We’re Controlled by Technology. Only Team Human Can Save Us.
By BETH HARPAZ
From our footsteps to our heartbeats, from our opinions to our purchases, every aspect of our lives is being tracked, quantified, and analyzed. Our personal information is hacked so often that it’s practically the norm. And between fake news, bots, and online extremism, digital forces are even changing public opinion and politics.
Is this really what we signed up for when we bought iPhones, joined Facebook, and started using Amazon?
In his book Team Human, Professor Douglas Rushkoff (Queens College) shows how the technology that we thought would improve our lives has actually led to a dystopian world of robots, artificial intelligence, and data mining.
And to what end? Rushkoff, a digital theorist who hosts the Team Human podcast, says it’s all about profits: “There is a market expressing itself through technology — an operating system beneath our various computer interfaces and platforms … This operating system is called capitalism.”
Rushkoff bolsters his thesis with many examples: “A search engine designed to promote academic thought became the world’s biggest advertising agency … A social media platform designed to help people connect became the world’s biggest data collector.” Houses are no longer just places to live; they’re investments for corporate entities.
And while the digital economy provides “more access for artists and businesses,” it also creates a winner-take-all system. Investors “optimize” inefficient industries (like taxis, publishing, or music) by streamlining distribution while externalizing costs to workers and creators. Consumers come to rely on just a handful of websites or apps to get the product or service. That means distributors — like Amazon and Uber — make money, while creators (like authors or drivers) are left with smaller slivers of the pie. This process “amplifies” the “most extractive aspects” of capitalism while exacerbating divisions of wealth.
At the same time, our engagement with the online world has gone from being “an active choice” to a “state of perpetual interruption.” Devices “strapped to our bodies” ping, vibrate, and demand our attention for every headline, score, emoji, and follow. All this technology disorients and manipulates us, and “something about this landscape” has also “encouraged the regressive sentiments” of populism, nationalism, and nativism.
What’s the solution? “Restore the social connections … and oppose all conventions, institutions, technologies, and mindsets that keep us apart,“ says Rushkoff. He ends Team Human with three simple words: “Find the others.”