about this episode
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Jason has a very animated and interesting discussion with Doug Rushkoff. The two discuss his media theories and new book; “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now”
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Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. It’s Jason Calacanis. It’s ThisWeekIn Startups. Today on the program Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist, pundit and the author of ‘Present Shock.’ I’ve got the book right here. We’re going to hear all about why our present… What do you call it?
Doug: Our present.
Jason: Our present might be…
Jason: … shocking. Or it might be screwing up our future or our past or something. It has something to do with tense. I don’t know exactly. We’re going to get into it. One of the smartest guys I know on the program today. Stick with us. It’s going to be amazing.
TWiST title sequence.
Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. It’s Jason Calacanis. We are here on ThisWeekIn Startups. The show where we talk about technology, making a dent in the universe, entrepreneurship and building companies. Hey, the media is a big part of that. Today on the program, Douglas Rushkoff is going to talk about his amazing new book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Right Now. Real time… It’s a very important topic. As a matter of fact Inside.com, my next project, is very much based upon the river of news and being in the sort of flow of real time information. So I’m really fascinated to talk with him. One of the smartest people I know. I’ve known him for two decades. You’re in for a real treat today. And you’re in for a real treat if you use MailChimp. Isn’t that a pretty good segue. You like that? And now you get to see me embarrass myself, Doug. EEEeeee eeee eeee. MailChimp. That’s it. MailChimp is the software I use for my mailing list. You’ve got a big mailing list, right Doug.
Doug: Yeah. MailChimp wouldn’t take me.
Jason: Too many?
Doug: No. I gotta email 6,000 people and get verifications from each one of them.
Jason: Reverified. Yes. That’s a very good point. What they’re doing is they’re protecting against Russian spammers and insanity. However I know the CEO.
Jason: I will get you VIP.
Doug: Oh, cool.
Jason: Because… No. This is a serious thing. They don’t know once everybody tries to get in there…
Doug: I only want to send one email every two years. If I’m going to send one email to everybody…
Jason: This like an inside thing. Yeah. See this is how protective they are of their service.
Doug: I know. This is it though. It’s not what you know it’s who you know.
Jason: That’s exactly right. 12,000 emails per month, 2,000 subscribers are free. 2,000 subscribers free, 12,000 emails per month. You’ve got 6,000 so you had to pay a little bit. But it’s really affordable. They are constantly releasing new amazing features like mobile friendly email templates. Which I’m using. Version 8 finally has multi-user access. What that means Doug is you can have your assistant send an email and they don’t have your ability to download your email list and sell it to somebody. Pretty cool. Right?
Jason: There you go. There’s no contract. The free plan is always free.
Doug: It’s based on monkeys which is the coolest thing of all.
Jason: Basically. Basically it’s based on monkeys. Thank you to our friends at MailChimp for making great things possible. So just running it down, we’ve known each other for a long time. You’ve written 16 books. Including Media Virus, Exit Strategy, Ecstasy Club. Which was going to be made into a movie. Never happened. We’ll hear about that. A couple of front line documentaries. You teach at NYU’s ITP program. You’re on the advisory board of Meetup. That’s kind of cool. And we’ve known each other for ever.
Doug: Yeah. I work at Codecademy now.
Jason: Oh. You work a Code Academy? Codecademy.
Doug: I’m kind of their freelance-at-large digital literacy advocate.
Jason: Awesome. So what’s up with the book? Why did you write it? What is it? Tell me. Give me the stump speech. You must be on the road now selling this book.
Doug: Yeah. Although I’ve been talking more about it than selling it. I should sell it. I should really… I should…
Jason: Well don’t worry. That’s my job.
Doug: You’ll sell it?
Jason: I’ll sell it. You just tell me why you wrote it.
Doug: I wrote it because really I wanted people to understand the digital media environment. How is it different from what went before? I guess when it all gelled for me… It was probably 10 or 15 years ago only I couldn’t express it quite. It was that when digital technology came I felt like it was going to give us tremendous slack, tremendous freedom, tremendous ability to just do what we want in our own time.
Jason: Because they’re so efficient?
Doug: Because it’s asynchronous communication.
Doug: Cause it sits. If you get an email it sits in your email box until you get to it. So you don’t have to be all there in real time. You can do all sorts of time shifting and kind of take charge. It feels to me instead of truly embracing everything that’s new and cool and different about the digital age what we’ve done is try to extend the industrial age past its prime, past its due.
Jason: So people are working even more today. So technology was supposed to free us to a certain extent we’d be able to come home to our families, we’d have extra time, go into work late, be more efficient at work.
Doug: Right. So instead of being kind of on when you want to in this spontaneous way we’re kind of always on and so more of a slave. Not to the technology but to the people behind it. When I look all the way back at it… I mean this gets to a big conversation. The actual motivation, the honest one, the honest unshared motivation for writing this is that when I look at the difference in time, in the way time happens in the industrial age and our age. I look back and I say, “Gosh. The industrial age was this kind of time is money, maximize the efficiency of everything world. A world in which… as you know from launching and VC… where money literally has time embedded. It has a clock in it. Money is lent out like a little ticking bomb at interests. It’s got to grow and get paid back. That’s the operating system. We’re running the whole digital thing on that old operating system rather than if we could disintermediate business and education and libraries and everything else. Why can’t we disintermediate central banking? But when I look at the great digital age companies you know the Googles and the Facebooks and the Twitters they’re great at disrupting their own things but they’re kind of refusing to disrupt the economy. They still have good old fashioned exit strategy. They’re still beholden to shareholders on the stock exchange rather than really flipping it on its head.
Jason: People today… You’ve wrote about the ADD generation before, ADHD and all that kind of stuff. Today it feels like all the social norms have changed. Being constantly on your phone, not being present. It’s almost like this, what we’re doing right now, looking each other in the eye and having a conversation seems so rare. Cause on this television program we wouldn’t take out our phones cause we’d look rude.
Jason: But at dinners we’re going to do that all the time.
Doug: Right. And the irony of it in our particular cases all the digital stuff is the excuse for us to actually get together. We wouldn’t take this long and look this directly at each other if we didn’t have this digital thing to be anchored in.
Doug: It’s just so hard to make the time. You know in another way. But you’re exactly right. There’s so little of this. You walk into a room with everybody on their devices. Not to say that the devices are bad or that we shouldn’t be doing all that but the room is a different quality. It’s no longer this group of people sharing space together. It’s these fractious individuals.
Jason: Has the technology, in your estimation, you know when you look at virtual reality and all these things we’re supposed to be opening people up to more topics, have bigger visions, a bigger world view and it feels like the opposite’s happened. People have become more myopic. They’re more into their genre whatever it is, their fetish, their topic. They go deeper and deeper and deeper into the thing. They don’t seem to understand what’s going on in the rest of the world. Or are people becoming broader and more diverse do you think?
Doug: I guess there’s a little bit of both.
