(Photo: Seth Kushner)

Just over two years ago protesters in Oakland made national headlines when they surrounded Google and Apple commuter buses and threw rocks at them. For Douglas Rushkoff, these protests symbolized everything that is wrong with the tech economy. In his new book, “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity,” Rushkoff takes a deeper look at why the success of Silicon Valley companies has contributed to deeper economic and social tensions in the Bay Area. He joins us to talk about rebooting our economy to create a more sustainable and equitable future.

Guests:
Douglass Rushkoff, media theorist; professor, City University of New York, Queens; author of "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity"

  • EIDALM

    Since the beginning ,Silicon valley have not been a boom or even a boon to the Bay Area people it is rather a bust and disaster for all of us ,starting with the dot com bust in 2008 which cost many investors their life time savings and beyond that with all of Silicon Valley including Apple and the rest of them export all manufacture and near all technical; jobs to China ,as well as their replacing near all highly paid Americans with H1B and H2B foreign people mostly from India who are paid fraction of salary of fired Americans ,but yet they use their money and greed to esclate housing cost across the Bay Area to an obscene level that is becoming beyond the means of most ,at the same time they move their headquarters offshore to avoid their fair share of taxes and many companies specially Apple use price fixing schemes were their products are sold for several times as an equivalent item in other brands…..These a lose ,lose situation which can not be sustained for much longer ,when the cost of living is not keeping with income ,so I expect that some time in the near future, I predict a great implosion of Silicon Valley which is overdue ,but that may be the best for us ,the Bay Area residents that got screwed by those greedy s,o,b. COE’s of Silicon Valley….I really look forward to that,

  • EIDALM

    In early 1990’s I lived a in Santa Clara , at that time most of my neighbors were highly paid American high tech workers ,most were making on the average 250 hundred thousands a year ,but within very short time near all of them were replaced by east Indians H1B ,and H2B visaS that were hired at salaries fraction of that Americans they replaced ,one of my neighbor who lost her job ,,she also lost her house shortly after ,she cried on my shoulder when she was evicted from a house she lived in for over 15 years and that happened to so many other neighbors ,within 6 years Santa Clara and Sunnyvale became mostly east Indian colonies.

    • Another Mike

      A young single friend of mine, living in Santa Clara, does complain about the lack of American-born Caucasians in her dating pool. She does not object to the many subcontinentals in town — she’s just not attracted to them.

      • Cameron Newland

        Nice to hear that overt racism is alive and well in Santa Clara. 😀 Haha

        • Another Mike

          Attraction is not a conscious choice.

          • Trixie Di Sotto Copertura

            sounds like she should hang out where the google bus from sf stops. plenty of caucasians to be found there. hopefully she’s attracted to untucked shirts and backpacks.

    • Robert Thomas

      I live in Santa Clara. My neighborhood is increasingly South Asian, as has the atmosphere its retail and commercial areas. On the other hand when I moved here thirty-five years ago, it was Korea Town. Before that, it was Little Italy.

    • Han Sulu

      Similarly Cupertino is crammed with Chinese and Indians who are just off the boat/plane.

      • Another Mike

        The Chinese influx started when the turnover of Hong Kong from Britain to China was imminent. The attraction was that Cupertino then as now was noted for school quality, but was far more affordable than Palo Alto.

      • Cameron Newland

        So what? Why does race matter so much? Are Chinese people and Indian people worth less? Are they not human? Should they not be able to earn a living by offering their labor to companies willing to employ them?

        • Joe

          can U go to india and get a job, no, can u buy american car in India, yes if you want to pay %100 tax, so U advocate for what went on at Disney, they just replaced there work force with h1b visa people, an lied to congress about it previously, where is your fake free market, did capitalism work for the American Indian?

          • Robert Thomas

            ???

    • Lori

      250K back in the early 1990s? That seems pretty high for that era and for who was living in Santa Clara at the time. I have been here since 1989. Your friends must have been a select few who were getting good stock options to get to that point.

      • EIDALM

        Not at that time ,it was not too much , that was before the accountants and the Wall Street greedy goons screwed everything up .

        • Robert Thomas

          EIDALM, I’ve been working engineer in Santa Clara Valley since the 1970s, and a resident of the city of Santa Clara since 1981. Your claim,

          “… [I]n Santa Clara , [in early 1990’s] most of my neighbors were highly paid American high tech workers ,most were making on the average 250 hundred thousands a year …”

          is startlingly preposterous and unsupported by any objective fact whatsoever, neither by the Bureau of Labor Statistics data nor the State of California labor history nor by any other respectable organ of any institution, public or private. Why do you make such ridiculous assertions?

