Human Dignity vs Oppressive Force of Internet

Three Questions to Douglas Rushkoff

Netopia asks three questions to media theorist and writer, Douglas Rushkoff, author of Team Human, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Present Shock et al.

His current book Team Human focuses on how society is under threat by a vast corporate infrastructure and it undermines human ability to connect. Money, a system; education, a production line; and the internet has divided us into atomized and radicalized groups.

Rushkoff champions the need to return to meaningful relationships created by humans that will tackle the anti-human problems fomented by big tech.

How did it come about that we accept that machines are in charge that we are simply here to react? Your phone buzzes, and you react – that we are not in charge.

The origins of that aren’t the internet, the origins are the utilitarian exploitation of human beings, and the recent origins of that are the late medievalism when the market place of people was replaced. I think this recent wave of it started five or six hundred years ago when we developed a charter of monopolies and decentralized currency and all these mechanisms that were designed to stop human beings from creating and exchanging value.

I guess there was a brief period between when we were peasants of feudalism and when we were workers of capitalism and there was this moment of opportunity for people to begin creating value, then we created new means to repress or control people. And instead doing it overtly through coercion we did it covertly via new systems of oppression.

And all that we’ve done now is we’ve seen the possibility for a genuine human renaissance or a power shirt with the emergence of digital technology, but we decided not to do that. We decided to embed it with those same extracted values.

The internet has been programmed to be one of those oppressive forces.

It’s the same as money is not an oppressive force, but if you programme money to be an interest borne bench of capitalism or central currency then it will be.

Is language that? Yes, and no – language can connect people, as well as influence and control people. So I think the tools have certain biases, certain affordances, but if you are aware of the affordances you can counteract them, but we’re not.

We’re using digital technology to atomize people and control behaviour and reduce us to these brain stem like responses.

On social media bad behaviour is often rewarded before good behaviour? Just take Pres. Trump’s behaviour as an indicator.

The internet has been programmed to evade people’s critical faculties to bypass the frontal lobes of the brain and trigger our most reactive, reptilian sensibilities. Y’know, of course, if it’s our social media platforms and news feeds are trying to get us to react in a sensationalist or fear based or hateful way, then they are going to engender a less productive human, advanced, mature socially healthy behaviours. In some of us it’ll make us kill or kill ourselves or be mean to others or whatever. It doesn’t care, it doesn’t say “I want people to be bad”, it just says “I want people to be controllable and predictable”. So it exacerbates whatever we are doing. I think of it as a centrifuge that spins people out into the most extreme versions of themselves.

You are Team Human – the notion of meaningful relationships created by humans – so is that legislate the internet? What’s your solution? Who is responsible for this?

Everyone is responsible. I’m arguing in my latest book (Team Human) we need to increase our immune system as people. Y’know we need to develop resilience and genuine social networks so we can resist the thrall of these coercive technologies more. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do policy. Or shouldn’t try alternative business strategies or organise politically it’s just I’m not sure we can do it all at once and most people are not ready to try to think up policy for debate in parliament or congress or wherever, but they can think about their own behaviour and own approaches and what they are doing. They can dis-empower the market place by choosing not to buy or participate in certain things. Yeah, I’m all for better policy and legislation and regulation. Go from all angles.

About the Book

Team Human is a manifesto—a fiery distillation of preeminent digital theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s most urgent thoughts on civilization and human nature.”