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How to Not Create a New Cyber Plutocracy

NYC: June 13, 2012

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Lanier's name is most 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 developed the first multi-person virtual worlds as well as the first "avatars", or representations of users within such systems. He also developed the first virtual reality applications in surgical simulation, vehicle interior prototyping, and assorted other areas. Sun Microsystems acquired VPL's seminal portfolio of patents related to Virtual Reality and networked 3D graphics in 1999.

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. From 2001 to 2004 he was Visiting Scientist at Silicon Graphics Inc. He was Scholar at Large for Microsoft from 2006 to 2009, and Partner Architect at Microsoft Research from 2009 forward.

Lanier received an honorary doctorate from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2006, 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.

Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2010. His book “You Are Not a Gadget" was released in 2010 and was named one of the 10 best books of the year by Michiko Kakutani in the NY Times. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Discover (where he has been a columnist), The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Harpers Magazine, 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. He is one of the 100 “remarkable people” of the Global Business Network. In 2005 Lanier was selected as one of the top one hundred public intellectuals in the world by readers of Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica 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, such as “Dreadlocks and Digital Dreamworlds” by Tech TV in 2002. The 1992 movie Lawnmower Man was in part based on him and his early laboratory - he was played by Pierce Brosnan. He helped make up the gadgets and scenarios for the 2002 science fiction movie Minority Report by Steven Spielberg. He has appeared on national television many times, on shows such as "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.

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 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.

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