          • Cameron Newland

            You’re right. EIDALM just *assumes* that everyone was making $250k because all the families they knew were spending so much money on Lexuses and expensive vacations while failing to saving enough of their pay for a rainy day.

          • Joe

            wow you are really smart you know what kind of cars they own and that they didn’t saving enough of their pay for a rainy day,

          • Robert Thomas

            As likely as any other explanation. The thought processes in question – swerving from time to time as they have, from penetratingly sane to flamboyantly fanciful – demonstrate themselves to be an undiscoverable country.

    • Cameron Newland

      Those people didn’t plan their careers out well enough. And how did they get evicted? Weren’t they able to afford to buy a home and grow their equity in it since they made so much money?

      If Indians want to work, let’s let them. I don’t think Indians have any less right to work than an American does. Does the color of one’s skin or the accent in their voice mean that they’re inherent worth less? I don’t think so.

      • Joe

        why should they displace Americans? Did they pay American taxes all their life, no, What do you do for a living, we should import a much of them from other countries so your wage goes down and you become a slave, Then we will get your opinion

      • Joe

        how the hell would you know “didn’t plan their careers out well enough”?
        Are you a god? If you get laid off you be in trouble with in 1 year, esp in down cycles like 2008. The trend is lay off older worker, have him train cheap h1b worker, America is overpopulated now, you can hardly drive anywhere. Watch Dragnet or some old TV show compare that traffic to what we got now. Importing cheap labor for the rich is wrong.

  • Another Mike

    At the peak of the bus protests, I looked up the demographics of their leaders. They tended to be white women who had grown up in upper middle class enclaves on the East Coast, who had gone on to small, expensive liberal arts colleges, also on the East Coast, where they studied such unremunerative subjects as Studio Art.
    Then they moved to San Francisco, some 3-5 years before the techie influx. Whereupon they seized the mantle of “old settlers,” and made common cause with 30-year residents of the Mission, not their age-mates who had gone to state universities and studied Computer Science.

    • Cameron Newland

      That’s great, but that’s not the reason why the tech bus protesters are wrong. They’re wrong because this is a free country and people are allowed to live wherever they want to. Someone getting off the Greyhound bus from Fort Lauderdale has just as much of a right to housing in this city as does someone who has lived here for five decades. No one has a right to housing anywhere. Housing is a privilege for those who can afford it. If someone wants to live in New York City and commute to Philadelphia, there’s nothing stopping them from doing so.

      • Joe

        No we don’t live in a free country, the Government get kick backs from lobbyists, so they can bring in H1b visa workers and pay the a lower salary and displace Americans, USA is not a democracy or a republic, your not free, your vote doesn’t matter as they system is rigged, USA is run by oligarchs like Ukraine

        • Another Mike

          The people most affected by rent control were the mom and pops — mostly immigrants wanting an investment that would support them in their old age — who owned small rental buildings in 1979.

      • De Blo

        Amen.

  • geraldfnord

    Many Americans are uncomfortable admitting to the existence of classes, the buses make it plain that we have them.

    The private bus commute is a synecdoche for the tech employees, simultaneously overworked, privileged, and disconnected. These reïnforce each other: the privileges money and attachment to powerful actors bring employees means that they need not be connected to their communities (why care about Muni?), and their long hours further disconnect them (many generate almost no garbage at home, so why should they care how well its collected?) and don’t leave them in much of a mood to engage.

    American society used to be built on the feeling that the interests of our leaders were consonant with those of at least most of the rest of us. Sometimes this was true and useful—rich men like Joe Kennedy and F.D.R. understood that being on top of a reasonably well-off society were both safer and more pleasant than being kings of a dung-hill. Sometimes this was true and evil, as in `I’ll keep the darkies down for you.’. Often it was mostly false and had its good and bad points:the fib `My right to my ten houses and vast holdings needs to be protected so that your right to your house and mild savings will be.’ both allowed for a level of social stability (for many white people and some others) that would have vanished in an atmosphere of righteous expropriation. More recently, it has allowed our upper classes to loot our society and use it as proof of their superiority and right to rule (in a completely privatised society, all decision-making would be weighted by wealth, which is why some like Thiel openly disdain democracy). He Who Will Not be Named uses vulgarity to make the common people believe that he is one of them and will look-out for their interests….

