I just wrote a book about the billionaire mindset, why they want to leave us behind, going meta, accelerationists, and what Jeffrey Epstein, Richard Dawkins, Peter Thiel, and Steven Bannon have in common.

spent some time with billionaires who are prepping for “the event,” as well as the early cyberdelic crowd back in the early 90s, including Leary, Barlow, and McKenna. I coined the term “viral media.” AMA  - but I’m particularly interested in answering questions about our hopes for digital culture, where it went wrong, and how to retrieve it. Also, whether civilization really has to end. Check out this video by Ryan George that entertainingly asks some of these questions: https://youtu.be/pwJQEAI_KE0

PROOF: https://i.redd.it/znetfv6v7cm91.jpg

Comments: 296 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

DRushkoff399 karma

Are we fucked? I don't think so. If you believe the only way for anyone to survive is to keep up an exponential rate of growth, then yes we are fucked. We can't keep converting atoms to bits at this rate. If you believe there's a way to either wind down or detach from the balance sheet we're using to measure our health, then we should be just fine once we stop playing this crazy game.

ieatsilicagel185 karma

I'm feeling pretty defeated, depressed, and nihilistic about the future. I listen to the Team Human podcast and know that you were struggling against a similar mindset. How did you get out of it?

Also, if you could wave a magic wand and make everyone in the world do one thing, what would it be?

DRushkoff526 karma

The way I got out of it is by realizing that these dudes' "mindset" - their picture of the world - is just wrong. And that they are laughably silly. The purpose of the book (it's actually a black comedy) is to be able to laugh at these guys. So we can stop emulating them or fearing that their nightmares need to be our nightmares.

I have a story about one guy who was worried that I post too much negative stuff about AI. He told me he's afraid for me that once the AIs are in charge, they will eliminate me. He said he doesn't post anything about AI so they won't know how he feels. And I'm like, dude, don't you think the AIs will be able to analyze your posting pattern and use statistical analysis to infer your feelings? And his jaw drops, like he never considered the possibility.

That doesn't make me afraid. It makes me realize they are just silly.

lurgi26 karma

We tend to assume the rich are very smart. Some are. Some are merely average. Some are... not.

llllmaverickllll18 karma

I think a more common trait would be that of an “Operator”. Someone who knows how to gain and leverage power.

Trump is actually a solid example of this. He’s a good operator without being smart. He sees angles of how to take advantage of people and systems.

DRushkoff3 karma

I agree. I don't think he's "smart" the way we normally define it. I don't think he's even leading anything.

Rather, he jumped into a kind of "standing wave" of culture, and he's embodying it, being pulled along by it, giving life to it. It's a bit like when Charlie Sheen jumped into the wave, but more skillful and directed.

DRushkoff188 karma

And no magic wand! That's the way *they* think. There's a whole chapter in the book about the question "if you could press a button..." That's the moonshot mindset for single big solutions. I dont' have a magic wand, but I don't need one. I'd just ask people to meet their neighbors, start sharing stuff, spend more time with other people in non-mediated ways whenever possible. Little stuff makes a big difference. If we each took one real day off per week - just a day - it could potentially save a degree or two of climate change...

aberrante128 karma

Hi, Mr. Rushkoff,

Many years ago I read Cyberia, and it was of great influence to me. Thank you for writing this book.

I would like to ask your opinion about the current culture of rage and anger online. A common mode of manifesting preoccupation has become anger, and its expressions online have become extreme to the point of pouring themselves onto the offline world. Could this culture of rage be controlled through content management, as some companies may have attempted, or through general education campaigns (via the school system, for instance)? Alternatively, are these expressions of anger inherent to the online experience and little can be done to control them?

DRushkoff209 karma

That's a toughie, for sure. I think Francis Haugen's ideas are pretty coherent. Reduce the number of times a post can be reposted automatically at the same time. Combine that with some of Cory Doctorow's ideas about breaking monopolies, and these platforms would have less impact.

