A Drink with the Idler: Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier: Internet genius and musician

Join the Idler for a chat with virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier

Your hosts will be Idler magazine editor Tom Hodgkinson and Idler Academy director Victoria Hull.

We’ll have philosophical insight from Dr Mark Vernon and the discussion will be followed by a live Q&A.

This event is free for Idler subscribers.

It is an online event. Bring your friends. It should be like meeting up in the pub for an interesting conversation. We leave the meeting open at the end so you can carry on chatting.

About the speakers:

Jaron Lanier coined the terms Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality – and had the first VR startup, manufacturing VR headsets and gloves for the first time, and creating the first surgical simulators, vehicle prototyping, and other apps – all in his youth back in the 1980s.  In the 1990s he was chief scientist for Internet2 (the academic consortium charged with making sure the internet would scale) and then of the first company to do AI processing of faces, such as changing identities or adding ornaments; that company went to Google, alas.  He’s also known as a constructive critic of technology.

Jaron was concerned about how the internet was turning out from way back before it was popular to do that; has written a number of bestselling books on the topic, including You Are Not a Gadget, A Manifesto and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. In 2018, Wired named Jaron one of the 25 most influential figures in tech from the previous 25 years. Jaron’s also a musician specialising in unusual and obscure instruments; in the last year, he played with Sara Bareilles and T Bone Burnett on a #1 single, appeared on Colbert playing with Jon Batiste, and collaborated with Philip Glass. Officially, Jaron is Microsoft’s “Octopus”, which stands for Office of the Chief Technology Officer Prime Unifying Scientist.

Jaron has spoken for the Idler Academy before and you may have seen him as one of the key interviewees in the 2020 hit documentary The Social Dilemma.

Tom Hodgkinson is editor of the Idler and author of the best-selling manuals, How to be Idle and How to be Free. Other books include a book on smallholding called Brave Old World, a book on parenting, the Ukulele Handbook and, most recently, a manual for creative entrepreneurs, Business for Bohemians.

Dr Mark Vernon is a psychotherapist, writer, broadcaster and teacher. He presents several Idler Academy online courses. He has a PhD in philosophy, and degrees in theology and physics. His most recent books include – The Idler Guide To Ancient Philosophy (Idler Books), Love: All That Matters (Hodder) and Jung: How To Believe (Guardian Shorts) – and he has books on friendship, belief and the good life too. Mark can often be heard on Moral Maze. He began his professional life as a priest in the Church of England. For more visit, www.markvernon.com

Testimonials from previous Idler Drinks

Thanks very much, it was fun and a lovely change in these strange times of isolation!

That was great, thank you so much and now looking forward to next week !! Wonderful to have this in my empty social diary !!!  

Absolutely fascinating talk with John Lloyd this evening, he was so interesting and open. An honesty that was unexpected but very welcomed by me. I loved it all. Thank you so much, I look forward to this hour every week I can’t tell you how much. 

Loving The Academy! It’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to Summerhill! 

LOVING the Zooms, what a great way to interact, please keep this going.

Such a great drinks party last night! 

The discussion, your fabulous backdrop, the sound, the guests – everything was spot on and we loved it! It flowed well, was really interesting and was a real highlight of the week.

Another lovely Zoom drinks with you all! So pleased you have streamed it as I have told my children and they will watch and hopefully join too! Keep well and thanks again for this great opportunity to join in and enjoy the chat.

Just wanted to thank you yet again for another fascinating and enjoyable Thursday night drink. These are rapidly turning into the absolute high point of my week. 

There’s something very effective about running an event like this via Zoom. This may sound odd, but it all feels very intimate and immediate, possibly more so than were all 200 of us there in person. To me, it became especially evident when the conversation veered off into a one to one chat between John Lloyd and the ‘audience’ member. In other circumstances this probably wouldn’t have happened and, if it had, it probably wouldn’t have worked. Last Thursday evening I walked out of my shed (where I watched it) feeling mentally refreshed, inspired and intellectually satisfied! 

Eternal thanks for presenting us with a cheerier path. 

I just want to say how very much I look forward to the Idler drink each week. All your guests are so interesting and funny and completely hit the spot for me on so many levels. I sit hiding in our bedroom, the only quiet place in the house, with red wine, and pad and pen to quickly scribble down bits and bobs that I’d like to look up afterwards. I feel cheered and relaxed after and ready to continue homeschooling my 2 bairns the next day free from worries of not earning a bean and partner being a London copper, even just for a few hours at least. 

Since joining you for a drink, I’ve also subscribed to a history course and the magazine, in all its shiny glory, which I also indulgently read with a tea and a Crunchie, being the best Idler I can be and savouring each page and honeycombed bite. 

Really enjoyed it – thank you so much!

Thank you that was great! Really personal and interesting. 

Thanks so much and for another fun hour to look forward to especially during this lockdown episode of our lives!

Another fabulous session at the Idler bar, lively discussion and thoughtful insights 🙂 It continues to be brilliant with such a great breadth of topics.

Amazingly uplifting real inspiring chat! 

Another great evening.

Another wonderful drinks with the Idler. Thank you all so much! It’s definitely a highlight of my lockdown week! I appreciate all the effort that must go into making it actually happen. Inga

Thanks for another fantastic evening. Murray Lachlan Young was brilliant and Mark Vernon’s philosophy on the current state of affairs was inspirational. Dream team.

I have been enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of these ‘drinks’.

Loving my Lockdown Thursdays – it’s the start of my weekend,  I work part-time Tuesday to Thursday. Get home, get a drink and join everyone.

Event Details

Date: Thursday 21 January

Time: 6pm-7pm

Location: Online via Zoom link

Cost: £5. Free for Idler subscribers. SUBSCRIBE NOW

How to join: Register by clicking the ‘GET TICKETS’ button above


When you register, you can choose a Standard Ticket (£5), or a Free Ticket if you are an Idler subscriber. We leave this open like an ‘honesty box’. You can also add a donation if you wish. The ticket income will support our beautiful, fun and fascinating magazine and enable us to keep producing weekly Drinks with brilliant speakers.

After signing up, you’ll get a confirmation and several reminders from Eventbrite by email. Follow the instructions in the emails and on the night click the link to join the meeting.

Please arrive before 6pm for a prompt start. Latecomers may not be given access.

You can catch up on all previous Idler Drinks on Idler TV on YouTube, including interviews with Armando Iannucci, Sally Phillips, David Graeber and many more.