One of the most exciting, thought-provoking, inspiring, and Blakean thinkers of his generation, Douglas Rushkoff leads the way in developing a revolutionary 21st century project of recentering what it means to be human. His compelling and innovative take on everything from psychedelic drugs and the post-capitalist economy to the nature of digital technology and how to hack into our cultural programmes and start rewriting them, makes him a leading figure in understanding the dynamic intersection of technology, society and culture. He’s a media theorist – he’s the guy who coined the terms ‘viral media’, ‘digital native’ and ‘social currency’ – as well as an innovative writer, lecturer and hyper-cool graphic novelist, perhaps best known for his association with the early cyberpunk culture, and his advocacy of open source solutions to social problems.
Here’s just a glimpse of the magic.
“Team Human is most simply a sustained argument for human intervention in the Machine, that we’re living increasingly automated, directed, digital, capitalist lives – we’re living in a world that does not promote or celebrate human autonomy.”
The Best of Rushkoff
‘It’s Capitalism, Mate’: Another extraordinary and eye-opening Douglas Rushkoff podcast, this time with Richard Barbrook, the university lecturer who spearheaded Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s new digital manifesto. Topics covered include:
- the origin of the internet was not in the 60s counterculture but rather in the Military Industrial Complex (MiC) and Cold War competition over ‘who owns the future’ (“the internet was never ‘co-opted’, it comes out of Cold War competition. The CIA identified the internet in the early 60s as the new space age”)
- how the internet is in fact more subversive now than it’s ever been: “We almost destroyed the Conservative party in the last election, and it was Facebook that did that, despite its corporate structure. Facebook has allowed a platform to bypass the Tory media and the BBC”
- how all the mainstream media hate Corbyn, including the BBC and the Guardian, because he’s a socialist, not a liberal/neoliberal. “The Guardian absolutely hate him because he’s gone beyond – that’s why they called it ‘the Guardian’ – it guards what’s permissible”
- the striking alignment of economic liberalism with social liberalism in the last 30 years (the ‘Californian ideology’ most recently visible in the ‘Remain’ alignment). “Part of the Brexit vote was about how neoliberalism removes democracy – is controlled by the agenda of corporations and banks”
- how America has never forgiven the Russians for not being communists anymore. The plan for KGB-led Russia was to join the West – Yuri Andropov, Mikhail Gorbachev, Putin. “Putin was brought into power to put Russia into the EU, until we pissed him off.” America needs a credible enemy to justify the vast military spending and the profits from the MiC. They try to re-frame ‘Islam’ as the new enemy, but what they call Islam is really just a minority sect, Wahhabism: “Most Muslims absolutely hate these people, because they’re their No 1 target. As far as they’re concerned, these people are Saudis – they’re Wahhabis. Let’s not forget that Al-Qaeda was set up by the CIA”
The podcast is enormously thought-provoking and compelling, and from a perspective we rarely get access to. The main discussion starts at 15mins in.
Top Rushkoff Quotes
“The purpose of algorithms is to reduce human spontaneity and make you more predictable and to extract more value from you – as money, as time, and as data – and then use the data that you have about the person to market to them a future that they don’t yet know they’re going to, in order to reduce ‘anomalous’ behaviour.” – Team Human with Douglas Rushkoff | Virtual Futures Salon
Programme or be Programmed: “Evolution means that you’re not right – culture will evolve. Evolution means that not only do you not have to be right, but that you’re not right, right? Evolution means that it’s going to get better, improve, that you can adapt. The only way you can do that on a cultural level is by accepting what the framers of the constitution accepted: that we’re going to amend our rule set, we’re going to change the codes, change the programme.” – Douglas Rushkoff: Evolution means that you’re not right – culture will evolve
“I’ve given up on fixing the economy. The economy is not broken. It’s simply unjust. There’s a difference. We have to stop looking at our economy as a broken system, but one that is working absolutely true to its original design. It’s time to be progressive — and this means initiating systemic changes. For example, Bernie Sanders’ well-meaning calls to rein in the banking industry by restoring the Federal Reserve’s function as a “regulatory agency” reveals the Left’s inability to grasp the true causes for today’s financial woes. We are not witnessing capitalism gone wrong — an otherwise egalitarian currency system has not been corrupted by greedy bankers — but, rather, capitalism doing exactly what it was programmed to do from the beginning. To fix it, we would have to dig down to its most fundamental code, and rewrite it to serve people instead of power.” – Douglas Rushkoff: Fork the Economy
On Artificial Stupidity: “If anything, our tools – from Facebook and Twitter to iPhones and our credit cards – are trying to iron out the quirky nooks and crannies that make us people. That’s what predictive algorithms are for – to advertise the future to us before we’ve even lived it, in order to make our behaviour more predictable. If there’s an 80% chance that you’re going go on a diet in 2 weeks, Facebook wants to get that chance up to 90%, or 100%, so they can go to their sponsors and say ‘We know this person’s going to go on a diet – advertise to him’. So the possibilities – the range of possibilities for human behaviour ends up being narrowed. We become more like machines, as our machines become more like people.
And really a lot of it’s a reaction against a digital culture that really hates people. Google’s main objective now is to develop Artificial Intelligence. Google’s being run by a guy, Ray Kurzweil – he’s their chief scientist – who believes that humans are fast growing obsolete – that machines are better than people, and that the minute that machines think – that we hit the Singularity – then people will only be important insofar as we can keep the computers on. And that consciousness itself should be uploaded to the chip, and then we evolve to the next level – and I think they’re leaving a whole lot out. I think they want to evolve past humanity before they even understand what it is that we’re capable of. And they got mad at me – and they said, ‘Oh Doug, you only say this because you’re a human.’ And I realised – Yeah! But it’s not hubris to say this because I’m a human – I’m on team human – I am a human, and I refuse to apologise for fighting for my species’s survival in the coming age, particularly when it’s not some other species that I like better who’s going to take over – it’s chips, that don’t think, and feel – they calculate – they’re not alive, they have no consciousness – they never have, they never will.
And if that’s a weird superstitious spiritual belief, then so be it – I’m ok being guilty of that – of thinking that humans are special.” – Team Human with Douglas Rushkoff | Virtual Futures Salon
Human beings are the Singularity: “What the show Team Human is, is really bringing together people to help people understand that being a human being is a team sport – this is not something that you do alone – that what makes human human is our social capacity. So I’m talking to different people who are doing different kinds of things, in teams, to make the world more human, and who are looking at ‘what does it mean to be human at this moment, and how do we promote the human agenda?’
“What is the reason for the wish for the eclipse of the human? Self loathing.” “Maybe it’s a loss of the sense of the sacred. Yeah – and the fact that the sacred is human.” – Douglas Rushkoff: Singularity & Self-Loathing
“The most important thing to maintain is our humanity, in the face of the machines – our humanity, in the face of the institutions, our humanity, in the face of economics – the flesh-and-blood ‘I-love-you-You-love-me – isn’t-this-weird shit?‘ humanity. What we have on this earth is time, is time incarnate as people, and the object of the game is not to get out of this skin and somewhere else, but into this skin and really here.” – Douglas Rushkoff to Robert Anton Wilson