I Wonder What Virtual Graveyards Will Look Like…

by Andrew R. Duckworth

All at the touch of a button.
Groceries, toiletries, take out from down the street...
Search engines knew what I needed before I did.
So convenient, the tech of today.
Data collecting entities might be having a field day with MY data,
But at least I got what I wanted,
Purchased and delivered,
No later than thirty minutes after I placed the order.
Convenience, there is nothing better.
Ignorance, most certainly bliss.
Absence... Yes, absence of those pesky people,
The people who hug, comfort, engage in philosophic conversations...
There's an app for that now.
Just heart my status, that will work.
You're only as important as the internet allows you to be anyway.
It's all on a screen, at the press of my thumb.
Who needs to talk nowadays?
Texting can never be misinterpreted.
In twenty years, external communication will be extinct.
We will automatically know each others needs and wants...
And, if we don't, the internet surely will.

The tech companies know what is best,
Making sure we only get the information that is safe
And wins the societal popularity contests,
Telling us what we should know.
So many possibilities the future holds!
Perhaps we can wash away the mundane real and natural
For the perfect virtual.
Who REALLY wants the sunset, the mountain, the beach,
The snowscape, the bay, the river, the ocean,
The forest, and the valley anyway?
But, for tomorrow, let me place my order.
Thank heavens I no longer have to say
"Hi! How are you?" at a checkout counter.

I can't wait for the AI that censors and bans
All of the content I disagree with.
There is no room for disagreements
When the internet has all of the safe answers.
Safety first. Executives know what's best.
The assurances from economists and tech executives
That currency will soon be a thing of the pasts are so...
... reassuring... Wait, let me search the internet for synonyms...

Perhaps someday our virtual avatars
Can conform to the perfect standards
Set by our AI overlords in a perfect virtual environment
While our needs are delivered freely by drones,
All at the touch of a button,
Kept comfortable and healthy by those who know what we should want
And know what is best and just.

Thank heavens for the unchecked advancement of technology
With no thought whatsoever of the consequences.
I cannot wait to be replaced and controlled.

This is more of a rant than anything. The irony is that the poem is viewed via technology. But let me clarify. I am not against technology or technological advancements. After all, who could argue that carrying around a cellphone with access to the internet rather than new editions of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses would be a bad idea? What I am against, however, is what I see as technology that we implement for safety purposes or for convenience which is then used by government entities against a population. Proposed tracking systems, for example. In some respect, at face value, it seems sensible to have some sort of tracking system built in. That is, until one realizes just how slippery this slope is. Given to the hands of a government entity, who knows what it could be used for? The truth is that we have already sacrificed our freedom for “safety,” and did so years ago… Aaaaaand, we got complacent. But this is not where my beef with the current trend of technological advancements and proposals ends. To an extent, I would say I am more bitter towards the people who see technology replacing everything (jobs, ways of life, etc, etc, etc) as an inevitability. For those of us who actually APPRECIATE what we do and our career paths and actually WANT to continue to be productive and create within our chosen fields, this is deeply problematic. Futurists predict this takeover of technology at different time spans. I haven’t looked in a while, but I want to say the shortest time span is 40 years. 40 years until most current jobs are replaced by a machine. I find this problematic for a number of reasons. First, I will recognize that humanity is more than just “work.” We’re creative, we strive to be free of aspects of life that we detest, etc. However, when there is not a goal to strive for, what then happens to education? Would there be a need for it, or would there be a reasonable justification to enforce it at an early age? And, with lack of education, what then happens to communication? What then happens to thought? What happens to traits that we learn through experience at an early age that come easier through education? Do we wait around for them to just “happen?” Of course, there is also the arguments put forth from people who are artists who see the current advancement of technology as no large concern. The thought that AI are not capable of replacing humanity as artists is shallow thought at best. Already, we see programs capable of constructing unique imagery as well as literature (although, admittedly, the literature these programs develop is comical at best currently). What then happens when the demand shifts from human created art to AI created art? And then, I also dive into the nature of censorship. To clarify, I am vehemently against censorship in any form, even against ideas that I view as abhorrent, UNLESS it is concerning content that violates the rights of others. The censoring of ideas does nothing to change those ideas. All it does is make those who propose said ideas work harder to get a message out. Further, it gives people the false notion that such ideas do not exist which makes it impossible to develop suitable counter arguments. Due to this, I find censorship as dishonest at best. And then there is the problem with who decides what ideas are “dangerous” and what “dangerous” even means in that scenario. To clarify, I am fully aware that this currently takes place through a number of entities, among them mostly social media. Let us examine the current issue with conspiracy theories regarding SARS-2 COVID-19. People do not gravitate to conspiracy theories because they are particularly great explanations. Particularly with the current climate, people are gravitating towards conspiracy theories due to a lack of trust. This lack of trust comes from a number of issues, some regarding ethics. When one finds themselves incapable of trusting those in a position of power, what is one to do? Alternate explanations fill this gap. To further censor these conspiracy theories does nothing to regain that trust. If anything, it only damages the relationship further. Of course, I had to add a bit about the replacement of cashiers. During this time, when we are struggling with a pandemic, self-checkouts are great as well as ordering online. The only issue is that this trend existed well before the pandemic and it wasn’t developed with the consumer in mind. It was developed with money in mind. Companies no longer have to pay employees, thus lining the pockets of executives as well as those who develop the cashier replacing machines. To get back to this poems content, I decided to take a rather sarcastic tone throughout. One can view it that way. Or, one can also view it as a gentle (or not so gentle) mocking of those who propose technology as an answer to any and all problems. So, I suppose you can view this as satirical, as it is meant to critique. This is a poem that is born out of my concerns for what I am slowly seeing as an inevitability unless we wake up to what is happening and the fact that it should be a concern to everyone. The current trend towards technological advancement has many more implications than just a loss of jobs. It could signal a decline in human purpose, human productivity, communication, development of traits, the need for education, etc, etc, etc… The title can be viewed in two ways. It can be viewed as the mocking of those who would view technological takeover of reality, basically a completely virtual world (think Matrix, but much less exciting), or it could be viewed as a graveyard for the technology that we once saw as inevitable but have finally come to realize is deeply problematic. Perhaps someday we can hold tech companies accountable and realize that censorship is deplorable. Perhaps we can get off the path to Farenheit 451.

This writing is the work of its author, Andrew Ryan Duckworth, and can in no way be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any form without request from the author.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s