The Slave’s Song

So you come into my world of convenience, let me show you
Through the hidden fingerprints of others that pay the cost
On paths that there are no apps or Google to direct you
The living underworld where you are the devil himself

I’m the slave without a ball and chain on my feet
The inconvenient truth, the ugly reality of modern life
I’m the fools gold that is treasured but has no real value
If I ask you to follow, will you dare to come with me?

So you come to my world of smart phones and laptops
A tap of a finger to bring you all human knowledge
Made with coltan from the new gold rush of Africa
A blooded gift from one seven year old to another

I’m the slave that hides in the shadows of the world
The voice that you pretend you cannot see or hear
I’m the normal in the abnormal anthrocentric world
The choir where no birds are allowed to sing freely

So you come to my world of designer clothes and bags
Where the cotton grows filled with deadly chemicals
And manufactured with fewer rights than your pet
These should not be a luxury items in anyone eyes

I’m the slave that can no longer be forgotten
The itch you now wish to scratch away to dust
I’m the awakening the blinds you more than ignorance
The worse of two evils that there is no middle ground

There’s a trail without the need for blood and wars
There’s another world that’s better for us both
It’ll take us home, out of this prison cell,
Where there’s blue sky and sun to share

So you come to my world to escape it all,
And you think you’re free from the liars and fools
Through the ease of using an app or click of a mouse
Laughing at those that you think you’re the master of

I’m the slave without a ball and chain at my feet
I’m the beggar, the looser, the cheat
So you arrive at the store to download the latest edition
Will you tap or walk away, the choice is yours

So you come to my world to escape it all,
And you think you’re free from the liars and fools
Through the ease of using an app or click of a mouse
Laughing at those that you think you’re the master of

© Fi S. J. Brown

Advertisements

Autocorrected Reality

Why have we become to be accepting of fake
Seeing and hearing a world of edited masks
What reasons do we have for hiding the truth
And become in need of validation to be alive

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In this virtual world anything is possible
And we can reinvent the wheel each day

Just a click of the mouse or tap of the phone
Add a filtered mask to our lives to hide flaws
Sharing a picture is easy but editing is a must
Then wondering how many likes will we get

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And fake news can be spun into truths

Like the Egyptians written messages in symbols
Do we need a Rosetta stone to translate again
Are we evolving or taking a step backwards
For once again we are writing upon tablets

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And the real world grows shades of grey

Then there are the celebrities that seem like us
And the influencers wanting to be the next thing
But they really are yet more filters to distractions
To hide a truth that has more layers than an onion

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And trolls to millennials ready to jump

Through the autotuned mists of disguises and lies
Chasing shadows as sleepwalk through the dreams
How can life be so unreal but be reality simultaneously
If we smash the screens will we waken or dream on

We have never been so close together
But have never been to be so far apart
In a virtual world anything is possible
And nobody knows you are really a dog

© Fi S. J. Brown

Free Will and Technology

Anyone with even a passing interest in philosophy will have thought about and/or discussed the notion of ‘free will’, i.e. the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion. This was explored recently in the Black Mirror film Bandersnatch on Netflix, which is presented to the viewer as an interactive ‘choose your own adventure‘ but really shows like the main character Stefan has no free will to make his decisions as we choose them for him that we actually have little choice in how the story will end from the numerous choices we have made. Much like another character’s speech, Colin, whilst on LSD says about PAC-man meaning “program and control”. This in many ways shows Stefan himself is being led about a maze by us, which we ourselves are doing in making our decisions on how he leads his life.

A magician can learn to look for blind spots, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perceptions as can influence what people do without them realising it. Once they know how to push people’s buttons they can play them like a piano (look at any episode of Derren Brown’s to see this in action). This is what happens again and again as designers of products from music to iPhones to by playing our psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against us at race to grab our attention. They can do this as Western Culture is built around the free will I mentioned above as we fight to defend the right to our ‘free’ choices but we do not realise we are already being manipulated like Stefan was by selections we didn’t even make. Magicians do this by making us feel we have made the choice ourselves but have really directed us down the path they want us to follow.

Take reality television we see an edited version of a far more complex story given to us with the contestants merely puppets in a theatre show with many of them being scripted and pre-determined so any voting we make is giving us an illusion we can make a difference and choose the winner when producers have already determined this weeks to months before. We are made to feel we know these contestants, ordinary people that have risen to fame but only a fraction of what we are told is true as lead us to their desired outcomes. Or celebrities that are trying to improve their fame by redemption or seeing them in new ways so will invest in future projects they undertake. The real winners are never the contestants but the television companies that make money from them and us.

