Why doesn’t the explosive growth of companies like Facebook and Uber deliver more prosperity for everyone?
What is the systemic problem that sets the rich against the poor and the technologists against everybody else?
When protesters shattered the windows of a bus carrying Google employees to work, their anger may have been justifiable, but it was misdirected. The true conflict of our age isn’t between the unemployed and the digital elite, or even the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Rather, a tornado of technological improvements has spun our economic program out of control, and humanity as a whole—the protesters and the Google employees as well as the shareholders and the executives—are all trapped by the consequences. It’s time to optimize our economy for the human beings it’s supposed to be serving.
In this groundbreaking book, acclaimed media scholar and author Douglas Rushkoff tells us how to combine the best of human nature with the best of modern technology. Tying together disparate threads—big data, the rise of robots and AI, the increasing participation of algorithms in stock market trading, the gig economy, the collapse of the eurozone—Rushkoff provides a critical vocabulary for our economic moment and a nuanced portrait of humans and commerce at a critical crossroads.
This interesting, thoughtful dissection of the modern digital economy and its shortcomings starts off with a clarion call. Rushkoff, a digital futurist turned critic, believes the speed and scale of digital commerce and corporate expansion since the 1990s is a "growth trap" that could "derail not only the innovative capacity of our industries, but also the sustainability of our entire society." He may be right, and he is cogent and clear about Silicon Valley's accepted trajectory for startups: seek massive amounts of capital and win a monopoly position to dominate the competition. But Rushkoff's critique that the scale of digital economics is propelling modern capitalism into an unsustainable state dwarfs his prescriptive remedies. The book's calls for more peer-oriented companies, "inclusive capitalism," and alternative models such as the mission-driven "benefit corporation," seem inadequate to the challenge of replacing the system described here. Calling for a rejection of the winner-takes-all, zero-sum-game approach is a reasonable response to current economic developments, yet Rushkoff has done this in a way that is interesting without being truly compelling.