Digital Nation


Douglas Rushkoff

Our correspondent Douglas Rushkoff has been writing about the Internet for more than 15 years. In that time, he has been one of the foremost observers of issues related to technology, the media and popular culture.


Digital Nation
Doug shares his thoughts on the project and what he hopes it will accomplish.

Parenting and Technology
Doug became a parent in the digital age and has made a conscious effort to balance his daughter's exposure to technology with the value of an unplugged life.

E-mail Overload
Doug also describes his battle with a daily barrage of e-mail messages and explains how he copes.

Rushkoff's Background
Doug has a long history of writing about the Internet. Here's how he got started and how his views evolved.

Defining the Internet
Doug sees the Internet as an accelerator -- what we post quickly develops a life of its own.


Q: So Mr. Rushkoff would you ah, first we want to hear who you are and when you started working with Rachel.

DR: My name is Douglas Rushkoff and I started working with Rachel back when she and Barak were making a film called Merchants of Cool and I was one of the first interviewees that they came to, and the discussion ended up becoming kind of so long and so broad that they called me the next day or so and said, "do you want to work on the film with us?" and I was like, "cool, TV", and I did, and it was this really mind-blowing but great experience, I hadn't really done a show before. I didn't realize quite how wide and deep you go. It's like doing a book only you also have to kind of be there and be in it, so its more emotionally taxing than working alone, so we did that and then we did a kind of follow up to that called the Persuaders where we looked at marketing and how it was changing in the always-on television era, and we always wanted to do something else that looked at how the sort of interactive side of media, sort of a third, a third piece, so while we've been looking at that for 5 years or more, hoping to do that, then this opportunity, that Digital Nation opportunity came up and Rachel called, and I'm like, "yah, I'm ready, lets go."

Q: So you've been interested in the internet for quite a while.

DR: Yah, I'm afraid of how old it makes me sound, but yeah, I've been writing about the internet for 20 years. I mean before there was what we now call the internet I've been writing about this stuff. I first got interested... I first got interested in what we now would call, you know, interactive culture, because the weirdest, really the most stoned Grateful Dead psychedelic friends I had at Princeton in the late 70's early 80's ended up moving out to California and becoming part of the fledgling silicone valley culture. You know... they were working at sun and some of the... even the, Northrop and some of the... Intel... Places that I thought only, you know, pocket protector nerd people would go work at... and it... there was a great disconnect in "why are the acid heads, the weird counterculture people working in computers? There must be something about computers that I don't understand." So I started writing articles in the mid 80's about these people and about, you know, fractals, and virtual reality, and some of the very early pioneers' visions of a, you know, a Windows driven personal computer, and connectedness, and I would go back to New York by the, you know, late 80's early 90's and literally get, you know, laughed out of editors' offices by suggesting that someday they might be using email, that we're going to be producing magazines on computers instead of doing paste-ups. While I was pitching these pieces, and I had actually... eventually, while I was living in California, I got offered a job in New York to be a senior editor of a magazine to write about this stuff, what they were considering future stuff, and two days before my plane flight the magazine folded. But I got on the plane anyway, and on a legal pad I wrote down all the things I thought were going on that were connected. Whether, you know, fantasy role playing games, smart drugs and the psychedelic revival, chaos math and new physics, networking, personal computers, this was before the web or any of that stuff... Just looking at all these things that seemed connected... these new spaces, this kind of cyberspace that people were starting to interact in and I called it Cyberia and typed it up as a book proposal and then sold it as a book to Bantam. And I wrote it in 91-92 I traveled around in San Francisco and went to rave clubs and saw sort of high-tech meeting high-art meeting low culture, and wrote this book called "Cyberia, Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace." You know, this is where we're going... very sort of non linear journey through the cyberdelic counter culture. And in 1992 Bantam canceled the book because they thought by 1993 the internet would be over, and that because of that time lag, you know, actually publishing a book, that it would take too long and they'd miss it. Sort of the same way, you know, that you'd miss, like, CB radio or something like that. Luckily Harper-Collins picked it up and it came out in 1994 which was still too early for me to, you know, make money on it the way people who wrote later internet books made money. But it did, it did start my career then, as now a media theorist, so I kind of became a media theorist after I wrote my first book that would count as media theory. And I, I... The book Cyberia was understood as a wildly optimistic portrait of our digital future, and really, I didn't mean it as a wildly optimistic thing at all, but what I wanted to do was get on the ground level with the people who were building it, the crazy, wild-eyed psychedelic kids who were building our tomorrow... building the interfaces through which we were going to be interacting with the world and understand, "what is their vision for our future, what is it that they are attempting to bring us so that we even know whether we want to embrace it or not?" And it was a beautiful vision. A kind of a connected, Gaian, new cultural societal organism that transcends race, and nation state, and all the traditional boundaries, and the world would become one beautiful cyber connected spiritual entity. At the time I certainly saw that as a great thing, and I wrote books, I mean more cautious books and more critical books on what was happening and where it would go, but I always tried to maintain the posture of an enthusiastic advocate. Make people less afraid of technology. Help them embrace what works in the technology. Have them understand, for real, how this stuff works. Become truly media literate and they will be in a better position to navigate the terrain. It's just like if you're, if you're white water rafting and you get into the rapids your impulse is to pull the oar out of the water and just think, "Oh, maybe we'll slow down." That's not what you do. You're in the rapids. You've got to actually stroke more consciously, more consistently in order to guide your path. And the sort of the way I looked at this sort of stream of technology that we were going, that we were going out into.

