Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. Douglas Rushkoff. 256 pages

I enjoyed reading this book.  Even at 266 pages, it was a quick & easy read. What I liked most about the book is the fact that while it related to the business world, its content can be applied to anyone in general. It shows how being multi-media savvy is the wave of the future, but it is already here now.  We have to embrace it, but still be able to relish good old fashioned face to face time. Terri Bryant, Davie

There’s no question that just about everything moves faster these days that it used to. The sheer volume of information that we have access to (and that has access to us) is not just enormous, but is growing daily. There’s also no doubt that attention spans are, in general, shorter than they used to be. It often appears that we need to be in constant contact and we must react instantly to whatever input we experience.
I think that Rushkoff has made a basically sound observation of current society: that we are beginning to experience life as one long continual moment rather than maintaining a view of life as a narrative. I think, though, that he’s expanded this idea far beyond what is really going on in the world. He has cherry-picked valid examples that do support his ideas (tv shows that break the third wall and disrupt linear storytelling, and games that exist for the moment-to-moment experience and appear to have no end), but he has a tendency to ignore the far more frequent and far more popular tv shows and games that do have a linear way of thinking.
Overall I’d say that this book does have a lot to say that is worth reading, and would recommend it, but I think that he is seeing (and trying to persuade us) of a worst case scenario. The changes that he sees and reports are there, but they are not as overwhelming as he believes. Bill Purtee, Missouri City, Texas

So.... here's the deal: this is a very interesting book but you have to get past the first chapter to believe it. It is contrived and lengthy. Once you do, the book actually flows quite well and is full of interesting insight about the plight of the modern man in the modern era where everything flies in your face at hyper speed.
As interesting as it is, I have no real use for the narrative of the book. I felt like watching a good movie that left me satisfied but will be forgotten in a couple of weeks. Nonetheless, the book brings an interesting point of view about how the future has "escaped our control" and overall I would recommended as an interesting, but not  indispensable read. It took me 10 days of night reading to finish it. Miguel Cobas, MD

When I was in high school I corresponded with pen pals all over the world. Actually, they were tape pals. Instead of exchanging letters, we would exchange 3-inch reels of audio tape which allowed us to record our messages but also to include records or radio shows we were listening to. That's how I first heard The Beatles, a full six months before they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.
It took a long time for those tapes to travel though the mail system from the UK or New Zealand. I was reminded of that process recently when I heard from one of those tape pals from all those decades ago. He found my name on the Internet, sent me an e-mail, and now thanks to Skype we can carry on our conversations (complete with music) in real time.
It's technological progress like that that has brought us to where we are now…a state of Present Shock. Because of smartphones, Facebook updates, tweets, Instant Messaging and all that, information comes at us continuously and it is making us crazy! There's an app for that… I mean, a word for that: digiphrenia. It's the disordered condition of mental activity.  Are brains are always active, but are we really thinking, learning, growing?
Anyone having difficulty processing the overload ought to take some time to read this book. Not only does Rushkoff explain how we got to this point, he provides something that is lacking as we jump from e-mail to blog post to tweet: context. He helps to explain why politicians can no longer talk about, let alone solve, the major problems we are faced with and why economists totally missed the worldwide economic crisis of a few years ago.
Every time our phones beep or our laptops ping we are faced with a choice. Do we answer it, or do we continue with whatever it is we are supposed to be doing? Like having a conversation with the person who is sitting across the table from us. Rushkoff reminds us that "the first experience most of us had of this sort of forced choice was call waiting."  Yes! I can still remember the day, 25 years ago, the first time someone called me from his car on one of those newfangled cellular phones… and then put me on hold to take another call. Call waiting on a cell phone. What a stupid idea.
I hated it just like I grew to hate instant messaging and that annoying ping every time a new e-mail message arrives and those people who look at their phones while they're supposed to be listening to me. "In the digital realm we are either the programmers or the programmed — the drivers or the passengers."
Some of the most fascinating findings in the book concern the way this "always on" activity has disrupted the cycles that have governed human behavior for centuries — the seasons, the cycles of the moon, sleep patterns etc. I'm looking forward to studying more about Rushkoff's experiments in scheduling his activities to synchronize with the cycles of the moon.
As long as we are reaching for the stars, since everything is connected to everything else in this digital world, I couldn't help jotting down my horoscope for the day I finished the book. "Full throttle, and it gets chaotic. Take it slower, for a sustainable pace."
A good first step might be to shut off the smartphone, power down the computer and spend some quality time reading this book. Tom Teuber, Madison, WI

