Show Notes

Douglas Rushkoff makes a return appearance to the series with fresh insights on our core question of What Could Possibly Go Right? Listen to his previous interview on episode 28.

Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. Rushkoff’s work explores how different technological environments change our relationship to narrative, money, power, and one another. Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, his twenty books include the recently published Team Human, based on his podcast. Others include bestsellers Present Shock, Throwing Rocks and the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, Life Inc, and Media Virus. He also made the PBS Frontline documentaries Generation Like, The Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool.

He addresses the question of “What Could Possibly Go Right?” with thoughts including:

  • The importance of contentment in “just less” and acknowledging the enoughness we have already
  • The striving for connection with others, in a context where the “human organism has reached its peak of loneliness and is trying to find itself again”
  • That the “digital realm is so much about choice” and we can use technology for light or dark
  • The need for real life interactions as antithesis to technologies which “are intentionally decalibrating; they destabilize you and your nervous system”

Connect with Douglas Rushkoff

Website: rushkoff.com

Twitter: twitter.com/rushkoff

Transcript

Vicki Robin

Hi, Vicki Robin here, host of What Could Possibly Go Right? a project of the Post Carbon Institute, in which we interview people we call cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good, asking each one of them our one question. In light of all that seems to be going wrong, what could possibly go right? And today’s guest is my dear friend, Douglas Rushkoff. We met on a podcast and we had so much fun, I went over to his podcast, and then he came back to mine, and who knows where this is going. But anyway, we’ve had Douglas before and this is just a completely delightful conversation that’s a little bit longer because well, we just couldn’t land the plane. So Douglas is named one of the world’s 10 most influential intellectuals by MIT. He is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. His 20 books include Team Human, recently published, based on his podcast, as well as the bestsellers, Present Shock, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Program and Be Programmed, Life Inc and Media Virus. Rushkoff’s work explores how different technological environments change our relationship to narrative, money, power, and one another. He coined such concepts as “viral media”, “screenagers” and “social currency” and has been a leading voice for applying digital media towards social and economic justice. He is a research fellow for the Institute for the Future and founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism at City University of New York and Queens, where he is a professor of media theory and digital economics. So here’s Douglas.

Vicki Robin

The idea here is just to check in. We talked about eight months ago, we did our interview…

Douglas Rushkoff

For this podcast. Then five months ago, we did one for mine. Then three months ago, we did a check in, and now we’re back to yours. It’s all good.

Vicki Robin

Okay, and then we’ll go to yours, if you still have one. So I just wanted to more freewheeling visit the moment that we’re in with you and get your basic weirdness about it. The standard setup here is the question, What could possibly go right? And that’s always the question because, it’s always the question. I think in the back of everybody’s mind, it’s: How bad is it? And where should I go? Did I miss the top of the market? I think what could possibly go right is a more systemic, let’s take a look at the horizon. So, what do you see?

Douglas Rushkoff

I went through many years, since I was a kid, of worrying on an existential level about our fate as a species. As a kid, the John Lennon record came out for the people starving in Bangladesh, which made me as a six or seven year old aware that, Oh my God, this is just really bad. And it wasn’t the only place where there was bad sh*t going on. And there was mean people on top of the regular bad stuff. There’s actual mean people that are making it worse and creating just awful situations. So I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Then, with the last decade or two in my books, I keep looking at sort of survival tactics. I’ve talked with the billionaires who are building their bunkers and their rocket ships and their private islands, and they’re building these pontoons on the ocean that they call seasteading, which is a whole other thing. So it’s all the craziness of that. And thinking about having a kid, as if there’s sort of two choices. I can either try to earn enough money to give her a cash buffer against disaster so she can somehow, if civilization is still working in some Trumpian way, buy her way out of calamity; or do I have to get her to stop just doing theater and art, and get her to go to a farming school so she’s resilient and will be able to be a productive member of a Canadian commune, used to sleeping with bugs and stuff, rather than wanting to go to the Ritz Carlton. All those kinds of things. Also looking at my own life and what I’ve gotten, and what I haven’t gotten – enough sex, enough money, enough travel, enough this, enough that – and it’s all come down to me to this very same conclusion, which is just less. Just less.

