April 14, 2014 at 6:51 am #587
In chapter 9, Rushkoff addresses the issue of piracy that we discussed in chapter six of B2B. The internet was designed for sharing. And, this sharing predisposes us to believing that we have a right to “share” that which isn’t truly ours to share (p. 125).
In the same chapter, Rushkoff foresees peer-to-peer currencies. He believes this system of currency makes more sense than our century-old system (p. 131). With a peer-to-peer currency, it will be easier to support artists and musicians directly. And, we will be more likely to pay a musician than an “impersonal corporation” (p. 132).
It’s ironic that one such currency, bitcoin, was recently revealed to be a victim of long-term theft. Someone used programming to steal the currency that could make it easier for us to pay, than to steal.
In chapter 10, Rushkoff makes the case that our failure to learn programming will eventually lead to being controlled (p. 139). He supports his argument by comparing the digital age to the age when literature first became available to the masses. The elite were always one step ahead of the general public. Only the elite, such as a rabbi or priest, had access to printed material before the printing press. After the printing press, many could read, but few could publish. Now, we are at the same point with technology. Many have access to the internet, but we are confined to the preprogrammed limits of the various platforms (p. 145 – 146).
According to Rushkoff, our excitement over technology only exaggerates the problem. On one side of the spectrum is social media, where we freely engage using an interface that is “dedicated to finding a valid advertising model.” On the other end is electronic voting. Most of us don’t understand the programming and must trust the “neutrality” of the programmer (p. 146). In our enthusiasm for technology, we become dependent on the programmers without understanding the processes involved.
Do you agree? In the United States, are we at risk of being surpassed (p. 136) and controlled by those who program?
And, if you want to speculate about the future…. When virtual currency becomes standard, are we at an even greater risk of control if we fail to become programmers?
Or, is Rushkoff overstating a problem with a simple solution? After all, he later claims that the programming that threatens to undo us can be learned with little effort and in short period of time (p. 149).
April 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm #592
With respect to the risk to the United States of being surpassed by other countries and those who program, I think it’s a possibility. Pretty much a week doesn’t go by without hearing a news story or experts talking about the lack of math and science skills in the United States compared to other countries. It seems logical that programming skills lag behind, also.
On the other hand, I think Ruskkoff is overstating a problem with a simple solution. It sounds nice in theory if all of us learned to program, but I don’t think it’s practical. I think programming is harder than Rushkoff proclaims, unless it’s learned at a young age or a person is inclined naturally. Also, it seems like the Internet, as well as other platforms, would be mass chaos if everyone had the ability to hack into or change programs.
With that said, if other countries are teaching their youth to write software and learn cryptography, we should teach these skills, too, so that we’re not disadvantaged technologically and economically (p. 130). It may not be possible for the entire population to learn programming, but a subset of the population can and should learn it. As Rushkoff states, even if we can’t learn to program, we should at least endeavor to learn what we can about the technological tools we’re using (p. 143). I think that is reasonable and realistic.
April 18, 2014 at 7:54 am #595
From personal experience, my kid’s haven’t yet encountered programming in high school. My daughter is taking a class right now in which, according to the syllabus, they are designing a website. They haven’t done any programming yet. They mostly play with text effects. My daughter complains that the teacher is, technologically speaking, behind the students. (Her background is not in technology.) Last week, my daughter relayed a story where the teacher presented hashtags as a topic that “they may not have heard of before.” Clearly, the school doesn’t place much emphasis on programming.
Outside of personal experience, I saw an article recently that teen interest in STEM subjects continues to decline. Sorry, I can’t remember where I read it. Here is a link to a similar article from last year:
According to this article, teen interest in pursuing STEM subjects after high school is dropping. And, it has been for some time. Microsoft and other tech companies are pushing for immigration reform so they can hire talented foreign students on work visas. The author believes these companies are behind the push to claim there is a STEM shortage so they can hire more foreign workers. Regardless of the motivation, this seems to support Rushkoff’s belief that countries outside of the United States are pushing their students to learn how computers work, while our students are only learning how to use software (p. 135 – 137).