    Personally, I hope that our rulers begin to again better understand enlightened self-interest, as opposed to Randroid pseudo-Calvinism, and that rest of us are just scary enough to them that they decide to let us wet our beaks.

    • Pamela Horowitz

      Thank you!! you wrote it so well and see what others refuse to see…thank you for your intelligence and your sussinct input!

    • gharlane

      Thanks, well put.

      (pssst, Scott, synecdoche refers to a part standing in for a whole… as in saying “my wheels” to mean “my car”….)

      In fact, I think the buses are a synecdoche for the whole damn system, including but much larger than the tech workers.

      To pull an obscure quote from a now-old Star Trek movie: “400 years ago on the planet earth, workers who felt their livelihood
      threatened by automation flung their wooden shoes called ‘sabot’ into
      the machines to stop them. Hence the word ‘sabotage’.”

      To add metaphor to synecdoche, to throw rocks at the Google buses, or to lie down in front of them, is to slow down the grinding wheels, if only a little bit.

    • Cameron Newland

      Tech buses wouldn’t exist if San Francisco prioritized building office space for large corporations. San Francisco voters passed Prop M in 1986, which caps the amount of new commercial space that can be built in SF each year. Prop M didn’t really matter much until now because we’d never been near the annual square-footage limit. Now that we’ve reached it, it’s become clear to Apple, Google, Facebook, et al that San Francisco does not want their corporate campuses located here. If you’re a large company that needs 1-5 million square feet of office space on a contiguous campus, how would you ever manage to build that in San Francisco when city law restricts the *ENTIRE CITY’S* commercial space growth to less than 900,000 square feet per year?

      http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/blog/real-estate/2014/09/s-f-office-development-prop-m-cap-conversion.html

  • saimin

    The only problem these companies are creating is importing thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of out-of-town workers with salaries much higher than the local average, thus creating a serious housing shortage and cost-of-living problem for long-time residents. These internet companies are much more environmentally friendly than the manufacturing companies of previous economic booms.

    • Another Mike

      But who is throwing rocks at the googlebus? Not long-time residents.

      • Pamela Horowitz

        yes long time residents are feeling it and the need to throw rocks is upon us when these companies only care about the people riding in the bus and not our streets, neighborhoods or paying for the congestion or bus regulated stops but using city bus stops and not having to pay the city taxes for any of it. we pay for it.

        • Another Mike

          So the techies do not count as residents of San Francisco? I have misplaced my draft of the San Francisco Residential Eligibility Questionnaire.

      • pastramiboy

        Again, how do you know this-your source? I’ve met plenty of long time mission residents at the protests-not throwing rocks but agreeing too the general sentiment.

        • Another Mike

          A little broadsheet, I like to call… The Chronicle.
          And what is the general sentiment? Techies must die? Carpooling is fine — up to a point? Let Muni be Muni?

    • Pamela Horowitz

      but not user friendly or people friendly and are creating havoc on neighborhoods as well as the environment. the manufacturing companies are now outsourced to countries that pay for slave labor…we as Americans are cushioned in a bubble of prosperity compared to those who work slave labor with no benefits of unions, health care or hopes for prosperity.

    • Cameron Newland

      These companies didn’t create any housing shortage. If anything, housing shortages are caused by cities that fail to allow enough new housing to be built to house all of the people who work in a particular area. Just look at Chicago, where housing prices are half those of SF and the Peninsula. Chicago has been able to build and build, and people there don’t complain about how new housing might affect their commute or change the demographics of their neighborhood. In San Francisco, in central neighborhoods that are excellent candidates for dense/tall housing to be build, including the Mission District, you’ve got legions of anti-housing activists who want to maintain their neighborhoods as backwater bastions of poverty instead of allowing for much-needed new housing to be built. As a result, market rents have soared, and families cannot afford to live in San Francisco any longer.

      The other issue I have with your comment here is that you seem to be saying that long-time residents have some kind of right to live in San Francisco and pay cheap rents. That is not true, and that has never been true. San Francisco has almost always been expensive. Granted, it got more expensive over the last 25 years or so, but it was never a truly cheap city. When high-income people move to San Francisco, you must understand that they have the same claim to San Francisco’s housing as someone who has lived here for 30 years. If some poor artist can’t afford the 30% rent hike on their studio, they have no right to live in it, and if some tech worker can pay easily pay the rent, then the tech worker moves in and the poor artist moves out (hopefully to a city that they can actually afford to live in!), and live goes on. The artist has no right or claim to renting an apartment at cheap prices forever. The only time you have a right to housing is when you buy and own housing, and even then, it’s possible and legal for the government to take your home using eminent domain, though that is rare.

