January 13, 2011

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects – Program or Be Programmed

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:46 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commandments for a Digital Age by Douglas Rushkoff, OR Books, 149 pages, $16.00, Paperback, November 2010, ISBN 9781935928157

There have been a great number of books debating what effects technology and the Internet have had on us individually and as a species. And there is a bit of that at play in Douglas Rushkoff’s recent book, Program or Be Programmed, but what he really offers is a clear view of the fundamental biases of the Internet and what we can do to effectively use that technology without letting it abuse us in the process.

Program or Be Programmed does not literally suggest that we all have to learn to write computer code—though it’s helpful to understand that the code that is written makes certain decisions for us—but to write a code for our own lives and how we interact with and use technology. Rushkoff has come up with “ten commandments” in that regard, and each gets its own chapter in the book:

I. Time: Do Not Be Always On II. Place: Live in Person III. Choice: You May Always Choose None of the Above IV. Complexity: You Are Never Completely Right V. Scale: One Size Does Not Fit All VI. Identity: Be Yourself VII. Social: Do Not Sell Yourself VIII. Fact: Tell the Truth IX. Openness: Share, Don’t Steal X. Purpose: Program or Be Programmed
Business people will want to play close attention to the chapter on scale. After so many years of the Internet intoxication in business thought, it is a sober reminder for entrepreneurs that they must still create real value in the real world.
[B]usinesses face competition from their peers in an increasingly commodified landscape. It’s almost impossible to establish a foothold that can’t be undercut by a tiny shift in the price of one component. So instead of going into business, … players become search engines, portals, or aggregators, rising one level above all those competing businesses and skimming profit off the top. In an abstracted universe where everything is floating up in the same cloud, it is the indexer who provides context and direction. […] The existing bias of business toward abstraction combined with the net’s new emphasis on success through scale yielded a digital economy with almost no basis in actual commerce, the laws of supply and demand, or the creation of value. It’s not capitalism in the traditional sense, but an abstracted hyper-capitalism utterly divorce from getting anything done.
You’ll be surprised by how much intellectual wallop Rushkoff can pack into a slim 147 pages. Each page is a revelation, yet feels like a reminder of something you already knew. Program or Be Programmed is a simple, yet profound book, a book that can truly change your life in the hour it takes to read.