Jaron Lanier is wrong again

Jaron Lanier has a new book out called “Who Owns the Future?” and like his last book, “You are Not a Gadget”, he is out promoting it. (Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class – Salon.com.) In this Salon article, you find this:

“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”

When I read this, my first impression is: wow! Instagram in combination with other forces destroyed Kodak and all those jobs. Impressions are deceiving. In fact, what destroyed Kodak was Kodak management. As early as 1997, Kodak was under fire from Fuji and doing poorly (WHAT’S AILING KODAK? FUJI WHILE THE U.S. GIANT WAS SLEEPING, THE JAPANESE FILM COMPANY CUT PRICES, MARKETED AGGRESSIVELY, AND NOW IS STEALING MARKET SHARE. – October 27, 1997). Indeed, while Kodak has gone down, Fuji continues to do well, as I point out here: In considering Kodak’s demise, it’s important to remember that Fuji is still going strong | Smart People I Know.

The problem with Kodak was Kodak. It couldn’t deal with Fuji or the Internet. But Fuji was smart enough to do so, and if Kodak was as smart, they’d still be a going concern and alot of Kodak jobs would still exist.  If Lanier hasn’t done enough research to see that, I don’t know how much value you will find in his book. Maybe he gets alot more right and this is just a bad example, but I doubt it. Indeed, I blogged about him when he wrote his last book and how I thought that that book was troublesome: Jaron Lanier needs someone else to promote his new book, “You are Not A Gadget” | Smart People I Know. I’d expect more of the same from this book.

I don’t know what motivates him to write these books. He seems to get a pass when he does write them and the people who interview him seem to be impressed with his credentials and his appearance. To add to that, he is a well spoken individual, and I think there is even something in what he says. But I also think his writing is lazy and uninformed, and if you do wish to read authors critical of technology, I recommend you look elsewhere.