Survival of the Richest
Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires
Instead of trying to optimize ourselves for the automated future, we should be designing technology for human beings, says Douglas Rushkoff. A world-renowned philosopher and futurist named one of the world’s 10 most influential thinkers by MIT, Douglas has written over a dozen bestselling books and coined such concepts as “viral media,” “social currency,” and “digital natives.” He helps communities, companies, and governments navigate the tech-augmented landscape ahead, and teaches us how to embrace change while centering human connection and solidarity.
“Rushkoff [has] a pretty good idea of how information technology and the culture we’ve built with it went off the rails. He even has a pretty clear idea of how to get things back on track.”— NPR
An author and documentarian, Douglas Rushkoff has spent his prolific career thinking about how new media and technology are impacting culture, business, and the economy. He advocates for human autonomy in a digital age and challenges us to create the hopeful, thriving future we want to live in. His talks are a culmination of his pioneering work, and offer a clear-eyed look at what’s to come.
In expansive and exuberantly perceptive keynotes, Rushkoff touches on subjects as varied as how educators can retain the value of live presence in classrooms populated by screens, or how branding and advertising professionals can communicate with the human consumers behind the statistical profiles. We can re-humanize our technology and economy, he says. In his book Team Human, which won Porchlight’s Management and Workplace Culture Book of the Year award, and his popular podcast of the same name, he shows how to reconnect people at work, home, school, in our faith practices, and even politics. We’re a team, he says, and if we act like one, we’ll be able to regain the collaboration and solidarity we crave. His approach yields better, longer-lasting results—for individuals, and the connected communities we form together.
In his newest book Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires—named one of Amazon’s 20 best Business and Leadership books of the year—Rushkoff examines how tech elites are shaping (and eroding) the world in their image, before trying to literally escape it for island bunkers, the planet Mars, and the Metaverse. This mind-blowing work of social analysis shows us how to transcend a landscape of algorithms and intelligences that actively reward our most selfish tendencies—and rediscover community, mutual aid, and human interdependency. He shows us that, even in the face of cynicism, a tech-dystopia, and threats to democracy, the power of collective human action is stronger than any algorithm. We don’t need an escape strategy. We can still fight for the world we want to live in.
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 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. A witty and astute media presence, Rushkoff has made 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 correspondent on digital business and society for CNN, a consultant to the United Nations and the State Department, a graphic novelist, 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.
“Thank you so much for an amazing morning of ideas and story-telling. Your life experiences are so relatable and the humor with which you see our collective insanity is the best way to deliver the absurdity of the moment we find ourselves in.”The New York Society for Ethical Culture
“A heartfelt thanks. You were your usual articulate, scholarly and charming self. Such a performance demands either much rehearsal, spontaneous brilliance, endless reserves to call upon, or all three: the pacing, the insights—the impact of your talk left every single person in that room talking about your charisma, and more than that, your positively Grecian powers of rhetoric. Thank you from all of us.”Princeton Progressives
“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
In this inspiring talk drawn from his book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff offers 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.
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.