Book Reviews 03/2016

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, Douglas Rushkof; Digital Politics and Culture in Contemporary India: the Making of an Info-Nation, Biswarup Sen; Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, Martin Lindstrom; The Disruption Dilemma, Joshua Gans

Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity, Douglas Rushkoff, Portfolio/Penguin March 2016

The protest that gave this book its title arose from a conflict in which the author attributes no blame to the actors involved but instead to the economic system they live within. Professor Douglas Rushkoff of Queens College CUNY believes we are in a growth trap – where companies push for profit maximisation to appease their boards and investors with little consideration for the non-monetary costs of their operations.  Rushkoff argues this system causes damage our collective activity rather than individually. Google’s evil comes from being particularly successful at growth. But technology was supposed to reshape all our lives for the better. The author’s words drip with the disappointment he feels in the digital economy: ”Companies with new technologies are free to disrupt almost any industry they choose…so long as they don’t disrupt the financial operating system churning beneath it all.” He asks us to imagine a better world – a world that would see no reason for local residents in San Francisco to throw rocks at a bus shuttling Google employees to a company campus in protest of rising rent prices and gentrification. This world is built on a distributive model rather than an extractive, in which tech giants and disruptors are owned by those working for them, and Rushkoff provides a convincing argument as to why this transition should occur.