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Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus: How Growth Became the Enemy of Prosperity

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,299 ratings  ·  172 reviews
Capital in the Twenty-First Century meets The Second Machine Age in this stunning and optimistic tour de force on the promise and peril of the digital economy, from one of the most brilliant social critics of our time.

Digital technology was supposed to usher in a new age of endless prosperity, but so far it has been used to put industrial capitalism on s
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Portfolio
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Ally Means It's not borrowed ideology, once you peel the layers back and really look at the economic costs these types of app based businesses have you'll see th…moreIt's not borrowed ideology, once you peel the layers back and really look at the economic costs these types of app based businesses have you'll see there is an easily identifiable problem. This well you speak of is called Economics and all business students learn the basics of it, it's like a baby learning to speak but for adults. (less)

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Molly Ison
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Rushkoff is a smart person with a lot of interesting ideas - you know a review isn't going to be good when it starts that way. I have a problem with his presentation - he makes unsourced claims that, even if true, seem designed to elicit an emotional reaction to draw the reader into accepting that things should be different without having to build a tight argument. The first instance I noticed, Rushkoff claims that Thomas Jefferson utilized the dumbwaiter less to save time and energy and more to ...more
Jared Janes
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
While Rushkoff often drives me a little crazy with his pessimistic, borderline conspiracy-theory driven world view, this book is filled with great ideas and observations. It's well worth the read for anyone interested in looking critically at our global economy, business ideas and the ways in which we collaborate with each other. ...more
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
Douglass Rushkoff is urging us to reprogram our economic operating system. His basic argument goes something like the following. A long time ago, because currencies that served as stable stores of value were too scarce for common use, people availed themselves of whatever they had that came closest to substituting in their place. Since nothing people had would maintain value over any meaningful period of time, depreciating commodities like grain filled the void. People were incentivized to circu ...more
Joshua Gans
Apr 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
I read a NYT excerpt and thought this would be a good and interesting book. However, the sheer scale of economic illiteracy stunned me. Nothing made sense. So much so that I think he does the cause of thinking about inequality, employment and the like a disservice but resorting to what is mostly hyperbole and sweeping generalisations. Rushkoff shows no awareness of the benefits digital technologies have brought people outside the US and stripped down most of his policies are indistinguishable fr ...more
Brian Nwokedi
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There is so much to unpack within Douglas Rushkoff’s book that a single page review won’t even come close to doing it justice. But in order to give a streamlined review, I will focus on the following three big themes in this book that I took away:

1. Technology has been used to extract as much value as possible by removing humans from the corporate equation for the sake of bottom line profit. This approach is very beneficial to shareholders but is detrimental to real workers. As technology contin
Sep 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I regret having spent my money and time on this book. Too many times I found myself infuriated by the poor writing and unsupported manipulative statements the author makes. Gave up after 50 pages as I only have one life :)
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book provided me with a lot of food for thought.

In a nutshell, it outlines ideas for a more prosperous, human-driven economy. In the current American economy, companies are encouraged to grow - and once they go public they often have no choice. Corporate growth, Rushkoff argues, is neither intrinsically good nor necessarily conducive to broader human prosperity. For example, consider the number of human jobs replaced by automation, and consider that more jobs are destroyed by automa
I wrote an extensive review of this began while I was still reading it, some while ago actually. It is one of the reviews lost in the Powell River library system. All I remember at this point was a sense of disappointment that he seemed not quite ready to follow some of the implications of his reveals.
Hopefully I will find the notebook with my copius notes but unless I get the chance to look at this again, I am going to park this.

Luckily, there are all the status updates that do contain some int
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was ok
While the author is a paranoid socialist with little understanding of economics, the book is not entirely without merit. Rushkoff does present some interesting problems for the financial system going forward. Many of these have been addressed - better - by other most talented thinkers such as Tyler Cowen, but there's still some interesting ideas. It does appear that the era of global economic growth is coming to an end, as demographics inexorably push us toward deflation.

