Show Notes

Douglas Rushkoff makes a third appearance in our series, sharing his latest thoughts on What Could Possibly Go Right? Listen to his previous interviews in episodes 28 and 52.

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 Team Human, based on his podcast. Others include bestsellers Present Shock, Throwing Rocks at 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. 

Before our season break, enjoy this casual chat between Douglas and Vicki which included themes of:

  • Exposing “the false premise of winning at capitalism”
  • Exploring that life often gets better, not worse as we avoid consumerist comforts
  • “Cultivating truth telling with kindness”
  • Rebuilding non-monetary social capital and being careful of the “transactional bias in the way human beings relate to each other”

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. We interview cultural scouts, people who see far and serve the common good; and social artists, people who feel deeply an act with courage in the face of uncertainty. As we work to protect what we love, change what we can and learn as we go, our awakened hearts are absolutely necessary partners to our critical thinking minds.

Vicki Robin

Today’s guest is Douglas Rushkoff, and he needs no introduction for fans of What Could Possibly Go Right? This is his third romp through topics of mutual fascination. We’re both trained in improv comedy and I think you’ll see evidence of that.

Vicki Robin

Douglas is the host of Team Human podcast, and author of Team Human as well as a dozen other best selling books on media technology and culture, including Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, How growth became the enemy of prosperity, Present Shock, Program or be Programmed, Media Virus and the novel Ecstasy Club. His latest book Survival of the Richest is slated for September 22. He is professor of Media theory and digital economics at CNYU Queens. He made the television documentaries Generation Like, Merchants of Cool, The Persuaders, and Digital Nation. He lives in New York and lectures about media, society and economics around the world. And so here’s Douglas. Enjoy.

Vicki Robin

Okay, Douglas, my dear companion on this strange, strange journey. It is so great to welcome you back to What Could Possibly Go Right? I know you have a new book coming out Survival of the Richest, in which you trace the origins of what you call the mindset, the drive of the Ultra Rich to dominate through technology – So, Team Human be damned – to explore several theories of why we’re heading into a box canyon of class war and pathological politics, I’m going to get biblical for a second, citing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which says when the first four of the seven seals have been broken, four riders shall be summoned, conquest, war, famine, and death with them. These riders shall bring the apocalypse you know, so conquest, war, famine, death, check, check, check, check. And Thomas Berry posited that the Black Death in Europe, in other words, death, ignited a never again drive to dominate nature. And some people go back to agriculture, the domination of the land. For our current consumer madness, I go back at least to the bankers who invented debt with interest to finance the exploitation of the new world. And that meme of growth and the rich getting richer has gripped us ever since. And you cite the ultra rich world domination tech team of sociopaths. But you know, I set this up. But I’m not as interested in this why as I’m interested in your and my belief in team human, the people who are mostly good and mostly helpful, and together can make wonderful communities. So in the blurb for your new book, it says “This mind-blowing work of social analysis shows us how to transcend the landscape The Mindset created—a world alive with algorithms and intelligences actively rewarding our most selfish tendencies—and rediscover community, mutual aid, and human interdependency.”

So, I’m on that team, I’m on the team human. As you know, this podcast asks, What could possibly go right, not as optimism, but as a combination of clear seeing and heartful action in a world seemingly gone mad. So, with all of this setup, my friend, from the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the Black Death, etc., over to you and go are you will and we will discuss.

Douglas Rushkoff

What’s interesting in some ways, Team Human, the last book I wrote, is the answer to Survival of the Richest, which is the more recent book I wrote. But, you know, Team Human, which is arguing that being human is a team sport, and we’ve got to do this together, it’s almost as if the urgency of that set of solutions doesn’t make sense to people unless I actually expose the false premise of winning at capitalism. I feel like people are still holding on to some vestige of hope that they’ll be on the side that somehow makes it through the bottleneck at the end of time, you know, and we’ll be one of the survivors of whatever it is.

And that was why it was fun to take the sort of the billionaires and say, Okay, let’s look at how the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world think they’re going to make it through and to look at, they’re building these bunkers, they’re building rocket ships, they’re trying to figure out how to programme human Navy SEALs to protect them after money is worthless. They think that their water supplies are going to be somehow distinct from the water table in which their bunkers exist, they think they’re going to somehow filter the air, they have plans.

One of these guys had plans for a swimming pool, a heated swimming pool in his little dome. And I’m like, where are the replacement parts for your filter? And heater? Where are you going to order those? Right? They’re not thinking rationally about it, they’re just playing some weird, walking dead scenario.

So for me where things can go right, is that we can come to see how we regular good normal people that you’re talking about, can come to see how we’ve internalised some of the values of these crazy billionaires, these people who are addicted to scientism, and capitalism, and all the others and domination and all the things that they think can work and and see where it came from. And you go, Oh, okay, so the idea of scientific domination of the world, that came from Francis Bacon, and these folks who thought that they could somehow beat the plague and get away from that. Or this other idea of domination, well, that came from people who were afraid of women, and had all these other… And once you look at it, and go, Oh, I get it, these tech bros, they want a Japanese style robot sex slave because they’re scared of a relationship, because they don’t know what a relationship is. Because they don’t know how to give themselves and oh my gosh, I don’t want to be like Musk, and Zuckerberg and Gates and I want to be just me.