Doug: I mean I think these days it’s becoming more and more siloed. You know. So the more advanced the network you’re on, the more they’ve modeled you and your likely futures the more they’re going to try to steer it towards that. We know that Target knows when the girl is pregnant before her father does. You know. Facebook can figure out what 14 year old kid’s going to find out that they’re gay before the kids know they are. So if you start marketing to someone, start bringing them stuff based on their likely future then they’re kind of narrowing you before you can even make those choices.
Jason: It’s like we’re cows in some sort of pen and like, yeah, I may have some gay tendencies as a teen or I’m into some artist that might signal that I’m gay. Then the advertisers and marketers start signaling me more and more gay target centric content or whatever and it may actually lead me in that direction.
Doug: Right. Or get you to…
Jason: Not that there’s anything wrong with being led in that direction but…
Doug: Or get you to do more diets. They see that worry one day about your diet and then all of a sudden you’re getting hit with spam and everything. “You’re overweight. Oh no.”
Jason: Right. You do get followed around by the ads. It’s kind of creepy now.
Doug: That’s the weirdest thing. I was looking for New Balance or something. I’m looking for a weird color of New Balance. Then I just go and do a Google search and the ad… I was like, “Oh man. They’re all sharing the whole shebang.” I didn’t know whose cookies involved in what, who’s template anymore.
Jason: Yeah. Then you have kids and you go into your Netflix and it’s like, “Wow, You like dark documentaries and you like Disney movies.”
Jason: It’s like the algorithm’s getting really confused by our single account but also in our house like I see…
Doug: Oh, they’ve got it all down. The weird thing is the computers are learning more and more and more about us but we’re tending to know less and less about them. You know we’re kind of moving back into the iPad… just sort of, you know, stroke it here and there reality while the computers on the other side are getting pretty intelligent.
Jason: So what you’re saying is our job is being dumbed down, the interfaces are being dumbed down but the algorithms are getting more and more intelligent.
Doug: Smarter and smarter. They only have one purpose, to extract more and more money from us in less time.
Jason: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Extract more money and time from us?
Doug: More money from us in less time. Ever more efficiently.
Jason: That’s fascinating.
Doug: You know. You’re not just supposed to sit there. You’re supposed to be…
Jason: Basically people are spending all their time programming these things to make it easy for us to lose our money faster. It’s almost like we’re living in a huge casino.
Doug: Yeah. But the only reason we have to do that… That’s when I was realizing it’s not that anyone wants it like that. It’s we have to do that because that’s the way a growing economy works. That’s the underlying operating system I’m talking about. The one that has to play out over time when we beat time. We’re in digital land now. We don’t have to play that game anymore.
Jason: And is the catch up that we’re trying… I mean we’re basically accelerating and accelerating and accelerating. By doing that efficiency acceleration we basically disrupt entire industries, jobs get evaporated and the rich obviously get richer because they… Whoever is on the top of this pyramid scheme…
Jason: … is getting disproportionally rewarded but the bottom is falling out.
Jason: Where does that lead society though?
Doug: Well it’s tricky. Then it dies anyway.
Doug: So it’s like Clear Chanel. They buy all the radio stations. They do all that until like they broadcast it out from one little place in Phoenix or somewhere. The entire nation. Then it dies. Right?
Doug: Then they start selling it back but the infrastructure’s gone. Sort of the FM radio culture thing. It moved here I guess. It moved to the net.
Jason: So after decades of studying this stuff can you determine if it’s getting worse or better? Or is it just so cloudy now? Cause we do see places like Europe which are moving to negative growth or zero growth and riots in the street and people having money taken out of their bank accounts in Cyprus as attacks against them. Even poor people because the countries are imploding. Is that the future for The United States? Is that the future for the whole world?
Doug: I mean maybe. Yes and no. I do think long term what we’re looking at is a transition from a debt based growth economy to a present based, kind of a steady state economy. The only place that we’ve seen this kind of stuff is in weirdo places frankly. Right? It’s like Ithaca Hours and places like that. People are experimenting with time dollars and let systems and all that.
Jason: Wait, wait, wait. Explain that. I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Doug: You know where instead of borrowing money from the bank at interest and using that to transact, where a town or a large group of people can basically create a favor bank. And say, “OK. You’ve mowed my lawn.” You know. You spent these 3 hours so now I’m 3 hours in debt to you. So now I’m three hours in debt to you but I can pay the 3 hours to him. So basically…
Jason: People have tested this?
Doug: Oh, yeah. Now in the places where it’s working best are the places where the economy is so crashed that there’s no way for them to get regular currency. So you see in like Lansing, Michigan you see people using alternative currencies in a smart way. Or in Greece where they can’t get the euro. Cause what they’ve discovered in a real economy is if you have an expertise and I have a need and I have an expertise and he’s got a need then we have the basis of an economy. We don’t need to get a loan from a bank to put a factory down. Particularly in the net age when a lot of us can… You can build an iPhone app on your computer. Two kids can do it on a $2K laptop, not even and post it up there and start getting 50¢ a pop.
Jason: What’s the generational gap and perception about time? Because we’re now… You might be 50. I’m 42. I’m guessing you’re 50 now.
Jason: We’re Gen-X I guess. We look at the world a certain way and millennials look at it tremendously differently. Baby boomers differently than us.
Doug: It’s different in tons of ways. But I mean from the time perspective you and I were raised with the analog clock.
Doug: So we look at a minute or an hour as a portion of a day.
Doug: It’s this portion of this thing that we live from morning to night.
Jason: The pie chart?
Doug: Right. For a kid being raised in a digital temporal environment a minute or a second is an absolute. Right? It’s duration. It’s not a segment. It’s an absolute duration just hanging there in space. So their experience of the passage of time or of temporal reality is choice to choice to choice. We can do that… When we go into a video game we’re in that. We’re in the sort of present tense choice to choice to choice to choice. When we were raised in a novel. Right? We’re watching our hero go through his story. It’s already there. They’re much more likely to be in one of the other present. Either in the real present of this moment or more likely chasing the present of their device.
Jason: Is that why we see so much melancholy, moodiness, Emoness generally sort of the millennials. Listen. They said it about Gen-X too. We were sort of the depressed generation and the Prozac generation. You do see a certain… It’s embodied I guess in the show ‘Girls’ or any pop culture about this generation of millennials. We see this sort of… They’re so anxious. Does that have to do with this… they’re chasing time?
Doug: Yeah but it’s also a transition. I mean we were raised in a world with beginnings, middles and ends, with movements, with capitalism or communism or Catholicism. There was something at the end that we were working towards. Even if just the 401K plan. There was a thing. They don’t have that. Right? So there’s no goal. You talk to even activists, you talk to occupiers. They’ll say, “We’re not going to talk about goals or demands or what we want. We’re actually doing the thing now.” It’s kind of that much more of a Burning Man sensibility.
Jason: Oh. I think I just understand your book in that very moment. Unpack that. We actually bought into capitalism, we bought into a better life, we bought into getting the house, the car, the second house, the second car.
Doug: There’s a story.
Jason: Yeah. There’s some narrative that we actually believed. But they don’t actually buy into it.