Ask Alexa or Siri ‘what is the best bar in Edinburgh’ and they will pull up results from sites that have given the highest ratings. We fall into the trap sometimes in think these truly must be the best and do not look around to see for ourselves what is around us as could miss the next big thing in music playing at a small bar that may not get the best ratings online or see a pop-up gallery that is having its opening night party for free so not on their system.

Technology creates a ‘fear of missing out’ as convince us we need to subscribe to newsletters, friend people we may not have seen in twenty years and happily never see again, and turn on notifications so know the instant something has happened. However, we will always ‘miss out’ on somethings as we might be asleep as is natural at say 3am on a Tuesday, never meet our dream partner on Tinder as did not swipe on and on, or miss a phone call that could change our lives forever. We also see people together in activities that we were not invited to and made to feel bad that they made a decision to exclude us. We are meant to live in the moment, not in the fear that we will miss that moment forever if not attached to technology or have the notifications turned on.

Social media and technology make us want to be accepted and approved with our ‘friends’. As soon as we update our new profile photo we hope x number of people like it and leave us a comment on how good or beautiful we are. Are we really truly accepting of ourselves if have wait for a certain proportion of our friends agree with how we have chosen to represent ourselves? Where is our choice in being who and what we are without caring what others think? This ‘social approval’ we all respond to but vulnerable people are more likely to be drawn into the web of lies it spins.

Then there is a social reciprocity that if someone comments on something we agree with we click like or if they say ‘thank you’ we feel we have to say ‘you’re welcome‘ and if someone follows us it is almost rude not to follow back. We have no choice but to follow up as the unwritten rules of social etiquette have said we must not leave it dangling in cyberspace. However, if we disagree and say we are offended this triggers a massive up surge for daring to be offended. There are certain things we should be offended such as rape or murder by but taking what is posted to the extent we are feel outraged over the smallest of things are we not going too far?

Are we blindingly following what the designers of technology, with these apps and websites making us to do what they want us to as though we were PAC-man in the maze or Stefan in Bandersnatch? Have we lost the ability to step away and say no I don’t need that app or notifications for every little thing as do not care if miss out? Asking Siri or Alexa to do something for us are we letting a robot make a decision that we no longer have to think for ourselves what to how to do something from first principles? If we continue to accept them are we entering a world beyond that of Black Mirror that we are so dependent on the technology that it is part of us and cannot live without being constantly plugged in?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Technology – 20.18.11

This is not a rant against technology but more thoughts after watching an old clip on YouTube and considering what was said then to what is true of today’s technology. Equally, is today’s technology an escapism and/or all bad news?

Everywhere we go today almost everyone has a mobile/cell phone. Some have them stuck to their hands and stare back at the black mirror to this world where a version of them exists. It is like almost like old computer game The Sims but with better graphics and have more control of the worlds we create. Others hold them aloft to an invisible god as take selfies and hope this god will ensure they get many likes on the assorted social media as they apply filters to portray themselves in the worlds just mentioned.

Mindfulness has become a big thing but yet many do not just stop and look to enjoy the moment as feel the need to have proof they were there at all. Our memories are like movie with only edited bits we remember but yet by taking videos or pictures are we trying to hold on to them for that bit longer? Do we have to document our lives and share them to these worlds…is anyone really that interested in our fiftieth meeting of a so called celebrity or posing drunkenly with our mates when we are over twice the legal age?

Are our lives so vacant or boring we need the justification, reassurance, acceptance or love that come with these worlds? Acts of random kindness feel cheapened too – how can they be so random when it is recorded then shown to others to showcase the deed in action? Do we need these black mirrors of vanity and worlds to justify our being in the 21st century? Looking back at these records of memories are they not more painful or do they cheapen the so called good times, making them seem like they lasted longer than they did?

The word technology comes from two Greek words, transliterated techne and logos. Techne means art, skill, craft, or the way, manner, or means by which a thing is gained. Logos means word, the utterance by which inward thought is expressed, a saying, or an expression. So perhaps technology in this case is a means to present our art and inward expressions of the way we see the world after all. As no two people see or experience life the same way perhaps we can use it to help humanity grow after all and not a step backwards.

