eg. while processor performance increases according to the Moore's law, the overall performance rises only very slowly. This is because our productivity to develop software increases only slightly and software remains so error-prone as it ever was. Also the computational complexity of computer simulation of the real world increases even more rapidly when the scale gets more precise.

At the end he warns, that the biggest problem of any theory (esp. ideology) is not that it is false, but when it claims to be the sole and utterly complete path to understanding life and reality. The impression of objective necessity paralyses the ability of humans to walk out of or to fight the paradigm and causes the self-fulfilling destiny which spoils people.


Western Classical music

Video games

Significant papers




  1. Jaron Lanier bio
  2. Jaron Lanier @ Keynote Speakers Inc.
  3. Continental Harmony at
  4. See "Sonos performances"
  5. Jaron Lanier - Instruments of Change (

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address