Doug: They don’t. Partly because of the millennium. We went from the 19’s to the 2000s. So we weren’t leaning forward into the future, we’re kind of in the present. They experienced 9/11 which was a huge discontinuity. Even more for young people I think than for us.
Jason: How so?
Doug: A lot of them really talk about before and after. The idea of not having ideals. You know they feel a real… at least the sort of younger smart ones I talked to… feel like this real need to reconnect to some history. To have some sense of purpose, some sense of origin. But they don’t. I mean you think about Facebook where your friends from second grade have equal status to your friends from last week, where your future is already algorithmically determined by the thing. Your future just collapsed down to this one moment. So there’s no sense of time. There’s no sense of passage.
Jason: Interesting. I kind of feel like my life is anchored in that pre-9/11, post-9/11. It does seem like an anchoring point for many people. Why do you think that is?
Doug: Well causes it was a break. You know? It was a break. What’s clear is that a certain part of the american dream was over. That indestructible, infallible… growing up. I mean we’ll recover. Things will happen.
Jason: Yeah. Clearly we have.
Doug: It was different.
Jason: More people have died from bee stings since 9/11 than on 9/11. Which is not to diminish it but it is to put it in context.
Doug: Well context in terms of numbers of deaths not in terms of american hegemony and world leadership and growth and all that.
Jason: And invincibility.
Doug: Right. But our youth, to their credit, are looking at things less in terms of big campaigns and long term victories and much more in terms of sustainability. If you don’t have the kind of narratives. If we’re going to go to the moon, stick a flag in the surface and win. Or beat the russians.
Jason: Do they need that? Is that like one of the reasons why they’re getting sort of tagged as this entitled, self indulgent generation? Is that they don’t have something bigger to aspire towards or look forward to? Or do they have it right?
Doug: No. The reason… They do have it right. Some of them. But the reason they are getting tagged that way because when you ask kids today what they want to be more than anything else, it’s like 92% now. Like kids under 13 say, “Famous.” That’s it. They want fame. It’s like, “For what?” They don’t care. Just the fame.
Jason: They just want the fame. What about happiness?
Doug: They’ve seen American Idol. They’re not ashamed to go on Facebook and say, “Please like my page. Give me votes. Give me numbers.”
Doug: Cause they see the kids going, “Dial 2.”
Jason: LMS. Like My Status. I didn’t know what that was that LMS. But that’s the standard desire we’ve all had which is to recognized in the universe. It’s just actually manifested itself as Andy Warhol predicted as, “I want my 15 minutes.”
Doug: Well and “I want my numbers. I want the metrics.”
Doug: You know they want the metrics the same as a startup.
Jason: It’s much different than say the Gen-X sort of group where I think we just wanted to be… I try to sum up what Gen-X wanted in this turn of century kind of time. It was we wanted to create. We wanted to build stuff. We wanted to maybe innovate. You’re waring the Silicon Alley Reporter shirt which… thank you for that.
Doug: We wanted to not be yuppies.
Jason: Yeah. Absolutely.
Doug: And computers sort of made it look like, and I think they do. “Oh, my gosh. I don’t have to go get that job or go down that path. I can make something.” You said, “I’m going to make a magazine.”
Doug: “I’m going to do it. I’m just going to do it.”
Jason: “I’m just going to do it. Fuck it.”
Jason: Aw shit. That’s $20 in the fucking swear jar. $30.
Doug: Then you added the shit later is the beautiful thing.
Jason: I’m just putting up a hundo for now. It’s all going to charity.
Doug: Well that’s good.
Jason: You’re on me Doug. It’s all going to charity.
Doug: Oh, thank you.
Jason: I don’t know. The swear jar is going to…
Doug: It’s beautiful. But the thing about startups is the weird thing. It’s really tricky. I feel like there’s two kinds of startups in this world. There’s the startups that I like which are people who love to do something and they’re looking for a little bit of help. They’re going to just do it. Period.
Jason: They’re going to do it because they have to do it. It’s in them. It’s in their DNA.
Doug: Well and because they love… It’s their thing.
Doug: The enterprise that they’re getting involved in is the thing they care about. But then there are these people out there, I’ve heard them speak, that they don’t anticipate doing that thing 18 months from now. It’s like once they get from one of those series events they want to leave.
Doug: What is that? You know unless they’re partnered. Unless they’re like professional startuppers.
Jason: That’s the same thing that happened in web 1.0 when people were… The hangers on came in and they wanted to have a win. You know?
Doug: They want a win for…
Jason: Whatever. Monetary or whatever. Perhaps it’s even fame.
Jason: How has the media changed? It seems to me you know… We went to a lot of Nicks’ games together over the years. We spent a lot of time talking. I feel like a lot of the education I have and a lot of the way I think is from the time I got to spend with you in my youth.
Doug: And me with you.
Jason: No. Definitely not.
Jason: No. I think it’s the other way around. I don’t think you learned anything from me. But I did learn a lot and I’ve always appreciated that about how you took the time to explain these things to me. The media has changed tremendously. It’s going bankrupt in a way. Like literally going bankrupt. It seems to me that part of the reason they’re going bankrupt is this presentalism. Is that a word?
Jason: Presentism. Am I pronouncing it correct? Presentism.
Doug: Yeah. Presentism in the positive… I usually call it presentism as opposed to like futurism.
Doug: Present shock is when people can’t sort of deal with presentism.
Jason: Right. It does seem like the media enterprises are in present shock. When you have New York Times journalists worried about their page view count as opposed to worrying about telling the truth and the story that matters most. They’re on tilt there. I mean, the kid who did the election predictions. I forgot his name. Scream it out if you know it.
Doug: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: You know the guy I’m talking about. Who was the guy that did the election predictions, Richard?
Doug: Nate Silver.
Jason: Nate Silver. Richard Metzger, off camera. Nate Silver like is this page view machine for them. He wound up being whatever… a third of the page views. At least during that time period. Those journalists are now into presentism.
Doug: Yeah but he’s the ideal sort of internet franchise for the New York Times cause it’s…
Doug: It’s present, it’s immediate and it’s statistics, it’s numbers. You know. This is the number place so that’s where you see it. The streaming thing. You know kind of all the John Borthwicks, kinda like streaming everything all the time. Numbers, things. Where is he with your geo-location and this. It’s that Twitter stream feeling. That’s fine for that. Where the New York Times gets in trouble is when they try to nettify or digitize stuff that actually is at home in the other universe. I think it’s OK… On the one hand I want people to be better and more effective digital citizens and digital people and digital business and use that stuff right, asynchronistically. Even in dehumanizing ways because you know you’re going to be dehumanized now and do an Excel spreadsheet. But then to also remember what they got the last society, from the good ‘ol industrial age. From the top down.
Jason: From the three act, you know…
Doug: From the 5 act structure to the 3 act structure. The beginning, middle, end. There are still storytellers we can give ourselves over to. I’m still watching… Although it can be argued that it is presentist… I’m giving myself over to Game of Thrones…
Doug: … and the modern storytellers.