That all the things that I strive for, or think I want – and that sounds a little Buddhist, but whatever – they’re just alternative to whatever it is I’m having now. So it’s like, okay, here I am speaking with you, melding minds, hearts and souls together in ways that people who are listening could only guess at how profound the interlope of our beings is right now. And that’s fine; let them guess. But I could say, Okay, but I could go be over there f***ing something. Or I could be racing a car. Oh, I can have a rocket ship experience. Or I could go do iowaska in South America right now, and then I’d see some machine elves. It’s like, yeah, I could be doing any one of these. But what am I doing right now? What am I just doing? I feel like if people just did that much, they’d be getting in cars a heck of a lot less. They’d be consuming a heck of a lot less. They’d be fighting with other people over stuff a heck of a lot less, and maybe worrying a heck of a lot less about, where do I go in order to avoid this.

Everybody who moves somewhere in order to avoid the apocalypse, they’re gonna be like… another one of those William Shatner Twilight Zones, where they get a fortune cookie or something, that says they’re going to die. So they run quickly, and then they get run over. It’s like when you go to do the thing, to avoid the thing that you’re afraid of, you’re going to bring it on anyway. Exactly. I always wanted to move to the Pacific Northwest to get away from climate change and all that, because I always heard about Vancouver and Portland and Washington. Do we want to go there? It’s always there or Minneapolis, that are supposed to be the places that you go and stay in America. Well, look at you guys. You are just 110 in the shade, right? Total apocalypse. And Jay Inslee is like, we’re in now permanent death state. He had some great quote, right? We’re in permanent death mode now. He had a word for it; it wasn’t that, but it was almost that bad. Permanent emergency. Is that what he called it? Yeah, permanent emergency. Okay, great. So you guys are in permanent emergency. Why don’t you just stop wriggling? Once you stop wriggling, even if you can just do it for eight or nine seconds at a time like I can now, I’m building my endurance. It’s like sex was. Eight seconds, nine seconds, up to 12, yay! So I could not wriggle for 12 seconds at a time; not worry, not look over my shoulder, not having an erotic pop thing. I can meditate for 12 seconds now, almost 13. I feel like that is the first step towards a whole lot, towards all the stuff that Nate Hagens at the Post Carbon Institute is asking us to do.

I could spend a whole lot of internet time and internet cycles of energy, researching whether to get an electric car or a carbon car. I could probably spend more than a car’s lifetime of energy just researching or looking at Netflix videos, because of all the energy that they spend, to get a car that is marginally better than the other car, when I probably shouldn’t be getting another car anyway, or trading in the car I have if I can make it work, or using a car at all if I really don’t need to. So many problems go away, so many choice points, so many decision matrixes don’t need to be even drawn up, if you just decide: It’s fine. I’m just fine. I’m not saying ignore all the problems in the world, but at least on a personal level, it’s fine. You’re fine. You’re safe, your feet are on the ground, whatever’s going on; even with that little bit of cancer growing over here or a little bit of psychosis growing over there. Still right now, here we are. Start from that. I feel so much less obligated to address so many things and I feel like in some ways I do more good by doing less, than by doing whatever good action I thought I should take.

Vicki Robin

Do you think that’s your age? I mean, I’m sorry to bring up the “a” word. But I mean, you’re an alte kaker, okay?

Douglas Rushkoff

Right. And as an alte kaker, you finally get to the place of: Why move over there if I’m over here? Over here’s fine. The shade is better over there? Why is he over there? Why is my chair here now? Alte kakers don’t. Hey, he got the better chair! Wheel me over there. Why does he get the good chair? I don’t think it goes away if you have it.

Vicki Robin

I do feel it’s sort of like the tide. People are so weird about death. The fact that, look around at everybody who’s here, in 100 years is not going to be here for some reason or another. This is not our planet. We just were born into it. We’re gonna die out of it. At my age, I just was feeling like I want to divest. I want to divest from things. What you’re talking about us divesting from wriggling.

Douglas Rushkoff

Yeah, but there were times. And I look back on my life at the times I was happiest. I remember a moment in middle school, when I was on my bicycle in the early part of the summer. I wasn’t having to go to camp or do anything. I think I had a job or something. I was on my bike and I just thought, I’m free. I could go anywhere I want. I don’t have to be home till seven. I’m just like, Wow. And I was overwhelmed by the satisfaction of the wind coming at me riding on this bike. It wasn’t even the good bike that the other kids had. It was my sh*t whatever bike from Larchmont; not the good one, the chopper or whatever the kids had. I was just so happy with that. I remember when I got into art school, and I got to this place and I had my little bed and I put my Brecht and my Artau and my whatever under my little bookshelf in there. I was gonna have three years just to do theater. I was just like, Ah, this is the life. And when I look at those situations I had, they were not – I’m saying this as a middle class, privileged white guy – but they were not aspirational. They weren’t to get something else. They weren’t developmental. They weren’t profitable. They were just: I’m just here, just sitting with a kid looking at a bug crawling on the sidewalk. I just feel like that is so missing from our culture. That’s what gets people go into the Walmart every week, for another one of these or a plastic one of those; on that treadmill, where we work one day a week to support the vehicle that we use to get to work.

