Doug Rushkoff has written an excellent and involved book on the economics of the digital world as brought to us by Google, the Stacks, and Start Up/Venture capital as it works these days, called “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus.” That’s a two-for-one title for me; it strikes a chord with what I see going on in the transition from Bazaar, to Cathedral, to Wall Street, to Silicon Valley and its clones. And it touches on my now ancient adventures in the 60’s and 70’s with drugs, the counter culture (well, it wasn’t ‘counter’ for me) and the infamous Magic Bus with the Merry Pranksters, just as I was coming full-force into my Yippie phase.
Doug recently caught up his followers and ended his missive with this sentence: “We finally have the choice whether to use technology to optimize humanity for the marketplace or use to technology to optimize the market for humanity. “
That is a grand statement; sweeping, idealistic, pregnant with promise unfulfilled and it stopped me in my tracks. I have witnessed this digital revolution from a lot of fortunate viewpoints and sadly, have abandoned any cyber utopian hopes. I’ve been a part of it all, almost from ground zero, read, believed and swallowed the kool aid when all the manifestos, visions, hopes and dreams were first envisioned for the potential of the Web, the Internet, society as a whole, and, yes, even the planet. And, one, by one have realized it is not going to happen. And it is not the tech, it is us. We will mismanage almost every tech and tool in the shed. It is our history to be our worst selves as a collective. We are not going to ‘optimize humanity’, we are going to merchandise it, put it to sleep by bombarding it to death with 3rd party everything. And just what exactly is my 2nd party, and am a party to my 1st party? Geez, we buy into this stuff so easily and then accept it all as our objective reality, the backdrop with which we attempt to go on with our lives.
Well, somebody buy me a cheeseburger and let me off this bus; just as I wanted off the Magical Bus trips of my youth. Eventually you do wake up and finally say, along with David Byrne, “How did I get here?” I have grown up watching 60 years of people expecting our government to come save them. Real likely that’s going to happen. And now I’m watching folks have the same expectation for technology. Well, it is not going to happen. Could it, you bet, and that’s the biggest fake out….it could, but it won’t….well, there is still the outside chance we will let the A.I.’s run things, or they will just plain take over. But, get there on our own….not going to happen. So, just let me off please. I’ll take it from here.