Jason: Well I mean binge viewing is presentism at its finest. Is it not?
Doug: It is. In some ways. Then you also… The present shock of say House of Cards is when I see somebody and they say, “Oh, my God. Are you watching House of Cards?” And you go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m on episode 7.” “Oh no. I’m only on episode 3.”
Doug: You know. So I’m just a walking spoiler at this point.
Jason: Right. It’s fascinating.
Doug: So you don’t have the… very rarely anyway… you have the next morning did you see it?
Doug: There’s sort of an agreement. I feel like me and my Game of Thrones friends are sort of in agreement to get to it by Monday morning.
Doug: Otherwise everything’s fair.
Jason: Yeah. All bets are off. Right. You’ve got till Monday when the sun rises.
Jason: If not stay off Twitter.
Doug: I know. But thank HBO for having at least a discreet premiere. You know. At least there’s some…
Jason: Well I feel like this is now presentism has affected my Nicks viewership. LIke there’s a Nicks game on right now that I was watching, the gamecast from ESPN. Which is very presentism. Right? It’s showing you every shot. Even though I’m not watching the video it’s every… It’s a live blog. Which we created at Engadget by the way. Peter Rojas created that whole concept. But that very present sort of state. I’m going to stay off Twitter until I get home after my poker game at 1AMand watch the end of the Nicks’ game, the second half.
Jason: Because I know if I go on Twitter I’m going to find out if Miami… who won and who lost. But I also don’t seem to care about who won or who lost. I still watch the game. What does that say?
Jason: Hey, everybody. Hey, everybody. What a great episode this is. I’m so so happy that you’re tuning in to ThisWeekIn Startups. This show is not cheap to produce. You know, I got these expensive microphones, these great lights. We put a lot effort into it. We need support to do that. One of our longest supporters for the show, historically has been SquareSpace. One of the great things about having SquareSpace as a partner for all these years is I use their product. I’ve used their product for years. We use it for Launch. We use it for everything we do. They are able to make exceptionally beautiful looking sites in a very easy fashion. So when you think, “I got to build a beautiful website and I got to build it right now. I gotta get it up today.” Whether it’s for, you know, your school or for a small business or a consulting firm or a photographer or your cousin. Whoever it is that’s saying, “I need a website. I need a website. Do you know anybody that can make me a beautiful website? I need a competitive, beautiful website.” You think SquareSpace. Somebody says website, you say SquareSpace. Somebody says, “I need to build a beautiful website.” You say, “SquareSpace.” OK? That’s all you need to know. It’s very easy for me to tell you to do that because I use it, family members of mine use it, business associates of mine use it. We use it all the time at Inside.com, at Launch, etc… You can instantly create now an online store. So my wife is building a natural foods business. She was like, “Oh. I gotta get this magento, this thing. It’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars.” Guess what? SquareSpace did it. They put it in the product. You can sell digital and physical goods. It starts at only $24 a month. I keep telling Anthony over there, “You gotta raise the prices on this. This is a $240 a month product.” He tells me, “I always want to help more people. I want to make it affordable for everybody. I’ll make it up in aggregate.” You know what? He’s a smart guy. Smarter than me. His business is incredibly successful. It starts at only $24 a month when you sign up for a year. Every site is automatically resized for the mobile version. So this is… If you were trying to build a website on your own every time some new technology comes out like mobile or let’s say you need to have ecommerce. You can then reinvent the wheel and pay a consultant ten dimes, a high society. Five, ten dimes out of your pocket. Or you use SquareSpace for a couple hundred bucks a year, a couple of dollars a month, $20 a month, $30 a month whatever it is. Guess what? You get those new features as they’re released because SquareSpace is on it. They’re on it so you don’t need to be. Look at these beautiful templates here. Between Wind & Water, gorgeous. These are all mobile templates. So when you click on that little triple bar there, which is what you see in iOS apps, that pulls up the menu and you can go shop. Between Wind & Water, just gorgeous stuff here. All of these templates will work when you’re shopping. Oh God. These are so cool. Look at that, the envelope set. I love this stuff. This person is like they want to make a virtual shop. They can make it overnight. They can make it the same day. Truth & Lies t-shirts. Beautiful shopping collection. It just works. You can add the stuff to your cart. You know how this stuff works. Here’s ABK, custom leather crafts. Beautiful, beautiful stuff. This is where SquareSpace plus commerce is such a great combination because they are awesome at making beautiful sites and shopping is about beautiful sites. Right? When you see a beautiful site, a beautiful wrapper, it encourages you to buy. When you see an ugly site it’s like, “AAaaa.” The products probably sucks. Right? So thank you so much to SquareSpace. SquareSpace.com/twist to try it out for free. No credit cared required. If you decide to keep your site after the trial please use the offer code TWiST4. SquareSpace is everything you need to create an exceptional website. Yes. SquareSpace is everything you need to make an exceptional website. Look at that. This is beautiful too. Look at this. Oh wow. I like how the images float around on this one. Gorgeous. This is molecola.squarespace.com. Gorgeous stuff. Thank you, thank you. Everybody thank at SquareSpace on your Twitter account. Let’s get back to the program. It’s important stuff.
Doug: That’s good.
Jason: It’s kind of like I’ve given up. The outcome is not as important as the journey.
Doug: Yeah. You’re actually engaged in the process. That’s middle age for ya. Yeah but I think it’s a positive thing. I think it’s also middle ages in society. The whole goal seeking that was invented back in the colonial era… “We’re going to go and get more continents and we’re going to go and take over more slaves and we’re going to go extract more stuff out of the ground.” That was all unnecessary on a certain extent.
Doug: That’s all an artifact of the kind of money we were using. That’s all an artifact of trying to save the nobel classes who were really losing ground fast to a peer-to-peer economy that was growing up. It’s happening again. There is the peer-to-peer possibility whether it’s Etsy and Ebay and podcasting and everything else.
Jason: People are now… It’s crazy to think but artisanal food is becoming a very big deal. Food cooked from farms.
Jason: People are putting chickens in their backyards and having their own eggs. It’s almost like they’re saying, “I’m going to get off the hedonic treadmill. I’m just going to have my own chickens make my own eggs. I’m going to trade eggs for something else.
Jason: It’s happening in Brooklyn and upstate New York. Right?
Doug: The argument that that’s less efficient no longer holds water for me. So what if it’s less efficient than some industrial age process that’s using interstate highways to get food from one place to another. We don’t have to… Efficiency is not the only value that matters. In certain ways if you’re less efficient about your soil use you end up with a healthier top soil. You know in industrial agriculture…
Jason: Yeah. They’re more nutrients.
Doug: Exactly. Our broccoli’s got half the nutrients they had 25 years ago.
Jason: Well maybe look at wheat. We basically genetically modified wheat the the point at making dwarf wheat which is a thousand times more efficient breaker but also makes everybody fat.
Jason: Cause our bodies don’t know how to process it because it has enough fiber. How does this affect politics? Because I feel like presentism is becoming… I almost feel like media and politics are the only two places where it applies most. Obviously technology is probably where it applies most but how does it affect politics?
