innovation | February 07, 2016

First Look: Douglas Rushkoff’s New Book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus

The digital economy is ruled by a host of intriguing concepts: big data, automation, algorithms, power law dynamics, the sharing and start-up economies. But are they actually designed for human prosperity? In other words, have technological advancements made life better for shareholders and the unemployed alike, or have they trapped and divided us in new ways? For media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, the answer’s clear: the digital economy is broken—but it’s all in the way we’re using it. In his much-anticipated book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Rushkoff proposes a new way of seeing modern business, a new critical vocabulary, and a way to take advantage of the distributed, local, and sustainable alternatives inherent in the system. This book offers a full reboot of the status quo—and one that finally puts tech at the service of the people it’s supposed to serve.

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably quoted Douglas Rushkoff (he invented the terms “viral media,” “social currency,” and “digital natives,” after all). A true pioneer in analyzing how new media and technology impact our lives, he’s the author of over a dozen books (and hundreds of columns), the host of multiple award-winning documentaries, a frequent guest on national television, and a distinguished instructor, academic, and advisor. His perspectives have a way of not only railing against received wisdom, but embedding themselves in the popular consciousness. Whether repudiating Facebook and other social medias, criticizing our constantly distracted lifestyles, foretelling the end of conventional employment, or musing on pop culture (he recently called zombie apocalypse narratives “dreams come true”), Rushkoff’s earned his place as one of our most insightful, playful, and challenging critics.

Now, in Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, Rushkoff takes on the most widespread, systemic problems of the digital economy. Touching on everything from stock markets to tech bubbles, gig economy to the eurozone, and from Uber, AirBnb, Kickstarter to data mining, Throwing Rocks is the critical wake-up call we need to invigorate and remake an obsolete operating system. To Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, the book “questions the deepest assumptions of the modern economy, and blazes a path towards a more human centered world.” And Joichi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, calls it “essential reading to reflect on some of our fundamental assumptions and values before it’s too late.”

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus drops on March 1, 2016. For more information on this must-read release, here’s the description from Rushkoff’s website (and publisher, Penguin):

“The digital economy has gone wrong. Everybody knows it, but no one knows quite how to fix it, or even how to explain the problem. Workers lose to automation, investors lose to algorithms, musicians lose to power law dynamics, drivers lose to Uber, neighborhoods lose to Airbnb, and even tech developers lose their visions to the demands of the startup economy.

Douglas Rushkoff argues that it doesn’t have to be this way. This isn’t the fault of digital technology at all, but the way we are deploying it: instead of building the distributed digital economy these new networks could foster, we are doubling down on the industrial age mandate for growth above all. As Rushkoff shows, this is more the legacy of early corporatism and central currency than a feature of digital technology. In his words, ‘we are running a 21st century digital economy on a 13th Century printing-press era operating system.’

In Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Rushkoff shows how we went wrong, why we did it, and how we can reprogram the digital economy and our businesses from the inside out to promote sustainable prosperity for pretty much everyone. Rushkoff calls on business to:

• Accept that era of extractive growth is over. Rather, businesses must—like eBay and Kickstarter—give people the ability to exchange value and invest in one another.

• Eschew platform monopolies like Uber in favor of distributed, worker-owned co-ops, orchestrated through collective authentication systems like bitcoin and blockchains instead of top-down control.

• Resist the short-term, growth-addicted mindset of publicly traded markets, by delivering dividends instead of share price increases, or opting to stay private or buy back one’s own shares.

• Recognize contributions of land and labor as important as capital, and develop business ecosystems that work more like family companies, investing in the local economies on which they ultimately depend.

Rushkoff calls on us to reboot this obsolete economic operating system and use the unique distributive power of the internet to break free of the winner-take-all game defining business today.  A fundamentally optimistic book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus culminates with a series of practical steps to remake the economic operating system from the inside out—and prosper along the way.”

To book media theorist and author Douglas Rushkoff as the keynote speaker of your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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