A Renaissance Man for the 21st century, Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, composer, artist, and author who writes on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the social impact of technology, the philosophy of consciousness and information, Internet politics, and the future of humanism.
Lanier's first book, You Are Not a Gadget, A Manifesto, is held dear by readers as an expression of spiritual sensibility in high tech times. It was a New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and international bestseller. It was chosen as one of the best books of the year by Time Magazine and The New York Times. Michiko Kakutani, writing in The New York Times called it, "Lucid, powerful and persuasive....Necessary reading for anyone interested in how the Web and the software we use every day are reshaping culture and the marketplace."
His next book, Who Owns the Future?, provided a foundational critique of internet economics and one of the only frameworks for reform. Another international bestseller, it continues to shape ideas for tech regulation and economics.
In 2015 Jaron Lanier published a a collection of essays entitled Wenn Träume Erwachsen Werden (When Dreams Grow Up). Then came, Dawn of the New Everything, Lanier's memoire of his unusual childhood, early Silicon Valley, and the origins of Virtual Reality. In addition to a tender memoire, it also serves as a science book for general readers and a historical dissection of the origins of tech culture.
The fourth book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, is another international bestseller, synthesizing what we know about the new technology of tricking people with algorithms.
Lanier's books have won varied awards, including the 2014 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, one of the highest literary honors in the world, Harvard's Goldsmith Book Prize, and best book of the year at book festivals such as the San Francisco Book Festival.
Jaron Lanier has been on the cusp of technological innovation from its infancy to the present. A pioneer in virtual reality (a term he coined), Lanier founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products, and led teams originating VR applications for medicine, design, and numerous other fields. He is currently the "octopus" (which stands for Office of the Chief Technology Officer Prime Unifying Scientist) at Microsoft. He was a founder or principal of startups that were acquired by Google, Adobe, Oracle, and Pfizer.
In 2018, Lanier was named one of the 25 most influential people in the previous 25 years of tech history by Wired Magazine. He's also been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine, top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy magazine, top 50 World Thinkers by Prospect magazine, and one of history's 300 or so greatest inventors in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In 2009 Jaron Lanier received a Lifetime Career Award from the IEEE, the preeminent international engineering society.
Lanier's writing appears in The New York Times, Discover, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harpers Magazine, Atlantic, Wired Magazine (where he was a founding contributing editor), and Scientific American. He has appeared on TV shows such as The View, PBS NewsHour, The Colbert Report, Nightline and Charlie Rose, and has been profiled on the front pages of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times multiple times. He regularly serves as a creative consultant for movies, including Minority Report and The Circle.
Jaron Lanier is also a musician and artist. He has been active in the world of new "classical" music since the late '70s and writes chamber and orchestral works. He is a pianist and a specialist in unusual and historical musical instruments; he maintains one of the largest and most varied collections of actively played instruments in the world. Works include a choral symphony about William Shakespeare's contemporary and friend Amelia Lanier, commissioned for the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park a symphony commissioned by the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, and a symphonic cycle commissioned by the city of Wrocław, Poland. He has performed or recorded with a wide range of musicians, including Philip Glass, Yoko Ono, Ornette Coleman, George Clinton, T Bone Burnett, Steve Reich, and Sara Bareilles. He composes and performs on film soundtracks. Credits include composer on Sean Penn's 2010 documentary, The Third Wave, and principle instrumental performer for Richard Horowitz's score for Three Seasons (1999), which won both the Audience and Grand Jury awards at Sundance. Lanier's paintings and drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and Europe.
As a writer:
Lanier is one of most celebrated technology writers in the world, and is known for charting a humanistic approach to technology appreciation and criticism.
He was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2014. His book "Who Owns the Future?" won Harvard's Goldsmith Book Prize in 2014.