Plus, yes, changing education to emphasize real world, face to face learning over transmitting data to kids through iPads.

South Korea spent a lot of money on early childhood education on internet etiquette, with some positive effects.

safetydept100 karma

Hi, big fan of your work, thanks for doing this! I’ve got a few questions, feel free to pick up on any:

What are your thoughts on Longtermism?

What gives you the most hope about today’s landscape of thought and/or technology?

And do you see any positive ecological applications for recent advances in AI?

DRushkoff362 karma

What they're calling "longtermism" now is anything but. It's basically the idea that we're only 8 billion people now, but one day there will be trillions spread out through the galaxy, and it's okay for people today to suffer in order to benefit the trillions in the future.

And that's basically a complicated way of saying "the ends justify the means." And sorry, they really don't. Not ever, in fact. It's not like 'ripping off the bandaid' or some other ridiculous metaphor. It's just a justification for sociopathy. If you're not doing it in the moment, you're not doing it. The theory of change matters way way more than whatever endpoint you envision.

Rapacious venture capitalism destroys more through its externalities than it "builds" through its primary endeavor. Or, at some point you can't keep taking steroids. You have to wind down.

DRushkoff256 karma

What gives me the most hope is how easily people are able to laugh at these dudes and their way of thinking. Ten years ago, it was really hard to get anyone to agree that there could possibly be a problem with growing a trillion dollar company. People thought it was quite silly to talk about the experience of Uber drivers or other gig workers, or the survival bunkers and utter selfishness of the tech overlords. Now, people realize it's not some crazy conspiracy theory or extreme Marxism. It's basic common sense.

DRushkoff66 karma

Shoot. I gotta go. Podcast interview. yay! My voice is weak but I'm so grateful that people want to hear. It's just a matter of pivoting from all this bunker talk to ideas that matter and things that can make a difference.

Good luck all! You know where to find me. And do get/borrow/steal this book. It's fun and easy and will do good things to your thinking and feeling.

Thanks for coming!!!

amart742 karma

As someone totally aligned with degrowth/great simplification thinking that also works in eCommerce digital advertising (the dissonance, I know), any suggestions for areas to transition my career to? I'm already working hard to transition my lifestyle outside of work hours. Otherwise excited for the book and your discussion on Nate Hagen's podcast.

DRushkoff113 karma

Well, I think a whole lot more of us have to stop podcasting and writing online. There's way more of us talking *about* things than actually doing them. I think people need to learn farming - organic, permaculture, low-impact farming. Basic stuff, like teaching kids to read (and read through stuff), developing better water technologies and policies. Community capital, development of commons around local resources.
I would love if high school kids aspired less to Ivy League colleges than great sustainable agriculture and climate programs. We should still learn liberal arts, for sure, but we need to learn to do stuff again.

Lovelyterry35 karma

Why does everyone applaud the political leaders of New Zealand when they are allowing foreign billionaires to basically turn their country into a panic room for the rich?

DRushkoff90 karma

Yeah, well, they didn't quite realize they were doing that. They have pretty much shut that down since they found out.
But leaders can do some things worthy of applause while still doing stupid things at the same time. I'm really good at doing both, myself.

0ranje33 karma

Hi Douglas. I am really fascinated by your concept of the rich hoarding wealth in order to afford the means to insulate themselves from how they obtained wealth. What kind (if any) corporate shift would you like to see to combat this mentality? Salary caps, mandatory philanthropism?

DRushkoff70 karma

Well, the main shift would be not building (or allowing) companies to "exit." Maybe people should either keep their company or sell it to their employees - but not to populations of disinterested investors. Exit strategies are kind of like selling one's business to the mob. It's like burning a match, or burning down the house for the insurance.

MysteryRadish29 karma

Do any of these folks give much thought to what daily life anywhere outside of Earth would actually be like? It seems to me that once the whole "Holy shit, I'm in space!" thrill wears off, it would be pretty miserable most of the time as our bodies and minds are suited to only the temperate parts of Earth. To use an example, any of us could technically live undersea or in the frozen poles if we wanted to, but almost nobody chooses to do so long-term. When it's no longer a matter being a cosmic pioneer and part of history forever, what incentive would a normal person have to live permanently off Earth?

