Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fuel for the Machine

I’m not a Luddite.  Nor am I a technophobe.   Nor do I harbor any romantic notions about some mythical time in the past when life was simpler and more meaningful. 

OK. So, maybe I am a romantic to some extent. 

At some point we crossed a line with our technology.  Maybe it was more of a blurred gray interface than an actual line, a transition zone between two mutually exclusive conditions—like the boundary between plant hardiness zones: on one side, the plant thrives and on the other it fails, but in the area along the border its fate becomes a matter of varying probability.  Whatever the case, we are no longer in the borderlands, and are clearly beyond any probabilistic considerations: humans are technology-dependent animals.  That is perhaps our only clear distinction in the animal world.  Other animals use tools, but we humans cannot survive without them.  That in itself is not a problem; it’s just a fact, a fundamental truth about our condition.  The problem is that our relationship with our technology has changed.  Our tools are no longer employed in the service of our freely chosen ends.  Instead, the natural order of things has been inverted.  We are now operating in service of our tools.  We, our daily activity, our lives, are designed to satisfy the “goals” and requirements of our technology.  We are “tools” in service of our own technology.

There is one tool in particular, more so than any other, that has usurped our position as its master.  It is a simple tool designed to organize our economic world, originally designed to facilitate the temporary concentration of wealth for the achievement of large-scale tasks that would be beyond the means of a single individual.  We call this tool the corporation.   

People no longer use corporations—and haven’t for many decades.   Rather, corporations use people.  It has gotten to the point now where flesh and blood human beings have meaning only with respect to their relationship to corporations.  To be an American citizen means to be living in the service of USA, Inc.  The gold standard has been replaced with a human-labor standard.  Our currency is now based on the future labor of US citizens, reflecting the speculative value of their labor in the form of income tax revenue (and revenue from other less obvious forms of taxation).
We are, in a non-metaphorical sense, fuel for the machine.

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

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