How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity
* Book: Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity. by Douglas Rushkoff. Portfolio, 2016
URL = 
"Digital technology was supposed to usher in a new age of distributed prosperity, but so far it has been used to put industrial capitalism on steroids. It’s not technology’s fault, but that of an extractive, growth-driven, economic operating system that has reached the limits of its ability to serve anyone, rich or poor, human or corporate. Robots threaten our jobs while algorithms drain our portfolios. But there must be a better response to the lopsided returns of the digital economy than to throw rocks at the shuttle buses carrying Google employees to their jobs, as protesters did in December 2013.
In this groundbreaking book, acclaimed media scholar and technology author Douglas Rushkoff calls on us to abandon the monopolist, winner-takes-all values we are unwittingly embedding into the digital economy, and to embrace the more distributed possibilities of these platforms. He shows how we can optimize every aspect of the economy—from central currency and debt to corporations and labor—to create sustainable prosperity for business and people alike."
"The digital economy has gone wrong. Everybody knows it, but no one knows quite how to fix it, or even how to explain the problem. Workers lose to automation, investors lose to algorithms, musicians lose to power law dynamics, drivers lose to Uber, neighborhoods lose to Airbnb, and even tech developers lose their visions to the demands of the startup economy.
Douglas Rushkoff argues that it doesn’t have to be this way. This isn’t the fault of digital technology at all, but the way we are deploying it: instead of building the distributed digital economy these new networks could foster, we are doubling down on the industrial age mandate for growth above all. As Rushkoff shows, this is more the legacy of early corporatism and central currency than a feature of digital technology. In his words, “we are running a 21st century digital economy on a 13th Century printing-press era operating system.”
In Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Rushkoff shows how we went wrong, why we did it, and how we can reprogram the digital economy and our businesses from the inside out to promote sustainable prosperity for pretty much everyone. Rushkoff calls on business to:
• Accept that era of extractive growth is over. Rather, businesses must – like eBay and Kickstarter – give people the ability to exchange value and invest in one another.
• Eschew platform monopolies like Uber in favor of distributed, worker-owned co-ops, orchestrated through collective authentication systems like bitcoin and blockchains instead of top-down control.
• Resist the short-term, growth-addicted mindset of publicly traded markets, by delivering dividends instead of share price increases, or opting to stay private or buy back one’s own shares.
• Recognize contributions of land and labor as important as capital, and develop business ecosystems that work more like family companies, investing in the local economies on which they ultimately depend.
Rushkoff calls on us to reboot this obsolete economic operating system and use the unique distributive power of the internet to break free of the winner-take-all game defining business today. A fundamentally optimistic book, THROWING ROCKS AT THE GOOGLE BUS culminates with a series of practical steps to remake the economic operating system from the inside out—and prosper along the way." (http://www.rushkoff.com/books/throwing-rocks-at-the-google-bus/)
Douglas Rushkoff, interviewed by ERIN LYNCH:
* "Your new book, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, examines your thoughts around the digital economy and how you believe it’s currently on the wrong track. What, in your opinion, have been the biggest mis-steps in the development of this digital transaction space?
I guess the biggest mis-step is for innovators to focus on “disrupting” one small sector, without ever questioning the underlying business processes. So they may develop a technology that disrupts music or journalism, but then they run to a venture fund or Goldman Sachs to get on the track to be acquired or having an IPO. So the problem is that everyone is keen on creating new operating systems for one thing or another, but no one is questioning the bigger operating system on which all of this is occurring: capitalism.
Now capitalism itself isn’t so bad – as long as investors realize that there are factors of production that must be valued other than the capital. Traditionally, as long as there has been economics, we’ve recognized the factors of production to be land, labor and capital. All three are required to make business work. But capital – money – is the only one of those factors that can be digitized and scale up. And so it’s the only contribution that gets valued. The people putting in the money end up the only ones who own a piece of the pie.
* As a follow up to that question, of those mis-steps, which do you think are the easiest to change in order to right the ship? And even more to the point, can it be righted?
The easiest path to a fix is to recognize that there are more stakeholders than the investors. You could start with the workers. Let the people using a platform be its owners. Distribute just 10% of Uber’s shares to the drivers. That would be the first step toward adopting a business model that seeks to create wealth rather than simply extract it." (http://www.webvisionsevent.com/2016/01/the-throes-of-change-an-interview-with-douglas-rushkoff/)
Interview conducted by Jesse Hicks:
"* What made you write a book about the failings of the digital economy?
