Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus | Douglas Rushkoff

Summary of: Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity
By: Douglas Rushkoff

Introduction

In the book “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity”, author Douglas Rushkoff explores the consequences of our society’s relentless quest for growth and how it impacts employment, communities, and economic stability. The book traces the evolution of our economic system from the Middle Eastern bazaar to the modern world, where a few big companies dominate the markets. Rushkoff examines the role of technology in exacerbating this situation, particularly in online commerce and the proliferation of crowd-sharing apps. Delving into the challenges posed by our current financial system, the author also provides possible solutions to create a more sustainable and balanced economy, such as adopting alternative local currencies and rethinking our work culture.

The Rise and Fall of Open Markets

In the past, open markets allowed for direct exchange of goods and services, without the need for middlemen. The introduction of monopolies by the aristocratic class led to today’s economic system, in which workers earn wages from market-controlling companies. Companies’ pursuit of growth has resulted in job losses, with machines often replacing people. This isn’t solely due to computers; it’s our collective greed for growth to blame.

The Digital Marketplace: A New Era of Monopoly

Online commerce was once expected to help small companies, but in reality, it has only made big companies even bigger. The absence of human selection and the use of bots to drive purchases have created a loop that privileges only a few songs and leaves many others unnoticed. Online platforms have become the business tools of music companies. Consumers have become reliant on manipulated popularity lists and automated algorithms to discover music. The digital marketplace has transformed the market into a new era of monopoly.

The Dark Side of Crowd-Sharing

Crowd-sharing apps might not be about sharing after all. Instead, they are undermining established markets and businesses, leading to job losses and the elimination of skills and talent from the business equation. Although these apps increase efficiency and meet people’s needs easily, they are merely selling assets rather than sharing them. For instance, users on Airbnb have to pay higher rates than they would outside the platform, and hotels are struggling to compete. The problem is that hotels have to maintain expensive business licenses, pay wages to professional staff, and conform with safety regulations, making it impossible to offer prices as low as Airbnb. Furthermore, skills and talents are becoming obsolete in the digital era. Crowd-sharing apps are eliminating jobs and replacing them with low-wage, unskilled work, leading to a lack of opportunities for skilled workers. So, while crowd-sharing platforms might seem like a good idea, it is essential to evaluate their full implications and the possible consequences they may bring.

The Evolution of Money

In the Middle Ages, trade was inefficient as not everyone had something a seller wanted, leading to the invention of money. The circulation of money increased production, sales, and living standards, giving rise to a merchant class. However, aristocrats feared their growing wealth and power and wanted to maintain control over them by outlawing local currencies and introducing uniform currencies that they could standardize and influence. Merchants had to borrow money from the royal treasury and pay it back with interest, lining the pockets of the ruling aristocrats. Money became an end in itself, not a means to facilitate trade, making the rich richer at the expense of the rest of society.

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