The new ideology

The problem is that we use computers to radiate risk out from computational economic structures. You gather information in such a way that you get this advantage and you order the rest of the world to your benefit. That's creating a gradual shrinking of the economy, because what you do is demonetise what other people do. On Facebook, people put their information for free, for Facebook's benefit, and the type of benefit that ordinary people have is efficiency but not wealth creation.

In classical economics, I argue, the only reason we've got strong middle-classes was because of the world of the ad-hoc structures that I'm calling 'levies'. These are like little dabs that capture some of the flow of the capital for the benefit of the person in order so that there can be a middle class and it's not just slashing back and forth between the extremes of wealth and poverty. These include unions and copyright royalties, and all kinds of other ad-hoc structures, and that's what created the middle-class and the new efficiency of of perpetration is destroying all those.

A venture capital firm will say, 'we are looking for someone to disrupt the market'. What they mean is, that you go in and computerise it, digitise it for your own benefit, you radiate the risk out and the total value of that market shrinks to maybe a quarter to a tenth of what it once was. It has happened to media arts like music and publishing. The bigger picture is when cars start to drive themselves, or when you can print out goods from a 3D printer.

John Gray & Jaron Lanier in conversation, Tank magazine autumn 2012