This book reminds me a lot of Toffler's Future Shock except today there is no future.  Everything is focused on the immediate. There is no thought of the future, everything is NOW! We have found ourselves moving from e mail to texting and from Blogs to Twitter. If the end of the 20th century was about "futureism," then the 21st century is about "presentism." The current generation has no memory burden because there is no past to remember. People today use institutional thinking not rational, considered thinking. Today the moment something is realized, it is over, and one moves to another NOW moment. Indeed, we have moved from Toffler's Future Shock to Rushkoff's Present Shock. We have lots the narrative, the story of how we got here.  People are only interested in the NOW! President Obama has encouraged people to be the change not to wait for it.  No more linear stories; the NOW is in! We have reality TV all focused on NOW.  The NBA is the only sport on the rise because it focuses on individual over team performance. And then there is CNN where we have instant everything. But there is a problem with the present. It disconnects us from reality. We don't get the big picture, just the NOW! And of course the internet brings everyone into the conversation.  People have grown skeptical of professional journalism. One study says, people only have a 25% confidence level. Video games have long passes other forms of entertainment. Our games focus on winners and losers and they are infinite, the just keep going. Many of our games are known as RPG (role play games) and unfortunately much is devoid of value. We live in a "better hurry" society.  We have come to let technology rule our lives and thus given up all control. We have forfeited the power of choice. With our e mail, Twitter and Smart phones, we are constantly being vibrated. We are constantly in the "on" mode. Used properly our technology can help us with lots of things. But is seems today we are doing everything humanly possible to compress time.  Everything is now; no past and no future, just this instant, NOW! And of course we have discovered that living in a global world, everything is connected.
In the final analysis, I did find the book a bit hard to read in spots and it got a bit tedious before it ended. Doug Newberry

Interesting topic and an interesting book!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Although sometimes I did have a difficult time following where the author was going with his examples and did re read some of the chapters again just to ensure I caught the gist of the reading.  
The more I read the book the more I understood why people seem to have a hard time concentrating on one topic nor  have no interest in reading a newspaper. The American Public wants information now, they do not want to wait. There really is no time to soak in information and provide feedback or even contemplate a decision. We are constantly in the loop for what is going on in the world.
The Overwinding Chapter and especially the Time is Money section really brought home to me why investment ideas from the past may not hold true in the future.  
I will re-read this book and not let it sit on a shelf.  I also need to find my copy of Future Shock and read it again. Forrest Carper, Bossier City, La

Present Shock is a complex book about how the world has changed with digital technology.
It compares the past to  the new present which has become complicated and distracting with so much information coming at us at once through the new technology which can do more harm than good.
The information received sometimes discards and disregards the truth and historical reality.
The author does a substantial job of clarifying the progression of the transition from before technology, (even including the TV remote control) to the here and now of instant information along with the reasoning
behind such changes. He points out the changes and why they occur and continue to do so.
Much of the past has been lost with the new technology. Creativity seems to have disappeared from skilled craftsman to story telling to simple mathematical thinking skills.
Perhaps that is why there are reruns of old movies, books, and Broadway Shows.
No one seems to have many new ideas.
That may also be the reason that The Antique Road Show and American Pickers are so popular.
We are still seeking the quality and sentimental things that were produced by skilled craftsman and writers.
The Shock in Present Shock seems to be more for the generations of the past before digital technology than of the present. We are the ones have experienced all of the changes! Margot Byrnes, Miami

