Response to “Program or be Programmed”

In today’s world we take many things for granted; things such as having a roof over our heads, friends to keep you company, or being able to find a Starbucks within 5 minutes of realizing you have a craving for Starbucks. It’s pretty eye-opening, mystifying, and sometimes even frightening how reliant we all have become on many things. This idea of reliance seems to almost be amplified ten-fold, at least in my own opinion, when it comes to technology. And not just all or any technology but, more specifically, technology that gives us access to digital media and all the goodies and information that it contains, which is quite a bit. I cannot begin to even think of the last time I have gone anywhere for any reason and have not seen a single person on their cellphone, tablet, or device of that nature. This includes places like church, a classroom, or hell, even a damn funeral I was at there were still people texting or checking God knows what on their phones. The deceased is not even in the ground yet and they are already turning over in their graves. It is absolutely crazy; people should really be paying attention in class. It is becoming a real issue that should cause maybe a little bit of concern, I mean too many people are walking head-on into each other on sidewalks across the nation and I think that is saying something; “Look up while walking.” I guess evolution has not selected for the need to see where we are going anymore. This issue of complete and utter reliance on devices the size of a half-sandwich is covered in the article “Program or be Programmed” by Douglas Rushkoff.

The title of the article sums up the article in its short and blunt four words. His main argument is that if you are not one of the people who actively designs and programs these devices and networks and all that sort of fun stuff, then you are like putty in the hands of the devices that those people create. This article was a kind of wake-up call for me. This is because I had been asking myself for a while now questions like, “What if we run out of people who know how everything works?” It’s kind of a dumb, ditsy question you might expect to hear from someone after they get their wisdom teeth removed, but it’s also pretty scary to actually think about. The reason I had that question in my head is due to the fact that everyone I know that actually knows about programming and designing working cell phones and computers is much older than myself. I tried to think of any of my age level friends and when I asked them just some basic questions about how certain things worked, none of them knew. This sort of terrified me because EVERYTHING we do in life is on display for everyone to see. We have twitter to tell everyone where we’re going and what type of latte we are getting. We have Facebook to share click-bait articles that make you dumber after you view them. We have Instagram to let everyone see how pretty we are and how exciting our lives are. We have snapchat to let people be proud of us by showing them that we are drinking alcohol even though people stopped caring about that level of awesomeness in high school. We do everything through digital media now, and the fact that a vast majority do not have the slightest clue how it all works is pretty anxiety-inducing.

This was the feeling I got reading Rushkoff’s article. He addresses this dependency on digital media and further explains some of the things I just mentioned. Primarily he says it is important for people to have some sort of understanding about the devices they are using as well as what allows us to use them to connect with the entire world. By having this sort of understanding, we can learn to appreciate the incredible complexity that is digital media. Also, by being able to program, you are setting yourself apart from the masses in an incredibly positive way. Seeing as everything is becoming more and more and more and more……and more reliant on the newest technologies and staying connected to all people at all times, it comes as quite the advantage to have knowledge of digital media and how to manipulate it. Rushkoff then explains the second part of the article’s title; “Or be Programmed.” Here he makes note of some of the consequences people face by taking digital media and technology for granted. People become so immersed and involved with their devices that they lose all sense of the world around them. In a sort of Christopher Nolan type scenario, people have allowed the digital world to replace the real world. They cannot live without the digital world, or they lose a sense of being or feel awkward and lost if they are without access to the digital world. We no longer control our devices, rather, they control, or “Program”, us. We fall victim to the new crazes and features that are thrown at us every other month. Because we do not know how to program, we just accept changes and updates with no real clue what is actually changing. As long as we can still be updated on everything happening everywhere in the world, we will remain happy and content. We are programmed by our devices because everything that happens to or through them, directly affects us. For example, if your phone freezes, our life seems to freeze. We can no longer see what’s happening or who is liking what or what new, cute dog pictures have been retweeted. When our phone’s die, a part of us dies with it, especially if we are without a holy charger for an extended period of time. Our lives revolve around knowing anything and everything and being connected to everyone at all times. I see this every day in class as the professor dismisses and everyone whips out their phones to see what they have missed over the last fifty minutes. Actually, no, scratch that. It has not been fifty minutes, but actually fifty seconds, as nearly everyone in classes these days has their phone on their desk, on their lap, propped up on their laptop hiding from the professor behind the screen, or in their hands texting the whole time. It really is a shame to see how dominated we all are by digital, social, and new media. We truly do not take the time to experience the world, or even the people, directly in front of us. Even face to face conversation seems to revolve more and more around the epicenter that is our phones and what is going on with so-and-so after something they posted online. New technologies are an incredible thing and have countless positive effects. However, the amount of our attention they can consume on an unfortunately regular basis is proving to be a sad negative side effect. The craziest part is that I typed all this while watching TV, texting friends between paragraphs, checking and seeing my friends haven’t texted me back between paragraphs, sitting back and wondering why they hadn’t texted me back, realizing it had been 30 minutes since I had typed anything, and also playing a game or two in some other open tabs on my computer. It is too late for me. I am already programmed. Save the others… if that’s even possible.