I got the idea the day that Twitter went public, when I saw my friend, one of the co-founders, on the cover of the Wall Street Journal with the number of billions he made that day. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sorry for him. Yes, he was rich, and he had disrupted the communications industry—but he was surrendering all that disruption to the biggest, baddest industry on the block: finance.
Worse, Twitter would have to somehow deliver impossible returns to its new investors. They were demanding growth. So even today, Twitter—which earns half a billion dollars a quarter—is considered an abject failure by Wall Street.
Worst of all, this obligation to grow has turned otherwise promising companies into extractive monopolies. In order to grow, they use scorched-earth practices that take value from people and places and turn it into capital for their shareholders. This growth mandate is cause for the increasing disparity of wealth, and it has been energized and accelerated by digital technology. Digital technology was supposed to distribute this wealth to more people, not impoverish the many for the wealth of a few.
* The main target of your critique is what you call “the growth trap.” Since at least the birth of the corporation, you argue, our economic thinking has been dominated by an unrelenting drive for growth: Companies have to continue to extract more and more value in order to be seen as successful. You suggest that we’ve reached a point where this is no longer tenable—and that digital technology in particular can enable a new way of thinking. Can you explain the growth trap and how it undergirds our current thinking?
Well, it takes a whole book to explain this properly, because the requirement for companies to grow really traces all the way back to the institution of interest-bearing currency, which requires that the economy grow in order for that interest to be paid back.
Today, the equivalent of those bankers are shareholders. They expect not just interest, but tremendous returns on their initial investments. They witnessed the success of Facebook and Google and want those sorts of returns, too. So they put money into a company like Twitter, and then expect to earn back 100 or 1,000 times on their original investment. The fact that Twitter makes 500 million dollars a quarter is considered an abject failure by the investors. And so Twitter must look for some way to “pivot”—that is, change from a super successful company that lets people send 140-character messages, into something else.
Regular companies are in the same position. Pepsi, McDonald’s, Exxon all have shareholders who demand that the share price go up—that the company grow. And the bigger these companies get, the harder it is for them to grow. They are already worth billions of dollars. In fact, corporate profits over total value have been declining for over 75 years.
The CEOs of these companies read my articles about getting out of the growth trap, and they call me begging for the way out. They all know they can’t keep growing at the rate demanded by their shareholders. They can fake it a while, but in the end, these scorched-earth policies just kill the markets and consumers on which they’re depending. Well, in the real end, they end up extracting all the value out of people and places until there’s nothing left.
Growth depends on expansion. Not just that, but on accelerating expansion. You have to grow faster and faster. And it’s just not possible for companies of this size to do that. They must instead learn to pay shareholders with dividends. Run themselves like family businesses, for the long term.
* You noted that at the beginning of the Net, there were serious and deeply felt expectations that it might not become, as you’ve characterized it, a strip mall. Today we have “social media” that basically recruits people to become marketers to their friends, and a “sharing economy” driven by the idea that if you’re not monetizing every bit of your time, you’re wasting it. Does it feel different this time—that this time there might be a role for the Net to play in genuinely reimagining our economic world?
Well, the thing that feels different to me is that pretty much everyone sees that it’s not sustainable. How can everyone get paid to advertise? What’s left to advertise? Marketing has never ever accounted for more than 3 or 4 percent of GDP. And now it’s supposed to be our main industry? That, and finance? They’re both abstractions. When we see a company as successful as Twitter failing, we come to understand that the model itself is broken.
As for “sharing,” Uber drivers taught us that this is a crock. The unemployed gig drivers of Uber are now as smart about labor politics as the cabbies from London. Uber’s monopoly and policies have been rendered so transparent.
And yes, while I’m not a techno-solutionist, I do believe that networking technologies could enable much more distributed prosperity. The digital economy, so far, is just corporate industrialism on steroids: extract value from people and places. Digital companies are like software programmed to take currency out of circulation, and deliver it up to shareholders. They could just as easily—more easily, in fact—be optimized to promote the circulation of currency. Most simply stated, less like Amazon, more like eBay. It’s as simple as letting Uber drivers have shares in the company, proportionate to the amount of work they’ve done. And that would be pretty easy to calculate and authenticate with something like a blockchain. Networking technologies are biased toward more distributed solutions. That’s what they were originally built for.
But the real problem here is that our technology development is driven solely by the needs of capital.
