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Weekly Column

The Internet Is Acid, and America Is Having a Bad Trip

How we can hallucinate our way back to sanity

Douglas Rushkoff
Sep 4, 2018 · 5 min read
Credit: gpflman/iStock/Getty

It seemed as if the world was about to become a whole lot more like a lucid dream, where the future was less a place we arrived at than a thing we created together.

Computers and networks were part of a much larger cultural phenomenon: a realization that reality is a collaboration. We were coming to grips with the fact that we were living in a “consensual hallucination,” as science fiction writer William Gibson put it, where the things we imagine actually come into being. It seemed as if the world was about to become a whole lot more like a lucid dream, where the future was less a place we arrived at than a thing we created together. We were moving into what I called a “designer reality.”

America is unconsciously living in a psychedelic landscape and having a bad trip.

The problem for the multifaceted designer reality movement was that only one of its threads was compatible with the marketplace still driving the majority of human activity in the late 20th century. Unlike fantasy role-playing or the Gaia hypothesis, technology promotes production, consumption, efficiency, and investment. To business, digital technology was a way to save the flagging stock market by creating new surface area on old, limited marketplaces. Business hallucinated a world with infinite potential for growth.

We’re beginning to see a resurgence of the original strain of cyberculture: those who see in media and technology a way to express rather than repress human creativity.

We are making this thing. That’s why it looks the way it does. It is rendering our fear, paranoia, greed, and panic. We have almost no psychic discipline. We have so little hope. That’s a large part of the appeal of climate denial and Trump’s other fantasies. At least these visions offer more hope and possibility than the fact-based limitations of the reasoned left.


Team Human

Team Human is a manifesto — a fiery distillation of…

Thanks to Aaron Gell

Douglas Rushkoff

Written by

Author of Team Human, Present Shock, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://medium.com/team-human

Team Human

Team Human is a manifesto — a fiery distillation of preeminent digital theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s most urgent thoughts on civilization and human nature.

Douglas Rushkoff

Written by

Author of Team Human, Present Shock, Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast http://medium.com/team-human

Team Human

Team Human is a manifesto — a fiery distillation of preeminent digital theorist Douglas Rushkoff’s most urgent thoughts on civilization and human nature.

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