April 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm #596
Kelli, I like what you have to say about other countries teaching skills that we are lacking here in the US. We are already so far behind in certain subjects that it would seem logical to arm our children with the information they need to adapt to an ever-changing technological landscape. I do agree with you on your point about Rushkoff simplifying the problem. I also think it would drastically alter the landscape of the internet if everyone had these skills. Not everyone is a mechanic; not everyone should be a programmer.
April 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm #600
I agree. The US has been lagging behind many countries for a long time. I believe the downfall began when they created the U.S. department of education. They should return control to the states and get the federal government out of the class room.
Plus, we need to change our culture. We worship people who don’t even finish school yet we ridicule those who are successful due to their interest in learning.
This results in our kids taking a cavalier attitude towards learning. The Asian cultural attitude towards education is amazing. Learning takes precedence over everything else.
- This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by Tim Algeo.
April 18, 2014 at 12:31 pm #597
Interesting points and article, Heather.
If your daughter’s story wasn’t so sad because it validates Rushkoff’s claims, it would be funny. This is the first I’ve heard of companies in Silicon Valley perpetuating the myth of a STEM shortage for more business-friendly immigration policies and ultimately more opportunities to hire foreign workers for less money. It certainly doesn’t surprise me though. It really is prudent nowadays to have a healthy dose of cynicism when consuming the news and ask, “Who can profit or benefit from this and why.”
April 18, 2014 at 12:36 pm #598
Heather, I enjoyed the part in the chapter where he was talking about social media being an advertising platform. I really did not give this much credence until I began taking social media management classes. Now, armed with information Rushkoff claims everyone should have, I do see his point. It has reached a point that every piece of content we put up is open for grabs. Algorithms are tailoring advertising to usage. While I am still not as skeptical as Rushkoff, I do think it goes back to discussions had earlier in this course. Educating oneself is important.
April 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm #599
Firstly, I think that the “virtual currency” is a bad idea and will lead to more power in the hands of the wealthy and those in political power. That is of great concern to me.
Even our current monetary system gives the government too much control over our financial independence.
I tend to agree with Rushkoff in that we need to educate ourselves to the new Matrix (my word, not his) or it will control us.
We need to combine our new technology with our old technology. We need to continue to read books and support independent libraries (not those controlled by a government agency).
April 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm #602
I’m a little confused about what you mean when you talk about virtual currency being a bad idea. You mention that our current system gives the government too much control over our financial independence, but one of the big reasons that Bitcoin, the first virtual currency to really take off, has made such waves is that it’s much more independent from government regulation.
Their FAQ talks about Bitcoin and regulation here.
Essentially, it’s possible to impose some degree of regulation on it, but not nearly to the same extent that traditional paper currency can be regulated. It depends much more on a peer-to-peer individual level, and thus it puts a lot more of the power back into the hands of individual users.
Bitcoin has its own issues, of course, including issues with security, but I’m inclined to see those issues as just growing pains from a very promising new technology. I think it’s fascinating how Rushkoff predicted Bitcoin’s rise, since I’d never heard anything about digital currency before Bitcoin, and I think he’s right when he says that it’s an excellent method of moving forward. Direct value-exchange between people, cutting out the cumbersome corporate middlemen, seems to me to be the way of the future.
April 18, 2014 at 3:35 pm #603
I think one important distinction we can make in Rushkoff’s distinction in programming is how good he thinks people should be at it. He cites a high school student learning it in a couple weeks with a book, which I think is a good example of how much he is referring to to count as ‘learning ‘ programming. He doesn’t mean that a person needs to be so good at programming that they can be writing their own software and fighting against Chinese hackers. Instead, he means that everyone should have the basics of programming down, and be able to communicate in a programming language.
This is because Rushkoff seems to be supporting the point that only one aspect of importance is the practical aspect of using programming. The other important aspect of this is changing how people think of computers. If more people know how to program, then more people are inclined to look at computers and machines as running on code instead of as just doing the functions that they’re designed to complete.
This calls out something else that Rushkoff said that particularly resonated with me. He mentions that the way people learn about computers can play a difference, and said that his generation learned about them as ‘anything machines’ which influences how he thinks of them. In comparison, younger generations have learned about computers through the framework of software, with the functionality that people want to assign to computers. I find this particularly true. I always thought of computers as requiring the particular software to accomplish functions, but now I realize that they aren’t so cut-and-dry.
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