A reading club with a view to the future

059 Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

In the digital age, we must understand how programming works to maintain our autonomy and avoid becoming slaves to the technology.

Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed


Rushkoff makes a case for digital literacy and programming literacy as a necessary survival skill in today's digital world. The book explores the power of software and how it shapes our lives, for better or for worse.


Title: Program or Be Programmed

Author: Douglas Rushkoff

Publishing Year: 2013

Publisher: OR Books

Length in Hours: 3 hours and 28 minutes

5 main ideas

  1. We must learn how to program or risk becoming digital serfs.
  2. The internet and social media are not neutral platforms, but designed with specific intentions that shape how we think and interact.
  3. In order to understand how the world works, we must understand how software works.
  4. The ability to program gives us the power to shape technology to our own ends, rather than being controlled by it.
  5. A lack of programming literacy creates a power imbalance between those who control technology and those who are controlled by it.
Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

5 funny quotes

  1. "The interesting thing about air time is that it's always available, and you never run out of it."
  2. "We don't even ask each other for the time anymore, we just take out our cell phones."
  3. "If someone really wants to reach me, they can send me a text message or an email. But if they really want to annoy me, they can call me."
  4. "We are increasingly allowing our devices to mediate between us and the world, instead of mediating the devices to better serve us."
  5. "It's not that we've stopped thinking for ourselves - it's that we've stopped thinking altogether."

5 thought-provoking quotes​

  1. "Those who don't program will be programmed."
  2. "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. And as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them."
  3. "The difference between a society that encourages critical thinking and one that simply accepts orders is the difference between a society that is free and one that is not."
  4. "The medium is no longer the message - the network is the message."
  5. "In the emerging, highly programmed landscape ahead, you will either create the software or you will be the software."

5 dilemmas

  1. Balancing the benefits of technology with the potential drawbacks, such as addiction, distraction, and loss of privacy.
  2. Navigating the tension between efficiency and creativity in a world that values speed and productivity above all else.
  3. The trade-off between convenience and control - when we give up control over our information and data in exchange for ease of use.
  4. The question of whether we are creating technology that serves us or that we serve, and the implications for our autonomy and agency.
  5. The tension between individualism and community in an increasingly networked and interconnected world.

5 examples

  1. The Open Source movement and its leading proponents, such as Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond.
  2. The development of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and his team at CERN.
  3. The rise of the Linux operating system and its community of developers and users.
  4. The development of the modern computer mouse by Douglas Engelbart and his team at SRI International.
  5. The development of the first programming language, Fortran, by a team led by John Backus at IBM.

Referenced books

  1. "Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man" by Marshall McLuhan
  2. "The Medium is the Massage" by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore
  3. "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen
  4. "The Hacker Ethic" by Pekka Himanen
  5. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas S. Kuhn

Share a quote

"Those who don't program will be programmed."

Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed
Become a NextBook Insider

Join our community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, participate in giveaways, and more.