Expansion is over. Welcome reality.
In this video, Douglas Rushkoff poses a powerful challenge to our mindset: How long are we going to continue infinite expansion? I am going to introduce the part that struck a particular cord for me. (But I tell you, watch all of it.)
(Starts around 9:45) You blended into existence that interests have to be paid back, with interest, in time. So what did that set in motion? An economy that has to grow.
If a hundred thousand is lent into existence, two thousand has to be paid back. Where does the other hundred thousands come from? We’re gonna go take over India. Or America. Or South America. Or Africa. We’re gonna expand. We’re gonna extend.
And this worked really well of an expansionism, goal-oriented, ends-justifying-the-means, eyes-on-the-prize society. A narrative society with a beginning, a middle, and a justifiable end.
But we ended up reaching the limits of colonization…after World War II. What did we do? We kind of continued colonization by means of virtualization. Through the IMF, World Bank, we create money, and do all of that, a new kind of surface. And they all got pissed off…this didn’t really work…
But then the Net came along, and all of a sudden we had a new kind of territory. It wasn’t the territory of space. It was the territory of human time. Human time was how we were going to expand our markets. But it is all because we are actually basing our entire model of society and economics on an obsolete, thirteen-century, printing press economic operating system.
You know, Google and Facebook and Twitter, god bless them, they disseminate everything we know of, but they are still sitting on top of a platform that they don’t question. They are still sitting on top of venture capital and shareholders. (End of quote)
Whether it was about a piece of land or storage capacity, our economic model, and therefore our society, has always been based on expansion and growth. It is so profoundly ingrained into us that we don’t even realize what’s wrong when we utter “I am worried that China’s growth isn’t enough to sustain the world economy” and “I am worried that China is going to consume all resources” at the same time.
When we talk about “expansion” in terms of land, money, or cyberspace, we aren’t “expanding” in its core sense. We are crawling back into our familiar and safe territory, just because (physical) expansion used to bring us wealth all the time. We are just repeating whatever we have been doing, and therefore nothing fundamental is “expanded” here. Expansion, used in economic terms, no longer means expanding our limits. It means to live inside our limits—of imagination.
Some people might argue that we should literally scale back and live inside our means, by turning from global to local. That certainly is one option and it works to some extent. But if we blindly turn our attention to localism and believe that returning to our “roots” is the answer, we are also forgetting the fact that our ancestors ditched their “local” lives when great economic opportunities showed up. If we bring our past to our present, isn’t what awaits us in the future the same messy situation we are facing now?
(A great cautionary tale for anybody who tries to “escape” into the future)
Continuing the current model isn’t working anymore, but I don’t believe going back to our past is the answer either. The past led to the current. If we just go back to our past because it looks cozy, I think we are still living inside our limits of imagination, and therefore fundamentally no different than hallucinating in the continuation of the expansion model.
I do believe what we truly need is expansion, but not in the old sense. We need to expand beyond our imagination, our platform, our history, our tradition, our culture, our system, and do something that has never done before. We no longer need an incremental update. We need a breakthrough.
Going global and going local are two sides of the same coin. I think it is time for us to create something that cannot be described using an old analogy.
Well, what is it? Hmm, I am getting hungry and need to make some egg