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Douglas Rushkoff

Instead of optimizing human beings for technology, we should be optimizing technology for humans.

Author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Present Shock and Program or Be Programmed

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Douglas Rushkoff | Author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Present Shock and Program or Be Programmed
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

The digital economy could provide prosperity for all. But it hasn’t delivered—it’s only disrupted. Enter Douglas Rushkoff: world-renowned cultural philosopher who, in Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, argues that today marks a rare opportunity to reboot business, communications, and culture from the bottom up. It’s time we use tech for human beings, he argues—and reconnect people with their own prosperity.

Media theorist, author, documentarian, and world-renowned public intellectual, Douglas Rushkoff has spent his prolific career thinking about how new media and technology are impacting culture, business, and the economy. Named one of the world’s 10 most influential thinkers by MIT, Rushkoff has written 15 bestselling books and coined such concepts as “viral media,” “social currency,” and “digital natives.” His talks are a culmination of his pioneering work, and an infallible source of what’s to come.


Among his bestselling books, translated to over 30 languages, are Present Shock, an exploration of our instantaneous, always-on culture, Program or Be Programmed, a clarion call for digital literacy, and his newest, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, a critique of the digital economy and a set of actionable principles for thriving within it. The Financial Times calls it “a brilliant, bomb-hurling critique of the flaws in our digital economy, identifying what has gone wrong and what can be done about it.” He has written hundreds of articles for publications ranging from New Scientist to The New York Times. In fall 2016, Dark Horse comics released his first graphic novel, Aleister & Adolf, illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming. And starting September 6, his all-new weekly podcast, Team Human, premiered across the airwaves, which Rushkoff describes as a “set of resources enabling human intervention in the economic, technological, and social programs that determine how we live, work, and interact.”


“Every great advance begins when someone sees that what everyone else takes for granted may not actually be true. Douglas Rushkoff questions the deepest assumptions of the modern economy, and blazes a path towards a more human centered world.”

— Tim O’Reilly, founder of O’Reilly Media, on Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus

He is probably best known for his many television, NPR, and PBS appearances, including his Frontline documentaries Generation Like, about teens and social media; The Persuaders, about the arms race between marketers and the public; and The Merchants of Cool, about who really drives youth culture. Rushkoff has appeared everywhere from Occupy Wall Street to The Colbert Report. He is also Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY, a regular correspondent on digital business and society for CNN, a consultant to the United Nations and the State Department, a graphic novelist, counterculture celebrity, and the winner of the Marshall McLuhan Award for Media Writing, as well as the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity. In May 2016, he joined the Institute for the Future as a Research Fellow.   


“I just wanted to say thank you so much for participating yesterday. It was great to meet you and the feedback has been amazing from the audience in house and those watching the livestream (some of whom were glued to their laptops for the entire day, which is saying something!). It’s good to have a such a passionate and engaging speaker to shake things up a bit.”

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

“We cannot begin to thank you enough for traveling all the way to Memphis to be one of our conference featured speakers. Your energy and intelligence really ignited the room and provided some very good food for thought. We sincerely appreciate your willingness to work with us to make this part of your book tour. It was a great pleasure and honor to meet you and hear your thoughts on growth and the digital economy.”

Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence

“The presentation was excellent. One of the best we have had. Douglas is intelligent, engaging—and visionary. The audience found him very insightful as well as entertaining. He has a casual style but it is very refreshing. And he had quite a group stay after to speak with him.”

Denver University

Speech Topics

U.S. Economy
Distributed A New Operating System for Business and the Economy

In this inspiring talk, drawing from his new book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff will offer a new program for business in the digital landscape.

Digital technology was supposed to usher in a new age of endless prosperity, but so far it has been used to put industrial capitalism on steroids. Social networks surrender their missions to data mining, while brokerage houses abandon investing for algorithms—tactics driven by the need to stoke growth by any means necessary. Internet startups sell for billions, but destroy more jobs than they create, extract more cash from circulation than they put in, and disrupt entire marketplaces and neighborhoods in the process. We know that something’s wrong—but we’re not sure how to fix it, or even what to call it.

Media scholar and technology author Douglas Rushkoff argues for a new economic program that utilizes the unique distributive power of the internet to break free of the winner-take-all game defining business today. In this keynote, Dr. Rushkoff will offer a series of practical steps for businesses, consumers, investors, and policymakers to remake the economy from the inside out—and prosper along the way.

Marketing & Consumer Behavior
Present Shock

Our society has reoriented itself to the present moment. Everything is live, real-time, and always on. Wall Street traders no longer invest in a future; they expect profits in the ultra-fast moment. Voters want immediate results from their politicians, having lost all sense of the historic timescale on which government functions. Kids text during parties to find out if there’s something better happening in the moment, somewhere else. It’s not a mere speeding up, however much our lifestyles and technologies have accelerated the rate at which we attempt to do things. It’s more of a diminishment of anything that isn’t happening right now—and the onslaught of everything that supposedly is. If the end of the 20th century could be characterized by futurism, the 21st is about presentism. We are no longer contending with future shock. The future is now.

In this talk, Douglas Rushkoff will convey “present shock” as it manifests on myriad levels: how it changes the way we make and experience culture, run our businesses, invest our money, conduct our politics, understand science, make sense of our world, and form our beliefs, cultures and religions. He will share panic reactions to present shock (such as Narrative Collapse, Fractalnoia, Overwinding, and Apocalypto) right alongside more successful approaches to living outside what we have always thought of as time. In addition to general audiences, this talk is of particular interest to marketers and messagers attempting to communicate in a post-narrative age.

The New Digital Economy Global Economics Crisis as Renaissance Opportunity

The dominance of centralized value creation by corporations is fast being challenged by a world of smaller, networked markets, each capable of adding and measuring value in its own way. Top-down national currencies like the dollar and Euro—as well as the banks that live off them—are quite literally breaking down under the pressure. According to Douglas Rushkoff, this is not a crisis for business or investors at all, if they simply come to understand how economics works in a digital environment.
Rushkoff chronicles the invention of central currency, revealing its embedded biases and showing how it is now failing as a medium of exchange and investment in the highly abstracted and accelerated marketplace. He contextualizes the current banking crisis as the failure of a 13th century monetary operating system to serve the needs of a 21st century digital economy. Rushkoff shares how banks, corporations, and investors alike can transcend the limits of “static” capital and competitive scarcity.

Don't Sell Your Friends How Social Media Became Social Programming

For Millennials, the social media landscape is a game of numbers and hits, recommendations and followers, votes and views. What most young people don't realize is how these free online activities and apps come with a cost: they are delivering themselves and their data to a marketing industry that uses every click against them.
In this talk, Douglas Rushkoff—producer and host of the PBS Frontline documentary Generation Like—will evaluate whether social media is offering young people a new avenue of self-expression, or simply empowering marketers to predict and influence their behaviors. He offers a new lens on the digital world in which we live, and some practical strategies for transcending the limits of our online profiles.

Program or Be Programmed

The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for Douglas Rushkoff, the real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” says Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.” In this spirited call for digital literacy, organized as ten “commands” for gaining control over technology, Rushkoff provides cyberenthusiasts and technophobes alike with the guidelines to navigate this new universe. This talk is particularly well-suited to communities considering how digital technology can be implemented in their schools or their economic renewal strategies.