And then that’s what what can go right is that people stop looking at life as a game that you win, or that you win by somehow vanquishing or like your horsemen through conquest. Conquest is losing, as far as I’m concerned. Winning, if they’re even were such a thing, how do you win in an infinite game? Right? If the object of the game is to keep the game going for as long as possible to sustain fun and joy for as many people as possible, then it’s a very different kind of play that we’re looking at.

So the good news is that either because it’s unattainable, or because we will expose it as utterly vapid and devoid of true joy, people will begin to aspire to something they already have, rather than than something they need to get. And once that happens, capitalism goes away, consumption for consumption’s sake goes away. Winning and separation and domination are unnecessary, because we all already have it right now with each other.

Vicki Robin

Wow. I love that you quoted one of my favourite books in the world. Of course, we would have favourite books, which is James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games. And you know, the finite game is playing to win and the infinite game is playing to play. And you know, my life has been about creating infinite games that go finite, I don’t know somehow or another, it’s a finite mind…

Douglas Rushkoff

How do I win at this podcast? How do I win? What’s  the object of it? Oh, maybe I could sell a book? How can I sell six books through this podcast? Then I’ve won.

Vicki Robin

No, I’m gonna sell my book, dude.

Douglas Rushkoff

All right, you sell your book. Where can I win? Can we have an argument that I can win? Yes.

Vicki Robin

I’m right and you’re wrong? How about that?

Douglas Rushkoff

You know what I mean? It’s like crazy.

Vicki Robin

I have to be right.

Douglas Rushkoff

You can be. If it’s fun, if it’s fun, be right. But what we can do instead, the reason to do these podcasts or anything that we do in public is to model non-winning behaviours, model unconquest, whatever that looks like.

Vicki Robin

You set up the ball, and I throw it back to you, and then I set up the ball and you hit it, and we set up the ball for each other, and we have fun hitting it.

Douglas Rushkoff

It’s kind of fun.

Vicki Robin

Yeah, it’s like playing toss, having a ball and tossing it back and forth, and considering it a good evening, a good summer evening. Yeah. So how do we, this is really a communications issue. How do you break the trance of you are, you know, you’re going for a cotton candy prize, that you are not going to enjoy once you get it?

How do you break that? And I will say talking about one of my books, you know, the the thing that was most revolutionary in there that actually the created the greatest change, was that translated money into hours of life. We told people, you know, you spent $50 on the shoes, and you calculate your real hourly wage after taxes and carfare and daycare and you realise, most people that they’re making a quarter of what they actually think they’re making.

So $40 an hour is like, $10 an hour. So those $50 shoes are five hours of your life. And once that penny drops, that there is a life energy cost to consumption, it starts to break. And then it gets worse because you know, if you pay the minimum balance in your credit card, like the amount you’re paying for those shoes, once they’re paid off is probably about $200. And so you just start to like, reveal the, you have to reveal the cost in terms of something that you prefer, you know, it can’t be nattering and moralising. It’s like, what are you losing by going for this?

Douglas Rushkoff

Or there’s the positive way? I remember when I was 14 years old, I got my first job. I was the tennis court attendant in Scarsdale. Right? I would sit, you know, and these these women in little skirts would flirt with me, and, you know, the housewives in white skirts with tennis rackets, and I would sign them up for the court. But I knew that if I did it for three hours, that I would have enough money to go to Alexander’s and get a record. That was enough. Three hours got me a record. And to me, that was a good deal. Right? I would do it from eight to 11 in the morning. I’m done. Mom, let’s go? Got it.

But that mentality about money stayed with me throughout so yeah, I do you know, and it’s not that I’m miserly in some awful way, but I do look at everything and how much work does it take? Not just expense,  so here’s this iPhone, right, that costs $399 or something when I got it, what does it take me to get that? How many days of work or whatever that I do to get that? But then I start looking at the rest of the iPhone? How many labourers did it take? How much carbon footprint did it take? So there’s the the consumptive costs but then there’s the externalities of the thing. And when you start looking at that, you just want to not, and it can be depressing, but you want to not get anything.

So it’s like Oh, I’m gonna replace my you know, my Ford, you know Taurus, with an Elon Musk Tesla, so that I have a low carbon footprint. But you know how much carbon you have to use to trade in your Taurus to go buy a brand new friggin Tesla, where the kids get sent to the slave camps to get the molybdenum and what do you do with the battery and the lithium after the thing is done, and you just don’t get a new car. They go, Oh my god, I can’t drive. I can’t this, I can’t that.

But then it becomes liberating all of a sudden, it’s like, well, wait a minute. You mean, I can’t drive all the way over there for my job? Oh, my, I’m not going to be able to work in the factory anymore. Oh, no. So I’m gonna have to instead, you know, work over here at you know, making candles with Mrs. Smith or making cider over here, or teaching kids math in my own house. And all of a sudden, it’s like, wait a minute, my life’s getting better, not worse, as I deprive myself of the the supposed comforts of end stage capitalism.

