Jaron Lanier is a VR pioneer and a digital philosopher. He coined the term “virtual reality,” founded one of the first companies in the space, and has been involved in both the practice and theory of creating and living in virtual worlds for decades now. He’s one of the most trenchant critics of Silicon Valley’s business model and the way it’s screwed up both the internet and the world. And somehow, all this has made him a much more humanistic, insightful analyst of what it’s like to live in the real world, too.
This conversation begins with the story of Lanier trip-sitting Richard Feynman, the famed physicist, when he was dying from cancer and decided to try LSD, and it only gets better from there. We discuss where Silicon Valley went wrong (“You engage people by ruining society,” Lanier says. “That’s the business model”), why top executives at Google and Facebook are the most aggressive about limiting screen time for their kids, what virtual reality could become, the past and future of Burning Man, the reasons negative emotions dominate positive emotions online, and much more.
Lanier’s latest book, Dawn of the New Everything, is one of my favorites of the past year — it’s thrilling to read a memoir that smart, and that strange, in an era that is so focused on making us dumber and angrier. And in person, Lanier is just as exciting — every answer has an insight worth hearing in it.
This is one of my favorite conversations I’ve had on the pod. Give it 15 minutes. If you don’t love it, I’ll give you your money back.