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Present Shock summary

Douglas Rushkoff

When Everything Happens Now

3.7 (28 ratings)
9 mins

Brief summary

In 'Present Shock', Douglas Rushkoff explores how our modern, digital world has created an always-on, real-time society that can lead to anxiety and a lack of focus. Rushkoff provides insight into how we can navigate this world and regain control over our time and attention.

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    Present Shock
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    We’re disoriented and stuck in an eternal present.

    Imagine you’re practicing tennis with a ball machine, when the machine suddenly starts shooting balls out faster and faster until you can’t keep up. That’s how cultural and technological change has progressed for the last few decades.

    Around 1970, the futurist Alvin Toffler predicted that we’d soon reach a rate of progress that was so fast we would enter a state called future shock.

    In the twentieth century, we had a future-oriented view of technology. People obsessed over revolutionary inventions and business models they thought were on the way. Everyone was excited by the possibilities afforded by new technologies, like cell phones that let us talk to our friends, relatives or co-workers at any time.

    The pace of change kept increasing, however. Computer processing speed doubled every two years.

    That’s why Toffler predicted that we’d reach a point where we wouldn’t be able to keep up, mentally or emotionally. We’d experience future shock – a kind of culture shock that happens within your own culture.

    That “future” is already here. People increasingly feel lost in the modern world and we’re no longer motivated by the technological optimism of the twentieth century. Future shock has turned into present shock.

    We’re surrounded by change and lack a clear sense of direction, so we’ve given up on planning for a better tomorrow. Instead, we want everything now.

    This feeling manifests in many ways. Few traders look for long-term investments, for instance, preferring deals with instant benefits instead.

    Just think about the investors who already had Facebook shares the first day the company went public. Many sold them the very next day because they hadn’t risen enough.

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    What is Present Shock about?

    These blinks are all about the mental and emotional state we all live in thanks to our rapidly changing technological culture. Present Shock (2013) explains the roots of this problem and what it means for our mental well-being.

    Present Shock Review

    Present Shock (2013) explores the modern phenomenon of constant connectivity and its impact on our lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With sharp insights and thought-provoking analysis, it unveils the hidden consequences of living in a digital age.
    • By examining various aspects of contemporary culture, it offers a comprehensive exploration of the effects of technology on society.
    • The book challenges conventional thinking and provides unique perspectives, encouraging readers to question their own relationship with technology.

    Best quote from Present Shock

    When people stop looking to the future, they start looking at the present.

    —Douglas Rushkoff
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    Who should read Present Shock?

    • Anyone interested in technology, the media or digital culture
    • Students of psychology, sociology or politics

    About the Author

    Douglas Rushkoff is a prominent media theorist. He’s written several books including Life Inc and Program or Be Programmed. He also contributes to the Guardian and CNN and has written and hosted documentaries such as The Persuaders and Digital Nations.

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    Present Shock FAQs 

    What is the main message of Present Shock?

    The main message of Present Shock is the impact of digital technology on our lives and the need to regain control of our attention.

    How long does it take to read Present Shock?

    The reading time for Present Shock varies, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Present Shock a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Present Shock is a thought-provoking and insightful book that offers valuable insights into the challenges of the digital age. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Present Shock?

    The author of Present Shock is Douglas Rushkoff.

    What to read after Present Shock?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Present Shock, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • SYSTEMology by David Jenyns
    • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
    • The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene
    • Fully Present by Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston
    • Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    • All It Takes Is a Goal by Jon Acuff
    • Chatter by Ethan Kross
    • In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honoré
    • Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
    • Give and Take by Adam Grant