DRushkoff46 karma

It does baffle the mind. I guess the seasteaders are a little bit more rationale. But still, for them it's all about "self sovereignty." Think about that construction for a moment. Sovereign over oneself? Like, king and subject at the same time? It's the ultimate form of objectification. Not just of others, but one's own self. You are the subject of yourself. So weird.

That's the underlying drive, I think. Control. Freedom from. (not freedom *to*)

guestpass12725 karma

WHy has "The Merchants of Cool" largely been forgotten? I found that that documentary, and your involvement in it, helped explain how pop culture contributed to the current moment going back to the 1990s. I felt like it was one of the best social documentaries ever made. But now no one brings it up and it seems to have been forgotten. What are your thoughts on "The Merchants of Cool" and do you think it's still a relevant analysis?

DRushkoff35 karma

Well, stuff from last year has been forgotten. Last week, even. Merchants of Cool was 1999, back when Brittany was basically a child, and MTV was bigger that TikTok. It is definitely accurate in the same way Adam Curtis's "Century of the Self' is still accurate. But it may need to get even older before people recognize those techniques are not obsolete, but ever-present.

DRushkoff29 karma

I did an "update" of sorts, called Generation Like. It tells basically the same story, but in the FB/Insta realm.

EldraziKlap25 karma

What is Dawkin's place in this equation?

DRushkoff110 karma

Richard? I guess you have to read the book!

In short, he's an enabler. His staunchly atheistic version of scientism helps give cover to folks like Epstein who just want to spread their genes by any means necessary. Quite a shame. There's a great scene in the book where Dawkins berates me for being a moralist. And then shows up on Epstein's "Lolita Express." I'm surprised none of the reviews or articles about the book have talked about that part.

GuiltyOfSin17 karma

Whats this "event" that they are prepping for?

DRushkoff65 karma

Read the article or the book. Depends which billionaire you're talking to. Climate change, EMP, nuclear accident, pandemic, social unrest, solar flares, economy collapse, topsoil erosion......there's lots of possibilities. They are like kids at a Marvel movie. They need an EndGame.

ajbuntine17 karma

Hi Douglas - avid reader of your work going back to the 90s, when digital culture was a thing of wonder and promise, punctuated by the faint inevitability of consumerism and narcissism. So. In your view, how do we fix it?

DRushkoff66 karma

I think we take some pressure off it by fixing/repairing/retrieving some of our real-world interactions. We need to model the net off the social world, rather than our social world off the net. Easier said than done when even parents seem to prefer their kids online rather than exposing themselves to covid or whatever in the real world.

I'm still hopeful that people will just tire of the vitriol. I'm thinking maybe the excitement circuit can get worn out. After we see real-time murders on LiveStream, maybe we have had enough? Maybe that stops getting our interest?

It's also a matter of people having evidence that contradicts the stories. I have relatives that are afraid to travel to NY or DC because they watch FOXNews and now think the cities are too dangerous to visit. They need to see we are not killers.

64i214 karma

Hey! Funny i caught this now, currently listening to your podcast with trueanon that came out a bit ago (loving it by the way).

I’m a college student thats interested in the stuff you talk about, but i have absolutely no clue on how to further myself into what you do. I’ve just found out about you 1 hour and 37 minutes ago, so i apologize if this is redundant and you’ve spoken about it before, but i dont want to miss your AMA. Advice on classes you took that you loved, things you did as an undergraduate that maybe played a part in getting you where you are today? I find myself floundering taking classes i imaged would contribute to my interest (certain philosophy classes for example); i end up borderline flunking because I’m disappointed in what we cover (maybe this is a me problem). Not sure if this is a question that is worth answering, but glad i got to see this when i did. Thank you!!!

