We are delighted to offer another transcribed excerpt from Douglas Rushkoff's mind-expanding book Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. In this book -- and this excerpt -- Rushkoff challenges us to take control of we interact with the ever evolving world of digital technology.
The way people approach me about this problem is they will say, “Well look, I know how to drive a car but I’m not an auto mechanic and I’m fine with that. When my car breaks, I’ll take it to the auto mechanic. I’ll take it to the garage.” Or the dealer at this point because people don’t trust the garage anymore. That’s another story. Take it back to the branded dealer and let them fix it. But I’m not talking about the difference between an auto mechanic and an automobile driver. I’m talking about the difference between an automobile driver and an automobile passenger.
The computer… the way to use a computer is not just to be taken around by it. The way to use a computer is to express what you want through the computer. I’m not asking you to take it apart and fix the power supply and fix the screen and make the processors function better or do heat dissipation on the processor which is too big for the case. That’s not what I’m asking you to do. I’m asking you to know how to use the keyboard to make programs so that you look at the computer as this anything machine.
It’s like… think of the computer as if it were a robot. You could be just, you know, Dr. Smith on Lost in Space, and listen to what the robot does. Or you could be Will Robinson and get in there and make the robot do the things you want. So if you have a robot and you think, “Well shoot, wouldn’t it be cool if this robot could plant my grass this year or start a fire in the fireplace?” The way you get it to do that is by telling the robot to do that. That’s what your computer is capable of. Your computer can do the things that you want. Your smart phone can do the things you want.
On the other hand, if you are content to be a passenger, think about what that would mean in a car. I mean, sure for Miss Daisy, she’s too old to drive. Her glasses don’t work. She never learned. Fine. She’ll be driven around by her driver. But for you -- do you want that to be your relationship to roads, to place, to map? That you have a driver? And what if the driver is not somebody you hire but some corporation who you don’t know? If you say “I want to go to a nice inexpensive restaurant” and it just takes you to McDonald’s all the time, how do you know another restaurant exists if your driver is depending on that company? You could look out the window, sure, but what if they are taking you on a route where you don’t even get to see the alternatives?