The Humanist In Our Midst

by | Mar 5, 2020

Do you know media theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s work? It’s intensely human. He’s intensely human.

Allow me to transcribe a couple of key segments from this powerful TED Talk…

Human beings are the problem and technology is the solution. We can’t think that way anymore. We have to stop using technology to optimize human beings for the market and start optimizing technology for the human future.

And this:

Then came the Dot Com Boom and the digital future became stock futures…the future changed from this thing we create together in the present to something we bet on in some kind of a zero-sum winner takes all competition. And when things get that competitive about the future, humans are no longer valued for our creativity. No, now we’re just valued for our data. Because they can use the data to make predictions. Creativity, if anything, that creates noise. That makes it harder to predict. So, we ended up with a digital landscape that repressed creativity, that repressed novelty. It repressed what makes us most human. We ended up with social media. Does social media really connect people in new intersing ways? No. Social media is about using our data to predict our future behavior, or when necessary to influence our future behavior so we act more in accordace with our statistical profiles.

Rushkoff is deep. He’s so deep, you may need to adjust to his waters, which are not quite as warm as the tourist beaches you’re accustomed to visiting. I recommend doing this slowly. Go over and over his passages. Because Rushkoff’s deep is where sharks and whales and eels swim. A place of mystery and truth.

Rushkoff sounds alarmist and he is a bit alarmist, to his credit. He is fighting for what he believes in and he believes in you and me. He thinks we can unlock ourselves from the autocratic rule of screens and once again connect in real life, where our innate human ability to truly understand one another is present and accounted for.

I am on Rushkoff’s side. I believe in Team Human.

People can be weak, ugly, and disappointing. At the same time, people can be strong, inspired, and grateful. Sometimes the same person can be all of this all in one day. To get to our better selves and to remain there—open, grounded, and ready to serve the needs of others—we need strong reminders that help shake us loose from the digital doldrums and bad habits that hold us back. For me, and I hope for you, Rushkoff provides these strong reminders.