* The book’s title comes from an incident in which protesters in Oakland, frustrated by the way Silicon Valley companies are remaking the social fabric of San Francisco, threw rocks at the private buses that ferry Google employees to work. What did that event clarify for you, and why do you think those rocks were aimed in the wrong direction?
I don’t know that rocks needed to be thrown in any direction. Not just yet. The original protests did not involve rocks, and were entirely well-founded. Still are. Google and other Silicon Valley companies are behaving like foreign corporations. Workers move into SF, impacting rents, driving local businesses out of the neighborhood. Then they use public bus stops to take private buses to workplaces outside the city.
“The whole ‘startup’ process is really just the old wine of venture capital in a new digital bottle. These companies are built to be sold.” And this crisis of poor wealth distribution is both real and symbolic of a bigger disappointment we all have with the poorly distributed gains of the digital economic boom. I try not to blame individuals for this—as if there are some mean people making this happen. They’re not mean so much as clueless. They have built very disruptive—positively disruptive— businesses, but haven’t disrupted the economic operating system on which they are operating. They are not truly digital companies so much as industrial companies running on digital steroids.
* You point to the popularity of books such as The Second Machine Age as evidence that despite being in an entirely new economic environment, we’re still saddled with thinking from the Industrial Age. Why is that the case, and what’s the new kind of thinking that we ought to be embracing?
It’s only natural for our first response to be reactionary. Most books on how to thrive in a new economy are really about how to maintain a traditional industrial corporation. The whole “startup” process is really just the old wine of venture capital in a new digital bottle. These companies are built to be sold. And their revenue, when they even have it, is based on the company’s ability to extract value—not their ability to create it.
* Where do we look for hope that we can shake off dead ideas and adapt to the new environment we’re in the process of creating?
We look for hope right there in the despair. Every person who can’t get a job at a big corporation is another person who gets to figure out how to create and exchange value in the real world. Every person who can’t get a loan is another person willing to consider how alternative currencies, favor banks, and the commons work. Every town whose economy has been trashed by a corporation is another community about to learn that the only things you need for a thriving economy are people with skills and people with needs.
The moment we stop optimizing the digital economy for the growth of capital, and optimize it for the circulation of value between people, everything will start to get better really fast." (http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-sections/features-issue-sections/15982/douglas-rushkoff-throwing-rocks-at-the-google-bus-interview/)
"an interview I did with myself about my book",
* Q. Your title is provocative. Are you saying we should throw rocks at the Google Bus?
A. No - but the real protests by San Francisco residents struggling to afford to remain in their city do epitomize the way the tech economy has failed on its promise. Instead of making the world easier and more livable, it ended up doing the same old extraction. Google was the ultimate success story of the people’s revolution against corporate capitalism: two kids in a Stanford dorm room, writing an algorithm that took down Yahoo, and used the links between people to organize information from the bottom up. Now, it was using public bus stops for its private buses, transporting alien employees to the mothership in Mountainview.
The promise was a p2p economy, as distributed as the networks themselves. The reality has been a doubling down on the same old extractive, growth-based capitalism.
* Q. What’s wrong with growth? Isn’t that what every company wants?
A. Growth is fine if it’s organic to your marketplace. But not if it’s simply a way of satisfying your debt structure. Twitter is considered a failure with $2 billion of revenue a year, because it can’t find more growth. Great, sustainable companies must pivot away from revenue in order grow. I was at an executive retreat of a Fortune 100 company where the CEO had his minions chanting “5.2!”, the percent growth target for the coming year. When I got up to do my keynote, I couldn’t help but ask if one of the world’s twenty biggest corporations must still grow in order to be okay, then isn’t there a problem, here? Eventually, you run up against the limits of physical reality.
That’s why GE sold off is washing machine business in the 90s. Jack Welch realized the company could only have a sustainable business by selling people washing machines, but that it could grow by lending people the money they needed to buy washing machines. So they sold off their productive assets and became a bank. Jeff Imelt, the current CEO, is working hard to reverse all that today and to become a value-creating enterprise.
* Q. So companies shouldn’t financialize. Is that what you’re saying?
A. Yes. But most startups are really just that: ideas that can be sold at a higher price to a new round of investors. It’s “flip this startup.” Get to IPO or acquisition.
Young developers aren’t aware of the financial operating system on which their companies are running. They think that’s just “business,” when it’s a very particular model of VC: one that recognizes the importance capital but ignores the other two factors of production, land and labor.