Vicki Robin

I wonder if it’s the very sort of technologies that you’re talking about that fueled the mindset, you know, the world view? Yeah. That, that we’re somewhere a little too far along with bonding with our technology and our products, you know, I’m not going to be a Doomer, I possibly could be, but I’m not going to do it now. But, I used to say that the consumer culture, the the way it works is it breaks the bonds between humans. And because every broken bond is a site where a product can be inserted. Like, you know, a divorce is great for the consumer culture, because it’s two refrigerators and two stoves, and two apartments, you know.

So, basically, and that this may be another rationale for why you might want to surrender some of your love of the consumer culture. But let me give you an example from where I am, because in my community I live in an island in the Pacific Northwest, you know, it’s got plenty of like political diversity, and cultural diversity. But where I live is sort of an accidental gated community for old people, you know, and in part, it’s no, I don’t like I don’t want to…

Douglas Rushkoff

Do you think those gates were put there by accident? No.

Vicki Robin

It’s an economic gate. It’s like, houses that that just eight years ago went for $250,000 are being bought sight unseen cash on the barrelhead for $800,000. Oh, my God, you know, it’s like, it’s like, it’s being bought up. So. So you know, and the conversation about affordable housing ever since I moved here, umpteen years ago, has been like, we’re gonna form a commission, we’re gonna have a conversation, we’re gonna do a presentation, we’re gonna, you know, nothing happens.

I mean, there’s promise of things happening, there’s pointing to things that could happen, there’s efforts in that direction, but we’re not getting there. And as every delay, the price goes up, because it’s the free market, and, and real estate is financialized, it’s a place where people want to put their money, you know, in land, you know, like, Oh, they’re not making more land, I’m gonna go buy some shit, you know.

So there’s a little subset of us, and we’re trying to promote a solution that I’ve done, which is on the ground floor of my house, I have, I’ve put into little studio apartments. And so over the course of owning this house, I have probably housed 25 people. And for, you know, really low rent, it’s not like a low rent district. It’s a really nice house. So we’re trying to promote that. But, you know, people, single people are living in 200 300 square feet. And they’re afraid of other people. They have tonnes of empty space. But it’s very challenging to think about, you know, because about, you know, creating a little apartment and having some ne’er do well, or low life or in their house.

So, you know, it seems like the social fear is a big impediment, the the habit of becoming afraid of people and really not of your class, you know, we used to call them essential workers two years ago, and we like clapped on our balconies for them, and now that we won’t have them in our houses, and we won’t do a little studio apartment. So it’s like, I just feel the crunch of this social antipathy. And what you’re saying is that we have we installed within us, we have a social cohesion gene, but it’s gotten sort of suppressed or occupied. Yeah. Interesting separation.

Douglas Rushkoff

There’s two lines of thought there. One is the classist thing, which is real, you know, it used to be people lived in the city. And then they didn’t want their slaves so close to them to see them and smell them and worry. So they had they put the slaves out in the suburbs, then when the railroad lines came out, and real estate investors wanted to make money on the parcels of land in the suburbs, they put the enslaved people and the servants back in the city, and the wealthy people came out to the suburbs to have those little estates.

And then it’s kind of reversed again, now, you have to be rich to get into the city, and the people of colour are coming out of the city. So it goes back and forth, that there is that class thing, where the wealthy people are afraid to see, you know, even in the neighbourhood I’m in I mean, we’re half of us are extreme progressive, Lefty Bernie people, and are trying to do low income housing. And the other half are like, wait a minute, you’re gonna let low income housing people here, you know, oh, no, what’s gonna happen to our kids and birth control? And you know what I mean, people just go crazy, right? It’s like, it’s like reefer madness. They’re that afraid. So there’s that.

But I think on even a more fundamental level, there’s such a transactional bias in the way human beings relate to each other. Now, it feels clean and fine. If I pay you and you do the thing, and then you go home, then you do me a favor, then I owe you something. And then I don’t want the old lady next door, who’s had nine children to come over and teach me how to latch my baby to my breast, I’m gonna hire a professional lactation consultant to come do that and do it on the insurance. Because if I let that lady come over, and she teaches me how to do this, then then when I have my Hanukkah party did do I have to invite her over too, now is she in my world? How do I live? What if she has trouble? What if she falls down and can’t get up do we now we have to be the ones who get her the ambulance? It’s like, yes, you do.

You, you know. People have lost it. And partly it was the shaming of sex and the weirdness of genders and all these things. But partly, that’s the triumph of capitalism, of living in a free market society is, you know, I, my agency, and my autonomy and my, what the tech bros like to call sovereignty, my sovereignty is something I buy with my money. And people have so bought that idea that money buys you everything that they can’t quite wrap their head around the the, the less numeric, less easily calculable social complexity of living with other people in the real world. What did you do for me? What? No, it just happens, this is what Marx was writing about that no one understands, socialism is not this state run central bureaucracy thing. Socialism meant that before money before commodity fetishism and market values, all of our exchange was social. Joe went out and killed a pig while Mary was home and tried to make tortillas, and the kids lit a fire. And when everyone came back, we got tortillas, we got burritos, you know. And it’s a social phenomenon. And we’re each depending on one another to do our part. So we can eat together. And that’s it.