Q: Did you feel like a lone voice in the wilderness when you first started?

DR: Yeah, you know, at the beginning I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness and then the voices that joined me were big business voices, where you know, it was Murdoch, and GE and, you know, all these big corporations and very kind of free market libertarians who saw in the net and the vision of a global networked future, they saw salvation for the NASDAQ stock exchange, they saw a new medium to express the, you know, the righteous war of the free market on all obstacles. So the sort of global society that me and a lot of, sort of, cyber advocates were envisioning became the globalism of open markets; and Wired magazine came and they called it the long boom, that this was part of an economic cycle, what we were seeing, and I always saw it as part of a cultural cycle, so over the course of the 90's as, you know, as interestingly enough, you know the day that Netscape went public was also the day the Jerry Garcia died, and I always saw those two events as kind of tied, it was sort of the death of the counter culture and the birth of this thing that, actually, that were watching collapse around us, you know, at this very moment of this cyber enhanced financial market. So the internet story moved from the society pages and the book pages to the business pages, became the very different story and everybody embraced all this stuff, in some sense more rapidly then I ever thought we would, but also less consciously then I thought we would. When I first went out on the internet I truly believed that anybody who had this internet experience would be instantly transformed, that the internet would be to the 90's what LSD was to the 60's and I would be to the internet what Timothy Leary was to psychedelics, you know, and really cheerlead this stuff. But, what I realized is the same, you can go to the parking lot of an AC/DC concert and see lots of kids taking acid and not discovering world peace. You know, you can find a lot a lot of people going online, not seeing themselves as newly connected to a world of knowledge, but just connected to Amazon and their credit card, or to some, you know, to some Facebook page.

Q: Trying to buy something to expand your mind. Your perspective has kind of changed, you started seeing it less as a universal good.