And that makes them act in irrational and extractive ways. Amazon destroys the book market; Uber destroys the cab industry - not to create a marketplace but to establish a “platform monopoly” they can leverage into another vertical.
The real product of these companies is their stock. The original idea - the platform or app or device - is really just a marketing tool for the stock. So many great young developers have surrendered their ideas and their missions to their investors. The investors don’t want a sustainable company - or at least they don’t care about that. They just want to sell their stock and get the capital gains.
* Q. Is this unique to Startups? Digital companies?
A. No - but digital companies, and the speed at which this is all taking place, has laid this bare. Made it apparent.
The Deloitte Shift Index of 2011 showed corporate profit over growth has been declining for 75 years. That means companies are great at taking all the chips off the table but terrible at deploying assets. It’s a form of corporate obesity. They bankrupt their marketplaces, and end up holding n the money. That’s not good for business. They have to become holding companies, themselves. That’s what Google did when it became Alphabet: they went from being a technology company to becoming a holding company that buys and sells technology companies.
When you look at Amazon, Uber, Facebook, and the other digital behemoths out there, you come to realize that these are not companies in the traditional sense of the word. Digital companies are essentially pieces of software that convert circulating currency into static capital - into share price.
- Q. Okay, then. What should they do differently?
A. I’ve got six main suggestions.
• Take less money. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but if you want to have a company that answers to no one, and is allowed to make money for a whole long time by selling goods and services, then take less capital to begin with. Go for the lowest valuation possible, because then it will be easier to fulfill your investors expectations. If you get a high valuation - say 50 million dollars - and your investors are expecting a 100x return, that means your company has to become worth $5 billion for investors to be happy. If you don’t reach that size, they would rather the company die. A single or a double is not sufficient. It’s a home run or nothing.
• Make “them” rich. This means to make your customers, employees, and suppliers wealthy. Don’t take the traditional Walmart approach of squeezing everyone else until they’re bankrupt. When your customers have no money, they can’t spend it with you. When your cab drivers can’t pay their rent, they can’t drive for you. When your suppliers can’t make a profit selling to you - even if you are the monopoly player - they go out of business. Then you can’t make money off your marketplace, because it is gone. So instead, create platforms that let others profit by engaging with you. Whether that’s giving your uploaders a better share of the ad revenue from their videos, or giving your drivers a livable wage.
• Promote flow over growth. We have to get off growth and start looking at how to optimize for the velocity of currency. More transactions. Instead of taking ten dollars off the table, think of how to make the same dollar ten times. If you’re focused on revenue instead of growth, consider delivering dividends to your shareholders instead of capital gains. Also look at bounded investing, like the US Steelworkers did with their retirement accounts: they invested in construction projects that hired steelworkers. They invested, and made the same money back.
• Experiment with new models. Banks can offer half their business loans in cash contingent on a borrower’s ability to raise the other half with a crowdfunding app supplied by the bank. Then the bank is becoming something more than the monopoly lender; it’s also the facilitator of local economic development. Or Walmart could experiment by setting aside one aisle for locally produced goods.
• Platform cooperatives. Imagine if Uber’s drivers owned 50% of the company. Then they wouldn’t be doing the R&D for a robot driving company that they don’t own. They’d be investing their work for their own futures. Or consider giving employees real participation in your enterprise - not just silly options that only work if you’re a unicorn. Real, ongoing, ownership in the company that isn’t dependent on a freak sale.
• Finally, consider cutting the employees in on their increased productivity. If you can cut the work week down to four days, why reduce their salary as well? Why deliver all the gains to the shareholders, and put the employees at risk? Our relationship to work is backwards; we use “employment” as a way to justify letting people partake of what we already have in abundance. We are tearing down houses in California because we can’t find enough people with “jobs” to justify letting them live in them.
* Q. Is there a role for government or policy?
A. Mainly, reverse tax punishment for dividends vs. capital gains. Charge low tax on dividends and revenue; charge high tax on capital gains. This will lead shareholders to stop pushing for growth and start looking for sustainable revenues.
* Q. Finally, you see this as a pivotal historical moment? Explain.
A. Yes. As I see it, it’s a new renaissance - but much different from the last one. The original renaissance was great in many ways, but it quashed a thriving p2p marketplace, and replaced it with the chartered monopoly and central currency. It set in motion the monopolistic, growth-based, extractive, colonial corporate economy in which we live. Think Conquistadors, British East India Trading Company, and Walmart. These days, that has translated into Google/NSA, Amazon, and Uber.