And once we’re separated, once we’re alienated from each other, and have to use coin of the realm in order to make those interactions, what happens? The people who make those coins make a lot of money. They don’t want us just exchanging stuff. Money is a business money it’s not a utility. Every time you buy and sell something, you are buying the bank’s product, you know, and just because you go to friggin Bitcoin doesn’t change that you’re just buying a different bank’s product, these nerd banks’ product, instead of when you’re allowed to just do shit for each other for no reason other than, Oh, here’s some food. You want to teach my kid math? Cool. It’s all just part of living too. So…

Vicki Robin

How do we break the spell my friend because it’s not just enough to demonstrate that we’re having more fun, which we are. I mean, look at us. We’re making social capital right here in front of everybody. Yeah. I mean, that’s like the, as we used to say the $64,000 question, which of course now is the 64 million dollar question, but you know, where do you see the spell being broken?

Douglas Rushkoff

I like that, because, you know, I’m always against the how do we get people to blank kinds of questions because then it’s like, so “Let’s go get them to do this!”, that’s like, you know, all those kind of British guys talking about about how do we help people make sense of this new world and do pattern recognition in the post modern psychedelic, Neo Gothic, whatever, you know, it’s like, Oh, please, you know, you’re not even making sense to yourself, and you’re gonna teach me how to make sense.

Vicki Robin

Exactly. It’s so arrogant. I just want to say that it’s so arrogant. And I was in the business of doing that for many years, being right, you know, sweetly.

Douglas Rushkoff

Right? It’s more a matter of where do we see these things being modelled so that we can help celebrate and amplify, and platform some of these great people doing great things, you know, frightfully little in America, you know? Sadly, you know, you see it in the seed sharing coops in India, you see it in a lot of the African villages who are learning mutual aid. But there are places where you see mutuality, you see, community gardens. A lot of little tutoring networks.

You saw it at the beginning of COVID, when people would similarly you know, put up a Google Doc, and you’d list the hospital on the left. And then what do they need in the next column? And where do you drop it off? And who’s got it? You? You, I very often see it at the beginning of the first three weeks of a crisis.

Vicki Robin

Totally, exactly. I had a friend who was, I don’t know a social scientist or something, and he was hired by the Red Cross to go into to research how the Red Cross could do a better job of going into disaster areas. And so he went in, and what he what he found out was, in the first two weeks, the Red Cross is irrelevant, because everybody’s helping everybody. And they remember it.

It’s sort of like war stories, you know, you might remember back then, you know, when we had the tornado. So I want to posit something radical. And I, you know, I get in trouble with my progressive friends about this. I think that people on the right, not extremists, but people on the right, maybe having more fun. They get together for barbecues, you know, they get together for dances, you know, oh, my God, they’re not wearing masks anyway, you know, they’re wrong.

But, you know, masks, celebrations, barbecues, church events, you know, just, I can’t tell you, the number of things I’ve seen in my community where the people who go to church and help each other through their churches. Specially I had a neighbour who’s LDS and, and they were just astonishing, she organised some of the young men who were on their mission work to come and like, fix, you know, like, rake my backyard after a windstorm it was like, unheard of. I took a picture of it I posted on Facebook, it is like, Where can I go get some of those mission guys, you know, and, and so, I think especially, especially in the black church, you know, and in mosques and in you know, Latino churches, people banding together for the common good, happens way more right of center than it does left of center. Yeah.

Douglas Rushkoff

Partly because, you know, left of centre where we keep trying to depend on some government universal system to do this. And we forget, you know, the whole, I mean, the whole point of universalism, if the Jews invented it, the whole point of universalism was to get God and authority out of the way so that you turn back to the other people, you stop worshipping the idol, and then it’s a peer to peer society. God said, you know, take the idol off the statue off the ark, have an empty friggin tent, face each other and then between you, I’ll come that’s where I’ll be, between you.

And that’s universalism should have done. I mean, the Enlightenment got kind of hijacked by central authority, in a weird way that it’s  odd how that happened. But no, I agree with you. And it’s not just the right, it’s really a great way to recognise social health if there’s more than one or two generations there at the same time. You know, I  always talk about my trip to Rome when I was in college, and I’m walking around Rome at night. And I see, you know, sitting on the stoop, there’ll be old ladies with, you know, knitting or whatever with babies at their feet and teenagers making out right across the street. And a group of men over here throwing dice and housewives talking. And it’s like, What? I’m looking at four generations of people enjoying each other, watching out for each other,  you know, everyone was enjoying themselves and in one way or another responsible to everyone else who was there, and it was just mind blowing.

I remembered talking to my mom after that, telling her remember when we were poor enough to have community before we moved to Scarsdale, and we lived in Queens and there was one BBQ at the end of the block and everyone brought their stuff there on a Friday night you could get Selma and Al, the neighbours would cook, we would trust them for me to go down the street with my patty or my hot dog and they would cook it for me to eat because they’re there manning the grill, or womaning the grill. And we move to Larchmont and to Scarsdale. There was no barbecuing with the Joneses. It was barbecuing against the Joneses.

Vicki Robin

Who has the bigger barbecue?

Douglas Rushkoff

Right? Porterhouse. So we got sirloin and they got fillet. Oh my god, what happened?