DR: Um, that was really the moment it started shifting for me was, you know, Netscape went public, and then AOL bought Time Warner, and it's funny, the New York Times called and asked about writing the op-ed for the Times about AOL buying Time Warner, and I wrote this op-ed where I said what this means is that the dot com boom is going to end. That AOL is cashing in its chips and buying a real company with its fake money, and I sort of explained what was going on and the editor called me and she said we cant print this, you know, it's a good thing that AOL's buying Time Warner, it's the, you know the final convergence of the media and its this great thing, and it's like, no, you don't really get the story do you, that AOL is over if they're doing this. They are... and of course it ended up being true, and you know the Guardian of London of all places published that and then like four years later, when AOL was taken off the Time Warner masthead, and it became Time Warner again, the Guardian of London re-published it, saying this is the article that the times wouldn't publish... that was kind of fun. So my point of view shifted. As peoples' interaction online changes, peoples' hands were taken off the keyboard and moved to the mouse as the things that you were supposed to enter were more and more limited to your credit card number and clicking by, as opposed to sharing what you think and feel about the world. I started to get more negative on how it was going, I mean, just as Leary would say about psychedelics, "what matters is your set and your setting." You know, the mindset you're in and the setting in which your introduced to the thing. If your mindset of how you're introduced to the net is because your boss is making you, because your kids are doing something you don't understand, because you've got to buy something, and if your setting is one of being alone in a bedroom in the middle of the night rather than in a room with friends in a cyber cafe and where, or classroom or... and your mileage will vary, you know, as they say online. And your gonna end up with different sorts of experiences... so yeah, for me it was, it had a lot to do with business, I... all my friends in the early 60's counter culture were form another generation, you know, the Stewart Brands and the Howard Rheingolds, the great cyber thinkers that I looked up to, my mentors, were all saying, "yeah but we lived thought the 60's Doug, it doesn't work out like your thinking, there all these other elements at play, its not like you just... not everyone's gonna have your internet experience," and it, you know, it took me 10 years to see that, oh, it's not that the internet is going to change society, it's that the internet's going to amplify society, its going to magnify existing trends, you know, it's not happening in a Petri dish, it's happening in a real with existing cultures. So yeah, it's not just that we're born into the internet, it's that the internet forms this into this world, so it ended up magnifying things about the market, things about our social lives, the sort of... the internet is very cut and dry in a lot of ways, it's very binary and it amplifies things in a direction, so if were already living in a world where relationships have been somewhat commoditized, what's the internet gonna do but turn it into an even more commoditized marketplace? It's just, it's on the one hand the internets like truth serum, but on the other hand the internet is really just an accelerator, it's a catalyst, and it really, it tends to amplify things with almost no governance, with no filter, with no, there's nothing to absorb anything... it's like, it's like, you say something in the real world it's like your saying it... or if you move, if you walk in the world you're walking on carpet, if you walk on the internet you're walking on ice, you know? Not that your gonna fall through, but every step you make, shhhhhhhhh (slipping sound), keeps going beyond where you stopped. You know? Your information keeps spreading without your every intention that you have. It's like, it's like people learning to move in space, in outer space, you know? I just wanted to go here but space doesn't know that, and I keep going. And you go to sleep at night and the thing you posted the night before keeps going. By the time you come back in the morning your waking up into a new world.

Q: Did it hit you more on a personal level when you became a father?

