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“Industry wants Cheap Power,
  romantic muscle
  a perilous wilderness,
  Mr. Pleasure pays
  for surf-riding, claret, sex;
  it offers them none.
  To me, though, much: a vision...”
    ~ W. H. Auden, “Amor Loci” from City Without Walls (1969)

“I believe there is a place for labor-saving tools, but a very small one. It seems to me, as well as Karl Marx, that technology has rarely served the people who do the work, but it usually enslaves them to work greater hours with little autonomy...
“As our society changed from a rural farming network to an urban industrial one... our autonomy decreased rapidly, as we were forced to seek work from economic masters to survive...
“If the computer is such a labor-saving device, then why do people go to college to learn how to sit in front of one for one-third of their lives when 30 years ago they would have never dreamed of doing this? Wow, what a time saver and convenience the computer is for those who type data into one for eight hours a day.”
    ~ Tom Mekus, from an opinion piece appearing in Technician (NC State University’s student newspaper), Feb. 10, 1986

“The problem’s plain to see
  Too much technology
  Machines to save our lives
  Machines dehumanize”
   ~ Styx, “Mr. Roboto” from the album Kilroy Was Here (1983)

I got into technology when I was just a kid.
I’d swallowed the idea that science would help the world rid
Itself of poverty, disease, political unrest
And asked an older cousin how I might contribute best.
Electronics engineering would let me pursue it,
He said. I was age seven when I told myself “I’ll do it”.
Then when I got to college I found there was not much to it
But bland math equations much the same from class to class.
I solved no real-world problems. Could’ve sat there smoking grass
To get the same effect. The most fun was the programming.
Computers may not save us from ourselves, but there is something
Fascinating in the art of coding algorithms.
It wasn’t bad for one who didn’t mind anomalisms
Like sitting at a terminal for hours every day
Conversing with machinery whilst other guys would play
Football, hackey sack, or D&D. Yet by that time
I’d lost the idealistic visions I’d once known, back in my prime
Of how technology would make it possible to slip
The surly bonds of Earth, as pilot John Magee would quip.
What had spurred me on for years was the perhaps strange thought
That humankind would likely wipe its home world out. We ought,
Before that happens, plan to send some folks out to the stars,
Or somewhat closer; for example, Titan or, say, Mars,
If there’s water on them. There’s just one way this can be:
Folks like me invest whole lifetimes in technology.
Now I see folks doing so; the geeks are out in droves.
What they’re doing out there strikes me dumb: all geekdom roves
About the sidewalks with their heads bent down toward little screens
Worshipping eternal and almighty small machines.

Imagine what I could do if I had a PDA.
Rather than be here with you, I could be far away,
Completely unaware of what is going on right by me.
I’d get a lot of “work” done while my flesh and bones could stymie
Themselves, and my poor monkey brain, with atrophy, neglect.
There’s nothing more effective than computers to select
For us the tasks we take on. I could please some silly boss
By checking up on software builds and email as I cross
A busy street, unmindful of the risk to life and limb
I’m taking on for sake of someone else’s idea grim
Toward what I’m meant to do and be. I could amuse
With this, my catchy PDA, and also much confuse
The people all around me as I check out at the store.
Why, I could move right through the line while meantime I ignore
Just where I’m setting items that I’m grabbing from my cart
Because I’m staring at this little screen; I must look smart
As some of my things go on the conveyor, some beside it,
And some are falling on the floor and breaking. How to hide it?
Now that I’m alert, I see I’m failing to impress
The store employees who come out to clean my little mess.
So let me take a walk with you. We’ll go along the ridgeline
Where the mule deer, granite rocks, black oak, madrone, and scotch pine
Abound. It’s spring. The wildflowers show their varied hues.
A rattlesnake stretched on the path must make way for my shoes
Because within this little world I’ve got here in my hand
There’s not a place for nature scenes, unless at my command
A photo of one shows itself. Or you could take one, too,
I’ll keep it here so I’ll remember this nice walk with you.
It’s such great conversation as I dig through GUI widgets;
It’s so great exercising both my feet and a few digits
Until we’re back at home. Now wasn’t that a bunch of fun?
This megapixel image shows we got a little sun.
Let’s go to the museum. I won’t look directly at
The art that hangs there — why on Earth would anyone do that?
It’s better if I’ll pass through, shooting photos all the while.
I can show them off if I can figure out which file
They’re in, when later I would like to pull them up again.
I could jot it down, but recently I lost the pen
That fits this PDA, and they don’t make it any longer.
I’ll pick up a new model that is better, faster, stronger,
And plenty more expensive. Well, I needed some excuse
To upgrade, though to learn my way around one seems obtuse:
I’ll never find one quite the same as this, but should I care?
More features make each learning curve worthwhile, I declare.