Doug: Well. I mean you look at Obama. Obama certainly gave lip service to presentism. “We are the change that we’ve been waiting for.” There’s nothing more presentist than that. We’re not going towards anything. This is it. We are it. This is it.
Jason: It’s us.
Doug: Now is the time. We are the ones. You know.
Doug: Just like boom. It was so presentist. But when he got into office it didn’t feel presentist anymore. It didn’t feel like an invitation. it was a great campaign but it wasn’t really a participatory real time presidency.
Jason: So it’s still a ways to go there.
Doug: Yeah. But that’s the reason I think you see the occupy movement and the tea party alike. Which are sort of two sides of the same presentist coin. The tea party’s basically saying, “Now, now, now. Give me the change now.”
Doug: Occupy is just like, “We’re here in the now.” You know?
Jason: Right. This is the now.
Jason: The occupy movement, it seems to me, was a failure. Am I right or am I wrong?
Doug: I think you’re wrong. I think you have to look at it… I hate to say it like that but you have to look at it as a thousand year movement, as the beginning of…
Jason: So that was inning one? The first 5 minutes.
Doug: Not even.
Jason: Minute one?
Doug: That was the first pitch.
Doug: That was the first pitch. I mean the second pitch was Occupy Sandy and Occupy Debt. Which is going on now.
Doug: Which is where they’re spending pennies on the dollar or on the $10 to get debt of people like who have medical debt and this debt and the other, just relieving it.
Jason: How are they doing that? Are the just complaining?
Doug: They’ve formed the kind of company that is just like any other credit buying company. So you know there are all these two bit companies out there. They spend $10K and they get $1M worth of debt then do whatever they can to try to collect it. Well what Occupy does is raise $10K, buy $1M in debt then relieve it.
Jason: Ah. That’s fascinating.
Jason: But see here’s the thing with Occupy.
Jason: There were no demands. There was no efficacy. All they did was sit there and they had, to me, like two great moments. One was when they marched on Bloomberg’s house. Right? They went to his townhouse. Then they went to somebody else’s townhouse. I just thought to myself, “My God. If you send a thousand people to protest in front of a billionaire’s house based on how much tax they didn’t pay and that’s on CNBC and that’s on CNN… What if they go to X internet CEO who’s company just dodged taxes and pays some very minuscule tax rate? In Palo Alto 500 people show up in front of the tiny little home of Steve Jobs or another place. Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t repatriate like $100M…
Doug: You mean like terrorizing the 1% for their corporate malfeasance?
Jason: Basically that would have worked so well. Now I would go do that except I am in the 1%. I don’t want to be terrorizing myself. I don’t want people protesting outside my house.
Doug: Yeah. It’s not really meant to be terrorizing the people. It’s really meant as a new normative behavior. At least as I see it. It’s like, “OK. How could we engage?” So really the greatest innovation that they brought back was general assembly. Which here is consensus building. We want to replace sort of left/right argumentative debates politics with this new group consensus tool. There’s actually a startup, I guess you could call it. A non-profit startup in New Zealand called… I forgot the name of it. Well I’ll tell you if you tweet me.
Doug: That’s basically general assembly on line. So there’s always big organizations, governments and even corporations are using it as a way of discussing things. Sort of the way that open space technologies worked. People went into companies and they started to do, “Let’s have meetings about this or have meetings about that.”
Jason: It seems like the republicans are changing in real time and starting to realize the present is much more important than their past. They are flipping their position on gay marriage in real time. Like just at the taping of this interview, April 2, 2013, in the past what? 30 or 60 days we’ve seen republican after republican say, “We’re expanding our view on this issue.” Which basically means, “We’re changing our minds.” Then after they lost the election, the last 90 days, changing their minds on immigration. We wanted to build a huge wall and keep the mexicans out. Now we want to have a path to citizenship for the 10M mexicans who are essentially building this goddamned country for the last couple of decades. Right?
Jason: They have flipped in real time. Or is it… Is that a sign of presentism?
Doug: Yeah. Well it’s a sign of…
Jason: Losing? Losing elections to a black man.
Doug: Yeah. I mean in some ways it reveals how specious their faith in their own belief is.
Jason: Yeah. They flipped quick.
Doug: They flipped quick. We all seem to flip quicker now than we did before. But yeah. The election cycles, the interesting thing is that they seem so much faster now. It’s all the time. There’s no time there’s not a presidential run. I mean the presidential campaigns are already happening now for the next time out one way or another.
Jason: It used to be like a 3 year gap where we could all just calm down about it.
Jason: But it’s all jockeying now.
Doug: And they could go govern. Again in other words there was a cycle. There’s an election cycle. Competition, competition, fight, fight, fight, advertise, advertise, advertise. Right? Let’s go govern. Let’s go pass a bill. We’ll do this. That other stage, there’s no govern time now.
Jason: What about education? What are your thoughts on education today? We see it’s a quarter of a million dollars to go to university. You teach at one of those universities.
Doug: I can’t. I couldn’t afford it.
Jason: You teach at a university you could’t afford to go to.
Doug: No. That I couldn’t afford to teach at.
Doug: I could only get adjunct. There’s kids paying $60K-$70K and I’m getting like $3K or $4K.
Doug: So that didn’t work. Meanwhile the same universities are using 90%-95% adjunct teachers who don’t have the same…
Doug: Well the same ability to commit. If you’re an adjunct teacher you’re being paid for your 2 or 3 hours a week.
Doug: You’re not supposed to sit there and do meetings and be advising.
Doug: It’s just I couldn’t… as a working writer… I couldn’t afford to give that at that time.
Jason: But what do you think about education today?
Doug: The weird thing is education, like so many other industries in a digital media environment is a la carte. Right? It’s you get your iTunes singles instead of buying the record. You can get the one episode of the show you want to watch. You can choose what one course you want from anything.
Doug: You don’t have to go through the proscribed layout anymore.
Jason: So, as a parent, is your hope that your child goes to college or is your hope that they a la carte it?
Doug: I liked being a member of a society. Or a wealthy enough member of a society. To be able to take 4 years and dedicate that time to just learning stuff with other people. You know that may be a luxury we can no longer afford as a nation, as an economy. It’s really valuable. It’s really formative. I mean maybe that’s some weird liberal artsy thing. The whole idea that you’re going to… I mean what was college really for? It was for gentlemen. They wore sweaters and walked around in quadrangles.
Jason: Yeah. It was kind of weird and outdated but it does feel like it’s a nice luxury for the western world. But i mean to be $250K in debt or $100K in debt…
Doug: It’s unreasonable.
Jason: … it’s unreasonable. Is it not?
Doug: To burden yourself with that. For what? You probably get them too. I get a ton of email from kids graduating high school or in their freshman year at college going, “Can I just come and work with you?”
Doug: You know. It’s like it’s cheaper they’d work for free. It’s cheaper for them. Than $50K a year.
