Book Review: “Program or Be Programmed” by Douglas Rushkoff

Book Review:
Program or Be Programmed – Ten Commands for a Digital Age
by Douglas Rushkoff

Every once in a while, a visionary comes along who sees the big picture. And, even rarer still – that visionary is able to offer real-world solutions to tough problems. Douglas Rushkoff is just such a visionary. In, Program or Be Programmed – Ten Commands for a Digital Age, Rushkoff dissects our reliance on the digital age in which we live with philosophical clarity. In this small treatise, Rushkoff covers topics ranging from how social media has transformed social norms, to the metamorphosis of old advertising supplying in-your-face-with-no-choices TV commercials, and how today we can actually filter and accept only that advertising we choose to view.

The actual and underlying premise of the book is that we need to understand programming – or we are simply being programmed ourselves. That most computer users understand little of the “how” behind how an application works, presents a problem of age-old significance. We certainly don’t have to understand how an internal combustion engine works in order to drive a car, but when that engine breaks down, we would be far better off knowing a little bit of how it functions when talking to the repairman. Rushkoff isn’t saying we all have to become programmers – but that we understand a modest quantity about the engine under the hood of our digital machines.

I’ll refrain from spoiling the fruits of this book – there are gems of wisdom throughout. Like another reviewer wrote, “Rushkoff writes a book with only sentences that have meaning.”  The book is a very forward look into the future of social interaction, knowledge acquisition, and how the digital age heralds a re-wiring of our biological thought processes.

Anyone who is trying to figure out what the hell is happening with our newly-embraced digital society, today and in the future, should read this book.

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