This should be a much longer post, as I should be racing to class. Finishing Sherri Turkle’s book (and being half-way through danah boyd’s latest) has been helping me rethink the technophiliac/technophobic dialectical lens through which I have long been looking at our relationship with technology. That, and of course Spotify’s suddenly predictive powers.
So, I thought first of this part of this poem by Richard Brautigan:
I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.
There’s a hippieish vibe to it that doesn’t fit with my punk rock rappish soul, but the phrase is a spectacular one, and presciently marks Turkle’s path. If you remember, Turkle argues that she’s mostly afraid that we will not worry that our machines are about to enslave us or feed on us or any of that gross stuff; instead, we will only want them to like and care about us, which I think frightens her at her core.
It probably should.
So, as we consider these machines of loving grace I have now had two mornings in a row in which Spotify’s random music generator algorithm has seemed frighteningly predictive. Yesterday the songs were about getting along with difficult people (“Here Come the Bastards” by Primus led off), and precipitated a tweet on my part about reading entrails and tea leaves. This morning song after song was about vision and dreams (and endings and death), and made me think that a) the engineers and coders at Spotify were fucking with me and b) maybe they weren’t and wowwowowowowowowowowow I truly hope that the machine does care about and love me and speaks to me through the lyrics of indie (and not-so-indie) musicians. I suddenly didn’t care if the machine was SkyNet about to unleash Armageddon – I just wanted to feel its presence, its virtual arms wrapping me in a protective cocoon.
A shiver goes through me as I think of literary vistas of warehouse-size rooms full of dead journals and magazines and newspapers, gently lit by indirect lighting and making nary a sound, “watched over” by “those machines of loving grace.” Breezes that were not created by natural, climactic forces stir them, making unusual eddies and whooshes. The only animals are animatronic, but they serve as a key sensory element of the machines that are watching over these rooms, keeping them for the humans that have long been gone.