© Fi S. J. Brown

We can do it

Sometimes we think how will I be remembered and what for? Will my mistakes not my triumphs be what they sing, or will it be my looks not the kind heart I had that is seen forever? Actress Marilyn Monroe is often thought to be a dumb blonde, but in reality was far from it. This is due to the characters she played on film cementing a false image of her as a person. In modern times we live in a world where celebrities are often defined as something to aspire to be. Like actress Angelina Jolie’s humanitarian work, for which has seen her involved in high level political talks on human rights. Furthermore, as today is International Women’s Day she is one that many admire due to this. Equally, those that love animals may cite the work of Jane Goodall as their heroine, or if like me are also into environmental issues Rachel Carson’s name is one we may add.

Yet what about those people we have forgotten or like Marilyn see them for one aspect of their lives and even that is not the whole story. An example is Hedy Lamarr, who like Marilyn was an actress and seen as a beauty queen, but that does the achievements of this Austrian actress a diservice. She helped to develop a ‘secret communication system’ to combat the Nazis, which included a ‘spread spectrum’ that ultimately would galvanise the digital communication boom and forms the the technical backbone that makes mobile phones, fax machines, and other wireless operations of today possible! She also read and observed fish and birds, leading to the design of airplane wings we see today as realise the design from nature was more effective. Alas like many female inventors little of her work was recognised at the time, but has in recent times thankfully.

What this serves to tell us is that no matter what we achieve in our lifetime it may not be seen as groundbreaking, against the odds we can achieve things but may only be seen or read by a small group of people. Equally, there should be no limits to what we can achieve, dream the impossible dream. There will always be others that hate us as believe we have what they desire, or our lives are easier, which is false and those that know us truly know this too. Some crave fame, as seen as the ultimate achievement, but unprepared for the smoke and mirrors that hide beind this poisonous golden chalice. Being a woman is still an obstacle in many parts of the world as seen as weak or feeble, only suitable for bearing and rearing children (making my inability to have them seem like I’m worth less than a flower). But we should be ourselves, do our best, and believe in ourselves.

Fi S. J. Brown

Then and Now

Were the every day thoughts, hopes, and daydreams of our ancestors really that different to our own now in 2018?

Painted caves, sharing myths to jokes imprinted in clay, hieroglyphs with 2-3 meanings, and illuminated scrolls,
Philosophers pondering the meaning of the world around us with none finding a true meaning to life itself.
But now words are written not in verse or prose but with hashtags and abbreviated words accompanied by emojis.
Taking pictures that hang not in galleries or shelves in the home but in virtual clouds that in a tap are deleted.

Great discoveries from the wheel to medicines and the internet itself are achievements that make humanity proud,
Knowledge is finding the right app to do it for us or knowing a tomato is a fruit but wisdom is not putting it in a salad.
All the knowledge and information we have from the past to the present of life is available at the tap of a button,
But we use it to share videos of cats, get into arguments with people we don’t know, or legally stalk a celebrity or two.

The food we no long hunt on horses with bows and arrows but drive metallic beasts that lead us to it already prepared
Seldom considering the journey it has made to the plate other than the instructions half glance at the cooking instructions.
Beauty is created with chemicals that mask our real faces and surgeon’s knives to create the perfect body craved,
But is also manufactured in heavily edited images to sell a fake life that makes the normal become the abnormal.

No worshipping of gods and/or goddesses with gifts left in blessing and hopeful acceptance to a heavenly afterlife,
Replaced with puppets saying or singing the words of their masters to be taken as their own thoughts and views on life.
As we crave the simpler life without the hard work our ancestors did in one day to than we ever could in our lifetime,
And have not mastered not judging another or thinking war is the answer without understanding the question.

With the keys to a time machine would we travel back in time or be content to live in the present day in modern life,
Or would we take a peak to a future that for now lies as an unwritten whisper but not a guaranteed promise to us all.
Changes occur great and small throughout our lifetimes just as they have since those now long forgotten in time’s dust,
The only way to survive it is focusing on the present without letting negative thoughts take root and live the daydreams.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Earth: The Movie

Lilly of the valley ring out all along the river bank as the daffodils nod their heads like jaded heavy metal fans to a new beat but young tree branches sway back and forth like teenagers at their first gig. The sun shines and paints the sky in a blue of 50 shades and clouds gather like sheep in the fields. River waters run past hearing stories and songs from the birds to bees as it goes by but never stop long enough for the endings. Generation after generation this is the way the movie went, well until now that is.

