In the 1970s, future shock was a huge issue. Theorists feared that technology was progressing so quickly that people would soon be unable to keep up or even cope. Today, Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock and head of Code Literacy at Codecademy, argues that the future is here and what we’re faced with is present shock.
Because of technological advancements, we have a new relationship with time where there is a persistent need for immediacy. Rushkoff claims that we live in “an always-on 'now' where the priorities of this moment seem to be everything.” As a result, our sense of the future, direction, and goals are lost.
“You can go into a shock about it,” Rushkoff tells The Daily Ticker, “where you’re just chasing the moment and responding to every Twitter feed and kind of acting like an air traffic controller.”
We are constantly on our phones, trying to figure out if anything better is happening somewhere else. We expect political action immediately. We want answers before they even exist. The idea of a slow, linear life is all but gone.
“How do [governments, people, businesses] respond to this kind of crisis-oriented world we’re living in?” Rushkoff asks.
Present shock is especially evident in trading and investing. “When people used to invest, they would buy a stock and then hope that it goes up in some future,” says Rushkoff. “You’d wait a year or two, it was a long-term investment. Now, people bought Facebook (FB) the morning of the IPO and a half hour later they’re looking at their watches thinking ‘It didn’t go up! Sell! Sell! Sell!'"
People are no longer buying to invest, they’re trying to make money from trades themselves, Rushkoff says in the attached video.
Rushkoff cites algorithmic, high frequency, and futures and derivative trading as symptoms of this present shock phenomenon. “Derivatives trading is a way to compress time, and derivatives trading has gotten so large that the New York Stock Exchange was bought by a derivatives exchange. So the real thing was bought by its abstraction,” he says.
This trend also extends to businesses. Rushkoff claims that businessmen don’t think about sustainability and instead are only concerned with next quarter results.
“It feels as if in some ways people would rather imagine a zombie apocalypse" than a long-term future, Rushkoff concludes.
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