But we may just be in a new renaissance.
Think of the parallels:
- Printing press / Internet
- Circumnavigate globe / orbit the planet
- Perspective painting / hologram, fractal
The list goes on.
A renaissance is an opportunity to retrieve - literally re-naissance or “re-birth” - the mechanisms and ideals suppressed in the last renaissance. In the case of the last Renaissance, the things that got rebirthed were the centrality and empire of ancient Greece and Rome. Meanwhile, it wiped out the commons, p2p trade, and distributed prosperity. The medieval marketplace and its local currencies were legally and forcibly shut down.
So in a digital renaissance, we see some of those mechanisms retrieved. We don’t go back to the Middle Ages, but we bring forward some of their long-repressed innovations, such as the commons, p2p trade, alternative currencies, and distributed prosperity.
After all, digital really means the digits - the fingers. It’s a restoration of our productive capability as well as our ability to transact directly. Networks make the old marketplace finally scalable. Land and labor are brought back into the equation, along with capital rather than just “externalized.”
We finally have the choice whether to use technology to optimize humanity for the marketplace or use to technology to optimize the market for humanity." (ruskhkoff mailing list, October 2016)
Rebooting Work: Programming the Economy for People
"Digital and robotic technologies offer us both a bounty of productivity as well as welcome relief from myriad repeatable tasks. Unfortunately, as our economy is currently configured, both of these seeming miracles are also big problems. How do we maintain market prices in a world with surplus productivity? And, even more to the point, how do we employ people when robots are taking all the jobs?
Back in the 1940’s, when computers were completing their very first cycles, the father of “cybernetics,” Norbert Wiener, began to worry about what these thinking technologies might mean for the human employees who would someday have to compete with them. His concern for “the dignity and rights of the worker” in a technologized marketplace were decried as communist sympathizing, and he was shunned from most science and policy circles.
Although it may still sound like heresy today, Wiener realized that if we didn’t change the underlying operating system of our economy – the very nature and structure of employment and compensation – our technologies may not serve our economic prosperity as positively as we might hope.
As we wrestle with the bounty of productivity as well as the displacement of employees by digital technologies, we may consider the greater operating system on which they’re all running. If we do, we may come to see that the values of the industrial economy are not failing under the pressures of digital technology. Rather, digital technology is expressing and amplifying the embedded values of industrialism.
It’s time we have the conversation toward which Wiener was pushing us, and challenge some of the underlying assumptions of human employment. The current anxiety over the future of work may be inspired by the increasing processing power of computers and networks, or even the platform monopolies of Amazon and Uber. But it has its roots in mechanisms much older than these technologies – mechanisms set in motion at the onset of industrialism, in the 13th century.
Looked at in terms of human value creation, the industrial economy appears to have been programmed to remove human beings from the value chain. Before the Industrial Age, the former peasants of feudalism were enjoying a terrific economic expansion. Yes, in spite of the way they’ve been chronicled by Renaissance court historians, the very late Middle Ages were actually a boom time. The Crusaders had just returned from their global treks, having established trade routes through which the goods of many lands could travel. They also returned with new technologies for agriculture and trade, including the bazaar – a marketplace for the exchange of crafts, crops, grain and meat, which used new financial instruments such as grain receipts and market money.
But as the peasants got wealthy exchanging goods and services, the aristocracy got relatively poorer. So they re-established control over the economy by outlawing market moneys and chartering monopolies with dominion over particular industries. So now, instead of making shoes himself, the local cobbler had to get a job at the officially chartered monopoly company. Thus what we think of as “employment” was born – less an opportunity than a restriction on creating value.
Instead of selling his shoes, the cobbler sold his hours – a form of indenture previously known only to slaves. Worse, his skills were not valued. The owners of proto-factories saw in industrial processes a way to hire cheaper workers, with less leverage against them. Why hire a skilled craftsman when you can break down the shoe-making into tiny steps, each capable of being taught to a day laborer in 15 minutes?
Viewed in this light the Industrial Age may have had no more to do with making products better or more efficiently than simply removing human beings from the value equation, and monopolizing wealth at the top. Automation reduced the economy’s dependence on the laboring classes. Those few tasks that still required humans could go to the lowest bidder – ideally in countries too far away for the human toll to be noticed by potential customers.