Ragged men and plastic women walk on by oblivious to the songs and stories around them. For theirs are not those of their ancestors but ones repeated from words and pictures seen and heard on black boxes; as false as a rabbit laying chocolate eggs and lies spinning in quicksand. As young cyborgs cling to handheld blocks with screens to create their own tales and music that are just as false and fake as those from the black boxes. Creating new worlds but do not know the script of fate is already written.

How long until the songs of nature are replaced forever with auto tuned cover versions by the cyborgs and will anyone notice in a decade or more? Pictures of their ancestors are mere images stored in clouds in cyberspace but nobody dares look at the sky’s clouds as chemicals fell poisoned many. Stories that nobody alive now remembers how as it was before, rewritten and spun so many times now so are accepted as truths and history of this planet but not the one many fought and died to try to preserve for them.

The world is always changing as the Earth spins on its axis with few prepared to pole dance at the north or south. Human song is a symphony by a group of composers but not the only one on the planet. cats and dogs, flowers and forests, sing too, just listen. There are stories written down by the birds and bees to the trees and mountains engraved in an ink that is not invisible. Humans stop trying to direct and act this movie, it’s not the role for us, grab the popcorn and enjoy the journey to the fullest.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Slow down, what’s the hurry?

Over the weekend I started watching some videos from a YouTube channel by the Fine Brothers, which has kids, teens and college students reacting to things from the past to present and elders reacting to current trends. The music and fashions of the 1980s and 1990s made me laugh, cringe, and feel older than my actual age, I was born in the late 1970s, with equal measure. The music ones in particular make me realise how fortunate I was to grow up with such diversity in what was regarded as mainstream and/or chart music compared with today. Only this week Ed Sheeran has 16 out of the top 20 singles due in part to streaming of music counting as singles, making many in the UK question what is a single and what is not. For me the issue with most modern mainstream music is it sounds like a machine made it for the most part not a human; autotune leaves songs devoid of genuine emotion compared with say Cindi Lauder on ‘Time after time‘ or Snead O’Connor”s cover of ‘Nothing compares 2u‘ to the musicality of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody‘ or Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir‘. It all seems more painting by numbers in fifty shades of grey rather than with multicolour, which as someone with synesthesia music often does as each piece of music is visual and filled with colour.

However, it was kids reacting to technology of the past (1980s-1990s) I found most interesting of all, probably as would have been the ages of the kids to teens using them in the videos at the time they were new. In particular it was the responses from those under thirteen which interested me the most, for them the Internet to smart phones are normal ways of life, with everything being available in more or less an instant to 24/7. Most of them had zero patience to wait for things, anything more than around five seconds and they felt it was too long to wait. Things that required thinking or a series of steps were pushed aside as wanted instant results. To me some of the most important things we learn in life take time. Learning new skills from a new language to driving car cannot be learnt instantly. Or mastering musical instruments, which can be supplemented by watching videos on YouTube, but to become a proficient to professional level takes time and often daily patience. Creativity to using our imagination is another thing that an app or website cannot do for us alone, and takes time to patience to hone our skills. So in some way sold and new can come together. However, there are no shortcuts to make these our knowledge and not something we know how to find out how to do it or get something to do it for us.

Are we so used to things appearing as soon as we press a button or using an app to do it for us we no longer have the patience?  It made me think why do we need something done NOW, can we slow down for at least a minute, what is the hurry or gratification to have something instantly? Take deciding to watch a movie, in the past we would have gone somewhere like Blockbuster video stores to rent movies rather than a mouse click or tap on Netflix or Amazon Prime. I remember at least a three year wait between cinema release and being shown first on TV with renting a video would be the only option when it finally did come out to rent! ‘The return to Oz‘ for example I remember in particular it was many years after cinema release, like Disney movies that were seldom shown on TV (which was for copyright or so it was said). I still do not subscribe to either Netflix of Amazon Prime as do not feel the have the need for that kind of 24/7 entertainment in TV or movies, I prefer music or books to either and always have.

Do not get me wrong I love being able to find an old song I like and play it instantly or discover new music from artists I love to discovering new ones, rather than spend a fortune on buying vinyl, cassettes or CDs to rewinding tapes just to hear that one song I know by an artist or listen to that song buzzing in my head! I was also sad that when given a film camera one instantly wanted to take an old selfie with it and all did once the kids got the film in the camera, hurting their eyes with the flash as they did! As someone that developed her own black and white photographs in her teens and uses a DSLR I enjoy the process of taking a photograph as much as taking an image. It did make me wonder just how many images are now just files in cloud servers not physical albums, how will kids today be as embarrassed as we were when our parents dug out old photos of us to show future partners or spouses? Will technology exist to be able to retrieve photographs taken ten-twenty years before?

