We’re living in the now, we no longer have a sense of future direction, and we have a completely new relationship to time. In this Wired Q&A between author of Present Shock Rushkoff and former editor in chief of cyberpunk magazine Mondo 2000 R.U.
We’re living in the now, we no longer have a sense of future direction, and we have a completely new relationship to time. That’s the premise of Douglas Rushkoff’s latest book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, a sort-of update to Alvin Toffler’s influential Future Shock from decades ago.
I met Rushkoff back when I was editor of the cyberpunk magazine Mondo 2000, when he was working on his first book about digital culture. But the original publishers canceled that book, thinking the internet was a fad and would be over by the time it hit stands. And even when it was finally published, its potential readership was still limited.
The internet is still with us (to put it mildly) … so Rushkoff’s latest book is for everybody. Throughout the intervening years, Rushkoff and I have been in a dialogue about technology, culture, and the future that, in some ways, has never really stopped. So here we are, continuing that conversation; only now, the challenge we’re discussing is “presentism” — What happens when the future is here, now?
R.U. Sirius: You describe five symptoms — pathologies, really — of “presentist” culture. One of these is “narrative collapse.” Can you explain it for those who haven’t read the book?
Douglas Rushkoff: Narrative Collapse is what happens when we no longer have time in which to tell a story.