We are delighted to offer the audiobook version of Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff on BetterListen! Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, says that we should “Read this book [Program or Be Programmed] before and after you Tweet, Facebook, email, or YouTube.” We agree. Following is a transcribed excerpt from this fascinating book, read by Rushkoff himself.
When human beings acquired language, we learned not just how to listen but how to speak. When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but how to write. As we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them. In the emerging highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software. It’s really that simple. Program or be programmed. Choose the former and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter and it could be the last real choice you get to make.
For while digital technologies are in many ways a natural outgrowth of what went before, they are also markedly different. Computers and networks are more than mere tools. They are like living things themselves. Unlike a rake, a pen, or even a jackhammer, a digital technology is programmed. This means it comes with instructions not just for its use but also for itself. As such technologies come to characterize the future of the way we live and work, the people programming them take on an increasingly important role in shaping our world and how it works. After that, it’s the digital technologies themselves that will be shaping our world both with and without our explicit cooperation.
That’s why this moment matters. We are creating a blueprint together. A design for our collective future. The possibilities for social, economic, practical, artistic, and even spiritual progress are tremendous. Just as words gave people the ability to pass on knowledge for what we now call civilization, networked activity could soon offer us access to shared thinking, an extension of consciousness still inconceivable to most of us today. The operating principals of commerce and culture from supply and demand to command and control could conceivably give way to an entirely more engaged, connected and collaborative mode of participation. But so far anyway, too many of us are finding our digital networks responding unpredictably or even opposed to our intentions.