This performance art piece was delivered by Katina Michael at the Intelligence Squared (IQ2) debate at the City Recital Hall, Sydney, Australia, on August 12, 2014. The topic of the debate was “Are we becoming enslaved by our technology?” Joining Katina on the affirmative side was the Crikey (an Australian e-magazine) correspondent for politics, media, and economics, Bernard Keene, and Dimension Data's general manager of security and internet safety Alastair McGibbon. On the negative side was Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, backed by journalist, filmmaker and blogger, Antony Loewenstein, and by Asher Wolf, a self-described information activist. The debate was moderated by Dr. Simon Longstaff of the St James Ethics Centre and broadcast on Australia's ABC Radio National and ABC Big Ideas television program. The debate is available for viewing in full at: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2014/09/04/4081183.htm. The results of the online vote can be found at http://www.iq2oz.com/debates/we-are-becoming-enslaved-by-our-technology-/. As of October 31, 2014, 807 online votes had been received from the general public: 53% of online votes indicated we are becoming enslaved by technology.
First there was darkness
Then came the light
And the darkness was called night
And was separated from the light
And that was called day.
First came the knife
And then fire
Shelter, spear and clothing
The boat and the wheel
And then eventually the quill.
First came the printing press
The steam engine
The Spinning Jenny
Analytical and differential engines
And the light bulb
And the television.
Communications and electronic highways.
Mega-cities as big as countries
Why the census, of course-
Sensor-rich big data
An Internet of Everything
Atomised bits and pieces
Of things and people
Creating because we can
Wars and bombs
Brain in a vat
Let's see how far we can go.
From inventing for survival
Then for the shareholders
Then for convenience
And finally for the sheer sake of inventing.
It's called need
No, it's actually greed
No, it's called optimisation and efficiency
No, no, no, it's called freedom and liberation
Yes, yes, enslavement in disguise.
This is the upgrade generation
The throwaway generation
Buy a new printer
It's cheaper and faster than getting a new toner for your old one-
Leave it on the scrap heap of e-waste
It's somebody else's environmental problem.
We're the consumption generation
Soldering whitegoods for a few dollars each
Impoverished workers suicide
Unable to cope with production demands
But that's over there, and we're over here.
We're the all you can eat fast food and frozen pizza generation
The Genetically Modified quantifiable generation
Like the lifetime of DDT-
We're the plastic generation
We can't be bio-degradably broken down that easily.
We're the Do-It-Yourselfer generation
Equipped with 3D printers
And electronic checkouts,
We currently scan out our goods on our own
While they're all-too-busy scanning us!
We're the “always on” generation
Living in the cloud.
We're the generation that witnesses cyberbullying and viral videos
And as a result 13 years olds who take their own life.
We're the generation that hears about 3 month old babies dying of dehydration
While their parents raise the perfect online child.
We're the generation where 30-somethings forget themselves at Internet Cafes
And can't keep a 9 to 5 job.
We're the generation that manufactures toxic toys for kids under 3.
We're the generation that wirelessly broadcasts
Music that glorifies
We are living a locked-in syndrome
Like the moth effect
Look for the light
It's coming from over there
Let me go to it and see what it is about
Oh, I am alive
Reaffirmation I'm not alone
Well, I'm lonely, but at least I have-
1,007 online Facebook friends following me
And I don't know most of them,
But who cares it gives me something to do
Better than being bored.
I'm coming to you, oh screen, where art thou?
Watch out—don't get too close
Because if you get too close, then you are no longer
Like the moth that is drawn to the light-
All this technology
Surely some good can come from it!
In touch every second of every day
Out of touch however physically–
I text you “I luv u”
But I'm too tired and too scared to
And embrace you
And make love to you
This technology is desensitising
“Hang on love-just another email from the boss”
The clock is ticking but that “thing” is pinging
Yet another status update
[Message received - whistle sound from Android device.]
What a nightmare-
The botnets are coming!
Oh-another virus, I've accidentally executed.
I wonder why my supervisor hasn't replied yet-
I wonder if they got my message,
If they'll respond,
If they hate me,
Oh, I get so anxious these days
That I cannot cope with all the traffic buzzing in my head,
It's terrifying really.
Oops!- I didn't mean to press SEND.
Long hours behind the computer
Burning back aches
Red eyes from red alerts
I've got to get home-
Hang on I'll just relax a little and play some Minecraft or Starcraft
Oh, I wonder what's happening on World of WarCraft
No one will notice if I am using the board room to strategise for my
17 windows open all at once
Why can't I concentrate like I used to?
Why can't these new recruits pen something that makes sense?
So many spelling errors
I'll have to redo their work, but what's the time?
— Oh she's onto me again
I should ignore her instant message
But I just can't say NO.
“I'd like to get it on with you”
“How old are you?”
“Do you use Skype?”
“Wanna do some Google with me and let it Hangout?”
It's not real
Don't worry, everybody does it!
It won't lead to anything
It doesn't mean anything
What the missus doesn't know won't hurt her-
She cannot give me the same fix
The real is just so boring
The virtual is limitless
But why do I feel so damn guilty?
