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Douglas Rushkoff: “Tech Billionaires Know They’re Driving the World to Collapse and Want to Escape”

When you talk to technologists from outside Silicon Valley, they all agree that workers in the Valley have their own ideologies that aren’t as prevalent outside of it. “They see computers as the inevitable future of humanity, almost like a religion,” a computer scientist working at DARPA, the US Advanced Research Projects Agency, explained to

Douglas Rushkoff is one of the world’s leading theorists of digital culture. One of the researchers who approached the Internet in its very early stages and saw the gap in possibilities that was then beginning to be known as cyberspace. In 2010, the author of the prophetic motto “program or be programmed”, a professor at New York University and one of the top ten intellectuals in the world according to MIT, he has spent the last five years studying the new ideological currents that have arisen within this thought. characteristic of the valley. A process called “mentality”.

“The mentality,” he says in an interview with, is found especially among billionaires who made their fortunes in the mecca of technology and are now looking for new purposes for this capital: “For them, the future of technology consists of one thing: escaping from the rest of us.

Explaining the “mentality” and how it guides the moves of these tycoons is the main thesis of his new book, “Survival of the Richest.” The escapist fantasy of a tech billionaire (Captain Swing), which goes on sale in Spanish this Monday. In it, Rushkoff (New York, 1961) warns that “the technological billionaires know that their business is leading the world to collapse, and they want to use technology to get rid of the rest of us.”

“Before, these people flooded the world with wildly optimistic business plans based on how technology could benefit human society. Now they’ve turned technological progress into a video game that one of them wins when they find the exit,” he explains. For Rushkoff, Elon Musk’s or Jeff Bezos’ rockets, Mark Zuckerberg’s metaversion, or remote castles like Peter Thiel built in New Zealand are examples of these efforts.

“Like a Marvel blockbuster story, the structure of the mentality demands an outcome. Everything must be decided by one or zero, winner or loser, survivor or damned. Real-life disasters and inevitability, from climate emergency to mass migration, sustain the myth and offer these aspiring superheroes the opportunity to realize their own apotheosis In life, because thinking also involves a quasi-religious conviction, and so peculiar to Silicon Valley. Acolytes will be able to develop technology that somehow defies the laws of physics, economics, and morality to offer them something better than a way to save the world: a way to escape an apocalypse of their own making, Rashkoff describes.

It all started with the 2018 meeting. “I have been invited to many talks about digital technologies, and usually the most profitable ones are with businessmen. They are looking for clues about where to focus their investments,” the academician explains. He is in an interview with elDiario.

“But this event was different. I thought I was called to give my usual talk about digital technology, which is usually me trying to tell business people not to be so mean. Have more responsible business models because it’s better for their customers, or avoid surveillance and control systems. I’m trying to show them that there are other ways to make money besides exploiting people and extracting value from their data, making them enjoy the first internet. But this event turned out to be worth it. “Very wealthy clients of one of the big hedge funds, who arranged a kind of weekend meeting,” he recalls.

“I was like one of the fun, optional activities they offered to pass the time. There was a professional golfer, a massage therapist… they had a menu with a schedule and they could choose what they wanted. Five “guests decided they wanted to spend an hour with Douglas Rushkoff to talk about the future of technology as an ‘Ask Me Anything’ Reddit session. So the organization reached out to me,” he continues.

Billionaires or not, the meeting began with questions one would ask an academic like Rashkoff. “They started with classic questions like what do I think will happen to Bitcoin, or what is better, virtual reality or augmented reality. But there was a moment when one of them took out a folder and showed me the plans for the bunker. If he arrives. The apocalypse he called “the event” and asked me: Where is the best place to put my bunker? Alaska or New Zealand?”

Since then, the tone of the conversation has changed and his interlocutors have shown a new face to the researcher. They called that catastrophic event “the event”. “They became very interested in these types of questions, about the water supply in the bunker, in which areas of the planet will be very hot, where will the radiation be.” To make him laugh a little, I asked him who it was. They are going to protect our bunker, those of us who stayed outside and needed their food. They said, “Oh, don’t worry. We have guards. We have an agreement with the Navy SEALs. [un cuerpo de élite de operaciones especiales de la Marina de EEUU] to protect us.”

Rushkoff explains that he then realized the conversation was serious. “They really wanted to know what technologies would be most useful if the ‘event’ came. They talked about brain implants, energy production, etc. I know it will.”

The academic, who makes no secret of his Marxist leanings, wrote an article about what happened on his plane back to New York and published it upon landing. The text traveled the world. People who knew about the existence of this runaway current contacted him and began to give more details about what was moving. Even agencies that specialized in building these types of mega-bunkers for the world’s most important people offered him a deal to promote their products at future meetings.

There were no more such negotiations for Rushkoff. He believes that neither do other experts. After I wrote the first article, I think most of them realized that this route will not work. They cannot isolate themselves in such small communities. That’s what I tried to explain to them: the only way out of this. They are afraid of averting a disaster. But they do not follow this path. They no longer think about bunkers, but they do not work to prevent the world (including them) from suffering. They keep getting away,” he explains.

Thus arose the desire to analyze “mentality”, which he describes as “a strongly atheistic and materialistic science, apart from the belief in technology as a method of solving problems; to the commitment to the digital code bias; concept. Relationships as a commercial phenomenon, the fear of nature and women, the need to see one’s contribution as absolutely unique and unprecedented innovations, and the impulse to neutralize the unknown by dominating and devitalizing it.

Throughout the book, Rushkoff talks to other academics and experts about “thinking” and invites the reader to view the promises of tech billionaires through this lens. At the same time, he urges caution against his benevolent version, which maintains that problems like climate change can be solved by investing large sums of money in technologies that alleviate the problems that got us here.

“I felt the need to make it clear that we are at the end of a six-hundred-year history that began in the Renaissance when we decided that science could control nature and that money could control people. That doesn’t work anymore. Techno-solutionism isn’t going to get us out of here because it’s based on the same problems. They’re thinking of building a car that goes on the back of a truck and captures carbon, or everyone has their own 3D printer to reduce waste. But “these machines are based on the same rare earths that children in Africa get in harsh conditions. or on plastic and, therefore, on oil”, – he emphasizes in the interview.

After the publication of Rushkov’s book, a new project appeared, which seems to echo what the researcher writes in the book. In late August, a company called Flannery Associates revealed that it had acquired hundreds of parcels of land in Solano County between San Francisco and Sacramento (California’s state capital) to build a new city from scratch.

The Flannerys, as neighbors know, spent five years buying the land without disclosing the reasons. The large accumulation of land and the resulting social alarm led them to announce their plans, which they explained include building a completely sustainable city, entirely with renewable energy and designed to improve public transport or water use.

“There are several such projects and they show very well what the problem is.” The dream of technology professionals is to build an ex-nihilo civilization. [de la nada]. Wipe the slate clean to start from scratch. It’s the same fantasy. They want to build a colony on Mars, but they realize that it will be very difficult, even if they put all their capital and all their digital technology to their service. But what they can do is buy this land in California and drive out the people who were there to create the perfect private city plan. Use capital to build,” Rushkoff says when asked about the project.

“Starting from scratch in a new society is not the development of natural phenomena. This is how Las Vegas came about, or the new cities of Dubai or the United Arab Emirates. They think they can plan better than nature. They have such species. With ideas constantly, they think that this It’s like playing Sim City and that they have the capital to do it. It’s a fantasy, they don’t realize that the world is much more complicated than that, but it’s rooted in the depth of it. mentality,” he concludes.

Source: El Diario





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