DR: The only thing, the only thing that hit me on a more personal level as a father was wanting to protect my child from my own and my wife's potential errors in cyberspace. Because now everything that I do doesn't just reflect on my own future, but it could reflect on hers. So in my wife's blog, my wife had a very personal blog, much more personal than anything I could have done as I came through the internet, and it's because she came from zine culture, paper zine culture, which are very personal publications and she just translated that personal quality into her online work which turned out to be a mistake because the online world is not as self-selecting as the zine world, you know, and its not as safe, and it mushrooms out much quicker. And, you know, she would put a picture of our daughter and a friend of hers when they can't even walk yet, they're lying on the bed, like for Halloween, and it was just a cute picture though, like 9 months old her first Halloween in costumes that they can't even move in, and someone posts on her blog, "oh your daughter already looks Jewish" and not in the nice way, or that was a really stupid name to give your daughter, and I was like "What?", and it's like, it's not that real people are like that, it's like that there's.... Out of thousands of people there's a couple of really just yahoos out there, but that's not an energy that I'm willing to expose my nine month old to. Or when she's 9 years old, I don't want the first hints that she gets about herself to be tainted by the risks that I've taken in cyberspace. You know, I grew up in cyberspace when it was a safer place, and I did things that I would not do today, and no, I wasn't talking about relationships and all that. I was having real conversations where I was sharing honestly what was going on, you know? But now, if I'm a professional journalist then I'm willing to get attacked, I'm willing to get whacked for what I do out there, but I'm not gonna bring my unprofessional life into that space, so yeah, that changed. I mean, my daughter is not old enough for me to really contend with the kinds of challenges that interactivity will bring her, you know. In preparation for this piece I went and bought a "leap pad??" (18:34) and I thought, "oh I'm going to see my daughter play with her first leap pad." I put it in front of her and showed her how to click on a couple things and she looks up and she says, "Oh daddy I want a real book," like I gave her this compromised book, and I was like, "fine, good." I don't have to, you know. I mean, she knows how to work the remote, you know she knows how to answer my wife's cell phone. I mean, and she's been doing that since she's three so I've got no qualms... I have no question that she'll know how to work, you know, "cafe penguin??" or whatever it is better than I will. But, I mean, part of my reason for moving to a small town, you know, getting out of, you know, the New York City private school and lottery rat race thing is because of the... the acceleration and increase in density of the experiences that young people have today. Partly as a result of net culture, but partly as a result of a weird, highly competitive class war... something that's going on right now. And it felt to me like there would be a dampening effect, a dampening effect to having her walk to school through grass... to walk to school through grass rather than to ride on the subway to school with neon adds shining at her. That... I think that nature does dampen some of the effects of our artificial, recta-linear, highly networked, cathode ray existence. That... that not only is walking in the woods good for depression, but walking past the woods is good for cyber intensity, and I think it could be an antidote to SMS. I know in my experience, going out just on our driveway after I've done... I mean for me e-mail is an awful thing. I get four or five hundred emails a day, of which, so far I still respond to them all... From readers to expect kind of customer service on a book, and then I understand they spent 20 dollars but, it's hours and hours and hours, so after I get down to, you know, when I've only got 60 or 70 left by midnight or one, I go on the back yard, you now, and I see a deer run because I've opened the door, and see some stars and some trees, that gives me a reset in a way that turning on the TV or looking out on the city didn't do for me.

Oh one thing, one thing, one thing that I've done consciously is, I feel like kids model, I feel like... this isn't my idea, that kids model adult behaviors. Ever think of that one. I mean, knowing that kids model adult behaviors I want her to know that when we're at home with each other we are at home with each other. So I don't bring my laptop into communal family spaces, my laptop stays down in my office where I do my work, I don't bring it up, I won't do email in front of her, I won't pull out my, whatever it's called, my PDA, and check email and stuff in front of her. I just won't... I don't want her to see me with divided attention, I don't want her to feel like she's competing with technology for my... So is my working, so is my pooping, so is... you know, it doesn't mean that... When I'm with her my time with her is sacred and my boss, whatever that means cause I'm a freelancer, my boss isn't allowed to intrude on that, you know. My email is not... cause I don't want to end up a family that's sitting in the living room, everybody on... playing with their Facebook pages, I mean, I've seen that and that's... students in my seminars don't do their, don't do their IMing, and if they are then I stop and say well what's wrong with our seminar? Why isn't this interesting to you, why's that. You know, so, no, so there's no, there's no place for it in there.

Q: Do you do anything for fun,or do you just consider it work?

DR: I'm trying to think the last time I used the internet for fun. I was single and desperate... but... no I don't use the internet for fun. I'm sorry to say. And it's, I think it's because my online time has been so taken over by my work, by email, that I don't. You know, and I'm trying to figure out ways to change that. You know, as a so-called advanced internet user, you know, I might finally be at the place where I start to claim my fame exemption, you know, that because I've written a book or shown up on TV I don't have to answer every email, and that it's OK, and that people will understand that. I felt obligated to respond to every email because I wrote books in the 80's and early 90's saying this thing is coming and it's a human space, and I don't want to be inviting people in to a human space then I am unresponsive, but, over the last 20 years the net has changed and I can't be obligated to respond to every human who wants to tap me through this medium, and I have to accept on a certain level they don't, if they do want me to write their junior high school book report for them, they've got to understand that that's not the way it works, you know, and the fact that I didn't respond directly is not... it doesn't mean anything.