I'm sure the police will never find out
Just in case she's not 18.
But anyway it's just a game
Everything's a game these days
Even the trolls are making light of it!
But what if she's really a he?
Oh, what have I got myself into!
Oh, this is too hard to fight against
I hate myself-
I'm so addicted.
[Sound of child throwing tantrum over ipad.]
Oh these kids
I just fell asleep again after YouTubing all night-
–“I wan iPad” can't be coming from my two year old, can it?
“Get off the computer
You've got to go to football”!
I tell my 10 year old off.
He responds throwing a tantrum:
“I wan iPad!”
“I wan iPod!”
“I wan Google Glass.”
“I wan iPlant!”
“Is that what they're talking about now?”
No, it's probably the mark of the beast…
Embedded implants for single sign on log-ins
That will save so much time-
But there's never enough time
And there's never a winner or
An end to those massively online multiplayer
Role playing games.
I wonder if they'll invent more than just a kill-switch …
What embedded security hacks?
How'd that work?
What do you mean I just jack in?
Aha-no choice to remove
A total loss of control!
They know who you are
Where you are
Where you're going
And what condition you're in
And they can even prove it biometrically!
Michael had dubbed it uberveillance long ago.
Big dog beckons as do the microscopic drones
A world of watchers about to explode-
Some of the hubots will even be paid to watch you
What you do as you go about your business.
Manipulation of the masses
We believe Wikipedia
And rely on Google search
We want to share our GPS coordinates
And take pictures of our food
And our nakedness
That's what it's about
Benchmarking how fit we are
Or how unfit in mind and body we are.
But wait till our every day objects come alive-
Like the smoke detector that never lies and
Answers all your questions from the ceiling of your own home.
Let me demonstrate:
[Looks up to ceiling and then questions.]
“What should I eat for breakfast?”
“What is the fastest animal on earth?”
“Now tell me the truth-who or what should I believe in?”
It's all propaganda.
No body knows you're a dog on the Internet
And soon no one will know the difference
Between virtual and physical
Illusion and reality.
It started with the ENIAC
And then from the ENIAC to the mainframe
From the mainframe to the minicomputer
From the minicomputer to the desktop
From the desktop to the laptop
From the laptop to the netbook
From the netbook to the wearable
From the wearable to the implantable!
Can't you see the pattern my dear friends?
Can't you see what we've become,
And are becoming?
Marching to the beat of the machine
It's the elephant in the room.
Look, can't you see it?
It's the emperor parading naked down the street
Look, there he goes-
Really, there he is.
Internet addiction is real
Mobile addiction is real
Gaming addiction is real
The social implications are real
We all know their real because
We all know someone who is suffering!
It's like the Elephant and the Emperor
We all know it's around us
So when, when are we going to take responsibility?
To the question, “Are we becoming enslaved?”
I say “no” we're not becoming enslaved,
Because we're already deeply enslaved.
And instead of saying “STOP”
We keep asking for more?
But more surveillance does not equate to transparency
More information does not give us knowledge and wisdom.
For the loyalty cards
For the barcodes
And for the CCTV cameras in every street.
For the 16 likes I got yesterday and 3 retweets
For the 167 iTune Apps I downloaded and never use
But which are probably tracking me.
For the gift of metadata and for data retention regimes
For the electronic gulags we are building
Enslave us even more
So we can fulfil the algorithm.
Oh yes, and how about that
Permanent delete feature you've been promising?
Ladies and gentlemen, does this make sense?
Have we forgotten what it means to be free?
I never told you to switch off your computer completely
To give away your dishwasher
Your washing machine
Your day job
Or to stop talking to your friends on the phone-
Or to stop using email altogether
I'm asking you to get real.
Go home and have a look in the mirror
Have a good look at your eyes
Are they sunken like you've been wearing an Occulus Rift?
Do you get my drift?
Think for a change, just don't do.
“Who am I?”
“Who have I become?”
“Who have we become?”
Switch off those devices-
Open your eyes.
Reclaim your life-
Your kids, your spouse, your friends
Go outside and feel the chill
And see the natural sunlight
You are alive
But the technology is dead
Your heart is beating
But the batteries are forever dying.
Do we really wish to be the ones to breathe life into the machine?
What will be the consequences of this homo electricus we're building?
The predators will become the prey
We will become victims of our own creations.
Yes, driverless cars,
But who is at the helm steering?
Out of control
Out of this world
Is this really what we mean by calculated progress?
Do you think we won't be harmed?
We just can't keep throwing technology at technological problems
What goes up must come down
Forget the singularity.
Where has all that precious time gone?
Sucked into vectors of nothingness.
I ask you to listen, to reflect,
To ask two questions:
“Why am I here?”
“What's my calling?”
It's to embrace
It's to look up
It's to be human, once again.
Citation: Katina Michael, "Enslaved", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 33, Issue: 4, Winter 2014, pp. 5 - 10. DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2014.2363980