Vicki Robin

Now we have portobello mushrooms.

Douglas Rushkoff

Right? Exactly and impossible, impossible burgers, but I got stuck in that impossible burger. Oh my god, you know.

Vicki Robin

So here’s something I’m thinking as I listen to that. Being right will not save the world no matter how right you are. But stories will. So I would like to make a pact with you. That every time we see social capital being built, we celebrate it. Even if it is outside the narrative of right and wrong that we might subscribe to. Now it’s like tough because, you know, the Huns get together and they you know, they have their barbecues and you might not want to support the Huns and barbarians. You know, it’s like with the truckers in a trucker protest.

I celebrated Occupy Wall Street. And I celebrated the truckers because they were having a good time together. I celebrated XR and I have friends who hated XR because they just jammed up London. But when the truckers do it because they’re the truckers, we refuse to recognise that there’s something going on that’s part of democracy and part of social capital.

Douglas Rushkoff

Right. So you’re not going to the Nuremberg rallies or anything?

Vicki Robin

No, no. But that’s not social capital. That’s authoritarianism. Yeah. So it has to be social capital it has to be people with people. You know, maybe by

Douglas Rushkoff

Nuremberg was a kind of BYOB thing then maybe

Vicki Robin

You could go with your patty that’s the thing is it. Can you show up at your neighbor’s door with your patty and they’ll cook it for you? I think that’s sort of gone. Yeah, liberal cities.

Douglas Rushkoff

And disease. This certainly doesn’t help that either. Now, you know, all the COVID and monkey pox and everything else out there really helps people justify all that alienation and professionalisation.

Vicki Robin

You think it was a conspiracy?

Douglas Rushkoff

Yeah. I mean, in this in the new book, I call it the dumbwaiter effect. You know, and most people think that the dumbwaiter was created you know that Thomas Jefferson wanted to save his slaves or his enslaved people the trip up the stairs? No, the dumbwaiter was so he didn’t have to look at the person. The food just arrived magically like it was from a box and the labour is hidden. That’s like GrubHub and Amazon and everything else, it just arrives in a box? Do you get a text message that your thing has arrived and no human, you know, the Chinese labourers that use a special toxic chemical to wipe the fingerprints off the phone after they’ve assembled it. So we can hide the fact that there were human hands that put the thing together and that chemical shortens their lives so great, so they’re shortening their lives in order to hide the fact that there was a human being involved in making this thing.

Vicki Robin

I don’t know.

Douglas Rushkoff

You do, though.

Vicki Robin

So I moved to this island, but you will, you will someday cross the great continent, on your donkey or something in your little cart, and you will come and see me. But it’s like I live, I moved to this village of 1000 people about 20 years ago, I moved here on an island, you know, that’s serviced only by, you know, a ferry in the north in the south and a bridge in the north, long and skinny and cetera. And I was like, I would just marvel when I first moved here. I said, like, this is, this is like high school where people, you know, the jocks and the brains and the, you know, cheerleaders, and, you know, all these and the nerds and the, you know, all the different types of people were together in something shared, called high school.

And you know, I participate in this community, and I feel like I am a shuttle, I feel like I am a weaving shuttle, you know, I’m just weaving, weaving, weaving, weaving, you know, go to the grocery store. Hi, hi. Hi, how are you? How did it go? Yesterday, when you were at the XYZ? Oh, I saw on Facebook, that you PDQ. And so it may be scale? It may be a question of scale. And, but it’s also a question, I was talking to a guy the other day, who’s a climate psychologist, and he was talking about a Freudian interpretation of, you know, basically existential angst. And you know, why people are so afraid.

I think part of culture arose from a landscape. It was a, it was a a dictionary of survival. In a landscape, you know, whether it’s the tundra, or the rainforest, you know, up here, people are the cedar salmon people. And, you know, and I went someplace in Thailand, and I saw people being very effective at surviving in their place, I thought they were a bamboo, banana people, you know, people know how to survive together in a landscape. But the landscape through capitalism became resources. It’s not like Freudian, it’s that disconnection from place. And I think part of what makes this my place, it’s not great, and as I said earlier, it’s being taken over by, you know, the financialization and real estate, and vacation rentals. But there’s something about a boundary and a mutual aid necessitated by a boundary that makes a difference. So how do we apply this to our, our understanding? How, how can we, where can we celebrate?

Douglas Rushkoff

Well, I agree with you that that it’s not a Freudian problem. And that was a very mean thing of mid century psychologists and social scientists to do because Freudianism had basically blamed the individual for the problem, and not just you as an individual, but there’s an individual inside you that you can’t even know unless you come to me. And that’s the one to blame, you know, your inner psyche, self subconscious, whatever, like, Oh, great. So it’s not just me, that’s the problem. It’s a me inside me that I can’t even know. You know, I can’t even be more guilty! I am guilty for things I don’t even know I think, you know, and that’s like, I get that so then the idea is you will you conform the individual to the society. The other thing that makes me think when you talk about culture, you know, and culture growing in the tundra, or culture growing in the rain forest, and how different cultures grow in different places. Culture, when you’re in the lab, you grow a culture on a medium, maybe they call it an agar dish, you know, a petri dish, put medium in and then you grow your bacteria or fungus on a medium. So in a natural world a medium in which the culture grows is the rain forest is the medium in which these people are growing, so those are their interdependencies. And the tundra, it’s these. In a modern world, the medium on which we’re growing, it might have been city streets, it could be capitalism, it could be now these media. So our our mass media and our interactive media are the media in which our culture is trying to grow. And these are media that are predisposed to isolate, and alienate and extract value from isolated individuals who are being intentionally disoriented and decalibrated by technologies right, that are designed at Stanford to decalibrate you. So we are we are trying to shepherd or raise or steward a culture on an intentionally disorienting decalibrating medium.