That said, there are, like when you know you're, when you're wading through the water in a beach and you come upon a warm pocket sometime, and you just... mysteriously there's like warm water, and you stay there, there's, through all the emails every 100 or 200 emails there's like, oh, there's my friend David showing a picture of him and me together ten years ago at this weird conference we went to, and there's that warm... aaaa, that good feeling, and it's not the vaguest that I've gotten, you know, a bunch of money out of a machine, its not the cold reward of just serotonin being hit, it's actually... it reminds me of what you could get on the internet back in the day, and that people are still getting in cancer support forums, and you know, moms talking about post partum depression... in people that really need to find other people going through the thing that they're going through. You know, drug withdrawal, whatever it is: I'm raising a kid, and having two babies and how do you breast feed both of them at once? You know those kinds of things you find connections that still have the quality of those early internet connections. The early internet connections were really just about, "oh you're here too, you found this place," you know, "hey, its cool, here we are," and that was enough back when.. That was enough.

Q: Lets talk about Digital Nation. Why are you doing this?

DR: The fame and the money. That's what we said right? Oh, besides the fame and the money... Well, we kind of did that, but that the logistics of it are kind of, just, it's too insane to even try to figure out, I don't even know how it came about exactly. There's so many things, there's like Frontline, Verizion and this and Rachel and me and Barak and... Yeah, in a softer way I can say this... I... cheerleaded, I chearled the development of the net and personal computing for a decade, then I sat back for a decade and watched all sorts of things happen to it that I liked and didn't like. And now I feel like I am one of the digital immigrants I was writing about in Playing the Future in 1996. That I am less a native of the cyber realm than I am an immigrant to a place where I don't get to feel fully human. Where I feel like there's something off that I can't put my finger on. There's an anxiety, there's clearly... there's unanticipated consequences of the proliferation of the internet and a lot of them I could have predicted, a lot of them I understood going in. There were things we're gonna have to wrestle with. I understood that our lack of literacy and media literacy was going to be a real problem as kids grew up in a world with so much lying, and so much privacy invasion, and so many issues to content with. But, there is a... not a life behind the screen but a kind of death behind the screen if you will. There's a kind of, there's a chaos attractor in there. There's a pole, there's a vacuum, there's something cyber that feels as if it is extracting something, some vital life energy and not replacing it. And it could be because I just don't get it, you know, of all people the person who begged everyone to get it. Or it could be that there are factors at play that we don't yet understand, that we're like Ma-clue-in described it as people in any media age is, you know, fish swimming in water. How do you get a fish to describe the water, you know, it's in it, it doesn't know? That now that we're in this thing, I kind want to push the pause button, I kind of want to go like Samantha on Bewitched and go Bam, and everything stops and we can look and say "just what's going on here? What?" And the luxury of doing a documentary is that you are, and the, the horror of doing a documentary, is that your forced to freeze time. You are forced to look squarely at what is going on here, what are these real people's experience of what's happening, what's my real experience of these people? How honest can I be about what I am feeling right now and how accurately can I communicate that to all the people watching this? And it's a scary place to go because of just how much trepidation I have and how much potential guilt I'm going to have in ten years of cheerleading this stuff? I mean, how many people, you know, how many people are online because of something I said or wrote, or said "come on in the waters fine?" I'm sure I've wrote articles with that as the headline: "come on in the waters fine, cyberspace is great." And it's not like we're going in to cyberspace, it's like cyberspace came around us. So it's much less of a conscious journey that people are taking, that I can hold their hands and say, "Lets go in to cyberspace together and see what we like." No, it's everywhere. Our kids on their phones on the things in the classrooms. It's everywhere. So what is it like to live in a world that cyberspace has taken over is a very different question from what is it like to embark on conscious vision quests through the internet realm, which is sort of what I was looking at 20 years ago. Does that answer the question? It's honest... OK. I'm trying to be as unknowing as I can be. OK.