These days I work the longest hours I’d thought I was ever able
Before computers made it easy. Now I see on cable
Statistics showing that I’ll live more years than my ancestors,
Even as my soul grows cold and my tamed body festers,
For modern medicine can fix the problems I’m acquiring
As I can handle work once done by eight, without perspiring,
For the power of machines doth multiply my efforts
More than could a flock of CompSci grads clad in bright T-shirts,
Though I could have hired them for pennies on the dollar
Now that fewer jobs are held and workers work much harder.
Most wage slaves I’ve known have never made it much past fifty
Before they’ve burned out, were committed, or caught something nifty
Like cancer, heart disease, or stroke. I smirk at what I’m hearing:
Such anecdotal stories as I know are interfering
With pat bromides coming through the media’s translations
Of visions from the great society of corporations
That aim to make us work so hard that we forget the rest
Of life, and make us think that corporate goals are by God blessed.

Machines are getting wiggly as they’re more and more complex.
They come to be so lifelike that they’ll soon be having sex
To bring mutations and mixed code to randomized fruition;
They’ll check their own programming with improving intuition.
Already intuition’s what it takes when multithreaded
Components go all haywire. Such deep bugs are the most dreaded
By software experts nowadays who crave simplicity
And think intuitive techniques lack authenticity,
For no one’s more religious than the average square programmer
Who claims that Linux must be GNU, that Microsoft’s a scammer,
That Perl’s a better thing than Python, Ruby being best.
There’s never means to put such certain knowledge to the test.
The reason one becomes this way is truly plain to see:
One gives one’s essence to machines, until one is less free
Than average folks. Thus while a bunch of dumb machines get smarter,
In parallel the brave soul who programs them is a martyr,
In slow ways, of the will, the soul, the atman, plus the social
Components of humanity. All that human potential
Is transferred into metal form, conveyed with reverential
Attitudes toward tools, techniques, strict grammars and fixed uses.
Though each programmer could use a broad range of means she chooses,
A narrowness of scope sets in. Our human world’s begetting
Some form of cybernetic life that may be soon forgetting
Just where it came from. Will machines inherit thus the Earth?
And will they value their progenitors at their true worth?
How silicon technology makes people unaware
They give their souls to their computers slowly, without care,
Is one of many funky questions I appreciate,
Along with that of how to save my soul from the same fate.

When I was born, a middling farm might have a hundred acres
That grew varieties of crops appealing to those takers
Who cared not for the one-size-fits-all offers for the table.
The advent of the factory farm makes most of us unable
To eat that way these days; the fact our food is full of toxin
Since there’s no way to feed six billion people using oxen
Or other old techniques besides a chemical solution
Means we need bigger equipment, bigger farms, pollution
That gets into our food and into us. I eat organic
Foods, live detox protocols. That’s why I get volcanic
Reactions from my gut whenever I fall off the wagon
By eating RoundUp-Ready rice or chugging down a flagon
Of bottled soda. Factory farming calls for monocultures
All prone to plant and insect pests, as well as birds, plus vultures:
The wingless kinds, the lawyers who protect their GMOs
From growing out of seeds on farms that haven’t paid for those.
Disputes can start when drifting pollen mixes with a crop
Of standard hybrid plants. The message: either pay or stop
Your use of life with patents on it. Why do small farms fail?
The lawsuits, chain shops, subsidies, economies of scale
All play into the fewest hands. There is no market
For my few acres’ output. Might as well dig in my pocket
To purchase all my food from growers I shall never know,
While my own land sits fallow: who needs further food to grow
When vastly larger farms produce their vastly larger yields
By dusting friendly-sounding poisons all across their fields.
How agricultural technology can be so yummy
As to add toxins into breast milk, oceans, and my tummy,
Is yet another funky question that I wouldn’t have to think of
If untainted self-sustainment I could eat and drink of.

Our medicine’s technology assumes the shape of farming’s
As drug cartels and agribusiness make peacetime disarmings
Of government controls a matter of the normal measures
Taken as all stakeholders grab posts, pursuing treasures,
In regulating agencies established for consumer
Care so that all’s justified, if with ironic humor,
When stories of how government has waste that we can shave
If corporate insiders, whose experience will save
On red tape, who’ll assume the most control of regulation
For products we’re ingesting? Is this not the situation
That gave us Cipro, medicine that leads to heart attacks.
Could it have had a warning label first, when testing slacks
Since nobody checks up to find out how a product’s tested
Besides the company that makes it? Who then got arrested
For murder? Though if herbs were implicated, there’d be trouble.
That’s why I can’t buy ma huang, as the standard’s always double,
And as some rabid sports nuts gorged themselves until they knocked
Themselves off, now the sale of it forever shall be blocked,
Unlike the sales of Cipro, which continue going strong.
So add that warning label and keep pushing to the throng.
The natural stuff that most deserves a warning must be sugar:
If you eat some every day, you’ll find that it’s a killer.
Not just obesity but also cravings, syndrome X,
Depression, diabetes: these are outcomes one expects
From eating the sweet stuff that’s hidden in most every pack
Of processed food, soup, cereal, sauce, bar, drink, dressing, snack,
And condiment. If doctors warn us that we act like fools
Ingesting all this sweetness, why’s it sold in public schools?
Technology likes simple answers and so feeds school classes
Whatever’s quickest to produce, addictive to the masses,
And rich in slick preservatives. If you go to the clinics
Complaining that your school food made you sick, you won’t find cynics,
But medical professionals who have the perfect pills
To help your packaged processed food cause you to feel no ills
So that, in your drug-altered state, you’ll think I’m in a panic:
It’s all in my head I feel smashed when I don’t eat organic.

