Broadcast 6/14/2016 at 02:25:16
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Douglas Rushkoff Dr. Douglas Rushkoff is an author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other's values. He is Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens, technology and media commentator for CNN, digital literacy advocate for Codecademy.com and a lecturer on media, technology, culture and economics around the world.
His new book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, argues that we have failed to build the distributed economy that digital networks are capable of fostering, and instead doubled down on the industrial age mandate of growth above all.
He's also winner of the Marshall McLuhan Award and author of the book, Throwing Stones at the Google Bus
His website is www.rushkoff.com
Rough (very rough and incomplete) interview notes, mostly to inspire you to listen to the full interview
It's great to have you back on the show. I call the show Bottom up Radio. Where possible in our conversation, I'd appreciate it if you can frame some of your ideas in terms of Top down and bottom up.
Rob:What's the main message of your new book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus?
Looks at the failure of the digital economy to deliver on the prosperity it was purported to offer us.
Rob:What do you mean by extractive and disenfranchising landscape.
Businesses are supposed to go to a town, extract all the money and move on".
While it used to take Walmart 20 years. A company like amazon can do it in two or three years. They look at low hanging fruit, like the book industry.
Amazon came in to the book industry " they wanted to establish a platform monopoly. Once they established that they could go into another vertical industry, like toys or clothes. They're establishing a monopoly in online retail so they can establish cloud business or drone business.
Extraction happens a lot faster.
Corporate profit over corporate size has been getting smaller and smaller. Corps are really good at collecting money but can't use it. The money its trapped in share price.
Rob: what is the disenfranchising side?
What does Uber do to cab drivers
When Uber comes and puts that cab company out of business, the former cab driver becomes an employee of Uber. They are contributing their labor and sweat equity without getting equity or living wage.
Rob: Like Walmart did, only digital
ONly digital, faster and more complete.
We have to start looking at guaranteed minimum income and three day week,
Rob: Is that called the leisure economy.
BU vs top down. start a business based on demand for goods and services.
Other way is from top down, start with VC venture capital and guarantee that you will grow to 100 times from when they put the money in.
Rob:You are highly critical of the idea of people selling shares of their company to venture capitalists. Can you talk about why?
Twitter-- "now makes $500 million a quarter, $2 billion a year.
Turns out this company is considered an abject failure by Wall STreet. Because people who put in a few billion are not happy.
The people who put their money, they don't want a sustainable, revenue based business, when Evan and Greg and Jack sold it to venture capitalists for shares, what they did was to make it impossible to succeed.
You have to keep growing faster and
Rob:Your book explores issues you have with growth and bigness.
You can have big happen in a bottom up way-- Mondragon is a worker owned cooperative that started in spain-- a giant network owned by their workers.
Size is only a bad thing if you are valuing size over everything else. Businesses should be allowed to grow, but they shouldn't be required to grow.
Rob: Talk about the problem you have with Amazon, Google, as your title, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, suggests.
Google started out with an approach that was an alternative to Yahoo's top down model. This company that we thought would be the do no evil good guys changed the landscape of San Francisco. The rents went up so people couldn't afford to live there. Gentrification" really never happened quite this rapidly. People couldn't live there any more.
We're not deploying digital technologies in a way that promotes human well being...
more human resources for companies that are mining us for our data when we have no more money to spend.
land labor and capital-- three original essentials for production. Now, only capital is being considered. Must begin to recognize contribution people and our palnet offer to the economy.
Rob: CAPRA-- systems View of Life-- similar idea.
Compannies appropriate the language without considering the ecosystem.
LIke iTunes, they've created
There are fewer people succeeding in music than before the advent of digital music.
These are platforms that end up reinforcing the top down bias of corporatism.
Rob: Platform monopoly vs platform cooperativism.
Platform monopoly like Uber, aims to put everyone out of business and establish a monopoly
In old days, in 1400s, monopoly was established by the law of the king. That's why there was the Boston Tea Party. Now, if I want to sell a book successful, I have to got through Amazon. So, I submit to the monopoly.