      • Another Mike

        Agree 100%. It is instructive to read the original 1979 rent control ordinance, reflecting the “emergency” of rent increases in those ancient days.
        A thirty-seven-year-long emergency cannot be taken seriously.

      • De Blo

        Are there any community groups working to abolish, sunset, or reform rent control in the City?

  • Citizen2791

    “For Douglas Rushkoff, these protests symbolized everything that is wrong with the tech economy. “. Really Dougals … EVERYTHING … that is pretty bold! Another meandering segment with no focus except for pushing the book.

    • Pamela Horowitz

      look at the bigger picture…he is right and once you look backwards 5 years from now you will see the ramifications of “everything”

      • Citizen2791

        Well, I moved to the Bay Area in 1979 and have been working and living here. I suppose you have to be a “media theorist; professor” in NYC to see the ramifications of everything and write a book!

        • Pamela Horowitz

          I have been coming to San Francisco since 1976 – and have lived in San Francisco since 1988. I have seen and feel the ramifications of the tech companies taking over the city of “everything” in the last 4 years and Rushkoff’s theories are exactly what crashed the dot com era and gave us a respit from corporate greed. now we have tech corporate greed and we have tech governments that are Google, Uber, Facebook who get tax breaks, and gentrifie every city and person they seduce into believing they are changing the world. Those who work for these companies are rich and below the age of 30 and insulated within each tech fraternity. the ramifications, of selling air in the form of an “app”, are having a huge negative impact on society and are being felt daily.

          • Robert Thomas

            The corporate concerns you list are sales and marketing organizations that make their income from advertising. Most have made no technological advances. They are billboard managers, who sell the attention of the public to retailers. Even Google makes its money this way, while offering a valuable service for free and while indulging itself in a variety of real if defocused technological pursuits, as one does one’s hobbies.

            I can certainly appreciate the distaste San Franciscans have for the denizens of their recently minted Madison Avenue; I recognize that they’ve often held the same sentiments with respect to the advertising companies with which these arrivistes have affinity and of the banking industry and so on that have a long history of ensconcement there – even while these businesses have paid many of the city’s steep bills. Discard them, if you see fit.

          • Another Mike

            The people of SF voted to offer the same tax relief to ALL large employers — correcting a trend that had sent BofA, Chevron, and Pac Bell to the East Bay and San Ramon Valley 30 years ago.

          • Citizen2791

            Wow! I am unable to comprehend “everything” you say and you say a lot! Yes, I worked for tech companies all my life, I returned to Penn State five years ago and returned to my beloved home/the Bay Area with a PhD in Mobile ad hoc Networks. I am looking for work and will not mind an offer or two from tech or non-tech companies! My wife and I raised three children: an environmental attorney, teacher & STEM champion, and a social worker helping children to get on their feet (he went to Iraq as part of “operation freedom”). Sure there are problems, I do not see the (tech company’s) corporate greed as some enlightened individuals observe, analyze and pontificate, I suppose????.

          • Pamela Horowitz

            you do not see it because you are not surrounded by it. in less than 5 years time you will see it permeating every city and gentrifying out long time residents

  • Ben Rawner

    Motivation for motivation sake is a great concept but really lacks a root in reality. Money is an important driving force in our economy. Biotech would be a great example. Cures for diseases like Hep C, AIDS, and cancers are being developed because the money motivation is there. Passion might drive an individual but money drives an organization.

    • Pamela Horowitz

      yes, and those biotech companies are holding the cures for ransom to inflate the prices to a point where mothers and fathers on Africa are dying from AIDS, because they cannot afford the prices of those cures. and that drives organization and biotech is exacting a very high price…this is the reality…

      • Another Mike

        Mothers and fathers in Africa can’t afford ASPIRIN, much less AIDS remedies. Most pharma companies are socially responsible enough to sell vital drugs at the marginal cost of manufacture — any less and they would be losing money.

    • trevor

      Cures for cancer and AIDS have not been created by the public sector. Furthermore given recent as well as historical issues of price gouging associated with life saving medicines the monetary motivation driving these breakthroughs don’t create equitable or desirable social outcomes. I would counter that the motivation for improving people’s lives as illustrated by people like Dennis Peron and BrownieMary provides a particularly revealing counterpoint.