Jason: I think it’s better that they just pay for an apprenticeship somewhere. Like if you think about it. If you had $250K and I said to your child, “For the next five years I’ll give you $50K. Pay $10K to go get a trade skill each year and spend $40K on your living expenses.” They would get further along wouldn’t they?
Doug: They would. You look it’s the kind of thing premeds who become doctors do. They go to college. They’re learning the skills. They’re taking the courses, they’re getting the A’s and they’re getting through it. A 6 year med program and they don’t really even do college. So there’s certainly rich educated people who opt for that. But the thing I think we miss is these sort of communities of learning. The cohorts that you can develop.
Doug: Maybe it’s an idealized situation but even in… I would think that in almost any college you end up in one seminar, one group, one thing happens…
Jason: And that defines you? Or could define you potentially.
Doug: You feed off it for years.
Jason: Yeah. Alright let’s go through some of these buzzwords. You’re amazing for making new words up.
Doug: I try to make good ones. Viral media was a good one.
Jason: You created media virus?
Doug: If you could get a quarter… Yeah. Media Virus was the book.
Jason: That’s amazing you came up with that word.
Doug: I know. I want .0005¢ for every time..
Jason: When was that? What year did you come up with that?
Jason: Wow. That’s fascinating.
Doug: That was before the web really.
Doug: That was viral in the sense of like Woody Allen and Soon-Yi and Amy…
Jason: Yeah. You understood that concept I guess.
Doug: It was starting. Lateral peer-to-peer, fax machines and the beginnings of emails was happening.
Jason: Alright. Let’s go through them.
Jason: Digiphrenia? Did I get that right?
Doug: Yeah. Digiphrenia. Digiphrenia is the kind of present shock that we kind of get from our devices. It’s the digital one. Because a lot of people were talking, especially back in the day, about information overload and the big problem humans are going to have online is information overload. I’ve never had a problem with information overload. If it’s too much information turn it off. Stop reading. You know. Go to the bathroom. Like leave. it wasn’t that. For me, the unease is sort of having the multiple instances of myself online. Functioning without my full awareness and control. You know it’s why I was sort of comfortable with Twitter because it only does things on my behalf when I tweet tweet them out or people are retweeting me. I was uncomfortable with Facebook. I left after you did but it was because I no longer knew what it was doing on my behalf.
Jason: That’s the scary part. I put my feed back on and then I syndicated my Twitter there. Then I saw my feed one day and I guess because I have so many followers every single marketer of friend of mine who is marketing something would tag me in their photos. By the way, if you’re friend and you do this, it’s so douchey it’s unbelievable. It’s like showing up at a dinner party that I’m having, when you weren’t invited and being like, “Hey. What’s up? I just wanted to tell everybody about some shit I’m doing that’s not relevant to the conversation. I’m out.”
Jason: They literally post shit on your wall…
Doug: That’s other users though. But what about when Zuck is doing it to you?
Doug: What about when you show up in a sponsored story about something?
Jason: That’s bullshit.
Doug: Worse, when people who have liked your page shows up in a sponsored story about you or the thing that your supposed to be shown up in.
Jason: It’s so confusing. It’s like when did I give my endorsement? I’m endorsing what?
Doug: Yeah. Exactly.
Jason: I liked a restaurant and now I’m their spokesperson?
Doug: Even if you go into all of your stuff and change your profiles and pick the right radio buttons…
Jason: It still doesn’t work.
Doug: But even if it did.
Doug: and you are sorry… as a net teacher at this point.
Doug: As one of the people who is kind of teaching appropriate ways of dealing with… How could we go on there and solicit likes from people and companies that are only going to make them vulnerable to stuff we don’t even know what they’re vulnerable to.
Jason: It’s almost like when you think about when the internet started Zuckerberg and what he did with Facebook was everything we were fighting against.
Doug: Oddly enough. Although we were also fans of the social net. We were fans of it being social…
Jason: Right. We wanted the community but we didn’t want this kind of community.
Jason: LIke this is like being in Willy Wonka’s factory or something where like…
Doug: He had the chance. That’s one of the things that I look at. I look at Facebook. I look at Google. I look at Twitter. I think, “These guys were ready to disintermediate everybody.” Right? Whether it was the book industry and Amazon or retail. Or whether it was the search engine with Google by doing it from the bottom up. There so ready to flip it but in the end they’re still just shareholder driven companies. They were afraid to challenge the biggest operating system of all. So as such…
Doug: Right. Or the way it works. In other words VC and bank investment and all that. The way it works now. They couldn’t challenge that one. I think these guys… That’s why I look at them, these digital companies, not as the first digital age companies but as the last industrial age companies.
Doug: You know. Using digital age tools. But the first real digital age companies… You know. We’ll see.
Jason: Oh. They won’t be subservient to the stock market?
Doug: Right. They be what PayPal kinda tried to be. Then they got… They were going to make their money on the float and not charge anybody anything. But then the banks came along and said, “You can’t do that you’re not regulated like a bank.” So they had to then team with a bank instead. So the genuinely potentially disruptive big, big businesses have ended up going on the stock exchange and becoming part of business as usual. One way or another.
Jason: What is your take on the last half dozen dictators on the planet? You have like Kim Jong-un and Ahmadinejad and you have this sort of dying cohort.
Jason: Is the world in fact going to get better and safer? Or do you think because of present thinking in a way or is this going to get dangerous? At the time of this taping, people may be watching this 20 years from now, we can’t tell if Kim Jong-un is serious about lobbing rockets at The United States or if he’s just a kid who is screwing around and wants more aid to get more movies or something. I don’t know. Or hang out with Dennis Rodman. I mean when you look at this as a media theorist and you’re trying to actually find out what’s going on in the world…
Doug: I’d have to say better not worse. The reason that better would be would be because of presentism. You know it’s… The industrial age was really good at creating great distance between those of us who buy stuff and those of us who die making it. Right? Whether it was the Coolie labor or the stuff going on in China and India or whether it’s God knows who now losing their lives in Africa trying to get the transistor…
Doug: Or part for your iPhone or whatever it is.
Jason: Yeah. The rare minerals.
Doug: Right. The industrial age helped separate us from the people who were putting time and energy and blood into the stuff that we had. The net does make us much more witness to what’s going on. I just was playing with this website called Slaveryfootprint.org. Have you seen this one?
Jason: No. I haven’t
Doug: It’s really crazy. You go on it and you type in all the stuff you have. How big your house is, whether you have one car or two cars. It tells you how many slaves work for you.
Doug: It’s a way of making you more aware of the 4M out there who are slaves. But what is this? This is basically bringing people back into the present. Saying, “OK. Even if these people are far away you can actually know about them now.” Right? It makes their time visible to us.
Jason: Wow. So I take a survey. Do I own… Where do I live? The United States.
Doug: I think the more people do things like this in one way or another. The more aware people are the harder it is for us to justify our relationship with these horrible dictator types and what keeps them alive.
Jason: Wow. This is crazy. Let’s go back to the buzz words. Sorry. I wanted to get through these. Overwinding.