Or cabs, then if everyone is using their Uber app to hail a cab, you gotta become an Uber driver. The cure for that is what we're calling platform cooperativism. At least the users of the app are shareholders of the app. What if the drivers of Uber are the owners of the company. Uber's not hard to do" the trick is the monopoly they established. I suggested to Uber that they give 10% of company to drivers.
Platform cooperative makes participants members of the value chain.
In the end, it's not a matter of being charitable.
Rob:You've said, "try to do business in a way that makes people around you wealthy, instead of extracting." Can you expand on this. Do you have a more global economic vision or model that you tie this all together with.
The idea is to optimize your business not for growth, but for flow".
earn it and spend it. Find ways to include more and more people in your value proposition rather than making people poor. "
Look at how your business can create the flow-- distribution and flow, rather than the extraction of money.
Rob:You talk in your book about digital industrialism vs digital distributism and you cite several popes words as relevant, and also bring up the idea of Subsidiarity, which Pope Francis has mentioned on a couple of occasions.
I see industrialization as the vehicle that was used by imperialists to evangelize and convert indigenous, bottom up cultures to become hierarchical, centralized parts of civilization. Please comment, particularly about distributes.
Around the late 1800s when Marx had written his stuff and people were realizing that industrial capitalism was leading to poverty and pollution, and awful things, the popes were asked to comment., whose side are you on, the Marxist side, with the worker on the capitalist side, with business. They recalled the moment before capitalism, when the church maintained the commons, the land anybody was allowed to use. They said they believed in something called distributism-- that the workers should own the means of production, "not socialism-- rather you pre-distribute the means of production before the fact, so a worker owns his tools, workers in a big factory own the factory, so workers are not exploited labor but participants.
The other concept they can up with wasSubsidiarity-- means company should not be growing for growth's sake, a company should be as big as it needs to be to do what it does, not get big for growths sake. You don't grow for growth's sake.
The digital age, rather than just amplifying industrialism, just pushing us into industrialism, rather it retrieves the values before the industrial age" the forms and merchaisms that were repressed;
peer to peer economy, local markets, the exchange, the local currencies, and the non-growth based business landscape that characterized business before the corporations. We're seeing those ideas being retrieved by the popes.
Rob: I have seen that the internet has been a catalyst that has reactivated the dormant, bottom up aspects of our brain that existed for t 99% of the times that people were human, when they lived in bottom up, hunter gather, tribal situation before civilization,
Glenn Isaacs and food sharing
There's been talk of a lot of human evolution being more about survival of the group rather than the survival of an individual. Without socialization humanity would not have been possible.
Rob:Let's talk about money. You offer a history and perspective that is quite interesting. You've said, "money is not the enabler of an economy. It is the result of an economy." You go back to how money was developed during the dark ages. Can you talk a little about that.
These are long stories, so they're easier to get them in a book than this way
When the crusaders came back from a bunch of escapades, they opened up a bunch of trade routes, brought back a lot of new technologies, they brought back innovations, like the bazaar. One of the mechanism they used to trade so they invented these market monies that were only good for the day or for the week. These are monies that are optimized like poker chips, because gold was too expensive. They worked. People got wealthy. The problem was the aristocracy was getting poorer as the worker class were getting wealthy, more than any time in history . So the aristocracy made all this trade illegal, creating monopolies and banning the, local, They shut down the local bottom up peer to peer currency and economy, replacing it with a mandatory top down kind of economy.
With digital technologies we have the ability to do things peer to peer and laterally and we can repress this overwhelming top down money system and stop disadvantaging ourselves.
Rob:You have a world reputation for creating new memes and concepts, particularly in the digital world. What new concepts do you introduce in this book?
I guess the biggest is, the economy is an operating system. It is not a feature of nature. People made it. These rules were designed. If you forget that human beings have the ability to change them If you accept them as facts of nature then you are pretty doomed. They are not facts of nature. and were created not with our best interests at heart
Moving from a growth based economy to a flow based economy.
Moving towards a steady state economy-- like a forest or coral reef
Platform cooperative is an important meme that has to get out there.
Bounded vs infinite economy. How do you circulate money through a bounded economy. How do you invest and reinvest.
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