His books are international best sellers. "Who Owns the Future?" was named the most important book of 2013 by Joe Nocera in The New York Times, and was also included in many other "best of" lists. "You Are Not a Gadget," released in 2010, was named one of the 10 best books of the year by Michiko Kakutani, and was also named on many "best of year" lists.
He writes and speaks on numerous topics, including high-technology business, the social impact of technological practices, the philosophy of consciousness and information, Internet politics, and the future of humanism. In recent years he has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine, one of the 100 top public intellectuals by Foreign Policy Magazine, and one of the top 50 World Thinkers by Prospect Magazine.
His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Discover (where he has been a columnist), The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harpers Magazine, Nature, The Sciences, Wired Magazine (where he was a founding contributing editor), and Scientific American. He has edited special "future" issues of SPIN and Civilization magazines.
As a technologist:
Lanier's name is often associated with Virtual Reality research. He either coined or popularized the term 'Virtual Reality' and in the early 1980s founded VPL Research, the first company to sell VR products. In the late 1980s he led the team that developed the first implementations of multi-person virtual worlds using head mounted displays, 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.
Lanier has received honorary doctorates from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Franklin and Marshall College, was the recipient of CMU's Watson award in 2001, was a finalist for the first Edge of Computation Award in 2005, and received a Lifetime Career Award from the IEEE in 2009 for contributions to Virtual Reality.
Lanier has been a founder or principal of four startups that were either directly or indirectly acquired by Oracle, Adobe, Google, and Pfizer. 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. From 2001 to 2004 he was Visiting Scientist at Silicon Graphics Inc., where he developed solutions to core problems in telepresence and tele-immersion. He was Scholar at Large for Microsoft from 2006 to 2009, and Interdisciplinary Scientist at Microsoft Research from 2009 forward.
In the sciences:
Jaron Lanier's scientific interests include the use of Virtual Reality as a research tool in cognitive science, biomimetic information architectures, experimental 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.
As a musician, Lanier has been active in the world of new "classical" music since the late seventies. He is a pianist and a specialist in 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's "Symphony for Amelia" premiered in October 2010 with the Bach Festival Orchestra of Winter Park, Florida. Other commissions include: "Earthquake!," a ballet which premiered at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco in April, 2006; "Little Shimmers" for the TrioMetrik ensemble, which premiered at ODC in San Francisco in April, 2006; "Daredevil" for the ArrayMusic chamber ensemble, which was premiered in Toronto 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, and premiered in 1998. "Continental Harmony," a PBS special that documented the development and premiere of "The Navigator Tree" won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. His CD "Instruments of Change" was released on Point/Polygram in 1994.
Lanier co-composed the soundtrack to "The Third Wave," a documentary released in Sept. 2009 to critical acclaim after winning awards at film festivals around the world. Lanier's work with acoustic "world" instruments can be heard on many other soundtracks as well, including a prominent role in "Three Seasons" (1999), which was the first film ever to win both the Audience and Grand Jury awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
Lanier has performed with artists as diverse as Yoko Ono, Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, George Clinton, Sean Lennon, Vernon Reid, Ozomatli, Barbara Higbie, Terry Riley, Duncan Sheik, Pauline Oliveros, and Stanley Jordan.
Lanier's paintings and drawings have been exhibited in museums and galleries in the United States and Europe. In 2002 he co-created (with Philippe Parreno) an exhibit illustrating how aliens might perceive humans for the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. In 1994 he directed the film "Muzork" under a commission from ARTE Television. His 1983 "Moondust" (which he programmed in 6502 assembly) is generally regarded as the first art video game, and the first interactive music publication. He has presented installations in New York City, including the "Video Feedback Waterbed" and the "Time-accelerated Painting," which was situated in the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage. His first one man show took place in 1997 at the Danish Museum for Modern Art in Roskilde. He helped make up the gadgets and scenarios for the 2002 science fiction movie Minority Report by Steven Spielberg.