When is the last time you saw or heard the words Alvin Toffler? This well written volume will reintroduce (or introduce) you.
This book tackles head on the issue of the century in a completely transparent way that is very stimulating.  The hard hitting philosophical, economic, political, and educational issues are addressed with a totally realistic analytical framework. Oh yes, the issue of the century is the question “who’s in charge here, the people or the computers?” We need to tell “Hal” (the computer in the Sci-fi movie “2001; A Space Odyssey”) that the people will rule. The author makes a good point in saying that this should be the case without getting preachy. Even if singularity becomes a reality in the next 2 or 3 decades which the author and many scientists believe will be the case, human beings will still drive the planet. Whoops! I’m sounding preachy.
The author uses excellent elements in building a paradigm for the readers to use in reaching their own conclusions about technology and people. For example, his use of the concept of fractals (repeating patterns) will be very mind expanding. Though I first read about the concept over 20 years ago, the reader will share in the feeling that fractals have an element of newness every time you see one. Whichever side of the issue you are on, concepts like fractal will keep you in the analytical for fun and profit mode. Dr. Robert C. Preziosi, Ft. Lauderdale

Present Shock is a very detailed overview of today's ever changing world of technology.  Reading it made sense for a baby boomer progressing through the changes of today's society throughout the decades.  Rushkoff writes exactly the way today is moving; fast paced, short paragraphs, and jumping around.  I needed to focus fast to get a clear understanding of his message and felt like I was taking a college course. Trisha Molina

In his book, Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff, successfully held my attention while making his point about our disconnect and dissonance between our digital selves and our analog bodies. Not only could I recognize myself, my co-workers, my friends and my family in much of his writing, I can understand and relate to the examples he uses because they come from popular tv shows, movies and novels. Present Shock is an easy and enjoyable read. Rushkoff doesn't pass judgment or criticize. He simply takes a magnifying glass to what is already evident in our text-induced, social media-enriched, tech-run, digital world. We are so engaged in "presentism" we just don't notice. Susan Taslimi Litten, Parkland 

 It was a light interesting read with a lot of anecdotes to tie the point home. The author discusses how there is a conflict between " our digital selves and our analog bodies" putting us in a state of "present shock."  The advice is nothing we have not hear before: live more in the present (i.e.: eye contact over texting, quality over speed, etc).  Recommended if you are still struggling to find that balance of technology no completely ruling your life, however, pretty common knowledge if you have already achieved this. Isadora Cipolletta, Miami

As a senior citizen struggling to not get left behind in this digital world my head was spinning in reading this book. Understanding the vocabulary with which Rushkoff describes this new millennium was enough to make me nuts.  
The book reminds me of how much I loathe the "narrative collapse", and long for eye contact and a phone call over a text.  I'm retired, so why then am I always struggling to catch up?
Perhaps Rushkoff is truly in step with the now, but this book left me behind.  And quite frankly, I don't care. Emily Gilday 

This book makes you think.  The author's thesis is that so much is happening in the present that it is shocking us. He does this with examples of the popular TV programs and small personal examples.  The cyclical nature of things is discussed but my opinion is that cycles both in the universe, the solar system and the relationship of the earth to the moon and sun is more important then this book portrays. The portrayal is like explaining what the Romans made popular in their entertainment and extrapolating what the Roman society will evolve too.  Their downfall was mostly through corruption and a slave economy!
My take is the human society and body do go through cycles. This is explained much better by the author Og Madino, particularly in his book, The Greatest Salesman on Earth.
Because there is an error in the area of my expertise, sailing, I question all the examples used to support the author's argument about present shock. This error occurs in the part  about feedback. A navigator does not read feedback on a compass but on a GPS (Global Positioning System), a recent system put in place that helps all of us to navigate more accurately with this feedback.
The issue is why everyone is concerned is the pessimism of the future not the present. This is part of the cycle.  The author did have a short blurb in the book about the philosopher and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard describes where the human race is going in his books, much better then this book does. Gordon Ettie

The book is really outstanding at covering the way(s) our culture is changing.
Most noticeably the effects of technology on work, time, multitasking and the “NOW” effect.
It also presents some insights or reminders into digital distraction, work and life interruptions and downtime.
Lastly with all the IRS NSA and State dept scandals---the insight to conspiracy theories was timely.
Great Book! Chip Moody Jr.