Vicki Robin

Yeah. I’m just following your energy. How much of this is manufactured by media advertising? You and I both told the story about how sometime after World War One, I think it was, the Industrial Revolution had provided everybody with the thing that they thought that they would never have, that only rich people have. And they got that thing, and then they have enough. Then the whole machinery of industrialization was going to shut down because people weren’t buying stuff. I think it was a relative of Freud, this guy Bernays. You may know the story better than I do, but that manufactured desires is the only way that keeps the machine going. So, in a way, what we’re talking about and we’re two people who’ve at least had a window seat on the jetliner that is driving everybody off the cliff; at least we’ve been able to see out the window and go like, Hey, guys, this doesn’t work. Land the plane. There’s a terrorist here, it’s called the consumer culture. I’m looking at this, particularly now, because I’ve just gotten so reactive politically. I’m one of the ones who’s like, I read something on Facebook and I go like, This is the last stand. And I’m out there typing. It’s just like, No, Vicki, don’t do that, that’s unreal. You’re doing unreal to unreal. Is it like St. Vitus’ dance? Is it like when the peasants ate the fungus on the rye bread and went crazy? Are we in an insanity, that has been manufactured? It wasn’t as insane as when you and I are born. Things were simpler when I was a girl.

Douglas Rushkoff

But well, you can make an argument they were more insane. I mean, you and I were basically raised in the television media environment, which was about promoting an illusion, a fantasy. Television and film, it’s fantasy. And they use that fantasy to get us to buy stuff to consume. The digital media environment is fundamentally different than the television environment. It’s not about fantasy. It’s so much more about memory and retrieval. What I would argue that in a television environment, we kind of dream our reality. It’s about about fantasizing things. And in a digital media environment, it’s so much more about doing. It’s about production, about making. Kids on Tik Tok are making Tik Toks in addition to watching them. Were digital technologies not so environmentally destructive themselves, it would actually have been or still could be a very positive turn. In other words, rather than buying a ton of plastic crap, and longing for more plastic crap – “Mommy take me to Walmart, so I could go and buy more plastic things that we stick in landfill and torture Chinese children to make, and then torture them to throw away for us” – if we were spending our time, if kids were spending their time making stuff and creating Minecraft environments for other kids to play in… I know it’s a little virtual and electronic and digital, but that aside, as an activity, I find it still more more inspiring and positive that a kid would be creating a game online for other kids to play than watching a show like Baywatch that makes him want to get skinny and buy a bathing suit or something or buy stuff. That it’s not about consumption as much. The doing is the thing.

Vicki Robin

Yeah, but in that medium, in Tik Tok, there’s a consumptive quality anyway. I agree with you, everybody’s a creative. But here’s the thing. The game, the context of the game is eyeballs. People start doing anything for eyeballs, for likes. And then the second thing is monetizing what we used to give for free. People have said to me about this podcast, You could monetize this. I was like, I probably could. Hey, how about product placement?

Douglas Rushkoff

Viagra on these podcasts. Viagra and other other stimulants.

Vicki Robin

So there’s eyeballs. There’s money. There’s your 15 minutes of fame, but there’s too many people on the planet. So divide minutes by people and you get three seconds of fame.

Douglas Rushkoff

You would hope that it would change though, because the digital environment is so prone to metrics, and generic metrics that people look at success as, Oh, I have 175,000 people who’ve said they like it, and somehow it’s not as satisfying to know there’s 30 people who really, really like it. If it was the real world, and you’re going to play in a bowling alley, or in a bar in your band, and there’s 30 to 50 people that just love you, and they show up every Thursday night, whatever it is that you’re playing – Freebird; there’s another old person reference – whatever it is that you’re doing, but the amount of love that you would feel from those 30 to 50 people live, I think it’s more than the girl who gets 175,000 people liking her Twitter when she shows from the breasts up.

