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Inspecting ‘Gadget’: Jaron Lanier Holds Forth At City Lights

“Visionary” is bandied about too often for anyone’s comfort level -- yet Jaron Lanier very well might fall under that header as one of the first Silicon Valley thinkers to use the term “virtual reality,” a field he was instrumental in developing as the founder of VPL Research. A composer, visual artist and writer, as well as a computer scientist, Lanier helmed the team that worked on the first multi-person virtual realms and avatars in the ‘80s -- World of Warcraft fiends and James Cameron can raise their glasses to him right about now -- and later predicted the changes that the Web would bring to the flesh-and-bone, brick-and-mortar world.

Now, in an effort to spread the word of his new book, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (Knopf), the UC Berkeley interdisciplinary scholar-in-residence will drop into City Lights on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Chances are he’ll talk about how the technical and cultural issues that have emerged from online digital design that we take for granted, how ‘60s-era antigovernment attitudes affected Internet design, how file-sharing has destroyed the livelihood of so many artists, and how a new humanist approach to technology is the crucial next step. So step away from the smartphone and raise your peepers from the screen...

Jaron Lanier speaks on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 7 p.m., at City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, 261 Columbus Ave., SF. Free. (415) 362-8193, www.citylights.com