Doug: Overwinding occurred to me when I read Stewart Brand.
Doug: He wrote this book, The Clock of the Long Now. He was talking about trying to think in 10,000 year lifespans. As I thought about trying to think in a 10,000 year lifespan and the pressure that put me under every time I had a piece of plastic in my hand, I realized I ended up feeling this is not a long forever or a long now. I’m experiencing it like a short forever. It’s like this perpetual kind of panic moment. So overwinding is when we try to take really long timespans and shove them into really tight ones. Like the way algorithmic and ultra high frequency trading kind of takes a year of trades and shoves them onto the head of a pin.
Doug: I got the idea for the chapter when I was watching The Housewives of Orange County. Looking at the way they put so much Botox in their face where there sort of like trying to freeze time at age 29. But then they end up getting into all these misunderstandings with others because they can’t make the facial expressions that are consonant with the emotions that they’re expressing.
Jason: There’s a science fiction moment.
Doug: It is a science fiction moment.
Jason: It’s like a Twilight Zone episode.
Doug: Right. So in order to try to stop time they’ve made themselves unavailable to the now. To the real present that they’re engaging with the others.
Jason: Fascinating. OK. One more.
Doug: Let’s take one more.
Doug: Fractalnoia. The idea of fractalnoia is that when you’re living in a world with no time there’s no… You can’t understand things through stories. You can’t understand things through cause and effect anymore cause we’re always in the now. So if you have to understand the world in the now, in a snapshot, then you’re basically going to understand things not by understanding the stories, not by understanding the history or the logic but by making sense of the picture. By trying to draw connections between things. It gets you into all sorts of bizarre conspiracy theory. Like the whole 9/11 truth or thing was so typical of a society that needs to make sense of things in this moment. Without access to the story, to the history, to the real thing that may have led to it.
Jason: Right. They want to pin it on Chaney and the Saudis and the Israelis
Doug: You have to be able to take a picture of it and see in that picture how it all fits together.
Jason: You can’t wind back and see Osama Bin Laden born into whatever situation.
Doug: CIA training whatever. This or that.
Doug: The war in Afghanistan and Russia and this plot.
Doug: So even if there is a real conspiracy we end up losing it for trying to make sense of it right then and there in that second.
Doug: Apocalypto is sort of when even smart people like some of our cyber theory people out there.
Jason: Like you? Sometimes maybe.
Doug: Or my colleagues.
Doug: It’s very hard once you sort of grasp that we are living in this eternal present, that we are living in a digital media environment, it’s hard to say, “What’s going to happen. Where’s this going? Where is it taking us?”
Doug: So some really smart people can’t see it as we’re in the now. They have to have an ending. So they take… because they’re so disoriented, because they’re in present shock, they take their basically christian story structure and flops it right on the digital age and say, “Oh well. We’re moving towards a singularity. This great moment of emergence in transcendence where humanity is going to flip into another state where technology is going to get smarter than us. We’re going to find out that the whole story is really information just wants to evolve to higher states of complexity. Once humans are no longer the best at doing it but computers are, humans can then be left behind and computers can keep going. That’s not just silly but it’s a self-loathing kind of human loathing approach. One that’s really consonant with the growth market capitalism thing but not really consonant for people who are trying to get more time in a relationship.
Jason: In a way what happens in the future is at once incredibly underwhelming and at other times just inconceivable. I mean when they ask people 30 or 40 years ago to look at the future of Los Angeles we all predicted there would be these elevated highways, flying cars and monorails. They’re just now building the first subway. It’s not even a subway it’s an above ground thing. They’re just building it. It’s right next to us in Culver City. It’s not even to the water yet. But then in other ways the AT&T commercials and the power of the phone in our pockets is just mind blowing.
Doug: Well our physical infrastructures sort of lag behind.
Jason: We haven’t gone back to the moon either.
Jason: People would have thought if this is 1960 or 1970 and we were talking about what 2013 would be like, 43 years later, we would think we would be on Mars by now. Certainly at the very least have a colony of 1,000 people on the moon. We haven’t been back. We have people endorsing ads for products they don’t know they’re endorsing to their friends who don’t know that they endorsed it on Facebook. That’s where science got us.
Jason: We’re plowing digital crops on Farmville.
Doug: Yeah. On the bright side…
Jason: Wow. Thank you everybody for tuning in to another amazing and inspiring episode of ThisWeekIn Startups.
Doug: On the bright side though people actually need to work less to produce what everybody else in the world needs. We really are at the place where we have enough stuff. So now all we have to do is figure out how do we divvy up the stuff? The problem is not that there’s not enough jobs. Not enough jobs in some sense is a good thing. I don’t particularly want a job. I’d like stuff.
Jason: Right. Right. So how much stuff per job.
Doug: Meaning I like to work and make meaning but I can do that without a job just fine.
Doug: The real question is how do we divvy out stuff if there’s not enough work for people to clock in that they deserve the stuff? We can’t. So we destroy houses in California as we speak because they’re in foreclosure and it dropped your housing prices. We burn food every week. Because what are you going to do? Let people just have it?
Jason: If you give it to them for free then it’s going to… yeah… stop capitalism.
Doug: Or something.
Jason: Or something. Perhaps. The fact is the solution might be for everybody to go down to a thirty hour work week.
Doug: Or a 20 hour work week. The problem is every time they tried something like that, interesting with time we’re still in the industrial age version of time. Again, why I want to get people into presentism. If you get them down to 15-20 hours a week they’ll get another job to fill the other 20 hours.
Jason: As opposed to doing what?
Doug: Enjoying your family, teaching people, taking old ladies out for walks.
Jason: Doing anything.
Doug: Doing anything.
Jason: That’s where we’re going to make a decision at some point as a society do you think? Cause we can’t stay on this treadmill can we?
Doug: We can. The reason why we can is we don’t have enough human time. You know? We’re frying our nervous systems. We’re taking Prozac and everything else. Or Aderol to keep going.
Doug: You know? There’s a point at which human beings say, “Enough.” That’s a good point to get to. You know, when you start taking back some of your time… You took back some of your time.
Doug: You know. You got a family, you got a child, you want to play. You want to do Legos on the floor instead of earning ah hundred million dollars or whatever.
Jason: Yeah. Also like I get to hire someone to do the work I don’t want to do. Yeah. There’s enough money to go around I guess. I don’t know.
Doug: But you’re ambition changes though.
Jason: It does doesn’t it?
Doug: I feel as a culture not just as people I think as a culture we’re approaching a kind of middle age. We’re getting out of that forward moving, always driving ambitious adolescent state.
Jason: The United States?
Doug: Yeah. We’ve kind of reached the limits of what we could do colonially, how far we can expand economically. We’re realizing that we’d rather play the kind of game where you play to keep the game going like a good fantasy role playing game rather than a game that you play to win. Cause when you win you end the play.
Jason: Yeah. Then you have billions of people in China and India who are starting their game.
Doug: Just starting. Yeah.
Jason: Just wondering if they could get an apartment or a house. Perhaps a car.