Vicki Robin

So the two things you’ve talked about so far – the 50 things you’ve talked about so far that I’m summarizing these to – is simplifying your life, and love and the genuine pleasure from other real human beings showing up for you. In the pandemic, it’s been a very interesting time. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts about what actually did go right in the pandemic, but people became so precious. I live by myself and so I wasn’t potting at home with somebody. And any person I got to see, masks or whatever, that was so precious. It was sort of a reminder of how precious real human interaction is; the jazz of it, the call and response of it. Like, posting something that you need some help, and somebody comes over and helps you. I just had a hip surgery, and man, I had about two dozen people who signed up on this little care calendar. And people came over and they were assigned to haranguing me to get out of bed and do my exercises, and they did it. It was just so full of love. I would have to go back to work for another 10 years to get the kind of insurance that I could have had, where some professional would be paid to do that. I’m just saying that, have we lost that entirely? Is that going away? How do we have that thing, that isn’t sort of mediated by media, or fabricated by somebody else’s imagination? How do we play together? How do we make up games together in real time as humans? Is this sort of gone the way of the dodo bird? Are we having extinction of human affection?

Douglas Rushkoff

I don’t know. I live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids. I see the kid across the street from my house, he’s maybe eight now. And as the masks came off, or whatever restrictions came off, I looked at him playing with his friends and touching each other so much. When they’re looking at a thing, one kid’s putting his hand on the other one’s shoulder while they’re looking over at this bug or something. The amount of contact as I see, especially boys, because of the whole good male problem thing, when I see boys all touching each other like that, even just past the age when they’re not little kids holding their mom’s hand all the time. There is something. I feel like the human organism has reached its peak of loneliness and is trying to find itself again. It’s not going to use us to do it because we’re old and crusty and horrible people. – You know what I mean? We’re not, but our generation is; I mean, look at what we did, just yuck! – But you would use the new kids, if you were like nature control, you would use the new kids and say, Okay, let’s have a generation in this loving touchy feely other thing. I know there’s a lot of complaints about certain kinds of social justice, education and all this stuff we’re instilling the kids with.

On the other hand, there’s certain barriers have gotten broken down, where they really don’t care. Oh, my God, when I was a kid doing theater, they just call me f*g, gay boy, whatever as an insult, all the time. The last thing you wanted to be was gay. And now it’s like, no one cares. It’s really no one does. It’s gone. Everyone’s touching and playing. I mean, I know it’s quaint and pathetic when you hear Joe Biden say, right after he was President: You turn on the TV, and you see commercials and Blacks are married to the whites, and the gay couples; Wow, I’m living in such a world! And you’re like, Oh, my God, you’re so naive. But he grew up in a world like we all did, where if you were a mixed race couple, you were taking a stand, and you knew you were going to get spit at in the street, and some restaurants wouldn’t let you sit. I mean, it was a whole friggin’ thing. I do see a return to life amongst a younger generation that is encouraging. I know a lot of people, a lot of kids got screwed up by their screens, and rates of depression and self harm are greater in adolescent girls who are online than ones who aren’t. There’s just all this horrible stuff. But there’s something good emerging too. There’s something more human. There’s less of this drive towards acquisition, and wanting the most stuff. I see a few crazy, middle aged men or 20 somethings in Silicon Valley, still wanting to be billionaires. But to most of us, they’re crazy. We all know if you could get a million dollars, that’s a whole lot of money. I mean, a billion is unimaginable, and to actually aspire to that is just, I think we all see that’s just crazy, to have these numbers somewhere in a bank.

Vicki Robin

Besides watching your neighborhood kids, when you look at the Gen whatever, we’ve run out of alphabet, but when you look at kids who are under 18 let’s say, like the one past the Millennials. And then there’s a new one coming up. Do you see more just, sweeter, kinder, more creative? I mean, you’ve been mentioning some of these things. Is that just seat of the pants looking out the door? Or what is your intelligence, your research on that?

Douglas Rushkoff

Well, there’s a guy who I see as kind of a young, good looking version of myself, named Bo Burnham. He’s a young comedian. He read my books and stuff, and I’m honored to say he was really inspired and informed by my whole understanding of the internet and changes in culture and digital and time and what it all means. He just did a Netflix special during the pandemic called Inside that he made in one room under lockdown, or relative lockdown of the pandemic. Partly because he’s a person in his 20s, or just turned 30 while he’s making it, he’s got more hormones and whatever, dopamine and serotonin coarsing through his veins than I do, and I remember what it was like to be in my 20s, so everything is a bit more angsty. Right? He’s got a lot of angst. But he’s expressive of feeling this depressed and having that much anxiety and having that much angst. And he feeds it into his work and he’s conscious of it now. So I look at him, in some ways, emblematic and partly because of his popularity that millions of people watch him and identify with him of the Gen Z and Millennial generation. I do use him as sort of a totem for how that generation is doing or a canary in the coal mine even because he’s an artist. On the one hand, I texted him right after I saw it, worried for him. I’m like, Are you okay? Because he’s so suicidal in it. He talks about suicide in a way. I mean, I’m like, this is a masterwork. This is your Citizen Kane. Are you okay? Because I also know after Citizen Kane, Orson Welles was a wreck, right? It’s hard to have that. Or after relativity, Einstein was a wreck too. These are 20 somethings having these massive achievements. Archimedes and the screw, right? Those moments were big. Eureka. That was the displacement of water one, but still.