R: Are you trying to get some more concrete stuff about the documentary and the website....

DR: OK. I mean what, what we're doing, one thing were doing. I mean this is, this is much more a media, this is more a media project occurring in time than it is a documentary. You know the documentary will be the sort of the culmination of the process, or the documentation of an experience that we're really having, hopefully with the rest of the United States the same, at the same time. We're launching a website where we're going to try to create as many opportunities and touch points for people to engage with these issues and ideas as deeply as we are... Or deeper if they want to go that way. So we're really looking to create some really short, compelling pieces about, you know, different kinds of experiences, different edge experiences and different... even very pedestrian experiences, deconstructed to the point to show just how intense they are. So on the one hand we might go into a military virtual training facility to show an edge experience, we can also go and show someone whose just broken up with his girlfriend and then scowered through his Facebook page over a period of 36 hours to disconnect every tag and every photo that he's been in... to show two extremely intense experiences and use them as touch points for conversation, for contribution for people upload their own video, their own contributions, and really see how many people we can engage in this kind of real time assessment of where we are... this conversation, this... almost a safe haven, you know, to say "How are you doing?" You know, "How you doing?" It's like a moment in the trip where you just kind of, you know, touch the person next to you and go "You OK? What's going on for you in this thing?" "Oh man, well I'm a little freaked out about this." You know and that's... it's a healthy thing.

Q: So you want this to be some kind of reality check, is that kind of what your thinking..step back instead of..?

DR: Yeah. I mean, I think a reality check is too optimistic a possibility at this time, you know. I think we're... the dividing line between the reality and the not reality is almost gone. But I am interested. It's a little binary to go this far, but to say, you know, I mean I'm personally interested in: do we like where this is going or not? But, it's kind of too polar a question to ask. Instead, I think it's better to ask, you know, different people, sort of "What's working for you and what's not? When are you feeling comfortable, when are you not? How is your life enhanced, where's, you know. What is our common experience of what's going on? What does it mean to be living in a place like this?" Just sort of "What's happening yet?" I mean, the question I keep asking myself is, "Are we there yet?" You know, "Are we there yet, or are we just in the baby step of this other thing that's going to happen?" You know, with digital implants and god knows what. And some of the real basic questions are, you know: are we getting addicted to these things? Are these technologies asking stuff of us that... and are we providing our technology with things that we really wouldn't mean too? If we thought about it consciously, are our relationships being, are they being enhanced? I mean, on the one hand I know people are finding wives and husbands online, and meaningful stuff that way. But on the other hand, it's like we feel like we're spending too much time there. You know, online too much and don't have time for my family. So it's really, these kinds of things that I think people are thinking about a lot. But, I, we want to give it a bit more time, a bit more considered approach. You know, talk to some experts who were really looking at this. The psychiatrists, the technologists who were really looking at what do we actually know about what it means if you spend 50 hours online versus if you spend 5. How are you different, how are you not? How is the cyber enhanced classroom better or worse than a non cyber enhanced classroom? Why does the military using this stuff so boldly, and what are the side effects of using all this stuff in training or for post traumatic stress disorder? And what does all that then really mean about the kinds of decisions that we want to make in a moment to moment basis about how this technology impinges on our lives. How does this in my life? I mean, do I want a GPS in my car or not? For me as immediate there is that is always been a religious question. Right? For most people its like, "Can I afford it?" "Yeah, put it in." But what is that mean? You know. Do... will I let my cell phone vibrate when I'm at dinner with this person or not? You know? Will I let my Blackberry ding in messages? Will I check it or not? You know? And, "will I check my Blackberry or not?" to me is a question that can't be answered until we really understand why is that kid in Korea addicted to playing videogames.

