By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Douglas Rushkoff
Narrated by: Kevin Collins
Present Shock discounts the past and the future; i.e. this moment, the now, is the paradigm of individual’ knowledge and belief. Everything is in the moment. Douglass Rushkoff compels one to believe that the model of what is important in the world has changed. History and the future have become irrelevant.
Part of Rushkoff’s insight is based on the advent of the computer and how it affects education. Because history is at American’ fingertips, memory is not used to remember the past because the past is always present at the click of a mouse. Memory is only used to describe the present in real-time language, naturally acquired and innately available. The use of the brain becomes more focused on patterns of events in the now rather than relationship to a past or projection into a future. Past and future melt into the present. Rushkoff names the phenomena Present Shock. When something happens, it is already past; history is irrelevant. The future takes care of itself by becoming today. All time is compressed into now. Everything is everything because the mind conflates events of now as a construct of a mind-patterned reality, the only perceived reality.
Rushkoff offers examples of Present Shock in the way books are written, television stories told, and movies made. Many modern books are being written without regard to the convention of beginning, middle, and end. Beginnings have no regard for linear time; i.e. today’s written story may begin at a beginning, an end, or middle. Beginnings, middles, and ends are merely scenes of now. Additionally, Rushkoff notes, endings do not wrap things up. Endings reveal everything is everything as the reader’s mind constructs its own understanding of the completed book, TV episode, or movie.
Television stories may begin at an end; like a CSI murder that reveals the murderer and continues with scenes about how the murder is done. When the episode is ended, the watcher changes the channel to find more everything about everything in the next episode of COPS or some other reality based TV program. Movies like “Pulp Fiction” have no beginning they are also outside linear time. At the end, “Pulp Fiction” lets the watcher decide. The watcher views each scene as a reveal of everything about everything. The sequence of events is patterned by the imagination of the watcher.
Rushkoff suggests download speed, cell phone pictures, and the internet are the focus of today’s society because of the compulsion to know what is happening now. Society’s primary focus is on the present. Human brains are being rewired. The value of the past and future is diminished. The present becomes all that counts. The internet is like a fifth dimension that creates time that did not exist before; i.e. with a mouse’ click, details of the universe become instantly available.
The threat of this newly created time is that information may be wrong, misleading, or too immense for human understanding. The human brain’s natural habit is to look for meaning by patterning which is enhanced by technology in “Spark Notes” like formats that give the sense of a story but not the whole story. The whole story takes too much “now” time. Condensed information to get the gist of a story is all society demands. Twitter, Snap Chat, and Youtube replace books, newspapers, and national television news.
The terror of modern time is that humans will become passengers rather than drivers in a digital age. Computers will begin to program themselves. One may infer that humans, who do not understand the reality of Present Shock, are vulnerable passengers in a plane programmed to have no destination. The plane will run out of fuel and inevitably crash.
Rushkoff believes civilization’s crash is unlikely because computer coding begins and ends with human programming.
Some scientists, like Ray Kurzweil, agree but suggest brains will evolve into a combination of programmed A.I. (artificial intelligence) and human intelligence. Others believe human life is destined to disappear or transition into some other reality through a singularity, like a new big bang. Still others believe biblical Armageddon is nigh.
Rushkoff optimistically believes the internet will build consensus and open society to a truth that will widen human understanding and cooperation. He argues that it is important for today’s society to broaden its concept of time to include a future. Rushkoff suggests this is happening. He offers as evidence social movements like Occupy Wall Street that are presently misunderstood as a public outcry against the 1% and private enterprise rather than a forum for public discussion. Rushkoff believes Occupy Wall Street is a digitally enhanced effort to achieve consensus on maladies and cures for governments and economies.
Rushkoff suggests Occupy Wall Street is not a takeover organization with zero-sum objectives but a consensus building organization to change social dysfunction. He feels consensus-building by Occupy Wall Street protesters is falsely believed to have a leadership void. Rushkoff argues it appears as leaderless because Occupy Wall Street is based on building consensus not dictating change. Rushkoff infers Occupy Wall Street is a modern reform movement that will gather steam as it grows with the evolution of the digital age. That same argument is made about human response to global warming; in the sense that a consensus will coalesce as the digital age matures.
Rushkoff opines loss of interest in understanding the past and future by noting that writing a book is unlikely to be read by many. It does not have immediacy, immediacy demanded by the click generation. As Alexander Pope, an 18th century poet, said, “Hope springs eternal…” Here is a book review that hopes Rushkoff is right; that the click generation will widen its field of vision to include a future; despite the obtuse twitters of an ill-educated American President. Ironically, Rushkoff’s and Pope’s hope is based on a matter of time.