Vicki Robin

Bingo, the answer and go, bingo, bingo.

Douglas Rushkoff

Yeah, get off that media when you can, or when you’re on it, acknowledge that you’re on it, I can’t see your pupils. We can’t establish the same kind of rapport here. So we have to compensate for it, which we’re both experienced at doing. You know, so I know that even though my mirror neurons can’t fire when your head nods, I can remember what it would be like for you, and I simulate it, right. It’s almost like a social porn that we’re doing right? It’s like, it’s not real real but it’s close…

Vicki Robin

I’m a cam girl.

Douglas Rushkoff

In a sense. Yeah. But the psychic cam girl spiritual love connection. Community cam, you know, not a not a it’s not about that. Right? Yeah. It’s not about whatever they do in those, you know?

Vick Robin

No, don’t worry about that.

Douglas Rushkoof

Not even I know. I’m afraid. Because then my cam might go on and then they’d see me. I don’t know how it even works. I’ll talk to one of my students and find out what they do.

Vicki Robin

Yeah, so basically, there’s another point of intervention, which isn’t like smarty pants coastal people, but just like noticing where the healthy media as in mediums, plural, are. Where are the healthy mediums? And so it’s like social clubs. It’s the old social capital, you know, we’ll go bowling alone and bowling together.

Douglas Rushkoff

Where are people having the most fun and then going there, and not worrying? Well, it’s so many people I know, if I would just go to having the most fun. It’s like, well, how will that help my career? Well,  can I write about it? Or will I mean, it’s like, no, there’s no, no, you’re not gonna get to network there. You’re not gonna get to network? Is that okay? You know, and that’s part of why, you know, it was great that the Israelites gave themselves the Sabbath, you know, at least one day, maybe one day a week you can’t work. I’m not gonna make anything. No, you’re not even allowed to work. You got to just celebrate that you’re alive and sacred just the way you are, you know?

And, boy, could you imagine that people and again, you’re right, more people on the right, are taking that one day a week off, then on the left, you know, and that’s, I mean, it’s not a problem of rightism, or leftism, but it’s partly because the right have maintained, even blindly have maintained some of the traditions that were put in place to protect us from ourselves.

Vicki Robin

Yeah, I mean, yeah, the the family is a unit of society. morality. I mean, I like the term morality, it means like, you know, wrestling with, you know, complexity and making moral choices. I think that’s one of the coolest things to do. It’s like, I find that fun.

Douglas Rushkoff

I know, that’s one of the great stories in this new book, in the Survival of the Richest book, is this argument I got into at a cocktail party with Richard Dawkins. You know, I was trying to argue that the universe leans toward morality, that morality is a thing, that there’s more going on here than just competition between genes for dominance. And he called me a moralist.

Douglas Rushkoff

And then, you know, 20 years later, I see the picture of him and his other, you know, scientistic atheist buddies of his on the Lolita Express, you know, they’re flying on Epstein’s plane out to the TED conference and I think all right, there’s a reason why that amoral brand of scientism dovetailed so conveniently with the amoral dominator fantasies of a Jeffrey Epstein, because if you’re living in a universe, it’s not that you have to believe in God. But if you don’t believe in the sacred, if you don’t believe that human beings have souls trying to do good, then it’s way easier to just, yeah, take.

Vicki Robin

Totally. I think another thing listening to you, I think is sort of like a tool we can use is category disruption. For  example I’m conservative, I want to conserve nature. I want to conserve relationships. I want to conserve meaning. I want to, you know, I want to conserve intact ecosystems. I’m conservative. So I’m gonna take it. I’ll take conservative, I’ve got it now, you know, and so but I’m liberal because I think, you know, there is no no particular group has a, you know, a purchase on the truth. We’re finding truths together. We’re evolving. You know, it’s like I’m pro life. I want every child to have enough food and security, etc. You know, it’s like we have to be courageous and category mixing.

Douglas Rushkoff

Exactly. I’ve been calling myself materialist lately, you know, a materialist. Because I believe that the matter matters. Totally. If I’m gonna buy something, I want to take care of it and keep it and cherish this thing that I have this thing, it’s not disposable. I am a materialist, these materials, my baby Yoda keychain. I will have this throughout the rest of my life. This is my baby keychain.

Vicki Robin

Totally. I used to say With Your Money or Your life is like it’s not the problem is it’s not that we’re materialists. We’re bad materialists, right? We are just disrespectful materialism.

Douglas Rushkoff

Actually, I think that’s where I got it from to be honest.

Vicki Robin

That’s cool. Thank you.

