Slouching Toward Olympus

Demigod Wannabes of the New Gilded Age

Douglas Rushkoff

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Illustration: Klawe Rzeczy/The Guardian

I just published a piece in the Guardian called ‘We will coup whoever we want!’: the unbearable hubris of Musk and the billionaire tech bros, about the laughable foibles of today’s gilded age, would-be supervillains. From the piece:

The visions of the feudalist are more self-interested and abstract than even the most egotistical displays of the capitalist. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, for example, was New York City’s biggest retailer’s way of thanking the city in which it operated. Yes, it was an advert, but it was also a great public service, taking place in public streets. When Bezos took his first flight in his Blue Origin space vehicle (demonstrating little more than the fact that a private individual could now afford to do what we had accomplished collectively more than 50 years ago), he acted as if the mission had public virtue. “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” he admitted. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated,” he added, in the strangely passive, impersonal language of a customer service rep. The launch was like Amazon’s version of the Macy’s parade, except instead of marching down Broadway with giant balloon characters for our kids, the company’s largesse consisted of letting us bear witness to its founder’s superhuman achievement. As if recognising the anticlimax, Bezos put William Shatner on Blue Origin’s next flight, for improved entertainment value.

For that’s what is really going on here. The antics of the tech feudalists make for better science fiction stories than legitimate paths to sustainable futures. Musk and Zuckerberg challenge each other to duels as a way of advertising their platforms. Musk is less X’s CEO than its troll in chief. They are not gods; they are entertainers.

I first “wrote” this one by talking through the ideas of the piece in the form of a Team Human monologue that you can hear by clicking on the button above. Paying Medium subscribers can read the first draft of the piece that I wrote using the transcript of that monologue. It’s an extra thousand words or so of stuff that the Guardian didn’t have room for. But you can also hear it all in its original Team Human monologue form by clicking on

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Douglas Rushkoff

Author of Survival of the Richest, Team Human, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://teamhuman.fm