We went to a kind of research facility in California, part of USC, where they're making a post traumatic stress disorder routine for soldiers who come back from the war and are all freaked out by seeing people get blown up. And it's a virtual reality simulator where you sit in an armored car and it's a really crude looking animation where you go through and you see things. You can see someone get blown up, you can see different things. It's like a little video game that you go though. And they use it as a... to start to initiate conversation between the patient and the psychotherapist to help them get over post traumatic stress disorder. And we started doing it and I said, "Oh god," you know, "this reminds me of," you know, "when I was 25, my best friend was driving, we were on a cross country trip and he fell asleep at the wheel, we hit a tree in the desert and he got impaled and died next to me in the car." And I mentioned that, and I said this experience is interesting how it brings that up. And for about a week afterwards I was having nightmares about the car crash that I was in. Nightmares that I hadn't had since 1986 when it happened. And it was odd because I realized the technology was extremely crude and simple but what you bring to bear in a technology enhanced experience can really... has a lot to do with what happened. So if we sat here and just talked and said, oh, I mentioned, you know, I had a car accident with my friend and whatever, and I'm being shot on a camera, it's one thing. But somehow this simmu... doing it in the simulation, doing it in VR magnifies, amplifies, brings something up, stirs something out.... That there's, on that microcosmic personal level, unintended consequences of that encounter. And it makes me wonder, so then if you take a whole society and drop it into the internet and let it bring to bear what it is going to bring to bear as we confront our problems and relationships online, what do you get? What collective dream state to you get? What collective future do you reap by doing that? It makes me wonder.

Q: Why don't you talk about the lights, thats a great visual.

DR: I went in this thing with lights, and this thing, it's funny. This thing is so like... To this film and project this thing is kind of like that, that globe thing in that 64 worlds fair. You know, that globe thing in queens. It's this big round thing with lots of lights that a guy made and what it does is it simulates every different kind, well actually creates every kind of light sourcing on a person, so that then they can make a virtual version of that person. Right, so it's all these different light bulbs spinning around in all these ways, with all these computers counting everything so they know the way every kind of light source would reflect against my body, so they could put my body in any scene and have it look realistic in there. Not just like this, you know, even 3D static thing. And I mean my main objective, because I was in there like 40 minutes, was just not to get a migraine in there. I mean, cause it really... it's a painful experience. But I had the feeling that even though I know it kind of had nothing to do with the net per se, it's just something about that thing, that the idea of digitizing a person and sticking them online which seems like the... in some sense the Orwellian endpoint of our internet adventure. It's like we are either going to be replaced by virtual versions of ourselves that live out our lives for us, or were going to be crafty enough to create virtual versions of ourselves that can go do all that net stuff so we can go back on the beach and have sex and enjoy each other again. It feels like, it's almost like, got to be one of those two at this point. That things are going so far so fast, that those are the only two ways off the treadmill.

Q: Are you looking forward to there being a virtual Doug?

DR: As long as... I'm looking forward to there being a virtual Doug as long as he does what I say. You know? And doesn't do what I don't. I mean, in what were learning about the internet is that you don't even need to build the bot to have something going out and doing things on your behalf that you don't know about. You know... it's that ice skating thing. It's that follow through, that... I'm going to spin that way in the world. Every word you say still echoes, you know. George Washington's words are sill echoing. But, on the internet they echo audibly and discernibly and traceably. So it's different. Things move much much faster, there's much less time to consider what you do, and everything you do is absolutely permanent.

Q: What are you hoping to learn this year?

DR: I'm hoping to find out that humanity is resilient and that most of us are deeply connected enough to a core sense of what it means to be human and compassionate, that no amount of technological immersion can alienate us from that essential truth about ourselves. I want to be allayed of the fear that the internet, because of when it was introduced into our society, will end up amplifying false notions of self-interest and individuality and fear and anger and fragmentation, that would do us in as a society. So, I want to find out that the good outweighs the bad, that there's light at the end of the tunnel. That when push comes to shove people will use an interconnected technology to connect rather than disconnect.

posted march 24, 2009

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