Douglas Rushkoff

I’m sure I just realised it, to the point that I thought it was mine. But yeah, it was your book. I got that one. I love that one. I love that one. Because it’s fine. You know, so I it is true when you flip the categories all of a sudden, damn right. I’m a conservative. I’m trying to conserve our species, our planet, our resources, you know, rather than spewing. I mean, the amount of energy we’re using it’s not just unsustainable. We are using pulsed energy at this point. It’s like we’re not just burning things. We are exploding things in order…

Vicki Robin

Just go over to the war in Ukraine. I mean, like there could be nothing more insane than a sending billions of dollars of weapons and I am not like pro Russia, bla bla billions of dollars of weapons that are one time journey to be exploded. Yeah, it’s just like, exploding things, taking resources out of the body of Mother Gaia, making them into something like grifting off the profit, and then sending them over to be exploded. What a perfect consumer product because he’s

Douglas Rushkoff

At least exploding those things kills people, where like Bitcoin, you’re just exploding things for nothing. Right? We’re just worshipping an abstract number system by burning resources. It’s like pure

Vicki Robin

NF T’s or something. Yeah.

Douglas Rushkoff

Whatever where Bitcoin, and then proof of work, and I’ll just burn stuff to prove that we love this coin. Totally.

Vicki Robin

So anyway, I’m just saying, we’re gonna, like start to wind up because I promised you that we would go for an hour, and I know, it’s going to take us 20 minutes to just slow this tanker down and dock it somewhere. But, you know, I think there’s a couple of things that are kind of coming out of this conversation.

One, is that category mixing, to have the courage to not be you know, what do you call it? It’s not exactly ideological. It’s just like not willfully crossing the narrative of your tribe, but thoughtfully saying, Well, wait a second, what really is wrong with…

Douglas Rushkoff

We don’t have to stay in our lane all the time. We can actually try on someone else’s reality tunnel for a bit and see, what’s there of value in this one. I mean, the Mormons My God, you know, if you need a job or need a meal or need a place to stay, if you’re a Mormon, you’re a lucky guy, you know, because someone’s gonna, you’re gonna exactly

Vicki Robin

Can we take the Mormons with, you know, without the patriarchy. Can we do that? Yeah. Okay, thank you.

Douglas Rushkoff

Can they keep the multiple marriage, whatever that’s called, they don’t have…

Vicki Robin

Polygamy. Yeah, they, you know, that’s, that’s really, that’s the sort of thing too, that we do to one another. We take the extreme. And we slather that all over everybody, you know. So it’s like there’s sub sects that are not very well loved in the Mormons that do practice polygamy. But they have a different word for it. But most Mormons, they don’t do that. You know, it’s sort of like, yeah, you know, it’s like people on the left, we’re not all Antifa with, you know, black masks out on the street. And you know, we’re not doing that, right. We’re just liberals. We just we own ourselves.

Douglas Rushkoff

We like AOC. Sorry. Yeah.

Vicki Robin

Yeah. Yeah. So it’s like, so it’s like mixing up categories, having the courage to do that. flipping them, like saying, Yeah, I’m conservative. Yeah, I’m pro life. It’s like, just take it. And then the other thing is, is is like to think about how, you know, like, the things that we can do through participation in love to support the mediums. The growth, you know, the agar, yeah, on which mutuality, reciprocity, grow, and celebrate that, like, Amen, what a great church, I really love that church, because they’re really, you know, doing a great thing for their people. Just, I think part of where we’re being shoved is into extremes, and we don’t want to go there. What we want to do is sort of be friendly n the playground.

Douglas Rushkoff

So much of that is about getting away from this kind of ends justifies the means goal orientation, you know, if it’s not, if you’re not doing it in the moment, you’re not doing it.

Vicki Robin

One of the things I gave up this last year was, in order to, I’m doing this in order to that. And every time I catch myself saying that, I stop it. I’m doing this because I’m doing it and I want to, it could have one of 50 outcomes. And the only way it’s going to have an outcome that I enjoy is if I keep doing things that I enjoy.

Vicki Robin

I want to bring up something now, you know, because I don’t know if you knew Hazel Henderson. Yeah. Hazel? Yeah. Um, well, she passed away last weekend. She went virtual, as she says, and she was completely ready to do it. And she had all her affairs in order. And she was in high spirits.

Douglas Rushkoff

She’s had her affairs in order for sixty years.

Vicki Robin

Yeah, exactly. One of the things she did was was flipping categories. She just like, you can’t have anything, any valuable idea or word or anything, and take it away from me if it’s beautiful, I will just flip the category. And the other thing she said to me her last, sort of her semi-last words, that is sort of like the meme for my life now, which is she said, it’s going to be a shit show for the next five years. So tell the truth, and enjoy your life. I think that’s it. Yeah. You know, it’s like in the shit show, what should we do? Tell the truth. Tell the truth. It’s not like tell your opinions or tell your ideology or tell, you know, the repetitive message from your overlords.

Douglas Rushkoff

People are so afraid to tell the truth. They’re so afraid because they think that they’re, that something’s wrong with them, and other people will find out and they gotta hide. And it’s like, no, it’s really, we’re all there. We’re so there.

Vicki Robin

So that’s the other thing we can cultivate is truth telling with kindness.

