According to media theorist Doug Rushkoff, technology has made us obsessed with the present - and rendered us unable to think deeply about the past or future.

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Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock

October 11, 2013


Think about those emails you get every minute, the texts constantly vibrating in your pocket, a news cycle that never ends. In his book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, best-selling author Douglas Rushkoff offers up an arresting theory about how living in this brave new world changes us.

Turn on the television and you'll likely have to flip through a cornucopia of sensationalist reality television shows before you find what you're looking for (unless what you're looking for is, indeed, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.") All shows have one thing in common: you can turn them on at any moment without missing a beat. You don't need to follow a plot to understand, for example, Kim Kardashian complaining about her grey hairs.

Rushkoff says present shock has shrunk our attention spans. As a result, our entertainment trends toward the sensationalist and away from complicated plots.
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According to Rushkoff, our obsession with reality television is a product of a culture that has us constantly tuned in to what's happening in the present - just click over to Twitter or Facebook and you can see real-time updates from people all over the world, many of whom you've probably never met. As a result, we've lost our ability to think deeply about the past and the future, and we're even losing touch with the real relationships and interpersonal interactions in our lives.

Rushkoff says that the onslaught of technology in our lives has made us obsessed with the present moment.
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"We're stuck in this one notion of time, this idea of 'how old are you? How many things do you have? How close to retirement are you?' All these little metrics, and we're losing sight of the time in which our lives are actually occurring," says Rushkoff.

The lasting effects of present shock - and our shortened attention spans - aren't just confined to the realm of entertainment. For more on Rushkoff's theory - including how it influences politics, news, and even the stock market - tune in to our full interview above.

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