It’s Time to Regain Control of Our Technology
Douglas Rushkoff is an award winning and best-selling author, podcast host, and professor who focuses on human autonomy in the digital age we’re living in. Rushkoff’s article “We’ve spent the decade letting our tech define us. It’s out of control” argues that technology has grown from simply being the tools we use to an environment we never really escape, and encourages readers to make the changes they can.
A focus points of Rushkoff’s article is that the lines where our lives intersect with technology have become blurred and no longer exist. Rushkoff points out “…we live online 24/7, creating data as we move through our lives, accessible to everyone and everything…Apple, Twitter, and google are not just technology services we use, but staples in our retirement portfolios, on whose continued success our financial futures depend” (2). The article “Silicon Valley’s Tax-Avoiding, Job-Killing, Soul-Sucking Machine” does an excellent job of illustrating how these companies stay in power.
Rushkoff’s discussion of the emergence of technology as an environment that we function in is directly related to the digital studies curriculum, as the minor is meant to prepare us to strive in the digital environment and be able to adapt to new technologies and situations as they evolve. The Center for Humane Technology is an initiative that focuses on building technology that acts humanely. “Humane” is defined as a branch of learning intended to have a civilizing or refining effect on people, which is something technology in many forms lacks right now. I found that the Center for Humane Technology provides simple steps people can take to regain control of their technology, which included deleting toxic apps. They specifically recommended deleting Facebook, Tik Tok, Snapchat, and Instagram and offered alternatives such as using Marco Polo, text message functions, or other forms of direct communication. They also recommend helpful digital tools to download that can help with screen time use, which I thought was awesome.
Rushkoff connects to Meredith Broussard’s concept of technochauvinism in his critique of the response to his book “Programmed or Be Programmed” and the learn to code movement that was launched in schools. As a single solution, the learn to code movement focuses on developing a skill to survive in and serve the “digital economy” rather than fixing the problems that exist in the digital world.
Rushkoff also makes an excellent point that “We have surrendered to digital platforms that look at human individuality and variance as a ‘noise’ to be corrected rather than signal to be cherished” (4). He states that “leading” technologists are under the spell of technochauvinism, always looking to technology for the solution which is a problem because of the insane amount of power is isolated at the top of the tech world held by a few companies. There have been discussions about breaking companies like Facebook up, including this article It’s Time to Break Up Facebook by one of Facebook’s founders Chris Hughes.
Reading this article and investigating the Center for Humane Technology helped me think about all of the power every one of us has at our fingertips, and how much of it isn’t being used for the common good of everyone or to benefit the world. It also made me consider the idea of inconveniencing yourself whether it be socially or otherwise by abstaining from mainstream social media or downloading app alternatives in order to work on taking back control of our technology.