Marker Comps, Wherefore Art Thou?

“If you express yourself on the internet, what you say will be copied, mashed up, anonymized, analyzed, and turned into bricks in someone else’s fortress to support an advertising scheme,” says Jaron Lanier, author and a pioneer in the development of virtual reality.
In his new book, You Are Not A Gadget, Lanier argues for individual achievement and against collective “wisdom.” For instance, according to The New York Times, Lanier believes that Wikipedia’s “ethos ratifies the notion that the individual voice — even the voice of an expert — is eminently dispensable.”
From the Times review:

Like Andrew Keen in The Cult of the Amateur, Mr. Lanier is most eloquent on how intellectual property is threatened by the economics of free Internet content, crowd dynamics and the popularity of aggregator sites. “An impenetrable tone deafness rules Silicon Valley when it comes to the idea of authorship,” he writes.

On the page where his book is for sale, there’s an interview with the author and a good dose of his contrarian thought.

Collectivists adore a computer operating system called LINUX, for instance, but it is really only one example of a descendant of a 1970s technology called UNIX. If it weren’t produced by a collective, there would be nothing remarkable about it at all.
Meanwhile, the truly remarkable designs that couldn’t have existed 30 years ago, like the iPhone, all come out of “closed” shops where individuals create something and polish it before it is released to the public. Collectivists confuse ideology with achievement.

Wow. “Collectivists confuse ideology with achievement” is such a powerful, crisp line. Write it down!
Ultimately, we need to seek balance, because there is a real danger for those of us who spend our days glued to the machine. Frankly, it’s too easy to become intellectually lazy and overly comfortable with our insular, albeit global, surroundings. Take the current body of writing on “crowdsourcing” as it applies to advertising. I can point to a thousand puff pieces on the topic–some herein–yet there’s a woeful shortage of take downs on the topic. Is it because “crowdsourcing” is the bomb? No. It’s because without source material–a clever essay, a semi-thorough study, hell, a press release–“the hive” has nothing to lift from or point to.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today, I'm the founder and creative director at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon. We bring integrated marketing solutions to our clients in healthcare, human services, real estate, fashion, outdoor recreation, and food and beverage.


  1. Hive minds can be great as long as they have some exceptional King and Queen bees in charge.
    I think it’s about the hive’s Kings and Queens creating objective criteria for choosing the most meritorious results. The inertia of the collective and good vibes among the participants must not take precedence over the final product.
    I’m among those who believe some form of a Hive Mind is the only realistic hope for the future of humanity, so it behooves us to figure out how to do it right.
    As an aside, many supposedly stalwart individualists are profoundly guilty of groupthink and following the herd. Along with status quo elites that privatize profits and socialize/collectivize the losses.