Douglas Rushkoff is the host of the Team Human podcast and author of Team Human as well as a dozen other bestselling books on media, technology, and culture. He was invited to the VRTO conference in Toronto to record a live Team Human podcast about virtual reality with VRTO founder Keram Malicki-Sánchez and indigenous VR artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin.
I had a chance to catch up with Rushkoff before the live taping at VRTO to get his perspective on virtual reality, which I’d classify as fairly skeptical given what he’s seen in the overall trajectory of technology for the past 30 years. He’s really concerned that technology is being used more on us rather than by us, and he’s advocating to a return to human autonomy from an era of technology that’s been more focused on extracting data, value, and more recently towards control and manipulation of our behaviors. He’s also concerned about the demise of a viable counter culture, and he advocates for more critical voices and philosophical approaches that go beyond operating within the context of our existing economic paradigm but also return to more medieval pre-printing press sensibilities of custom, bespoke handcrafted culture, the occult, magic, oral traditions and the face-to-face interactions of building rapport, solidarity, and the cultivation of a real sense of collective power.
We debate a bit as to whether or not virtual reality fits into this emerging counter culture, and how to best make sense of the medium of virtual reality. He’s also quite concerned about the current ecological crisis and potential for species extinction, and he wonders whether it’s worth investing much time or energy into high-end technologies like VR when it’s unclear as to whether or not they’re being ethically produced without slavery or other injustices in order to acquire the required rare earth metals. He sees living in harmony with the earth as a vital per-requisite and that his counter cultural orientation is naturally skeptical for any technology that requires an inordinate amount of capital in order to produce and consume. So we have a lively discussion exploring the potential benefits and risks of immersive technologies and spatial computing through the critical lens of Team Human.
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