    • Another Mike

      Reminds me there are likewise Genentech buses. No rocks thrown at them AFAIK.

      • Bill_Woods

        The phrase doesn’t scan as well.

  • Jon Latimer

    Enjoying the concersation so far…there are some interesting ideas here…but if we apply this “scorched earth” model to the global economy, doesn’t this seem to suggest the eventual and inevidable self-destruction of capitalism as we know it?

    • Pamela Horowitz

      YES

    • Jon Latimer

      In short, how long can a growth based economy last? And what happens to a global economy that is so dependent on endless growth? What happens when it can no longer “grow”? Is the capitalist global model simply too short sighted?

    • gharlane

      Well, exactly; I think that’s one of Douglas’s main points.

    • Robert Thomas

      There are many places on Earth where economic self-destruction is evident, available to observe.

      I recommend Caracas.

    • Cameron Newland

      What are you talking about? What “scorched earth”? Capitalism naturally re-defines itself quite dynamically via creative destruction. Capitalism isn’t a zero-sum game.

  • Robert Thomas

    Twitter, Uber, Airbnb and their ilk have nothing to do with Silicon Valley. They’re not technology companies. They’ve made no technological advance.

    What a lot of limp, soggy, commie BS. Truly, it seems that anybody can write a book.

    This ridiculous blowhard scribbler has made a crummy career out of comical pop economic theorizing and popping off about subjects entirely beyond his intellectual capacity. This is what results when a theater arts major and School of Communications graduate is mistaken for being a public intellectual.

    “… companies are growing at all costs …” doesn’t even have any meaning. Why say something so silly?

    “As these companies grow exponentially …” Certainly, none does; even geometric growth is impossible. Graduates of Schools of Communications are bad at math.

    How many more comical things will be uttered?

    Aimless, pointless, pop-economical blither blather.

    • Pamela Horowitz

      you are not looking at the bigger picture…go into those tech company societies…they believe they are tech companies…and their users see them as tech and are seduced by their apps…which they believe apps are tech.

      • Robert Thomas

        I’m a native of San Jose and have been a working electrical engineer in Santa Clara Valley for thirty-seven years. I think I have a reasonable idea of what Silicon Valley industry actually is, which I understand diverges from the cartoon in the heads of a lot of ignorant people.

        I no longer care, even if some want to abscond with the “technology” label to attach it to a lot of sales, marketing and advertising companies like Twitter and Uber and Facebook and Yahoo that have never delivered the world any technological advance. I’m made irate when the shenanigans of these worthless entities and the fools who’ve indulged them are used in the casual blather of clueless know-nothings to mischaracterize and to SLANDER my neighbors, my various employers, my neighborhood, my extended family here, my walk of life, my personal achievements and myself. I see no reason to roll over and take these scurvy insults silently, from the likes of Mr Rushkoff or from anyone else.

    • Another Mike

      He thinks he is the successor to Marshall McLuhan.

      • Robert Thomas

        One was enough, in my view. The mold lies, broken.

  • Virginia

    Douglas nailed it when he said our economy needs to be revenue based, not growth based. If companies had sustainable profit margins then they could pay their employees living wages – that’s assuming those companies don’t feed all the profits to their stock holders and bloated executive salaries.

    • Pamela Horowitz

      EXACTLY !

    • Han Sulu

      Indefinite growth on a finite planet is like a cancer killing the host.

    • Cameron Newland

      If you de-prioritize growth, then where are the new jobs going to come from? Why try and decide whether to prioritize growth or revenue? Why not just let the free market decide what they’d prefer to prioritize?

      • Virginia

        Growth doesn’t always guarantee job creation that is sustainable. You may get jobs in the short term but they may not be stable or with a living wage.

      • Joe

        What does it matter when you give the jobs to h1b visa holders, what is a free market? it does not exist in USA, Bill gates complained before a layoff he could not find smart Americans to hire. Congress treated him like he was a hero, He committed perjury but nobody cares because he is rich, why is he allowed to testify to Congress and not me? Why does Obama sit down with the rich but not the poor, He met with Jobs, Google etc…

      • Jeff C

        @cameron_newland:disqus You raise an interesting point about the relationship between growth and job creation. In the context of conventional free-market capitalism, the question of where new jobs are going to come from would likely require the assumption that job-seekers are are perpetually unable to become their own bosses and must rely on an economic/industrial authority figure (such as a corporation) for jobs. However, history has demonstrated that one does not necessarily have to rely on an economic authority figure for jobs. Take the US for example, right around the time of the American Revolution. By separating from the British crown, the original Confederate States had to create their own monetary and economic system from the ground up, and obviously they could not rely on the very country they just gained independence from. While the Confederate States collapsed due to an iffy economy, it did not necessarily mean an indefinite political and economic collapse.

