Author, professor, and filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff is at City Lights on Wednesday, March 23 discussing his new book,Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity published by Portfolio Books. Douglas answered our 5 questions, more about him and his answers below.
About Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: The digital economy has gone wrong. Everybody knows it, but no one knows quite how to fix it, or even how to explain the problem. Workers lose to automation, investors lose to algorithms, musicians lose to power law dynamics, drivers lose to Uber, neighborhoods lose to Airbnb, and even tech developers lose their visions to the demands of the startup economy.
Douglas Rushkoff argues that it doesn’t have to be this way. This isn’t the fault of digital technology at all, but the way we are deploying it: instead of building the distributed digital economy these new networks could foster, we are doubling down on the industrial age mandate for growth above all. As Rushkoff shows, this is more the legacy of early corporatism and central currency than a feature of digital technology. In his words, “we are running a 21st century digital economy on a 13th century printing-press era operating system.”
Rushkoff calls on us to reboot this obsolete economic operating system and use the unique distributive power of the internet to break free of the winner-take-all game defining business today. A fundamentally optimistic book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus culminates with a series of practical steps to remake the economic operating system from the inside out—and prosper along the way.
About the Author: Douglas Rushkoff is the author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now as well as a dozen other bestselling books on media, technology, and culture, including Program or Be Programmed, Media Virus, Life Inc and the novel Ecstasy Club. He is Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens. He wrote the graphic novels Testament and A.D.D., and made the television documentaries Generation Like, Merchants of Cool, The Persuaders, and Digital Nation. He lives in New York, and lectures about media, society, and economics around the world.
City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?
Douglas Rushkoff: I came to City Lights back in 2013 to do a talk about Present Shock. It was one of the most magical, affirming evenings of my career. The crowd was large, but super focused. People were standing outside the front doors in the street, but everyone was quiet so that everyone could hear. It was such a diverse crowd–author Jerry Mander showed up, sitting two seats away from sex activist Conner Habib who was next to the founder of WordPress and the board of Burning Man. It was as if we were conjuring the very heart of the counterculture simply by gathering in its name.
CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?
DR: This one? Gosh. The first half would have to be something like Throbbing Gristle. The second half is a bit closer to Neil Young.
CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?
DR: Ever? Gosh. I think it was Scuffy the Tugboat. It was one of those Golden Books.
CL: If you weren’t a writer, what might you do?
DR: I don’t even have my current job. But if I weren’t a writer, I’d be a theater director.
CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi).
DR: Other people would be nice. Incidentally, that’s all one needs for an economy, too. Not to make this about my book or anything . . . ?