We’ve made our networked cybernetic pixellated world.
Who needs the unclear unkempt untamed non-digitized world
Ruled by emotions whims and messy crud of every sort,
When cold hard logic is the clean and rational resort?
Let’s overlook the violence sloth and terror on the rise;
The deadbeats loafers beggars who once came as a surprise
Now occupy each workplace and hold signs on every street,
While lacking in initiative and living in defeat.
How can technology be blamed for devitalization?
Has it spoiled people, or is this the situation:
Suppose those people fail to note invisible oppression
From small antennas that they use for mobilized expression?
Maybe I’m more sensitive because the place I grew up
Came with big broadcast towers right on the adjacent hilltop
That pumped out Muzak round the clock with so much FM power
It bled through over each appliance and turned my tapes sour
As I played back recorded sound infused with strings and cymbals
From that one station’s programming with which each sound dissembles.
I can feel fortunate at least my teeth were lacking cavities:
Or my sound sleep might’ve suffered Muzak-based depravities.
I still can’t sleep to Muzak even if I try at length;
I also can’t think straight when I’m hit by much signal strength,
And I suspect the same might happen to most others too;
Perhaps they wouldn’t notice, since they wouldn’t have gone through
The radio bombardment that back in my youth I knew,
Though every brain on microwaves must go a bit askew.

A scary use of wireless technology will rise
The day when everyone on it, not wallets, once relies;
When credit cards and drivers’ licenses have been phased out:
Instead you’ll fill your bags and leave the store without a doubt
That you and your implantments have been scanned reliably
Since your receipt can show up for you electronically;
When every can of soup will have its own unique code key
And can be tracked from store to dump. Much better off we’ll be
When megabytes of details are your identification
That you take with you everywhere, and broadcast your location:
Else you’ll go nowhere and buy nothing. With broad jubilation
All will be accepted in the name of sound prevention
Of hackers, smugglers, oddballs, scoundrels, scams, and terrorism
We’re warned about on every evening’s breakdown of the news.
Thus shall the powers track us all, regardless of our views —
Perhaps, indeed, quite mindful of them. What would Stalin give
To have technology like that? Who thinks we can relive
His times? For no such people-tracking methods did exist
Until the modern day. We have the means and won’t resist
For long — no doubt each part of it’s on someone’s to-do list:
Thenceforth when habits raise concerns, the concerned shall go missed.

What can I say of those who build such gimmicks by vocation?
They had to strive for years but to receive an education
That led to jobs that led to hours staring at their screens
As though nobody else could work on their programs’ routines
Since evenings, days, and weekends they’re found sitting in their chairs
Because the management’s afraid the value of their shares
Might drop a bit if they would hire any more programmers
Where all agree the marketplace is that which most enamors
So which of them has time left for development for learning
For growth as spirits — and if it’s for families they’re yearning,
They won’t fast grow those either since there’s no time to have sex
While they’re held to their grindstones as mere corporate subjects.
Yet if we no more live as humans does this not imply
The realization of the dream: we need not fear to die?
If our excuse to exit life is that we have no presence
Then has our lifestyle brought us, like computers, quick senescence?
How else to make a living? Bum? Just sit here and collect?
The wünderkinder faces dismally such a prospect:
Why’s the smartest guy I know in this predicament?
If he must work just like a slave, I’d like to know who doesn’t.
Even with ten kids he’d be productive, come what may.
What does genius then amount to? Just the choice to stay
Constantly engrossed in naught but mental masturbation.
When he drops in too few years he’ll take his genius with him.
Who’ll then be left behind to build things in his place?
Tramps and unskilled laborers inherit the ratrace
Unless machines will then be smart enough that they’ll take over:
I hope they can afford the good life. Let them roll in clover.

What purpose has technology I once hoped to develop:
The tools that might’ve saved the world, not lead it to envelop
Itself in unawareness, sleepless zombies, machination
To track and poison, blind and numb us in sophistication?
I can eke out a living as I work on the inside
Of some proud corporate behemoth. Though I’m here for the ride,
It never shall control my mind; indeed if I’ll be wise
I just might share a thought or two with those here who’d surmise
A little of the danger that can come out of high tech:
Is this the best that can be done to keep the beast in check?
I also often can perform some rituals of healing
That aim to bring this cold hard place a bit of warmth and feeling
Here on the ground floor near the center of this office complex
I burn a leaf of sage, at least envision that; and in-flex
The outer walls until they’re drawn all tightly close around
Then drop from all of it a cord that binds it to the ground
That purposes embodied here may better serve all nature
For the sake of Earth, of life, of our collective future.
Is this so very different from my youthful deep space vision?
If we can never leave the planet, serving it’s my mission.

Thanks always returns

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