Vicki Robin

It’s okay. Somebody did. Oh, it was Newton, with the inclined plane, I think. Ever since there’s Newton with the apple, for years afterwards, he’s discovered all sorts of other interesting things, maybe about bugs, but everybody wants, Oh, tell us the apple story.

Douglas Rushkoff

Yeah, the apple. But I think you’ll like the pendulum! Pendulum schmendulum. Oh, we don’t care.

Vicki Robin

I can’t get no satisfaction. That’s the Rolling Stone one.

Douglas Rushkoff

Yeah, exactly. Bob Weir doing a 1975 concert version of that, and he was actually pretty good. It was sweet. Hearing the Dead do the Stones. But Bo and his generation, I feel they are both experiencing this more intensely than we might imagine, that the aloof Bart Simpson Gen Xer thing is no more. They are going through this and feeling it in a real way. And that is hopeful to me that their nervous systems are not shutting down, but are adjusting and trying to rise to this occasion, and they are rewriting the value system. They may be rewriting it in a way that is bad for capitalism. But there’s compensatory mechanisms coming up every day. There’s a cooperative taxi cab company in New York that’s got an app that’s competing with Uber now right in the city, and everyone wants to use that, because who wants alien Uber when you could be feeding your community? So I mean, the actual, physical climate tipping point of the planet might have been reached and might have catastrophic results anyway. But I also do have hope that this generation is experiencing reality in a fundamentally different way, because they’re coming up, really, after the death of capitalism as an ideology. It is still functioning economically in power structures, but it’s not our ideology as a people anymore, and the death of television as the dominant media form, and into something more participatory and distributed. We’ve yet to see what they do with it. But I think they’re more different than we give them credit for.

Vicki Robin

So what I’m hearing is that the kind of humans that are going to be able to adapt to what the kind of humans our generations were created for them, are actually forming now. They’re forming themselves and probably, apart from the nattering value system of boomers, like “this is good, and this is bad, and this is what you should do.” Whether it’s true or not, I really like that picture.

Douglas Rushkoff

Whether it’s true or not, but that’s fine. I mean, when we were kids, I remember when I had six or seven records, and I loved my six or seven records. The Monkees, I had Three Dog Night, I remember my records. Then it was about collecting records, then you couldn’t have enough records. That’s this whole Boomer Buster thing of, Look how much vinyl I have. Kids today don’t have any records at all. Maybe they’ll have one or two but they got friggin’ Spotify or Pandora or something. They don’t need to own any music at all. That’s a positive step in a capitalist world. There’s certain things you need to own and certain things you don’t need to own.

Vicki Robin

Exactly. And it’s the relational quality that actually, the less capable you are at forming human bonds, the more stuff you need, basically. So I just find this very curious, because I just heard Yuval Harare recently talking about AI. He said, we’re in a revolution of what it means to be human. And for him it was that the computational capacity beyond the human mind is going to remake us as a species in ways that we cannot even imagine. The human self can’t imagine the transhuman self. That’s sort of an image that fails to be exciting to me, because I’m really biological, I certainly enjoy my biology, but what you’re saying is somewhat different. It’s sort of more like a grassroots adaptability to an environment that just keeps changing. I read a science fiction story once where basically, the conceit was that the environment kept changing. The sidewalk was there, and then it wasn’t there. So the people had to get used to, they had to figure out how to live in an environment that was unstable.

Douglas Rushkoff

Yes, but that’s the thing. They have to figure out how to live in it, and have to figure out what about our humanity that we want to retrieve and make sure functions in the new environment. For me, my problem with digital is how it really dices everything up. I think of humanity as this sort of continuous flesh, clay stuff. And digital is like (clicks). So all the little flesh clay stuff ends up each on a separate little codon and when it’s not connected, it’s like, Oh, wait a minute. (Breaks up). You know, my humanity gets broken up like that. (That wasn’t the tech, that was me, in case it sounded so realistic.)