The only business priority these companies understood was growth. That’s largely because their own solvency was based on paying interest to nobles chartering and later to the banks financing them. But today, growth has become an end in itself—the engine of the economy—and humans have come to be understood as impediments to its functioning. If only people and our idiosyncratic demands could be eliminated, business would be free to reduce costs, increase consumption, extract more value, and grow.
This is one of the primary legacies of the Industrial Age, when the miraculous efficiency of machines appeared to offer us a path to infinite growth—at least to the extent that human interference could be minimized. Applying this ethos in a digital age means replacing the receptionist with a computer, the factory worker with a robot, and the manager with an algorithm. When digital companies disrupt an existing industry, they tend to offer just one new job for every 10 they render obsolete.
If we want a digital economy that gets people back to work, we have to program it for something very different. The word digital itself refers to the digits—the 10 fingers – that we humans use to build, to count, and to program computers in the first place. That we should now witness a renaissance in makers, crafts and artisanal production is no coincidence. The digital landscape encourages production from the periphery, lateral trade, and the distribution of wealth. Instead of depending on centralized institutions for sustenance, we begin to depend on one another.
Where the corporations of the past depended on government regulation to maintain their monopolies, today’s digital companies do it through the monopoly of the platforms themselves. Today’s digital behemoths are not factories but networks whose embedded programming controls the landscape on which interactions take place. In a sense, Uber is software designed to extract labor and capital (in the form of automobiles) from drivers and convert it into share price for its investors. It is not an opportunity to exchange value so much as to do the R&D for a future network of robotic cars, without even offering a share in the ownership.
Thankfully, the remedies are varied. Unlike the one-size-fits-all solutions of the Industrial Age, distributed prosperity in a digital age won’t scale infinitely. Rather, the solutions gain their traction and power by reconnecting people and rewriting business plans from the perspective of serving human stakeholders rather than abstracted share values.
Yes, on the surface most of them sound idealistic or even socialist, but they are being tried by companies and communities around the world, and with documented success. Among the many I explore in my upcoming book on the subject are letting employees share in increased productivity by reducing their workweek -- at the same rate of pay. Or contending with overproduction by implementing a guaranteed minimum income. Or retrieving the Papal concepts of “distributism” and “subsidiarity,” through which workers are required to own the means of production, and companies grow only as large as they need to in order to fulfill their purpose. Growth for growth’s sake is discouraged.
Many companies today – from ridesharing app Lazooz to Walmart competitor WinCo – are implementing worker-owned “platform cooperatives” to replace platform monopolies, allowing those contributing land or labor to an enterprise to earn an ownership share equal to those contributing just capital.
Finally, distributing the spoils of distributed technologies means accepting the good news: there may simply be fewer employment opportunities for people. We must remember that employment may really just be an artifact of an old system – the reactionary move of a bunch of nobles who were afraid for people to create value for themselves.
Once we’re no longer conflating the idea of “work” with that of “employment,” we are free to create value in ways unrecognized by the current growth-based market economy. We can teach, farm, feed, care for and even entertain one another. The work challenge is not a problem of scarcity but a spoil of riches. It’s time we learn to deal with it that way."
The Digital Renaissance as Neo-Medievalism
Douglas Rushkoff, interviewed by ERIN LYNCH:
* In one of your recent lectures at The New School you talked about the initial purposes of the industrial age, one of which was to remove peer-to-peer transaction. Do you see that reversing and what would be the overall benefits of it?
I see almost everything about the industrial age being reversed by the things being “retrieved” by the digital age. A renaissance means old, repressed ideas being reborn (re-naissance) in a new context. So industrialism really came out of the last renaissance, which was largely about rebirthing the ideas of ancient Greece and Rome: centralization of authority, empire, and expansion.
Today’s renaissance would retrieve the medieval values (not the lifestyle!) that were stamped out by the renaissance: crafts, peer-to-peer trading at the market, local value creation…even craft beers! Really, it’s no coincidence that the cultural expressions of the digital age – like Burning Man and etsy – share so many medieval qualities.
The benefits of reversing the dehumanizing bias of the industrial age – the drive to reduce human involvement and intervention in production and expansion – is to put the economy and technology back in the service of human beings, instead of letting them continue to devalue us. Because today’s technologies are so much more powerful than they were in the era of the steam engine. If we program them to remove human interference, this time they may be able to do it." (http://www.webvisionsevent.com/2016/01/the-throes-of-change-an-interview-with-douglas-rushkoff/)