That said, is the answer
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a very important book, explaining very well the problem of the current extractive economy. Farmers and craftsmen in the Middle Ages used to make stuff and trade with each other. Coins were only used by travelers. Then the nobility created money and force everyone to use the royal coins, and lend out money with interest. This gives them control over all capital and made sure everyone worked for the King. Industrialisation just continued this trend; only now the owner of industries, and ro ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book did start out slow for me with the topics around digital technology building new machines for old purposes. I thought after the first 2 chapters that this book was going to be boring (consumed this as an audio book).

Then chapter 3 started to get my attention, but maybe not for what many of the other reviewers of this book had focused on. I travel around the country and also came from a town that has fallen on hard times. In addition, seeing the dismantling of the mom and pop local shop
Pamela Conley
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book for a graduate class in media comm theory. On face this book seems like a critique of capitalism. My prof who knows the author says the intent is slightly more nuanced than that. My class mates and I would agree. The book is more about how we "do" capitalism in relationship to oligarchy and how media platforms can/are changing this to allow for more direct interaction while also on the flip side being utilized by the greater power structures as well. There are really great secti ...more
Jan 30, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fun time, always thought provoking, full and rich with ideas to consider and things to follow up on.
Sarah Nosworthy
I feel like marking something as 'read' infers I finished it, and I didn't. Overall, what I took away was: everything is in the endless pursuit of growth and it's not great. Couldn't agree more. ...more
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
A tantalising subtitle of “how growth became the enemy of prosperity” adds a bit of meat to this book’s curious title. Yet what’s this all about? The author seeks to look at why the wild growth and financial prosperity enjoyed by companies such as Facebook and Google are not trickling down to everybody.

Rapid technological change has tipped society up on its side, the author notes, and despite the benefits that we all are possibly enjoying, we can suffer at the same time with growing unemployment
Mar 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Buzz Andersen
Shelves: top-25, politi-nomics
This is less of a review and more of a note to self and future readers. If you want a summary of the plot, read the other reviews or the book description.

I loved this book. I do think it would benefit from a new title. It's tiresome when talking about it with friends to constantly re-explain that it's not really about Google, and it's not an Anti Google screed. But that's a pretty minor point.

This is a very high-entropy book, from an information perspective. Nearly every single sentence contains
Robert Miller
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
The digital revolution has quickened the pace of the twin goals of traditional corporate policy to expand and increase profits. The result has been to extract as much company gain as possible, as quickly as possible without regard for the welfare of the workers or the local communities. The author, Douglas Rushkoff, says “as a result of their extractive, monopolistic practices, the landscape is left with less total activity and potential for growth.” The theory is that digital businesses have sh ...more
Joe Meyer
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to position themselves both financially and ethically in today's growth-obsessed economic environment.

If you spend time worrying about the following types of issues, this book provides valuable insight:

What should I do with my IRA? My investments? How can I help my community? What can I do to help narrow the ever-expanding wealth gap in our world, but not put myself at financial risk? What the heck is Bitcoin, and who cares? Why are so many young p
Chad Kohalyk
Excerpt from my review:

Rushkoff fears being accused as “communist” above all else, and that ends up undermining his argument. For Rushkoff, there is only Capitalism and Communism. His understanding of political theory comes off as unsubtle, but maybe it is the the limited of understanding of his audience that is influencing him, aka. the big tech CEOs that ask him for advice running their companies or hire him for highly paid corporate speaking engagements. This economic calculus might be the re
Jake Forbes
Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
For most of the book, Rushkoff makes a tight case for why the growth trap is bad for business, workers and our world. He lays out inspiring counter approaches to the extraction and exploitation based platforms currently dominating the economy. He had me rethinking assumptions and realize how often debates are framed around the wrong questions. The book ends on an an almost spiritual note that might undercut the economic arguments for some readers. Still, an inspiring and important perspective on ...more
Ann Bridges
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it
While I didn't agree with the conclusions of the author, I did find the facts supporting his arguments enlightening. Most pertinent were the comments regarding how technology is promised by Silicon Valley elites to "help" us, yet only the large technology companies seem to have benefitted. Engaging with all the gadgets is distracting and time-consuming, and has taken away from the quality of life interacting with the real world and people around us. As the trend towards artificial intelligence a ...more
Mike Eliason
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Douglas Rushkoff’s “Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus” is a very interesting and well thought out view into today’s digital economy and the impact it has on global and local levels. His approach in identifying the traits and historical perspectives on these new companies that are driving this economy are easy to understand and relatable to those of us that are not high-level students of economics. The primary thesis of this book is that this new economic model, or as he puts it; economic operatin ...more
Andrew Figueiredo
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
In Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, Douglas Rushkoff deconstructs the economic system as we know it. He seeks to replace it with a new "digital distributism", based on distributing creativity, dispersing the means of production, and promoting peer-to-peer economics. Rushkoff's ideas seem to parallel Andrew Yang's in some interesting ways. But more than anything, they extend GK Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc's notions of distributism. Indeed, networks provide a new way to widely distribute the m ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
I didn't like this book much. Some of it is stylistic; I'll start with the bit I agree with: The modern economy and financial markets demand growth, which puts businesses that can be profitable at a "natural" size--a municipal newspaper or a niche manufacturer, say--under pressure to expand beyond that. This is one reason we can't have nice things. It's a sort of Peter Principle for corporations, where each gets to the level of impersonal incompetence.