The topic and the concept is intriguing. I have often wondered what it is like living in a fishbowl (live  CNN reporting for everything) a new reality tv show, and that is what Present Shock describes.  The author is compelling and convincing and provocative.  The question seems to be will we have time to reflect on issues that surround us and allow us to think and weigh options and to reflect before succumbing to the knee jerk response that is being required of us in the future. M. Stein. Coral Springs

I found the book to be interesting, but more a lot more ‘heavy reading’ then I expected.  Timely topic, good insights on social media and its impact on our lives. Doramary Russell, Coral Springs

It takes a particular blend of interests to appreciate Douglass Rushkoff's map of the world. He dives deeply into the realms of corporatism, technological innovation, media theory, and pop culture all with equal enthusiasm and often in rapid succession. The reward for anyone sharing this mélange of interests rich. Few writers are capable of distilling developments in these areas in as organized or remarkably clear a manner as Rushkoff. His enthusiasm and talent for synthesizing connections between these fields and a litany of observations by other are clear in his latest book, "Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now."
Rushkoff's three most recent books, "Present Shock," and before it "Life Inc," "Program or Be Programmed," together build a picture of a developed world run amok, so throughly awash in material wealth and information that both have ceased to have meaning. The continuity of his arguments is remarkable, especially considering they span five years of relatively radical change. In  "Present Shock" he easily picks up the thread.
In one anecdote after another, he builds cringe-worthy pictures of people lured into parting with growing amounts of attention, wealth, and humanity by promises of ever faster and intense gratification only to be left disappointed, impoverished, and degraded.
Rushkoff surveys a world in which the traditional arcs of big stories that once sustained and transmitted culture from one generation to another fall under the weight of self-referential TV programs, stranding us with dead-end entertainments. The artificial urgency created by efforts to achieve maximum productivity pushes us into what he calls "a short forever," in which all activity is directed ultimately toward ceaseless consumption. The disorienting freedom from time created by the digital technologies enabling that consumption, for with 2 a.m. and 2 p.m. are qualitatively the same, leave us drained and disoriented.
The chaos of present shock—being trapped in an ever-lasting now—leaves us confused, he suggests. Worse, we're made susceptible to constant misinterpretation of disconnected events because of our inability to step back to take in the big picture, to "pull back to see the pattern." In the end, we long for closure, completion, for apocalypse.
Yet reading "Present Shock" is a surprising pleasure. Rushkoff is an almost unexpected optimist. His predictable turn at the end of every chapter toward positive applications for the very same technologies he disparages elsewhere offers a welcome respite from the cynicism and hopelessness the reader might otherwise endure. He rejects binary judgements in favor of more nuanced assessments of the radical changes that have brought about the shock-induced paralysis he chronicles in the book.
Rushkoff argues in the end for a mindfulness in which we "give each moment the value it deserves." That he takes the time to convey his arguments so completely at book-length, writing what he light-heartedly calls "an opera" in a literary world shifting toward shorter and more shallow cultural appraisals is evidence the author taking his own advice. After reading "Present Shock," you're likely to want to do the same. Michael Fitzhugh

Love the author's perspective on how we've gotten what we asked for-everything faster, more information, immediate results, paranoia and "digiphrenia". We can't enjoy being one place because we're busy socially networking to find a better party, better job, better life. Meanwhile we lose eye contact and other social skills because we "live" online. Sounds like a sci-fi movie script from 1980, but he makes us realize how much civilization has changed post 9/11. John Moorehead, Weston


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