In Present Shock, media theorist Douglas Rushkoff argues that technology has delivered us to the future, and so it’s now time to use that technology to allow us focus on the present, instead of forcing us to constantly try to catch up.
“I’m a Presentist,” says Douglas Rushkoff. His new book, Present Shock, outlines a world where technological advancement has allowed us to live in real-time. The future–which used to be a destination that we marched toward–has arrived. Now, says Rushkoff, we need not worry about the future at all, because we are living in a present that will continue forever. Now we must either accept that fact and use our new technology to create a happier, present-based society, or constantly fight against it, in a losing battle against an always-on, always-connected economy.
What happened to the future? Rushkoff says you can trace its death to the same roots as the financial crisis. “Futurism–the yearning toward an end–is a symptom of the industrial age that we’re leaving behind,” he says. “It’s happening because the industrial age economy is finally running out of steam. … Industrial age currency has an accelerating clock built into it and we’ve reached the limits of our ability if not to grow, then to accelerate our growth.”
A SOLID STATE ECONOMY
Think about what this has meant for the global economy. Rushkoff notes that we’ve often taken abstract economic concepts and elevated them above production of physical goods. “The main forms of innovation from American companies that we’ve seen over the last 10 or 20 years have been financial innovation, which is more about creating a new kind of derivative that can compress time but that doesn’t actually make anything.”
Whole economies are fueled by these abstractions, which means the economy doesn’t need to keep expanding physically. It’s moved path the metaphor of progress that has fueled our idea of the future. “The industrial age was about going forward; was about growth; was about building for the future; was about investing in something that was going to be bigger later,” he says. “That has ended up getting replaced by a much more steady state economy, one that’s biased more toward transaction and the velocity of money rather than expansion and the storage of money. The cultural bias and economic bias metaphor is shifting from hard drive to ram, from potential energy to kinetic energy.”
SOLVING 21ST CENTURY PROBLEMS
Visualizing a better future seems nothing but admirable, but Rushkoff argues that by assigning a linear paradigm to these issues, we’re limiting ourselves in the possibilities of solutions. “If we stop looking at politics like a book, with a beginning, middle, and end, and we start looking at it more like the Internet, with an ongoing approach to behavior–that’s what’s going to solve 21st-century problems,” he says. “Twentieth century problems could be won, they had bad guys that could be beaten. You could go to the moon and stick a flag in the ground. But 21st century problems don’t have clear end points. Global warming, terrorism, child starvation: these are chronic problems that we can’t address through victory, but rather through developing sustainable, real time models or behaviors. These are not things you win, they’re things you learn to deal with and abate.”
via FastCoExist – MORGAN CLENDANIEL
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