Books/Team Human

Author: Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff, 2009.jpg

Subtitle: Our technologies, markets and cultural institutions - once forces for human connection and expression - now isolate and depress us. It's time to remake society not as individual players but as the team we actually are.

Team Human is a manifesto for greater connection among human beings, a call for a renaissance of our values that are increasingly being challenged by the machine.

The author starts off talking about the unintended uses of our inventions. He talks about how various inventions over the centuries that had the potential to revolutionize the way humans connect with each other have instead been used to further isolate humans. The machines that we made to improve productivity are instead being used to replace us. Money which is meant to improve exchange of goods and services is instead used for hoarding of wealth and power. The internet, one of the best communication mediums ever invented is being turned into a personalized version of television carrying all the related evils with it. Social media is isolating individuals and connecting them with brands instead.

The big evolutionary advantage of homo sapiens over other primates is our cooperation and social bonds, not competition. Darwin's theory of evolution is grossly misinterpreted to justify unethical competitive practices. Evolution has as much cooperation as it has competition. The author talks about a few examples in the natural world that represent cooperation even between non-symbiont species, for example, tall trees and short evergreens. Social norms, imitation of each other, sharing and caring for each other have had a strong part to play in the evolution of our species.

The author revisits some of the discussion on economic models, debt-based currency, corporations as new-age remnants of chartered monopolies of the medieval times etc. which are discussed in one of his earlier books called "Throwing rocks at the Google bus". He then spends a significant portion of the book on the fallacy of trans-humanism, how Silicon Valley treats our very humanity as a problem to be solved and tries to replace human bodies with digital uploads in its quest for immortality. He then turns towards religion and discusses how the lack of concepts like karma and reincarnation in the monotheistic religions of the western world led to people committing unthinkable crimes against humanity with no fear of repercussions in either this life or the next.

New digital technologies had the opportunity bring about a cultural renaissance of core human values. Instead, early pioneers saw these technologies as revolutionary, but ended up reinforcing the same bad old systems. New tech companies replaced old tech companies while preserving the same power dynamics. The industrial revolution created specialization which made workers replaceable at a day's notice. Modern social media systems promise connection with our fellow humans but end up atomizing us as individuals with personalized messages fed to us individually by machine learning algorithms designed to promote others' ends.

Playing on the side of Team Human is to see ourselves not only as individuals but all of humanity as a collective. It's a rejection of the over-simplified linear thinking of the industrial age and new appreciation of the inter-connectedness and complexity of natural systems including human populations. It's about building self-sustaining closed loops instead of products that go from factory to landfill. It's about rejecting the notion that hyper-growth corner-cutting venture-capital funded corporations as the only business model and embracing cooperatives instead. It's about bringing back land and labor into the equation along with capital. It's about reconnecting with places and local communities, encouraging local currencies that enhance circulation over hoarding and knowing our place as individuals in a collective.

Team Human can be considered to be all of Douglas Rushkoff's philosophy condensed into one book. It's a condensation of all of the ideas from his earlier books. It would be helpful to read them as well for more context on individual topics.

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