The Encyclopedia Britannica (but certainly not the Wikipedia) includes him in its list of history's 300 or so greatest inventors. The nation of Palau has issued a postage stamp in his honor. Various television documentaries have been produced about him. The 1992 movie Lawnmower Man was in part based on him and his early laboratory - he was played by Pierce Brosnan. He has appeared on national television many times, on shows such as "The Colbert Report," "The News Hour," "Nightline," and "Charlie Rose," and has been profiled multiple times on the front pages of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
Read about Jaron's
childhood in this
Read about Jaron's research on "Phenotropics" in this book.
Primary Academic/Professional Appointments:
2010- Innovator In Residence, USC Annenberg
2009- Interdisciplinary Scientist, Microsoft
2006-2009 Scholar at Large, Microsoft Live Labs
2006- Interdisciplinary Scholar-in-Residence, CET, UC Berkeley
2004- Fellow, International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley
2003-2005 Visiting Scientist, Silicon Graphics
2002-2004 Jones Center Fellow, Wharton School, UPenn
2002- Visiting Faculty, Dartmouth College (Surgical Simulation And Tele-Medicine)
1999-2002 Chief Scientist, Eyematic Interfaces (IP and most of team now at Google)
1997-2001 Chief Scientist, Advanced Network And Services (Parent organization at the time of the Engineering Office Of Internet2)
1997-2000 Lead Scientist, National Tele-Immersion Initiative (1st Tele-I Implementation)
1997-2001 Visiting Scholar, Columbia University
1996-2001 Visiting Artist, Interactive Telecommunications Program, NYU
1984-1990 CEO, VPL Research (1st Multiperson VR And First Commercial VR Products)
1983-1984 Researcher, Atari Labs
1980-1983 Independent Video Game Developer
1979-1980 Student Researcher On NSF-Funded Project On Digital Graphical Simulations For Learning At New Mexico State University
1974-1978 Independent goat milk and cheese provider (paid for my undergraduate education this way!)
Additional Current Appointments
Founding Member of the "Institute for Computational Economics" – possibly to be renamed soon, based at Stanford or the Perimeter Institute
Member Of Science Board, Pittsburgh Supercomputer Center
Member, Board of Advisors, InWorld Medical Systems
Some Past Appointments (Incomplete list)
Member, Board Of Advisors, Lindenlabs (Social Simulations; "Second Life")
Member, Board Of Advisors, Data Physics (Signal processing to improve volumetric medical imaging.)
Member, Board Of Advisors, Numedeon (Social Simulations To Encourage Female Teens In Math And Quantitative Sciences.)
Research Fellow, Center For Business Innovation, Ernst And Young
Fellow, World Economic Forum,
Fellow, Macarthur Foundation Roundtables
Member, Board Of Advisors, Nevenvision (Spin-Off Company Associated With ISI (USC) Machine Vision Research- now part of Google.)
Member, Board Of Advisors, Meaningful Machines (Machine Text Translation)
Visiting Professor, San Francisco State University
Silicon Valley Lineages:
• Paracomp, a spin-off from VPL Research, Inc. (which was founded by Jaron) merged with MacroMind to become MacroMedia, which then merged with Adobe.
• Medical Media Systems, another VPL spin-off, became Medical Metrix Systems, and then M2S Inc., a major player in medical imaging software controlled by AIG and Pfizer.
• The PowerGlove was a major toy licensed to Mattel Toys from VPL.
• VPL was acquired by Sun Microsystems.
• Eyematic Interfaces, where Lanier was Chief Scientist, became Nevengineering, which was wholly acquired by Google.
TechTV produced a documentary about Jaron.
Scientific American's interview
The Red Herring's premier issue featured a cover story and interview with Jaron.
Time Magazine's feature on Jaron's music with Virtual Reality.
This book claims Jaron is one of the 1000 "most creative" people in America.
The Verge published an interview with Jaron and Kevin Kelly, 29 years after the founding of VPL.
The New York Times published a review
of this very web page.
Go back to Jaron's home page.