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Jaron Lanier to Receive the 2014 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen the American computer scientist, musician and writer Jaron Lanier to be the recipient of this year's Peace Prize. The award ceremony will take place during the Frankfurt Book Fair on Sunday, October 12, 2014, at 10.45 a.m. in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The ceremony will also be broad-cast live on the German public TV channel ARD. The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of €25,000.

Jaron Lanier
© Lena Lanier

The Board of Trustees issued the following statement with regard to its selection:

“The German Publishers and Booksellers Association is delighted to award its 2014 Peace Prize to the American computer scientist, musician and writer Jaron Lanier. In honoring Lanier, the association and its members have chosen to pay tribute to a true pioneer in the digital world – one who has always recognized the inherent risks contained in this new world with regard to each individual's right to shape his or her own life.   

Throughout his career, Lanier has consistently and effectively spotlighted the threats our open society faces when deprived of the power to control its own progress and development. While acknowledging the gains in diversity and freedom that accompany the growth of the digital world, Lanier has nevertheless always pointed to the dangers involved when human beings are reduced to digital categories. His most recent work "Who Owns the Future?" is an appeal for vigilance in the face of oppression, abuse and surveillance – a call to equip the digital universe with structures that respect the rights of individuals while simultaneously fostering democratic participation.  

Lanier's concept of assigning a sustainable and economic value to the creative contributions made by each individual on the Internet reflects his commitment to the enshrinement of the human values that form the very basis of peaceful coexistence – in the real and digital worlds alike."

Jaron Lanier was born on May 3, 1960 in New York City. He is well-known across the globe as an Internet pioneer and one of the most important contributors to the development of the digital universe. Lanier is credited with coining the phrase "virtual reality" and spearheaded work in the field over several decades – both as an entrepreneur and leading researcher. Today, he works as a Lead Scientist overseeing a coalition of research universities studying advanced applications for Internet2. He is also a scholar at large at Microsoft Research.

Lanier was one of the driving forces behind the development of Internet-based computer networks. He also constructed virtual cameras, generated 3D graphics for feature films and created the first avatar – an artificial representative of a real person in the virtual world.

After dropping out of high school, Lanier was 14 when he first attended university lectures in mathematics and discovered his enthusiasm for computer technology. Today, in addition to lecturing at different universities in the US, he is also an internationally respected musician, composer and visual artist.

In 2000, Lanier began devoting more attention to the growing discrepancy between human beings and machines, between actuality and virtual reality, and between financial capitalization and the misuse of knowledge and data. His two books "You Are Not a Gadget" and "Who Owns the Future?" – as well as numerous articles examining negative developments in the digital world – have made him one of the most important critics of the digital world in our time.

Jaron Lanier lives with his wife and daughter in Berkeley, California. He has received two honorary doctorates for his inventions and designs. In 2001, he was the recipient of the CMU’s Watson Award. In 2009, he received a Lifetime Career Award from the IEEE, the world's largest professional organization of electrical and electronics engineers. His latest book "Who Owns the Future?" was awarded Harvard's Goldsmith Book Prize in 2014.