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Virtual Reality Pioneer and Author Jaron Lanier to Speak at College

Pioneering computer scientist and bestselling author Jaron Lanier – the man who coined the phrase “virtual reality” – will speak at Pennsylvania College of Technology on March 17 as part of its Centennial Colloquia Series.

Lanier founded VPL Research, the first company to sell virtual-reality products, and led teams creating VR applications for medicine, design and numerous other fields. He is a computer scientist at Microsoft Research.

His 2010 book, “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto,” became a New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe best-seller. It was chosen as one of the best books of the year by Time magazine and The New York Times, among others. His second book, “Who Owns the Future?” was No. 11 on the Amazon 2013 Best Books of the Year list.

The subject of Lanier’s talk at Penn College is “People and Computers: Who’s on Top?” Lanier contends there are two ways of talking about technology: Either technology is supposed to “serve humanity” or it’s coming alive on its own – a concept associated with artificial intelligence.

Jaron Lanier
Jaron Lanier

Reconciling these two ends of the spectrum is echoed in the notion of balancing privacy and security. The machine supposedly makes us secure by being positioned above us. But, Lanier asks, what if this setup doesn’t describe what’s actually happening? What if we are pretending that technology is more free-standing than it is as a clumsy way of realizing various political, economic and spiritual ideas? What if these are ideas we wouldn’t like if we had to express them more clearly?

Scheduled at 7 p.m. in the Klump Academic Center Auditorium, the lecture is free and open to the public.

In addition to his work in computer science, Lanier is a 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.

In 2010, Lanier was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. He has also been named one of the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines, and one of history’s 300 or so greatest inventors in the Encyclopedia Britannica. In 2009 Lanier received a Lifetime Career Award from IEEE, the preeminent international engineering society, which has a student chapter at Penn College.

Penn College presents the Centennial Colloquia Series in celebration of its Centennial, which marks 100 years of education on its campus. The series features presentations by nationally known authors and Penn College faculty that will challenge our thinking about the impact of technology on the past, present and future.

For more about the college, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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