Douglas Rushkoff opens his Medium article with a pretty intense anecdote: Rushkoff is regularly invited to give talks on the future of technology and was offered a massive fee to be a keynote speaker last year. But this was no normal speech. He was led into a room that consisted solely of him and "five super-wealthy guys" who didn't want to hear a speech but instead wanted to mine him for information about how to prepare for "the Event." As Rushkoff writes, "That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down." And they had questions like whether using "disciplinary collars" would make the personnel guarding their underground bunker loyal to them.
The full anecdote is mesmerizing, but for Rushkoff it's really just a jumping-off point for examining how the pro-human future we were so energized by in the early '90s got lost amidst the allure of unicorn IPOs and potential windfalls. Our "hopes for humankind" gave way to a view that humans are the problem and technology is our saving grace. And that released us from "the real moral quandaries associated with unbridled technological development in the name of corporate capitalism." We traded questions about, say, exploiting the workers who make our smartphones possible for "fanciful conundrums" about whether robots should have rights. But the more we "ignore the social, economic, and environmental repercussions" the worse they become. And yet Rushkoff sees an optimistic way forward. His full piece is absolutely worth a read. (Read more Longform stories.)