Simon (2018). Delete Your Account Now: A Conversation with Jaron Lanier.

Simon, H. (2018, October 8). Delete Your Account Now: A Conversation with Jaron Lanier. Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved from

“… every little aspect of life these days involves navigating some digital system that forces you to act both perfectly and arbitrarily to suit its needs.” (¶2)

“They are these other people who decide, called advertisers — or I prefer to call them manipulators, because they have been sold on the idea that they’re not just advertising. They’re not just getting a message in front of you, but are part of a mathematical scheme that will predictably addict you and then modify your behavior.” (¶10)

“I’m thinking of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. And I’m thinking of the public smoking of cigarettes. In both of those cases, there were industries that relied on mass addiction, but somehow or other, a rational conversation gradually created a change. In neither case was the substance totally outlawed, but its role in society was vastly changed. And I just want to point out that this process of having a rational conversation about how things can change is only possible when at least somebody isn’t addicted. If the MADD Mothers were themselves alcoholics, it would have been harder for them to organize. A space for conversation where some people aren’t addicted facilitates thinking different thoughts and being able to envision different outcomes. And what I do believe is that we can get at least enough people to quit this stuff to create such a space.” (¶ 28)

“A lot of people have felt that using social media is a way to organize for mutual betterment, whether it’s a social justice movement or other things. You’re absolutely correct: in the immediate sense their experience of that is authentic. I think they’re reporting on real events. The problem, however, is that behind the scenes there are these manipulation, behavior modification, and addiction algorithms that are running. And these addiction algorithms are blind. They’re just dumb algorithms. What they want to do is take whatever input people put into the system and find a way to turn it into the most engagement possible. And the most engagement comes from the startle emotions, like fear and anger and jealousy, because they tend to rise the fastest and then subside the slowest in people, and the algorithms are measuring people very rapidly, so they tend to pick up and amplify startle emotions over slower emotions like the building of trust or affection.” (¶49)

“And so you tend to have this phenomenon where there will be, let’s say, a social justice movement of some kind; it’s initially successful, but then the same data is instead optimized to find whoever is irritated by that social justice movement. Those irritated people are introduced to each other and put into this amplifying cycle where they’re more and more agitated until they become horrible. So, you start with the Arab Spring, but then you get ISIS getting even more mileage from the same tools. Or you start with Black Lives Matter and you come up with this resurgent bizarre racist movement that had been dormant for years. And this just keeps on happening.” (¶50)

“… people romanticize their own effectiveness …” (¶53)

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