        I am not sure whether prioritizing growth is such a good thing if it is not regulated to ensure equity in the economy. There tends to come a point a point where growth becomes corrupted and causes the economy to go haywire, like the Great Depression and the 2008 Recession. If a select few individuals are continuously writing themselves exorbitant salaries without any regard for paying their workers decent wages, then it starts to resemble a disease that does quite a similar thing in the human body, which is cancer.

        Cancer does exactly that, but with blood flow & nutrition instead of money. Out of control growth from a cancer will choke off more and more vital nutrients from the body, but without any benefit to the body as a whole. Benign cancers are not likely to do anything bad, but sometimes it can can grow uncontrollably and can become malignant.

    • Cameron Newland

      Sounds like Douglas is promoting a centrally-planned economy – that worked our really well for the Soviet Union.

      • Virginia

        Humm. I didn’t get that from him. I agree with your free market comment below. I’d like to see revenue based businesses be more “rewarded” in the market.

  • Noelle

    Look up Democracy at Work institute for more on cooperatives.

  • Robert Thomas

    Oh!

    That’s all we need….

    Re-education…

    Got it.

  • Robert Thomas

    Oh good Lord he’s going to try to figure out what “synecdoche” means, in real time.

  • marte48

    Please remind your listeners that $100K salary puts you in an almost 30% tax bracket.

  • Alex

    “growth” just means a change in valuation. Piketty notes in Capital that, even though our standard of living is many factors greater than that of the middle ages, that doesn’t mean we consume many times as much grain for instance. It means the items we typically consume are valued differently.

    In sum, the “growth” Mr. Rushkoff claims is unsustainable is; it’s predicated on humans generating new things of value which they are good at.

  • marte48

    Also, corporations don’t want you after 45, so you really only have about 10-15 years of making a good salary.

  • marte48

    Marx used the term “capitalism” before the word “corporatism” was invented.

  • marte48

    Corporations only compete against other corporations.

    • Han Sulu

      Wrong. They also compete against voters, consumers, workers, and the environment.

      • Robert Thomas

        What corporations in general have done for you – along with nefariously misbehaving from time to time – is this: they’ve resulted in a world in which you need not spend every waking moment of your life trying to scrape a hole in the ground in order to reveal a root to put into your mouth, punctuated only by the occasional diverting opportunity to scrape out a somewhat larger hole, big enough to receive the body of a child recently dead of cholera.

        • Han Sulu

          Nonsense. You attribute to corporations what science has done.
          What’s next, you’ll praise Monsanto for making Agent Orange?

          • Robert Thomas

            You’ve really made a splash in this humble venue. Bravo.

  • Peji

    Can’t wait to read this book! The great American fallacy is that wealth can be equated with genius. Washington listens to CEOs – rather than the folks making the companies (and communities) work, and somehow high-tech CEOs have managed to persuade politicians that they have an edge on morality. Not – they serve their Wall Street overlords and shareholders in the service of growth, growth growth.

    Side note: Big tech companies are not the idea generators everyone thinks -they actually buy companies or “borrow” ideas from private inventors who have been rendered impotent by American Invents Act (full disclosure -my company was destroyed by a company we will call Chum-hum who lifted our idea when we presented to them, so I have a very dull axe).

  • BDN

    sounds like Chicken Little Sky is Falling to me

  • Chris OConnell

    Great show. This is excellent analysis but some people can’t handle the truth.

  • MikeCassady

    Rushkoff’s banter is long on charm, but he’s responding to symptoms of change that cannot help but undermine the assumptions we take as bedrock reality. Freud knew this as perversity’s unavoidable path to growth toward a future state. Rushkoff’s revolutionary message is we should return to the solid past and an older cherished model of the community bond of peer-to-peer sharing of the fortunes of good times and bad, luck and disaster, with lots of hugs. The necessary condition of the status quo he supports on the surface is unchosen, deeply pervasive material scarcity. Granted, the principle concern for the bulk of mankind for a very long time (but with many permutations) was a very possible real lack of the wherewithall to keep a body alive. The human luxury of having a useable mind and a reflexive ability to see life as a particular spirit capable of evlevating our human animality above brute form was a small reward for having a material body that, to exist at all, needed to stay alive. In conditons of unremitting scarcity, capricious Nature (“Mother!”) made a convincing barrier to human dreams and aspirations. Community provided a way to favor the odds of those who conformed to the accepted set of ready-to-wear group practices, and individual ingenuity and effort were repaid on the good days with social strokes and standing in the community.

