The following is excerpted from The Verge’s excellent video interview of Douglass Rushkoff where he is explaining some of the views he introduces in his book, Present Shock. Any edits from what is actually said are all to omit stutters in speech.
I guess present shock, is the human response to living in an always on, immediate, real-time digital reality, and it kind at looks at two things that have happened, and they have happened simultaneously, in a way that supports one another. You know, one thing is our transition from kind of an industrial age world to this digital world and what does that mean as we move from analog clocks and cycles and things, to the digital clock which is always in the now. A minute is no longer some portion of the day, it is a segment of itself. What does that do? At the same time we’ve gone from very future based kind of movement oriented world into this twenty-first century, this post-millennial end of time. It’s funny, you know the Mayan calendar, it didn’t mean the end of times, but it kind of meant the end of time. How do we deal with problems that are steady state, present tense problems. Rather than sending a man up to the moon and sticking a flag in there, you know, its like how do we deal with like, global warming. You don’t win, there’s no victory, there’s no thing. Its not Martin Luther King “having a dream of a world without” global warming. It’s just like, you gotta kind of, perpetually deal with this, and what is that like.
It’s either our status as a species, or maybe more likely our status as a civilization. The way the book moves is through those sort of five main syndromes that I identified. The first one is narrative collapse. What happens when time seems to stop? When we get from the twentieth century to the twenty-first. From all of the forward leaning numbers of the nineteens to the standstill numbers of the twenties. What happens is your movements die, your stories die, this sense of forward momentum dies, and you don’t have goals and long-term thinking to motivate you forward. What do you do? You end up then in a much more video game like world where you’re making decisions and doing things in that almost digital mindset of I’m programming my world rather than responding to the stories that have been left for me, which leads you to digiphrenia. When you’re in a programmed environment, what happens? Well you end up with more than one instance of yourself, and I’m gonna now instead of being programmed by my technology I’m going to program my technology to conform with me. And that’s then what makes this sense of responsibility, which is what I’m calling “overwinding”. You’re like, calculating this whole giant thing! So I renamed the long now the short forever. Its sort of the paralysis of that long term thinking. And, basically all of these ways that we try to almost make up for lost time, or maximize this efficiency into this single moment, and mistake one time scale for another, because they’re not interchangeable.
Well, overwinding would be almost like OCD. Its this sort of obsessive compulsive urge to compress time and be more efficient and to conform on a certain level. From there I went to fractalnoia, which is the idea that if you are living in an eternal present, how do you make meaning? We use to make meaning through stories, kind of through narrative, but now if we’re in the moment, then we try to make sense by kind of taking a picture of where things are, and drawing connections between them, and you can end up drawing way too many connections and going crazy. “Noia”, that’s where the paranoia comes in, because everything is not connected to everything else. If you have no time in which to make sense of things then the only way you can make sense of something is to connect this to that to this to that.