R.U. Sirius: Is virtual presentism unhealthy?
Douglas Rushkoff: It certainly can be. For instance, the drone pilots I’ve interacted with have higher levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than pilots who are flying real planes in Afghanistan. Now what’s that about?
I think they’re suffering from digiphrenia. All day, they experience themselves in Kabul, flying planes and sometimes killing real people. That’s bad enough in itself. But then they take off their headsets, get in their cars, and drive home to the Nevada suburbs and sit down to dinner with their wives and kids. “How was school today, honey?” They are living two very different lives at the same time.
Unlike a traditional, real-world pilot who lands his plane on an aircraft carrier or military base and then hangs out with other military people, the drone pilot is doing all this essentially from home — living two, conflicting yet simultaneous instances of himself. These two different instances are occurring in essentially the very same present. That’s present shock.