Josh Harris Got It Right
The scary thing about Josh Harris is not his alter ego Luvvy but the fact that he has got it so right. Josh Harris is an American Internet entrepreneur who has been called the “Warhol of the Web” during the 1990s for his avant-garde social experiments.
Some people might accuse him for contributing to the existence of brainless reality TV shows such as Big Brother and for tweets such as â€œIâ€™ve just looked out the windowâ€, but that does him a serious injustice. Love him or hate him, Josh is a modern day Internet visionary hasÂ predicted the future of social interaction but actually showed us what it was going to be like long before the advent of Facebook, Twitter, uStream, foursquareâ€¦etc. He describes chatroullette as basic and Facebook as nothing more than an advanced message board while the founders of MySpace never even heard of him until recently. Not something they should be proud of , if I may can I add.
Harris is unimpressed with reality programs, which strike him as a square, simplistic version of what he has in mind. His core belief is that TV has had the greater influence on the 20th century than publishing and that Internet TV offers an exponential increase in influence. His vision is based around technological singularity, a concept whereby the human being will cease exist as an individual, while the machine becomes the new super power. Itâ€™s also described as the technological creation of super intelligence, resulting in an unpredictable world for humans. Very Matrix-esque indeed.
Unlike some visionaries Josh Harris didnâ€™t just talk about his vision of the future in fact he actually lived through itâ€”a future where TV is replaced by constant, live video chat/surveillance over the Internet. Harris heavily influenced by the Truman Show created the first true big brother experiment, an artificial society in an underground bunker in New York City where approximately 100 artists moved in. It reeked of Orwellian fascist undertones with the participants under 24-hour surveillance, interrogation and on camera, while they you know what, had sex and even shared a transparent communal shower. Harris imagined that these long standing dystopian issues would be given technological feasibility through an interlocking network of computers and webcams.You can read a fascinating piece by Steven Kaplan’s, Â one of the people who took part in this social experiment here
We Live in Public and his project “Quiet: We Live in Public” was used as a case study in the documentary film â€œWe Live in Publicâ€ directed by Ondi Timoner to explore the brain-numbing, overwhelming possibilities the Internet offers. He has also stated publicly the experiment “Quiet: We Live in Public” where he broadcast his life 24 hours a day over the Web in 2001, resulted in a nervous breakdown — a demonstration of the possible price we will all have to pay for living in public.
Harris made his first millions by founding the market research firm Jupiter Communications. He then ventured into Internet TV way before broadband with Psuedo, one of the more spectacular flameouts of the 1990s dotcom crash. At one point, Harris had a net worth of $80 million. That all disappeared as the cost of his social experiments and failed ventures such as operator11 mounted.
Josh Harris is now back with a new ventured called Wired City, a concept that reaches far beyond the confines of reality TV. Maybe the world is now ready for his vision. We wish him luck. It’s a little too Orwellian for our tastes, yet the world needs people like Harris to challenge our thinking and push the boundaries of social interaction.