I understand that fear mongering sells books. I understand enthusiasts wanting to sign everybody up to "participate" in whatever activity excites them. But 99% of the people on earth today don't need to program. That is a specialist craft. And it has become "professionalized". The old do-it-yourself and hacker mentality of the 1960s through 1980s is long gone. Program if you want a career that pays relatively well. But you don't have to program to use your computer to surf the web, join in social networks, play games, or do your finances. Rushkoff is creating a bogeyman. (Note: if you get 5:00 minutes into this interview he backs off his extremist claim that "everybody must be a programmer" but he still makes claims that are nutty.)
Here is text I've transcribed from the video showing the idiocy of Rushkoff trying "sell" his fear of "Program or be programmed!":
Rushkoff: Now we get computers and we know how to use them but we don't really know how to program them. And that, as I see it, sets up a potentially dangerous difference between those who know how this technology works and those who really don't.What a pile of horse shit! He is saying you can't operate an automobile unless you are a mechanic because you wont be able to "really distinguish between the map and the territory" of automobiling. Nutty! I need a general understanding of how a car works, but I shouldn't need to be able to pop the hood and point to devices and explain in detail their operation. That's a specialist's task, a mechanics task!
Metzger: Dangerous how?
Rushkoff: Dangerous in that, if you're incapable of distinguishing between that which is and that which has been made to be like this, then it is really difficult to, um, engage consciously with reality, it's difficult to have any autonomy, it's, it's, you know the thing that happened to a lot of us either when we took psyhodelics for the first time, or studied buddhism for the first time, or went on line for the first time, is that we had this realization that 'oh, a whole lot of what I've been taking for granted isn't just this way by nature, these are not pre-existing circumstances, the world was made like this by people. These are social constructions. These are programs. From money to democracy to the city to using cars, that so much of the world around us doesn't have to be this way, it is this way because of a series of choices. If we move into an increasingly programmed reality without understanding that it has been programmed, much less understanding how to program it ourselves, I feel we are going to become incapable of really distinguishing between the map and the territory.
You can tell his argument is weak because the above quote gets murky with metaphysics and mystical terms. There is no crisp logic and not clear "this because of that" to it. Just like we don't train every kid in school to be a mechanic. We don't need to train every kid to be a programmer. Sure kids need to know "how a car works" and a kid needs to know "what is a computer and how a program works" but at a high level of principles without the ugly details of actual hardware, actual operating system, all the gory details of a programming language, and the necessary accoutrements of a professional programmer with knowledge about development environments, testing techniques, documentation, etc. That's for the pros. The other 99% can get along well enough with generalities and conceptual sketches.
At 6:30 into this video he puts up another idiotic claim that the "golden era" of computers is now past. In those golden days we used bulletin boards and downloaded comments, thought about our replies, composed them, and uploaded them. But today so many social media applications are instant & now. He claims "We've turned the Net from an asynchronous medium to an always on medium." And he "blames" the market for "doing this" to us. Nutty. You can choose applications, like blogging, that are asynchronous, if you enjoy that style of interaction. Or you can chat if you want instant interaction. It is a choice. It isn't "dictated by the market". Nutty!
Rushkoff is an idiot and doing fearmongering to sell this book. He is distorting what is into a story that reflects his fears and his fancies. There is nothing wrong with alerting people to alternative interpretations, but when you, like Rushkoff, claim your "insights" are Truth and sell them using fear, you've gone too far.
I like other stuff he has written, but I won't be reading this book. I'm outraged that he is making such ludicrous claims and using such disreputable means to sell his book.
Update 2010oct08: Here is a video that distills Rushkoff's book into two minutes of video. I still don't buy the "message"...