Jaron Lanier is an American computer scientist, author and musician currently affiliated with Microsoft Research. Perhaps best known for popularizing the term “virtual reality,” Lanier is the bestselling author of the 2010 book, You Are Not a Gadget, in which he criticized the popular tech concept of “the wisdom of crowds,” and explored how the Internet is undermining human individuality. Widely considered one of the foremost theorists of the impact of technology — and particularly the Internet — on society, Lanier was named to TIME’s 2010 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
In his latest book, Who Owns the Future?, Lanier discusses how the “information economy,” which is overtaking America’s traditional manufacturing economy as a driver of economic growth, “is developing in such a way that the rewards are filtering to an elite few at the expense of everybody else,” as TIME wrote in a recent review of the book. Lanier explores how technological automation has the potential to eviscerate the middle class, and warns that as technology transforms industries from media to medicine to manufacturing, the result could be increased economic inequality that could have dire consequences for American society.