DRushkoff35 karma

Yeah, well, I did a lot of theater in college. Somehow, for me, embodied learning had more impact than just reading. Though I got good at books (if not writing!) by junior and senior year. And as I learned to read and think better, my grades got worse. (I wrote a paper comparing medieval theater to Brecht, and the teacher gave me a D. She said "Brecht wasn't even alive then!" Ugh.)

I think ethics, history, and the moral philosophers are really useful. Adam Smith, Jane Jacobs....there's useful writers and thinkers to study. Find the great professors and befriend them. There's more to learn by modeling them, trying on their world views, than just reading the lists they give you.

EchoState14 karma

Hi Douglas,

I've become a fan of your work ever since reading your texts in Uni and love the Team Human podcast. Great work!

Since you have been covering psychedelic culture and its liaisons with capitalism, I am curious how you think about the recent resurgence of it. Now that psychedelic sciences are thriving, spirituality is mainstream, and legalizations are possible, it becomes clear that psychedelic experiences will be new markets for entrepreneurs and I am doubtful whether it is for the better of all.

- Do you think the widespread acceptance of psychedelics and the dissemniation of spirituality through digital media will help overcoming of the crisis you are pointing out by making people realise how silly and toxic the current economic paradigm is?

- Are you concerned that social media & the digital economy may corrupt the benefits of psychedelics and spirituality as they turn them into business models?

DRushkoff30 karma

I know. I am concerned the same thing that happened to digital tech will happen to psychedelics. Already, there are entrepreneurs who want to keep organic substances illegal so they can make analogs (patented IP) to use and sell instead.

And a lot of the characters involved in marketing psychedelics are sketchy. Check out the podcast series by Psymposia, and it'll give you real chills. I don't know the answers, but I'm not sure the commercialization of psychedelics is the best way to make them more accessible.

Clear-Quantity791013 karma

Hi, is there any hope for the masses of the Global South? Where should we be focused regarding climate crisis - mitigation, adaptation or something else? Thanks!

DRushkoff36 karma

Yes there's hope. For sure. But most of the ways the north has attempted to "help" involves creating dependencies, giving loans, or forcing them to open markets. It would take a very different understanding of what it means to assist and empower. Folks like Gates are slowly learning the difference. Hopefully in time.

DRushkoff11 karma

I think this thing only lasts 30 minutes, so I guess I have to stop? Not sure what they do to you if keep going....

DRushkoff34 karma

I guess I can come check this later tonight, though. Do it as an asynchronous sort of thing for a little bit. If not, then certain listen to Team Human, the podcast. I'm doing "call in" style shows once a month for people to engage. Things are a bit nuts right now because of book publication and me trying to get people read the thing (or at least me using the occasion of the book to shout my truth from the rooftops). But we should be able to get into this all in great depth in the coming months. It's not too late to turn this thing around. I think.

stink3rbelle8 karma


DRushkoff3 karma

And pitchforks.

But it really doesn't have to end that way, either.

DaytonaDemon2 karma

Richard Dawkins is a billionaire? News to me.

Maybe you meant Richard Branson?

DRushkoff3 karma

No, the book isn't just about billionaires. That's just a scene in the beginning. It's really about a "mindset" epitomized by tech billionaires, but finds its origins in a certain kind of science, capitalism, and tech development.

smallvictor1 karma

Douglas! You're doing great work, can't wait to read this - hopefully you're performing the audiobook version again? My real question is this - I think you're right to try and pry people away from this fantasy mindset, but how do we do the work of attuning people to better mindsets? Especially when we are in a meta-mindset I think of as "you do you". Who is and how are you thinking about navigating to and evaluating mindsets that produce a flourishing future for people, the planet, life, etc. I'm starting to think of Eutopia as the fun place rather than the good place - how do you think about better futures?

DRushkoff2 karma

I like the future described by people like Jeremy Lent. I feel like it's all much easier than we think, because capitalism just isn't a necessary frame for it.