67 - Douglas Rushkoff & Michael Phillip (Playing For Team Human)

This week’s guest is media theorist, culture critic, author, graphic novelist, documentarian, and podcaster Douglas Rushkoff! Chances are you’re a “digital native” banking on “social currency” and consuming “viral media” – which means that you are living in the world Doug prophesied for all of us back in the 1990s. 

I watched his debut documentary on social marketing, Merchants of Cool, in my college Introduction to Film class (which is how you know my teacher was, in fact, cool). His book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now was one of the core inspirations for this podcast and its examinations of time in the digital age remain some of my most frequently-recommended writing. 

More recently his book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus launched a vital conversation about how to make sure that the “superabundance” of digital society actually MAKES IT TO THE PEOPLE. And his podcast Team Human offers new insightful conversations every week about how we can sculpt a future for the 100%-ers – a world that welcomes everybody, that lets everyone in, that finds something meaningful for all of us to do and be.

Doug’s written shelves on our new media environment and how the digital surround retrieves our magical antiquity. He’s issued potent cautions to us, that we must Program Or Be Programmed. He’s spent his entire life helping us find the bottom-up to complement the top-down that we’re stuck with…to help everyone be literate enough to make it in this modern world.

And in this episode, he looks back on his life’s work, and forward to the great responsibility we bear to help imagine systems, cultures, and relationships for a more humane and equitable future…

Doug’s podcast:


Doug’s website:


This week we’re also joined by guest co-host Michael Phillip of Third Eye Drops, our sister podcast, which I’m on A LOT – episodes 102, 88, 58, 44 with Doug Rushkoff, 38 with Niles Heckman, 28 with Bruce Damer, 21 with Erik Davis, 9 with Shane Mauss, 4 with Erik Davis, and this special mashup episode – and who has appeared on Future Fossils to talk about Westworld in Episode 14 and the Blockchain in Episode 52.

We Discuss:

• the ethical necessity of finding planet-scale solutions that work for ALL of us, not just a certain economic class; 

• the externalized ecological costs of Bitcoin; 

• how sigils and other ancient magical practices have been modernized for info warfare in the modern age; 

• how the culture of our global information economy retrieves the gods of antiquity; 

• the conflict of interests between our present and future selves; 

• the problem with futurists as propagandists and how we use “the future” as a way to manipulate people;

• and more!

Doug Quotes:

“The aspect of the blockchain that is the most real at this point is the environmental destruction…the smartest scientists I know have given up on the environment. They’re saying, ‘Let’s just have dinner. This is it.’ If that’s the case, then it feels like every conversation about blockchain has to start and end with that. It’s like, ‘Okay, while we’re destroying the planet with technology, isn’t it an interesting model for this and that…?’”

“It’s all just sigil magic on a certain level…although now you can express it through code, instead of just alchemy.”

“As far as the virtual is actual, the virtual is tied to our actual well-being. So thanks to cyberspace, we have a place where all of that symbolic activity becomes real – or at least as real as we’re willing to make this stuff. Your FICO score is on there. This is the landscape that’s defining our reality. So it turns programmers into potential magicians of unprecedented power.”

“The gods that we are looking at today a re subsets of capitalism. They are really more unintended consequences of people looking to game the system, than they are the natural flowering of some higher power, higher agenda. So we’re in a similar relationship to those things, but we don’t want to be re-enacting those things. We want to be, if anything, recognizing them and creating alternatives.”

“Psychologically, they found that people relate to their own future selves the same way they relate to a stranger. So the person you’re saving retirement money for is just some old guy. So on some level, I don’t really care so much if that person is suffering in the cold, because I want an iPhone X. So screw him.” 

“Especially in the heady days of early WIRED Magazine, where they’re saying, ‘Look! Everything’s changing! The tsunami’s coming! You better hire some futurists to tell you where it’s going or you’re all going to die’…I was arguing that it’s fine, that all futurists are propagandists of a certain sort. So if I’m going to be a futurist, I’m going to propagandize a world of peace and love and the egalitarian sensibility that we’re all moving into, NOT a long stock market boom of infinite wealth for venture capitalists.”

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