Douglas Rushkoff

The Silicon Valley Skeptic

douglas rushkoff getty images
In his new book, "Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus,'' Douglas Rushkoff, an American media theorist and Silicon Valley skeptic, warns that digital advances are not necessarily helping mankind but contributing to the depersonalization of society, reducing humans to a subsidiary role in a computer, robotic-driven machine.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Douglas Rushkoff is one of America’s leading media theorists, and a vocal critic of the Silicon Valley ethos, which maintains that digital advances, by saving time and increasing human efficiency, are per se good for humanity.

  • Facts


    • Mr. Rushkoff’s book examines in part the growing divide in San Francisco between the haves — the well-paid employees of Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and other Silicon Valley tech giants — and the have nots, namely, the rest of the Bay area in a city that is becoming increasing unaffordable for many.
    • Mr. Rushkoff asserts that robotics and other efficiency-driven technology gains pose real threats to conventional industries, and thus, to the equitable business, governmental and social systems that grew up around them.
    • Mr. Rushkoff, in the interview, maintains that much of the Silicon Valley ethos in fact undervalues human ability and the value of human labor, and as a result, does not improve the lot of many, but makes it worse.
  • Audio


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What is the reason you chose this provocative title for you book? Do you want people to throw rocks at Google?

No, I wanted people to know that someone identifies with their frustration. Obviously I’m not telling people to throw rocks at the Google bus, but people are throwing rocks at Google buses. For me Silicon Valley has appropriated the ethos of San Francisco as a brand value for companies that don’t really do that. Silicon Valley’s rapid growth seems to be displacing instead of enriching people’s lives. They lose their jobs. They can’t afford a living and have to move away.

Google started as a small company with the slogan “Do no evil.” How did it become a company that some people in San Francisco hate so much?

There is something wrong about the way Google is impacting the world, but neither its buses nor the people in them are the core problem. Sergey Brin and Larry Page (the Google founders) didn’t recognize that they were running their company on an operating system that’s all about growth. Since they did the IPO, there’s this pressure to grow, faster and faster.

What’s wrong about growth?

We created an operating system that’s not helping anyone anymore. It’s grow or die! See what is happening to Twitter right now! Why isn’t it enough to have a company with $2 billion in revenue? Why does it have to be more?

Wasn’t it also a problem that Twitter didn’t think about a business model from early on?

Right, they had enough money, so they didn’t need to do the IPO. It’s not that Twitter isn’t successful, it’s just not successful enough to justify all the money investors have pumped in.


google bus demo may 2014 mission district san fran source reuters robert galbraith
Demonstrators blocking a commuter bus for Google employees in San Francisco’s Mission District in April 2014 to protest the rising cost of living in the Bay area. Source: Reuters / Robert Galbraith


You seem angry.

Yes, Twitter always felt like a company that was more (about) creating; it didn’t ask for too much of me like mining the data for example or creating a filter bubble like Amazon.

iTunes sells the music, Netflix sells the movies and Amazon sells the books and almost everything else. Everyone passes through the same digital turnstiles, sees the same lists and recommendations, and is subjected to the same algorithms.

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