Organizing Our Economy as if We Lived on a Single Planet: A Conversation with Douglas Rushkoff

Editors’ note: Douglas Rushkoff is a writer, documentarian, and lecturer, whose work focuses on human autonomy in a digital age. He is the author of more than a dozen bestselling books on media, technology, and society, including Program or Be Programmed, Present Shock, and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus. His award-winning documentaries include PBS Frontline’s Generation Like and Merchants of Cool. He is Professor of Media Theory and Digital Economics at CUNY/Queens, technology and media commentator for CNN, a research fellow at the Institute for the Future, digital literacy advocate for Codecademy.com, and a lecturer on media, technology, culture, and economics around the world.

This is the second in a four-part series of articles from the summer 2018 issue of the Nonprofit Quarterly, “Nonprofits as Engines of a More Equitable Economy.”


Nonprofit Quarterly: You’ve promoted the concept of a distributed economy. Could you talk about what your notion of this is, and, if there were to be a distributed economy, what that would look like? The idea you develop is rooted in some ways in the history of craft economies in the Middle Ages, but a new kind of craft economy, based on high technology rather than isolated villages.

Douglas Rushkoff: I think that the simplest way to understand what I’m talking about is to remember that the economy in which we’re living right now was constructed by particular people at a particular moment in history with very particular agendas. And, you know, it’s not conspiracy theory or anything strange—it’s just that they developed an economy to work in a particular way. So the economy we live in, the way it functions is to give capital returns to investors—and that’s fine. But when that’s the only thing an economy is optimized for, you end up getting some weird, maybe unintended, consequences.

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