The Disadvantages of Being Superhuman

The advantages are obvious, and emphasized for us all the time – you will become more valuable for the corporations, or other organizations. You can easily get a job.

This opens up a whole new subject – the advantages and disadvantages of having jobs. But I will not go into that. I will stay with the subject I have chosen – the disadvantages of being superhuman. Which are considerable.

First, what do I mean by being superhuman? A short historical overview is in order. Going back to the 18th Century, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution – and the invention of the mechanical machine.

The machine itself is nothing new – a machine build the pyramids, that we still admire today. But this was a machine made of people – each doing his own part in the process.  Much later, in our time – we still speak of political machines, also composed entirely of people.

But the mechanical machine was something different – it was composed of mechanical parts, made of steel, that all worked together. You can still see one of these in a Steam Museum, just outside London – it has a huge walking beam, a hundred feet long, that once pumped water for the City of London. You can look at this – and feel its power.

People back then were no different – they could feel its power – and easily see how to use this power for themselves. They became superhuman. With unlimited supplies of coal (and then oil) behind them.

This took some time – because Agriculture had been the basis for the economy, and it tried to stay in control. In America, this was exemplified by Thomas Jefferson, and his party – who fought Industrialization with all their strength. Unsuccessfully.

By the middle of the century, a Railroad lawyer, Abraham Lincoln – was president. In the Civil War, when he was President, the Industrial North triumphed over the Agrarian South. The Industrial Machine (imperfect as it was) had more power than thousands of Black slaves.

Industrialists, and the people like them – became superhuman! And triumphed over those who were merely human.

The disadvantages of the arrangement soon became apparent – in WWI, the Depression, WWII, and the Holocaust.

I was born into this, in 1936, and became an Electronic Engineer. And helped usher in a new era with Television and the Computer – and their Networks.

Now I am faced with a problem – do want to become part of this latest machine (and the Computer is a machine) – by becoming involved in Software Development? I worked in this industry from 1980 to 2000 – and for me, it was a horrible experience. Do I want to get in bed with these guys again?

Maybe – but I will be very careful whose bed I get into, and who my bedmates are. This will not be too hard – all I have to do is feel if they are good for me.

This will eliminate most paths through this minefield.


Machines and Machine People

The Machine has taken over – but people are not aware of this.

I have given myself the job of explaining why. Although I am poorly equipped to do so. I have only one qualification – I have lived in the Machine World, and survived to write about it. Silicon Valley was the apotheosis of machine culture. And the Computer is the ultimate machine.

And it is fitting that we consider how it began – even as we lay it to rest.

It has done its best to lay us to rest – but without us it cannot exist. It has reduced the human world to ruins – much to its satisfaction – but something else is rising from the ashes.

You will note that I have referred to the Machine as though it were human – with a mind of its own. Strictly speaking this is not true – but it is true that many people have been more than willing to act for it. Since its short-term advantages have been so profitable.

To illustrate this, we may take as our example, the first Industrial machine – the Sailing Ship. Which, considered by itself, was not so remarkable – but when taken with everything else that made its construction, operation (all those sailors!), maintenance – and above all its financing – created the global market. And made Capitalism possible.

Where was the Machine in all of this? It was in its organization – which was destructive of all life – including human life. In college I read The Organization Man – and was stunned by its revelations. Which everyone else took for granted. I was surrounded by idiots that become rich and powerful – by being cogs in the wheel, that ground everything down.

You are no doubt impatient with my talk about history – which you are not interested in at all. You are only interested in right now – and nothing else. Not  ten minutes before, or ten minutes after – but now.

You are part of the Machine.