Douglas Rushkoff

Yeah. Well, we need to tell the truth. I don’t have to tell you the truth about you. It’s like, tell the truth about yourself. You know, yeah, reveal yourself, expose yourself. It’s really not so bad. You’ll find out that other people were looking they’ll go, oh, that’s kind of funny. You’re That’s kind of cute. Or I’m sorry, you feel that way. But let’s love you enough so you don’t feel like that anymore?

Vicki Robin

Or I have been I have just been assiduously revealing things that I’ve been hiding. And every time I do it, and I do it, like, you know, without a lot of spin to it, I suppose like people say, Oh, I love you even more. Oh, you’re so courageous. You know? It’s like, it’s, it’s revelatory for me. That telling the truth without spin without aggression, without trying to prove something or be better than other people, but just actually taking away the screen of self presentation. And, you know, it’s like we used to say nobody here but us chickens. You know, it’s like, that’s, I think that’s disarming.

Douglas Rushkoff

It’s funny. I once I was at a conference where one of the speakers was one of these guys who can tell when people are lying. Have you ever seen those guys, it’s like a hypnosis thing except it’s the opposite. They’ll like line five people up on the stage and, and tell one of them to lie and then they can always figure out which one it is or, or you know, it’s just this skill and he like used to do it for the CIA or whatever, you know these truth guys

Vicki Robin

And oh, right, right, right.

Douglas Rushkoff

And he revealed and they even had a TV show for a while one of these guys like, yeah, lie to me, they’re like a human lie detector. And they really they just know how to do it.

And what they’re doing is basically leveraging things that we all do subconsciously, all the tells that we give each other. And I’m like, Well, if he can do it, it means that we’re all doing it all the time. So that even if someone doesn’t know, consciously, you’re lying to them, subconsciously, they know you’re lying to them. So there’s no point in lying, there really is no point.

Vicki Robin

It’s really interesting, it’s like, what is the zone of white lies? Shat is the zone of white lies where are you just, you know, just sort of grease the social wheels? You know, do you need to tell that somebody that that dress really makes them look fat?

Douglas Rushkoff

or awkward like today, let’s say, I just didn’t feel like doing this today, I could send you an email, say, oh, you know, my daughter needs me to tutor her on a test. So I can’t really do it today and then create a whole thing. Or I can email you and say, you know, I’m not feeling it. And you would say, then let’s wait. You know what I mean? It’s like, why?

Vicki Robin

Exactly? We can. So it’s like, that’s another thing. It’s like, just clean up the signal. Just clean up the signal of your own life. You know, tell the truth and enjoy your life. See, the thing is, she didn’t say tell us the truth. She said, Tell the truth. And enjoy your life. That’s a little bit in our society, like patting your head and rubbing your stomach.

You know, it’s like, because enjoying your life, it’s just enjoying your life. It’s just being alive. It’s not controlling things. And yet telling the truth can be part of what you enjoy. Not because you’re hostile or you’re calling people out or calling them in or like, it’s just like, wow, that doesn’t sound really right. Could you rephrase that? Because the way you said it just didn’t sound right to me, help me out. You know, that sort of thing.

Douglas Rushkoff

Right? I just went for signal over noise.

Vicki Robin

Exactly. Yeah, it’s so simple. When you and I just…

Douglas Rushkoff

If only everyone was like us.

Vicki Robin

It’d be very difficult to. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Yeah. We want to make it difficult to live in the, you know, in the tech, the tech, the mindset, anyway. So we’re going to, we’re gonna like, like, take it home. And so you get a chance to say, whatever you want to say, in summary,

Douglas Rushkoff

I experience an ease with you. And it’s an ease that I think it’s engendered by unconditional acceptance. That’s all it is, your unconditional acceptance, like, what? What do you got? I’ll either love it, or I’ll metabolise it.

Vicki Robin

Or I’ll challenge it, but I’ll be doing nicely.

Douglas Rushkoff

Right, right. It’s like, whatever. And it’s just, there’s so few people I know that I can experience no worry. No, I have no worry, right? I feel there’s nothing I can do wrong. You know what I mean? And I guess what that means is, in the end, I trust myself when I’m with you. There’s nothing I could do wrong means I also trust it. I’m not a bad person. I’m a good person. Of course, there’s nothing I can do wrong, because what am I gonna do it wrong, you know, it might be stupid, and then you’ll say Damn, stupid.

That is what I’m trying to learn, how to manifest that space around myself. That gives people permission to manifest and then so thank you for that, and modelling that and, and next time we speak, we’re gonna see how well I’m doing that.

Vicki Robin

I’m not gonna evaluate you. You can judge yourself if you like. I would like to say in response to that. I love you too. I really do. I love being around you, I feel the same way. It’s just like we’re bouncing on a trampoline together. And every time like you come down and you’re like, Okay, take this, you come down really heavy and I like soar up and I’m like, Oh my god. It feels like that it feels like an infinite game. That’s what we started talking about the finite game is, is playing to win and the infinite game is playing to enjoy yourself. Yeah. And so I’m all for that. Let’s enjoy our lives and speak the truth and get through the shitshow together. You got it. Hey, my friend. Thank you so, so much.