Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

by Socrates on October 1, 2010

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In a recent blog post I asked: Does Technology Make Us Smart or Stupid?

At least part of my motivation for asking the question was a result of watching a thought provoking must-see PBS Frontline documentary by Douglas Rushkoff called Digital Nation, which examined many of the pros and cons of the internet and modern technology.

In the video below Douglas Rushkoff goes a step further and argues that within the current technological paradigm one either programs or is being programmed.

While Rushkoff’s argument and its implications are much broader in scope and more sophisticated in meaning than merely referring to computer code, it reminds me strongly of the classic cult sci fi movie Tron.

In Tron there are “programs” and “users.” Since the users wrote (i.e. programmed) the code for the programs, in Tron the users are Gods. The programs, however, are just marionettes.

In Tron, Rushkoff’s argument is perfectly sound: You either program or are programmed!

But what about “real” life?

Is it all just a computer simulation?!

Are we all either “users” or “programs”?

Is it all just a video game?!…

My answer is: Yes, absolutely!

In a sense even in real life, in one way or another, you are either a programmer or are (being) programmed.

Thus the choice indeed is up to each and every one of us: Program or Be Programmed!

I have made my choice.

But what about you? Have you made yours?

  • Cymast

    I believe the fundamental question is whether we have free will. Logic tells me we do not. Perhaps the wheels were set in motion at the Big Bang- or before then- to lead me to type this comment today. Perhaps everything- right down to the level of Planck units- is all the result of causality.

    But maybe free will is a force unconstrained by logic and the laws of the universe. Perhaps this question will inevitably be answered at some universally pre-determined date . .

  • Socrates

    Very interesting Cymast,I personally don’t feel so deterministic for I embrace Kurt Godel’s argument of The Limits of Logic… Even though it eventually drove him insane…

  • Cymast

    I don’t know whether a human brain with dueling sides of logic and non-logic can solve the riddle.

    Are consciousness and free will intertwined? I believe the answer is pivotal to our definition and understanding of AI. If the Incompleteness Theorem is the defining factor of non-determinism, and is responsible for free will, and human behavior / intelligence does indeed result in AI, I would conclude machine function is as non-deterministic as human behavior, as the Incompleteness Theorem obviously applies to machine function. “Function” and “behavior” are arguably indistinguishable from each other in AI. Granted, machines don’t have “free will” as “free will” is commonly defined. Life likely began with self-replicating nano-particles- naturally occurring “machines.” At what point does free-will enter, and why at that specific point? Single-celled organisms? A fuzzy cross-over to complex organisms? Do nano-particles have a rudimentary self-consciousness?

    I better stop before I end up like Godel. It may be too late . .

  • Socrates

    …or you may make a great discovery for it seems to me you have a pretty deep line of reasoning…

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