In tone the language strikes me as a throwba
Sean Goh
May 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Rushkoff lays out a compelling argument that we have to question the underpinning assumption of our modern (and not so modern) economy in order to see what's wrong with it, and how we might move forward. The first half was interesting, the later bits less so.
4.5 stars for concept, 2.5 stars for writing.

There's no easy place to draw the battle lines or enemy at whom to hurl the rocks. That's because the conflict here is not really between San Francisco residents and Google employees o
Toby Buchan
Apr 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Key takeaways:

An open market gives each individual both the opportunity to sell any product or purchase any product. The digital marketplace should do the same, yet instead, it has just made big companies even bigger.
In fact, online commerce ensures that only a few companies can effectively reach the largest pools of customers
An open market gives each individual both the opportunity to sell any product or purchase any product. The digital marketplace should do the same, yet instead, it has just
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus" is a book about economy, or rather, a new breed of sustainable economy ushered by the digital age. I am not an economist, and I picked up this book simply to treat myself with some food for thought, as the saying goes.

Now, Rushkoff may have oversimplified things, and I'm certain he could not have covered the entirety of the complex behemoth that is "The Economy" with a capital E. But... his ideas - and this is what this book's about - are sound and they make co
Kurt Achin
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of the most important books I feel I have read in a long time.

"We are caught in a growth trap," argues Rushkoff. "This is the problem with no name or face, the frustration so many feel. It is the logic driving the jobless recovery, the low-wage gig economy, the ruthlessness of Uber, and the privacy invasions of Facebook."

This is a book that will rip off the scab tissue on our understanding of corporate capitalism as a virtuous and moral system, a spine-deep value inheritance from the earlies
D.L. Morrese
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
It is obvious that the economic system we have now is not working as well as it might for most. The US is an incredibly wealthy and prosperous nation that is filled with people struggling to get by today and who are uncertain about the future. In this book, Douglas Rushkoff, a professor at Queens College, CUNY, explains why. He summarizes the problem succinctly in this sentence: "People who work for a living are suffering under a system designed to favor those who make their money with money." ( ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book...where to start...

Let me say that it definitely has three things:

1) A bevy of interesting ideas about economies
2) Many beautifully constructed sentences
3) Handfuls of indiscriminately boring passages that had to be slogged through

I came to this book after hearing an interview on a podcast some years back, with the resonate memory that the author posited the brightest minds of a generation had been harnessed to engineer clicks. That sentiment does come through in aggregate, but the jou
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Douglas Rushkoff is a New York-based writer, columnist and lecturer on technology, media and popular culture.

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  As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
48 likes · 8 comments
“Companies with new technologies are free to disrupt almost any industry they choose—journalism, television, music, manufacturing—so long as they don’t disrupt the financial operating system churning beneath it all. Hell,” 2 likes
“Keep the progress, but recover the lost values. Technically, then he's talking about renaissance: the rebirth of old ideas in a new framework.” 2 likes
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