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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

Granting slack is a better choice than venting rage

Photo by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

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

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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

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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

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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?


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

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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

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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

Portrait of the mathematician Fra Luca Pacioli and his student, by Jacopo De Barbari, 16th Century. Credit: Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Image

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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By pitting science against nature and human experience, we rob it of its moral power

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Our common sense and felt experience contradict too much of what we’re being told by scientific authorities. That’s a problem. Research scientists’ willingness to play along with industry and accept grants to prove the benefits of tobacco or corn syrup doesn’t encourage us to place more trust in them either. If those arguing in favor of vaccination enjoyed more public credibility, for example, more people would see the logic and ethics of taking a minute risk in order to benefit our collective immunity.

Instead, we get a population increasingly distrustful of scientific evidence, whether it’s about the low correlation between…

Meaningful discoveries happen from the bottom up

‘The Environs of London from Greenwich’, c1620–1630. From the Museum of London. Getty Images.

Science is not a cold abstraction, but a product of directly felt human experience.

If we think of science as the knowledge of nature, then it makes sense that its discoveries often come from those who are most intimately dependent on its processes: sailors, hunters, miners, healers, and others whose livelihoods involve direct encounters with nature’s ways. Nearly every plant and animal species we eat is the result of selective breeding — a gentle form of genetic engineering, really — by working farmers long before Mendel founded the discipline of genetics. Our knowledge of the oceans and tides came from…

Douglas Rushkoff

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