#rp23 keynote speaker Douglas Rushkoff: Survival of the richest

31.05.2023 - About the Silicon Valley mindset, super-rich preppers and why tech billionaires are powerful but want to maintain the status quo.
Douglas Rushkoff
Photo Credit
Iain Marcks/WGBH

A few years ago, Douglas Rushkoff had a key experience when he was invited by five mysterious billionaires to a desert resort. The topic of the private talk was how to survive the “Event”: the alleged societal catastrophe they know is coming. Rushkoff came to understand that these men were under the influence of “The Mindset”, a Silicon Valley–style certainty that they and their cohort can break the laws of physics, economics, and morality to escape a disaster of their own making—as long as they have enough money and the right technology. 

Douglas became interested in the increasingly rich and powerful techno-optimists, asking the question: Why do we live in a world alive with algorithms that actively reward our most selfish tendencies?

In Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, he traces the origins of “The Mindset” in science and technology through its current expression in missions to Mars, island bunkers, AI futurism, and the metaverse. His latest book confronts the utopian belief in technology as a panacea, and explains why those with the most power to change our current trajectory have no interest in doing so.

Named one of the “world’s ten most influential intellectuals” by MIT, Douglas Rushkoff is an author and documentarian who studies human autonomy in a digital age. Already in his 1994 debut book "Cyberia: Life in the Trenches of Hyperspace", he predicted the cultural and social implications of emerging technologies. Rushkoff’s second book "Media Virus! Hidden Agendas in Popular Culture" deals with manipulation in an information-driven age and helped popularise the concept of “memes” going “viral”. Other publications include the recent Team Human, based on his podcast, and the bestsellers Present Shock, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, and Life Inc. He also made the PBS Frontline documentaries Generation Like, The Persuaders, and Merchants of Cool. His book Coercion won the Marshall McLuhan Award, and the Media Ecology Association honoured him with the first Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity.

Douglas’ work explores how different technological environments change our relationship to narrative, money, power, and one another. He has been a leading voice for applying digital media toward social and economic justice. He serves as a research fellow of the Institute for the Future, and founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism at CUNY/Queens, where he is a Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics. He is a columnist for Medium, and his novels and comics, Ecstasy Club, A.D.D, and Aleister & Adolf, are all being developed for the screen.

Douglas will be joining us remotely at #rp23. We’re already very excited about his live conversation with Geraldine de Bastion on the escape fantasies of the tech billionaires!