Doug: Yeah. What game are they’re going to play? We don’t know yet.
Jason: Yeah. In Europe they’re done playing. I mean they’re sort of whatever 20-30 years ahead of us and saying, “I’m just going to take all of July and August off. I’ll work for whatever number of days per year but I don’t need a lot of money. If I live with my parents or whatever if I’m not in an apartment it’s better that I have more dinner parties and work less.
Doug: You would think. Real parties not Tupperware parties.
Jason: No. Alright listen. Did I miss any of these?
Doug: If you did it’s good cause then they have to buy the book.
Jason: They have to buy the book.
Doug: Not just for themselves but for all the thousands of members of startups.
Jason: Is the audiobook out yet? Are you reading it or do you have somebody reading it?
Doug: Audible, I offered to read it. I don’t think they’re interested.
Jason: I don’t think they want you reading it.
Doug: Well that’s alright.
Jason: I’ll have you read it to me.
Doug: Then you can read it.
Jason: Well. Listen everybody. Get ‘Present Shock: When every thing happens now’ by Douglas Rushkoff. One of the smartest cats I know and have known for a long time. Fascinating discussion. Continued success my friend.
Doug: You too. Let’s start the Silicon Alley Reporter again in print.
Jason: I never go backwards. It’s always my rule. Henry Blodget called me, “I want to do Silicon Alley Insider. I want to give you like 5% of it. i want you to be…” I was like, “I don’t go backwards.” I just read when I was…
Doug: Time only moves forward.
Jason: You know what? When I was a kid I’d just identify with Bob Dylan cause I was kind of an outcast. All I did was listen to Dylan records. He said, “Don’t look back.” That was like the name of the documentary and everything. I was like, “You can’t look back. You have to move forward.” This was when Dylan was doing not Knocked Out Loaded and Empire Burlesque and all these freaky albums. I had them and I listened to them. I just felt like I would rather be moving forward and trying new shit than ever look backwards. So, like press clippings and old magazines and copies of Silicon Alley Reporter or Engadget, I don’t want to even know about it.
Jason: When people bring it up I’m like… Then people are, “Oh. We’re going to do a Silicon Alley reunion.” I’m really like against it.
Doug: Yeah. But at the same time what you do every new product you retrieve the values and lessons of old ones.
Jason: Of course.
Doug: And bring them to bare.
Jason: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Jason: I think that’s why what I’m doing with Inside.com, you’ll see when you see it, it’s like shades of Silicon Alley Reporter, shades of Engadget, shades of Mahalo, every thing. What was that like? There’s an audience here who’s very much into me. This audience is very much into me. When you met me in my formative years… I hate to make the show about me but you were a profound influence on me. I could tell you that now. Like literally when I came into the industry in 1995-96 I was such a neophyte. I really didn’t know anything but I was filled with ambition.
Doug: You weren’t just filled with ambition. Yeah you had ambition. That goes as a given. But you were having so much fun. Fun doing the thing you did and genuine unashamed fun at everything that was happening along the way.
Doug: We flew to… Remember we flew to SXSW.
Jason: The second one.
Doug: The second one. I think it was the second one. SXSW. We flew business class. The stewardesses, I saw them cooking something. I had flown business class before for a book tour. I said, “They’re going to come with warm nuts.” He’s like, “You’re shitting me.” Oh, sorry.
Jason: That’s OK.
Doug: “They’re not going to have warm nuts.” Then the stewardess came…
Jason: Gave me warm nuts. I was in business class. Cause you talked me into business class.
Jason: Cause you told them you were an author at the front thing.
Doug: Oh right. That was such a scam.
Jason: And I was interviewing you for Wired magazine or some lie. And they were like… You were like, “He’s interviewing me. I know that there’s empty seats. I’m Douglas Rushkoff. I an author. Here’s my books.”
Doug: “We have to do an interview. It has to be quiet.”
Jason: “Is there anything you can do for me?” The woman let you do it.
Jason: It’s a different time.
Doug: Yup. That was also the moment that you decided not to sell…
Jason: Silicon Alley Reporter.
Doug: … Silicon Alley Reporter to some millionaire who shall remain nameless.
Doug: But the thing was you were just so genuinely excited. To me… I remember the day the Space.com guy… what was his name?
Jason: Yeah. What was his name? Lou Dobbs?
Doug: Lou Dobbs. Yeah. He was at Space.com and he came… cause he had done CNN and stuff before. You were just so psyched. “Lou Dobbs is in my loft. Lou Dobbs is in my loft.”
Jason: Yeah. It was so cool. Cause he was hosting CNN at like 5 o’clock every night.
Jason: He was like the biggest newsperson. it’s like saying Anderson Cooper.
Doug: Exactly. But you were just always delighted to get to do this stuff. Not ashamed… I was just saying not ashamed to be like, “Ooh. This is fun.” It was so cool.
Jason: Having the time of my life. Still am.
Doug: Yeah. God bless.
Jason: After all these years. You too huh?
Jason: Still doing it.
Doug: Yeah. I’m still on my soapbox.
Jason: Still on your soapbox and people listen. It’s going to be very interesting. How old are we going to live? So you kind of think the singularity is kind of goofy don’t you?
Doug: I know it’s goofy. The only thing that’s horrifying about it is the way people… I’m not afraid of technology taking over our lives and all of that. What I’m horrified by is the extent to which theorists I’ve known and loved see it as a necessary and good thing.
Jason: Yeah. You’re going to live forever. You’re going to upload yourself to a computer and your consciousness will be there.
Doug: And there inability to really differentiate between… to not see human consciousness as a precursor to complexity. Rather than complexity as a precursor to consciousness. You know. They put us last all the time. I’m just sick of that. From my perspective we come first. I’m a human. I gotta root humans.
Jason: Right. The machines aren’t catching up with us it doesn’t seem.
Doug: Not on an awareness level.
Jason: Right. In fact it’s not going to happen in our lifetime do you think?
Doug: No. But they could be more skillful manipulators than we are as they learn how to play us.
Jason: Oh yeah. So you don’t buy into Skynet and they’re going to take over and be able to… Yeah. Any of that sort of dystopian stuff?
Doug: No. Not to that extent. They don’t need to get there. To totally control us and get us to take medications to cover up the fact that we’re so unhappy. They don’t need to go there. They’ve already won.
Jason: Fascinating. This has been a fascinating hour with Doug Rushkoff. Thank you so much to SquareSpace and MailChimp for sponsoring the program. Everybody follow Doug on Twitter. He is…Are you just @rushkoff?
Jason: Everybody follow @rushkoff. Your website is…
Jason: Rushkoff.com of course. Buy the book. Buy the book. Buy the book. It’s an amazing book. Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now by Doug Rushkoff. You’re going to really love it. Wow we got Sherry Turkle and Howard Rheingold. You got all the… Walter Isaacson. Lots of good people here. Alright. We’ll see you next time on ThisWeekIn Startups.
Special thanks to the members of the TWiST Backchannel Program!
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