Quotes by "Douglas Rushkoff"
So which is more probable: That today's atheist apocalyptans are unique and right? Or that they are like their many predecessors—at the very least, in their motivations? If anything, the vehemence with which the believers in emergent complexity debunk all religion may betray their own creeping awareness of the religious underpinnings and precedents for their declarations. In fact, the concept of Armageddon first emerged in response to the invention of monotheism by the ancient Persian priest Zoroaster, around the tenth or eleventh century BCE. Until that time, the dominant religions maintained a pantheon of gods reigning in a cyclical precession along with the heavens, so there was little need for absolutes. As religions began focusing on a single god, things got a bit trickier. For if there is only one god, and that god has absolute power, then why do bad things happen? Why does evil still exist? If one's god is fighting for control of the universe against the gods of other people, then there's no problem. Just as in polytheism, the great achievements of one god can be undermined by the destructive acts of another. But what if a religion, such as Judaism of the First and Second Temple era, calls for one god and one god alone? How do its priests and followers explain the persistence of evil and suffering? They do it the same way Zoroaster did: by introducing time into the equation. The imperfection of the universe is a product of its incompleteness. There's only one true god, but he's not done yet. In the monotheist version, the precession of the gods was no longer a continuous cycle of seasonal deities or metaphors. It was nor a linear story with a clear endpoint in the victory of the one true and literal god. Once this happens, time can end. Creation is the Alpha, and the Return is the Omega. It's all good. This worked well enough to assuage the anxieties of both the civilization of the calendar and that of the clock. But what about us? Without time, without a future, how to we contend with the lingering imperfections in our reality? As members of a monotheist culture—however reluctant—we can't help but seek to apply its foundational framework to our current dilemma. The less aware we are of this process—or the more we refuse to admit its legacy in our construction of new models—the more vulnerable we become to its excesses. Repression and extremism are two sides of the same coin. In spite of their determination to avoid such constructs, even the most scientifically minded futurists apply the Alpha-Omega framework of messianic time to their upgraded apocalypse narratives. Emergence takes the place of the hand of God, mysteriously transforming a chaotic system into a self-organized one, with coherence and cooperation. Nobody seems able to explain how this actually happens.
A civilization makes progress by leveraging the achievements and observations of past generations. We compress history into words, stories, and symbols that allow living people to learn and benefit from the experiences of the dead. In the space of one childhood, we can learn what it took humanity many centuries to figure out. While animals may have some capacity to instruct their young, humans are unlimited in their capacity to learn from one another. Thanks to stories, books, and our symbol systems, we can learn from people we have never met. We create symbols, or what Korzybski calls abstractions, in order to represent things to one another and our descendants more efficiently. They can be icons, brands, religious symbols, familiar tropes, or anything that compresses information bigger than itself.