Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age | Interactive 2010 | SXSW
When I look at the world, when I look at the economy or religion or government or corporations, I am Filled with the overwhelming sense that we are attempting to operate our society on obsolete code on software — and I don’t just mean our computer software, I mean our social software — on software that are basically legacy systems to legacies we don’t even remember. And that they’re completely inappropriate to what it is we want to get done and that if we can’t understand these programs, the programs in our computers in this world that we’re spending a lot of our time in then we don’t stand a chance of even recognizing those programs. These programs are built on top of the old software. This helps that old software work. This is built on top of the economy it’s built on top of central banking it’s built on top of our current government structures. And If we can’t see through this then we’ll never see that. I wanted to figure out how much of this is the bias of the medium — In other words that we’re in a binary medium, a plus/minus discrete you always have to make a choice medium — versus an analogue reality that has many colors and different things. How much is it the bias of the medium and how much is it the biases of the people who programmed this media for us? Who programmed our technology for us? And How do we even know which is which? How can we even tell them apart? And what I believe is that We won’t know until we understand how our technologies work, and how our technologies work on us. I do believe that if you are not a Programmer you are one of the programmed. It’s that simple. You move from being a passive, almost a hearer of the game, not even…just a person who’s in the game, doesn’t even know the Rules — what can be bent and what can’t — to being a cheater, to being a writer, to being a programmer. Those are the stages our civilization has moved through in successive ages of media. We went from people who just lived in a world that had rules, that we don’t even know what they are. Maybe it’s Gonna rain. Maybe it’s not. Maybe if I sacrifice my kid to Moloch, I’ll get some some plants this year. Maybe I won’t. People just randomly trying to find some predictability. Then we get text, right? We get the 22 letter alphabet. So now instead of depending on priests to read everything for us in hieroglyphs, now we can make our own words. Then we get the printing press, which in theory, now, lets us — instead of depending on a few scribes — now anyone can write. And then we get the computer which of course, now, makes anyone can program reality. Now that’s not what actually happened though. We got text We got a 22-letter alphabet, and what kind of society resulted from that? A bunch of Israelites who go to the town square and hear the rabbi read the Torah to them. So we get the ability to read, and…or the technology of reading and what ability do we get? The ability of the generation before. We get the printing press. Does everyone become a writer? No. We get a civilization of readers and an elite of writers. And now we get the computer. Do we get a nation of programmers? No we get a nation of bloggers. Now we’ve got the great ability to write, but we don’t know how to program. We write in the box that Google gives us. My issue is that at each stage, when we get a new medium, civilization seems to be one stage behind, one generation, one iteration behind the medium that they’re using. And an elite — maybe a new elite — learns to actually use the thing. And this one is bigger. Programming is even bigger, I would argue, than the printing press. Judaism, the printing press gave us protestantism. What does this one give us? I think it’s important — maybe less for the people in this room then for the people who aren’t in this room, or don’t even know about this room — to be able to contend with the biases of digital Media, to know that there are such things as biases, to be able to make conscious choices about what they use and what they don’t. So I think it’s our job To be able to speak about it in a way that people understand, the stuff that we might understand intuitively. Like, oh, apple is going to make a new file structure where there’s no files anymore. And it’s all part of one big database. Well everyone in this room would know, oh my gosh if all your files are in something that doesn’t have files anymore, now you’re going to be wed to that software and stuff, right, because you won’t be able to get your files off the machine. But people, other people don’t think about it that way, because they don’t understand technology as having biases. It’s an amazing moment where we can begin to program money program society. But to do that. We have to understand both the programs that we’re using to do it, and the meme sets, the codes that we are working with, the symbols, And how we relate to them. If we don’t create a society that at least knows there’s a thing called programming Then we will end up being, you know, not the programmers, but the users and worse the used.