But we have to look at these environments like that. So I look at the augmentation offered by AI, the same way I look at the invention of speech. Once we invented language, we now had this whole virtual realm and I can hurt you with words and we could construct these things. You can get lost in language, which can be fun, but you’ll still be here. Then we had text, which then took language and made it once removed further. Now we can lie and write contracts and histories, and who gets to write the history of what happened gets to dominate the future, but who owns the slaves? It’s written down. I mean, all that stuff. That’s why we got Judaism, was to figure out how do we be ethical in a world where there’s going to be stuff written down, where my word is no longer my bond. What is the new covenant, really, is what we were looking at. Fun stuff. Now this is as this way I wrote Program or Be Programmed: 10 Commands for a Digital Age, I was trying to offer up, Oh, we’re gonna have to really think like torah style, about this next migration from an electronic world to a genuinely digital one.

Vicki Robin

So, Rabbi, give us some stories or some principles for how do we do this migration that’s underway? It’s sort of like, you invent language and you can’t stop it. You can’t go like, oops, that was a bad idea. Just go mute, don’t remember any words, especially that one they’ve just said to you, stop. You can’t put it back in a bottle. So what’s the ethics? How are we menches in this sort of world? We’re uploaded into our technology, but we’re still biologic and we still have hearts, and we still have this, whether it’s iowaska or whatever it is, we have a sense that there’s something going on between us. It’s not all delusion, it’s there. What are the ethics of that? How do we navigate this?

Douglas Rushkoff

You know, I like Timothy Leary’s laws of drugs. He had two laws about drugs. One is never stop a person from taking a drug they want to take and never give a person a drug without their permission. And I think like that works really well for technology to that our engagement with any technology should be voluntary. And if someone wants you let him go, you can’t say, Oh, no, you can’t go in that virtual reality thing. Yeah. Yep. That it’s interesting. You know, I was thinking a lot about social justice. And in my Media Studies Department, where  I teach, you know, they want to do social justice, and they’re doing social justice in the way that they read about it on Twitter, you know, traditional social justice warriorship, and it’s all about, you know, race and gender and all those things. And I’m like, yeah, that’s all good. It’s all super important.

But if we’re in a media studies department, we’re thinking about media, how does social justice really apply to what we’re doing? Are we brave enough to talk about it in other ways, and I think if you are a media technology digital person, then what we’re really talking about is cognitive liberty, is authority over the way I perceive and function and, and communicate. And that’s such an important realm of activity. You know,  there are corporate interlopers getting between you and me in the way that we want to engage and the way that we want to mind meld and communicate with each other. And these folks do not have our best interests at heart. They’re looking at how to monetize how to extract how to change how to divert how to get me to spend more time on Twitter and less time with you. And that’s, that’s, those people are not being fair, they are the ED Bernays of this media, you know, and so, there’s that.

And I mean, so much for me, and that’s what my whole team human journey was about, was spending some, some amount of time incarnate with other people. I don’t mean carnally with others, although you can, but I almost encourage you not to, because carnally you get this whole other thing when you have sex with somebody, and which is appreciative too. But what about when you’re with someone not getting even that I mean, as a guy, I think of sex, it’s like, still, I’m still old fashioned, where it’s like, oh, I’m getting some sex, I’m getting to come, I’m getting to this, you know, but if it’s not that if you’re just with people, just with them, not getting anything just with and even more than one person at a time, you know, just sitting around shooting this sh*t.

It’s calibrating, you know, so I guess my main advice is for people to realize that these technologies are intentionally decalibrating, they destabilize you and your nervous system, the only way to recalibrate is to make eye contact with another human being in real life. If you have no eyes, breathe in a room with someone else in real life. Yeah, got no lungs, touch another person hold their hand, there’s all these ways for you to encourage the sympathetic response of your nervous system to another nervous system. And that really does bring back this is a dramatic way of saying, I don’t mean this that spiritually, but it brings back the entire history of our species, hold someone’s hand, and there’s infinity in it. And that infinity, then you know, okay, now I know what I want to do online or where I want to send my algorithms.

Vicki Robin

Totally. Or the other thing is, go into the garden outdoors.

Douglas Rushkoff

And what Tyson Yunkaporta keeps telling me stop just talking about humans, you can look at our rock and get the same thing, if you know how.

Vicki Robin

Or at very least, you can look at a blade of grass, you know, that’s right, something that’s living, and you can look at a rock, but that’s advanced presence, right? But it’s different than going out and consuming nature. You know, whether it’s racing through it, or like, you know, nice trees, but taking some time with a tree and then slowing down enough so that you are actually served with that tree and that tree’s history. It’s a very different experience. It’s a very different experience. I spent quite a bit of time last weekend doing things like that, you know, like hanging out with the I live near some farmland, and so there’s cows every day grazing. And, you know, so it’s the cows. Isn’t it nice that we have farmland with some cows on it. You know, like down the hill, you know, they’re you know, Oh, and we have another farm land where there’s sheep, you know, oh, aren’t those cute lambs you know, and you just hang out like this hung out with the steer, just like I don’t mean to be holy, holy about this. I’m just saying that it’s a quality of attention, that there’s another living being right there that you are not consuming that has an autonomous existence. And you can have a relationship that you can actually feel the energy between you. It’s so yeah, I had a quote on the wall once said, Love is the very difficult realization that someone other than you is real.