    I, for one, grew up in a rural community where Nature could still be convincingly brutal and punishing, hard muscular work bent backs and reduced interaction to a laconic, mostly interior conversation, questionably sane at times, and I am content enough today to enjoy the fruits of the rapidly intergrated postwar society and economy produced by war production emergency top-down powers, not by ‘market forces.’ Group life, such as it is, will take it’s own sweet time to wake up to the “loss of scarcity” theme as the only best-practices selector of winners, and it is not likely to coincide with my life time, nor that of young people now facing the prospects of adopting materialization driven life-practices, as advertised on TV, which don’t free them of the fiction-drug of scarcity but enslave them to a bottomless pit of consumption desires. Not being able to read the contract, that was the intention. Just sign.

    For persons living actual life-times now, where the new “s-word’ is sustainability, an obvious solution to escaping foolishness is to adopt a one-page policy of self-imposed personal scarcity by reducing material needs to a bare minimum and using the free time saved avoiding soul-destroying work as someone’s slave-instrument to cultivate one’s own critical personal resources and become empowered for peer-to-peer exchange of understanding and sympathy, not to mention use of opinion-power in the consensus stock-exchange. A lawyer by day, for example, might allocate her most developed skills to do some real work she cares about, e.g., using knowledge of the law to advocate and community organize, after she goes home with her paycheck needed to buy minimalist kale to eat and a small space from which to develop her peer-to-peer networking career. Materialization still matters, but that can mean building the better material mind (mouse-trap?) and human person that getting rid of exciting scarcity allows even ordinary sods like me (and you?) to look askance (flip the bird) at Gatsby as a “Great” mutant bridge to nowhere.

    • Han Sulu

      We need to return to making things, period.
      Many big companies today are only being kept afloat because of finance trickery.

      • Robert Thomas

        Once I was an electrical equipment assembler, who wound bifilar power toroids for switching regulators. Later, I became a manufacturing electrical engineer and have spent many, many quarter-end weeks working thirty-six hour days. My 10Tb ethernet blades now sell to Telefonica in Spain, British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, China Telecom and suchlike others who are happy to return $200,000 or more to the U.S. for objects one can hold in one’s hand.

        What have you done recently, to offset the nation’s balance of payments?

        • Han Sulu

          I avoid acting like a douche, for a start.

          BTW anyone who’s actually done something significant with his life will have no need to spend time trolling in forums, nor to throw around a list of supposed accomplishments. You’re an obvious fraud or, if you have done anything, you must have a massive inferiority complex.

          • Robert Thomas

            If that’s as much as you can contribute, it will have to do, then.

          • Robert Thomas

            Pssst. Materially editing one’s comments after others have replied to them is widely considered to be unbecoming.

  • ajexyea

    I really enjoyed listening to Doug Rushkoff’s discussion this morning, and could relate to much of what he was saying. Our economy and the rush for growth for the sake of growth alone, with no responsibility taken for the planet or the humans used up in the process is despicable. I found myself reflecting on a quote from the Dalai Lama, “The planet does not need more ‘successful people’. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has set.”

  • Aaron Long

    M. Rushkoff citing outrageous, coal-industry funded pseudo-science with the claim that an iphone takes more power than a refrigerator does not do a great deal to lend credibility to his views: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/20/iphone-energy-refrigerator-controversial-study_n_3782211.html

    Rather than attack the tech industry for abiding by the prevailing financial climate which treasures quarterly returns over long-term stability, he should be looking at the legal apparatus that makes that view profitable: Namely, the continued ascendancy of vulture capitalism: Equity players in the stock market who buy businesses to load them up with debt, then flog the sick men of the corporate world back on an unsuspecting market. What makes this behaviour not just possible, but inevitable: Regulatory capture.

    • Another Mike

      Activists in the Mission protest any attempt to change the housing stock there. What is the difference? Both communities are trying to preserve their quality of life.

