You don’t give much thought to the knower, or knowers, whose knowledge went into the map. As far as you’re concerned, the medium is the knowledge.
the map gained the ability to speak to us, to give us commands.
having earlier subsumed the knower, the map now begins to subsume the doer. The medium becomes the actor.
the map becomes the vehicle. The map does the driving.
Media takes command.
To understand how far computer programming can go in taking over human work, it helps to survey the different skills that people employ in getting stuff done. I would suggest that our skills can be divided into four categories. There are the motor skills we use in performing manual work. There are the analytical skills we use in diagnosing situations and phenomena and making judgments about them. There are the creative skills we use in doing artistic work, creating new objects and forms. And finally there are the communication or interpersonal skills we use in exerting influence over others, persuading them to act or think in certain ways. We combine these four skills, these four modes of doing, in various ways to carry out work, whether in wage-paying jobs or in our personal lives.
the substitution myth
Because software is usually designed to relieve us of effort, to remove the “friction” from our work and our lives, we end up suffering from a lack of stimulation. Our engagement in what we’re doing fades, and we perform lazily and learn little. But when something goes wrong — when the technology fails, for instance — we’re suddenly pushed all the way over into the debilitating state of overstimulation. Not only do we have to re-engage with the work, and reorient ourselves to the situation, but we also have to consult computer screens and punch in data. We’re overwhelmed.
But Marx did not believe that the emancipatory potential of technology was inherent in the technology itself. The emancipatory power would be released only through political, economic, and social changes. Technology would always serve its master.
Andreessen is oblivious to the fact that he is expressing a Marxian dream. Technology renders history irrelevant. So what he gives us is a simplistic, self-serving fairy tale. If software takes over all labor, surely we humans will be lifted into a paradise of what McLuhan termed “self-employment and artistic autonomy.”
Because the media of software is invisible to us, a black box that both knows and does without disclosing its workings to us, we also become subject to manipulation as we become more dependent on the technology. Economic and cultural power accrues to the programmers, to the people who control the media.
Claude Shannon, the father of information science
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