Douglas Rushkoff

That’s great. I got this with my bunny. Not my bunny. There’s a bunny that lives in my backyard. We call it Douglas Bunny, for reasons that don’t matter. But I’m in the yard. And I was out like, like texting or something. I went and I sat in a chair in the yard. And I saw the bunny. And the bunny saw me. And I could tell the bunny got in that position of like, Oh, shit do I run. And it looked at me like in that scared way. And I was just sitting there and didn’t move. I looked at the bunny, we’re making eye contact, and the bunny kind of breathes a little bit. He kind of shrugged. And then he kept eating its little clover, whatever it was eating there. And I knew the bunny and me are in the yard. Together, we really were we were together. It knew I was there. It knows I’m the one who lives in that house. And that was like, so me and the bunny. And it was better than having a pet on a certain level? Because it was just…

Vicki Robin

It was a free exchange. It was unconstrained. So I think one thing I’m taking away from what you’re saying is basically to be able to paw through the junkyard of the mediated world, and connect with things that are actual, real companions on a living planet, you know, connect with a companion on a living planet, you know, and that will remind you, of something that’s inside you, because even critical thinking because I thought, you know, part of what you’re talking about is kids have to, we all have to be able to decode the messages, the ways we’re being manipulated and the ways we’re being constructed. And so that is a thing called critical thinking, and then that’s a new discipline that we must teach. Yeah. And I think it I think it has to sit on top of what I’m getting from you, it sits on top of a bonding with things that are real. And out of that you want to be able to decode what in my environment is constructed for me,  this is a Truman Show, what’s constructed for me, that’s trying to manipulate me into like buying a product and what’s real?

Douglas Rushkoff

What are the pre-existing conditions of nature? I mean, it’s interesting, and it makes me think of two things. One is, you know, the digital realm is so much about choice. That’s the whole thing. That’s the whole premise is that you get to choose, that’s the reason we build technology. So you could choose to be in the light or in the dark. You can choose to be here or in Chicago because there’s an aeroplane. So the whole digital realm is about choice and customization and more choice choice choice choice. We don’t want to translate that obsession with choice to the real world, where it’s like wait a minute, I’m in the yard. There’s a bunny. Get rid of the bunny? Do I keep the bunny or get rid of the bunny? No, it’s just a bunny. And to learn for us to adapt to things rather than choosing things, to deal with things, it’s really hard for people.

Vicki Robin

Maybe this links into what I’m moving around here because my cat is trying to insert herself into the thing but she like grabs the screen. Yeah, maybe this is some possible future coming out of young people learning how to adapt to this changing landscape. And some of the adaptations will be online some will be in real life and I think there’s something else I’m taking away for you which is that you know human beings have, it’s happening maybe faster now, but we have always been on the edge of the known as soon as we started to have like, you know, some self consciousness some enough whatever it was that we could be aware of ourselves in time. We’ve always been on the edge of the known and as much as I personally freak out about the state of the world and what we’re doing to the environment and the polarisation in politics and the wealth gap and the, you know, I mean, I have like the entire list that I can freak out about every day over coffee. But there is a trust, there is a trust that this is even this is part of the human game, even this is part of what it means to be alive, is to be alive in a time when things that you don’t understand are coming toward you. And you have to listen like my cat. And you have to, you have to respond and you respond out of your sensate nervous system, you respond out of the images that have been sort of put into you by the medium that you have, whether it’s your parents or culture or TV that’s what it means to be alive. This is what being alive is.

Douglas Rushkoff

And there’s a compromise in that you know, when you were talking about going out in nature, right, my experience and there’s a bunch of woods around here, but the woods are sick in some ways. These woods, you know, this is not the original Hudson Valley, with the giant thick trees in the Hudson Valley School of painting. So I go into the woods and it’s a bit like, you know, whether or not I’m tripping, I can walk through the woods and then start out here I am with nature, but then just start noticing all the various incursions of man into this thing. And that the problems with it No look, there’s no undergrowth, and no this and there’s overgrowth of that and this path is here and Oh, look at those bricks that came from somewhere and plastic on the ocean and those animals don’t look right. And this looks mangy and and then it’s all over and then you know and then you become like one of those tech bros and it’s like, oh, well, it’s okay. I’m taking my G5 jet down to the Amazon we found this spot of untouched Amazon that we’re going to go touch you know, with my Patagonia windbreakers and special high tech clamping tools, right? And walk around in this pristine something. And it’s like even that almost totalizing that quest for total purity of, you know, of nature. It’s like Dude, that is what’s killing nature in itself. But accepting No, then this is alright, if you don’t like the woods, and let’s think about how to make her healthier. Again, the woods right here. Don’t get on a plane. This is nature this is alive. This is no, it’s not the way you saw it in that movie about Yosemite.