      • Aaron Long

        I don’t blame the the housing activists for being angry, I just think they’re picking the wrong target. We have a housing shortage, and if Zimbabwe and Venezuela can show us anything, it’s that price controls can’t avert shortages. Instead of attacking tech companies for offering people well-paying jobs, they’d be more successful by directing their ire at the incumbent property holders who want to continue to see their property values skyrocket in what is, in effect, a zoning-enforce cartel.

        • Another Mike

          The ROI for the incumbent property owners is roughly what they received in 1987. Only rents are artificially restrained at that level — not heat, nor light, nor food nor clothing.

    • turquoisewaters

      I think this is a very astute comment. There is no such thing as a “free market”. All markets are regulated by rules, and the rules are increasingly made by the top and increasingly benefit the top: large corperations/wall street/venture capitalists. There is nothing free or natural about it. It is a power play by the wealthy elites with their legions of attorneys and lobbyists and other connected people that constantly shift the rules to amass more power and wealth. Then they turn around and sell the public the idea that Mexican immigrants stole their jobs. Big fat lie. Bankers and corporations moving jobs overseas, “free” trade, evading taxes, and destroying unions put an end to those good jobs that used to allow people to make a decent living. And they could, because they made the rules that allowed it.

  • jakeleone

    You know when Palo Alto created that ordinance that you couldn’t sleep in your car overnight, that from a city that is at the center of the tech boom, and refuses to add more housing units it says one thing.

    Growth is constrained only by the political will of government, often that is local government.

    Look lets just get more dense or shut-up about it and admit it. It isn’t Google or Apple that are unsustainable (they will just move to another location, in many ways they already have), its the fat salaries of the people at the top in local governments that is unsustainable.

    So if we don’t want to grow, just realize that by doing this we have doomed the workers into a competition for housing. And the best paid workers will win.

    It won’t be the guy making minimum wage, or the artist that is struggling, it will be that tech workers making 120k/year that will get an apartment. That tech family making 200k year that will get that expensive condo conversion (former rent-controlled rental).

    Grow the housing Bay Area or the reality of what is going on is going to start painting a big target that says “Mary Antoinette” on the backs of the fat cats in our local governments.

    • Mark

      Palo Alto did just fine, in the past, when the tech sector wasn’t infested with H-1B’s. And the Americans who occupied the housing had jobs. Deport the H-1B’s, and most of the problems would go away.
      Under the current regime, most tech workers have little chance of walking away from the tech sector with any money in their pocket. Realistically, how much money is there to be made in options of the tech firms? Almost none at these valuations.

      • jakeleone

        Yeah back the 60’s-80’s, it wasn’t so bad. Normal people, in normal occupations could live on the peninsula, even buy a home.

        The only problem is that tech development (many times just copy-cat recreation) is labor intensive.

        Nowadays it’s like if you don’t already own a home, you need to have a family income of 200k just to think about living on the peninsula. And that coupled with zero housing growth, and rampant speculation, has caused many homes (mine included) to become worth 2-3 million dollars. (thanks Jarvis Gann for the fact that I am not paying 30k a year in property tax).

        You don’t have to go far to find open space, where we could build apartments and housing. But open space hawks have made that growth impossible.

        The result is that only high density housing, in already urban districts is the only housing growth allowed.

        Basically get ready for high rises next. But how long will it take for people to realize this? How much gouging has to occur before young people realize that if they don’t get out and start voting the open space hawks and over-priced government out of office, they are doomed to paying all their tech bucks to the man?

        Old timers like myself, we saw it coming and we know the game.

        But young techies are fools not to organize to get the government to help alleviate these conditions.

        It’s almost like, maybe, people should live in their cars in Palo Alto. Claim residence and start voting. That would scare the heck out of the Palo Alto city council.

        • Another Mike

          If my neighbor sells his house for ten times what I paid for its identical neighbor, that does not put one more penny in my pocket with which to pay property tax. That is the logic behind Jarvis-Gann. Regressive taxation is bad taxation. The only fair taxes are based on ability to pay.

  • Cameron Newland

    A focus on growth is one of the wonders of capitalism. The free market will decide whether to prioritize growth or revenue, and it works just fine as-is. It’s a feature, not a bug! 😀

    • turquoisewaters

      “Free market” claimed that growth will grow the pie and all will be better off. Well, the pie has barely been growing, but the width of the slices is being aggressively changed by those who have the power to change the rules of the market. More and more is going to the top. This is an intentional process caused by greedy people, not a law of nature.

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