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Author of Team Human, Present Shock, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://teamhuman.fm

We are not the users of their network. We *are* the network.

Before the Internet (yes, I’m that old) “going online” meant calling my friend Phil’s computer from my own. I’d put a phone handset (there were only what we now call “landlines” back then) into a special cradle with two rubber cups — one for the mouthpiece and another for the earpiece. Then I would manually dial the phone number, wait for his computer to pick up and make a tone, and hit a key on my computer to initiate the handshake.

There wasn’t a lot to do. Phil had a few games on there. And there was a folder with…


Solidarity begins with place

Those of us seeking to retrieve some community and connection today do it with greater awareness of the alternatives. We don’t retrieve collectivism by happenstance, but by choice. This enables us to consciously leverage the power of grassroots connections, bottom-up politics, and cooperative businesses — and build a society that is intentionally resilient and resistant to the forces that would conquer us.

Early internet enthusiasts had little understanding of how the network’s anticommercial safeguards protected the humanistic values of its fledgling culture. Rave kids didn’t understand the real power of their ecstatic rituals, which was to reclaim the public spaces…


Granting slack is a better choice than venting rage

You’d think the declining infection rates, incremental lifting of mask restrictions, and signs of a more social, physical, and prosperous stretch ahead would do a lot to raise spirits, lighten the mood, and reduce the high level of belligerence that has characterized the public discussion. Yet every time I peek at my social media feeds, it feels as if people are only getting more irate, more triggered, and more entrenched in their positions.

Over the Trump presidency and then the pandemic, I watched as a lot of my friends fell deep into their respective ideological, conspiratorial, or social justice camps…


Zooming is to real conversation as smoking is to breathing

A person holding a cigarette in  in front of her laptop.
A person holding a cigarette in  in front of her laptop.

When I was in high school, I was in a play where I got to smoke cigarettes. I say “got to” because back then I was something of a nerd (before nerds were cool) and loved the idea of jocks and other popular kids spying the foil lining of my artfully positioned Marlboro softpack sticking out of my jeans jacket pocket.

I hadn’t quite mastered a natural grip, and couldn’t take more than a few puffs without getting dizzy, so I‘d “practice” smoking after school in the parking lot behind the convenience store, where the kids who I wanted to…


We don’t yet have a great way to talk about a new spirit of collectivism

The beauty of living in a renaissance moment is that we can retrieve what we lost the last time around. Just as medieval Europeans retrieved the ancient Greek conception of the individual, we can retrieve the medieval and ancient understandings of the collective. We can retrieve the approaches, behaviors, and institutions that promote our social coherence.

Revolution alone won’t work. Neither will the blanket rejection of the values of the last renaissance, such as science, order, control, centrality, or even individuality. Instead, we should accept them as the context in which to bring forth their counterparts or, rather, complements. …


We must help one another strive for integrity over impact

Every piece, no matter how short, offers the writer an opportunity to cross the line — to exaggerate, fabricate, or cherry pick facts in a way that ever-so-slightly misrepresents reality for what feels like the greater good. Whether writing an extended essay about the conflict in the Middle East, or a single tweet about Covid policies, there’s always a moment where we can choose to press on the truth just a little too hard. It scores an easy hit, generates more reaction, and maybe even gets us to the next rung of social media celebrity.

But at what cost?

I’ve…


The myth of individuality made capitalism possible and has sustained it to this day

The most explicitly humanist value retrieved by the Renaissance, and the one we’re most hampered by today, was the myth of the individual.

Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Vitruvian Man — the 1490 drawing of a man, perfectly proportioned within a circle and a square — presented the human form in the idealized geometric terms of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. The individual human body was celebrated as an analogy for the perfect workings of the universe.

Almost all of the period’s innovations retrieved some aspect of individuality. The printing press — much to the frustration of the priests — gave…


Success in the future depends on bringing forward the values of previous ages

We might say that reason is to Reason as revolution is to renaissance. A renaissance without the retrieval of lost, essential values is just another revolution.

The first individuals and organizations to capitalize on the digital era ignored the underlying values that their innovations could have retrieved. They childishly assumed they were doing something absolutely new: disrupting existing hierarchies and replacing them with something or someone better — usually themselves. …


How we can trade a mere digital revolution for a truly dimensional shift

Built to enhance our essential interrelatedness, our digital networks could have changed everything. And the internet fostered a revolution, indeed. But it wasn’t a renaissance.

Revolutionaries act as if they are destroying the old and starting something new. More often than not, however, these revolutions look more like Ferris wheels: the only thing that’s truly revolving is the cast of characters at the top. The structure remains the same. So the digital revolution — however purely conceived — ultimately brought us a new crew of mostly male, white, libertarian technologists, who believed they were uniquely suited to create a set…


Musician and composer Ela Minus introduces us to her acts of rebellion and shows us how music can help us find the others against all efforts to prevent it. Minus’ new album, Acts of Rebellion is streaming everywhere now.

In his monologue, Rushkoff explores how robots can help us appreciate and understand what it means to be human. Similar to technology, “You need the next medium in order to understand the value of the medium that you’re in.” Rushkoff says.

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Douglas Rushkoff

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