Vicki Robin

Yeah, and then there’s this idea in some traditions of a sit spot, you go, you find a place in nature, and you go every day, through all the seasons, spend a year, every day you visit a place. And you see then you become familiar with the life of that place. And you know, after a while that you put you take this stone and you put it over there. It’s some and it’s really I’m sort of like winding us because we like going on and on and sort of winding us into like a summation. Then we keep ballooning out. But it’s what you said in the beginning of just stop it. Just stop. Just like just like, stop just even the game of Oh, the woods aren’t as healthy as they should be. Oh, that’s a problem. Oh, I’m worried Oh, I should do something about it. Oh, I’m gonna write a letter. I’m gonna go to my city council. Maybe I’ll run for mayor. Oh, you know, it’s like you can wind out everywhere with what’s wrong, and there’s plenty to wind out about. But there’s also this radical not giving up on like being this responsible menschy citizen but this radical just like, can I be with what is right here and relax into it and just maybe take some time and let it notice me that I’m, I’m here, you know, right.

Douglas Rushkoff

Before imposing my great intellectual mal-techno solution to this problem, which I know how to fix with my day of exposure to the horror.

Vicki Robin

And it’s what you said about Leary. Don’t impose drugs on people who don’t want them. Talk about Western rational thought. Really, can we relax out of the imposition of ourselves out of our own anxiety and loneliness? Can we relax out of that and turn it into art? That’s probably the best thing to do with your loneliness. And your, you know, as you were saying about Bo. Yeah. So it’s sort of like you’re talking not about the thing, but a way of being in relationship with the thing that I think is, you know, that’s, you keep saying it over and over and over and over and over again, not that you’re repeating yourself, because every time you say it new, but what it is, is like, there’s, there’s things that are real. And it’s really, it’s really nice to be with the things that are real.

Douglas Rushkoff

Exactly. I mean, it’s back to almost in some ways, as a media theorist, the medium is the message. I don’t care about the content of someone’s speech. I care about the comportment with which they engage with me, that’s everything.

Vicki Robin

Well, that’s why we’re friends. Because really, that’s the you know, there’s a melody to how we’re connecting. It’s got a little bit of Jew in it, you know, it’s got alte kaker in it, you know, when it’s, it’s, there’s a melody to it, there’s a cadence, and we’re looking for that melody in the world, we’re looking for the call and response, this feeling, you know, loneliness isn’t going and scoring some other thing called another person, it is this feeling of seeing and being seen, you know, it’s the call and responses, the feeling of echolocation. It’s like, I’m here, and I’m here in this and I can be beneficial to this. And this is beneficial to me. And, and that feeling. It’s like grab onto that, like it’s the last lifesaver on the Titanic, because it is, you know, that is the thing that is gonna get us through whatever this is that and hang out with young people, because they probably know a lot more than you do. How about that for a summary statement?

Douglas Rushkoff

It’s the essence of existence.

Vicki Robin

It is the essence. Douglas, it’s embarrassing to say this to you publicly, in front of everybody, but I do adore you.

Douglas Rushkoff

And I adore you. It’s true love.

Vicki Robin

There’s not many molecules being shared. But I mean, really, everybody needs a friend like you that you could just hook it in, you know, that call and response that, like, I get it. I get it. I get it. I hear you. I hear you. I hear you this. Yes. Yeah, yeah, over here. And what about that? And did you see that bird and you know, it’s like that feeling. That feeling and it comes as you say with friends? I think friends more than that projection of like the people of the opposite sex or the same sex or some sex that you’re going to own and pay to you. It’s just that, that feeling. It’s a feeling to be when the world is a feeling. So thank you.

Douglas Rushkoff

Thanks for feeling with me.

 

Read and listen to more related articles on Resilience.org:

What Could Possibly Go Right: Episode 28 Finding the others

The Attention Economy and Nature Depletion or… the Story of Einstein Watching Cat Videos (Episode 41 of Crazy Town)