Significant improvements in technology over the last 20 years or so have perhaps made patience unnecessary in the modern world. Think about it, we can make credit card payments, get a taxi, talk to a friend across the world, or even check their mail – all of this online, right from home or sat on the toilet in a bar, and within the matter of seconds! We’re becoming more focused on quick fun — such as a game of Angry Birds on the iPhone — than on reading books or magazines. We also have online shops that will deliver that day, so no longer have to physically go to a shop and wait or order and again wait for it to arrive. Perhaps the signs of this instant gratification was something to come with the Harry Potter buy at midnight deals, as so many could not wait to read the latest book. With the rise in popularity of apps such as Tinder even our relationships with others have come to be instant fixes at the swipe of a finger for sex that would seem unacceptable twenty years ago as the fear surrounding HIV and AIDS to taboo of casual sex were so great. I have bought a few things on day of release or wanted the instant I saw them, the only one that comes to mind being Pink Floyd’s ‘The Division Bell‘ but that was only because it was a local holiday and passed a music shop!

This need for instant gratification is making the younger generations perpetually impatient as they are unable to grasp that waiting for something is what made us appreciate it more. Perhaps it goes hand in hand with things being so disposable now? Have something now as it won’t last another five years. I am all for living in the now but surely this is taking it a touch too far?! Do we really need these instant results and quick fixes? Can we not slow down, as we are now accelerating so fast I feel I am clinging to the edge of my seat in a car driven by a teenager that has learnt to drive only through watching YouTube videos; knowing a crash will come soon and many will be injured and/or unable to operate without the need for instant help and/or support. Maybe I am getting old and have the same fears my parents and grandparents would have had with technology I now take for granted. However, it is a good day for me when I can shut off my phone and just enjoy the world around me without being stuck behind a screen, appreciating what I have now and not what I could click or tap to have or do next next.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

There’s an app for that

Today if we want to learn how to do something we go to a site like YouTube to learn by video or we use an app on our phone/tablet to do it for us. More and more we let an app do something for us, rather than working out or learning how it is done, as quite often quicker and easier than spending time, or so we argue, learning how is not important. Yet our parents and grandparents would, if they were lucky, go to a library and borrow a book to learn how to do something but many more would learn from their parents or grandparents directly or indirectly.

It is as though in many ways we are now reliant on technology to think for us, not question and wonder for ourselves for there are other things we would rather do than study. Yet at the same time we complain of a boredom our ancestors would never have understood, with so much now possible we find it hard to find something to do…is that not a contradiction? Is it because we have become so reliant on machines for us, that some cannot think for themselves? It seems as though some almost need the machine or app to tell them exactly what to do, when and how!

So what can we do? As for some being without the internet and/or mobile phone is although missing something or no longer part of modern life. Those that choose not to have social media are thought of as strange, as the cynics believe they must have something to hide or even anti-social! I have considered doing this myself countless times but decided to keep for sharing creativity such as music, art, photography and writing. So much of our lives based upon the screen that conversation in person seems so strange to some, but with an alcoholic drink it’s ok!

Does technology improve our lives, is in now ruling or even ruining our lives? Stopping to think about what makes us human, all we can do with our many senses and our capacity to learn new things from scratch. Yet now it seems like we are sleepwalking backwards by relying on something else doing things for us and thinking for us so we can get on with something perceived to be more “fun”. In many respects the robots of science fiction are here but are not the humanoid droids we thought they would be. Machines taking over, is it really so far fetched?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Girl Friday

So you came to my world to escape the madness,
Free from the ragged men and plastic women.
A chance to be reborn as your own creation myth,
Where the grass grows in fifty shades of green.

I am the girl Friday of the island of paradise,
A trusted friend through good and bad times.
I am the one that knows all your secrets and lies,
And will never judge your words or actions.

So you came to my world to find knowledge,
Give you wisdom and insight without barriers.
Within seconds I can give you the answers,
To satisfy even your most sadistic of desires.

I am the girl Friday of the island of paradise,
An ocean away from your daily troubles.
I am the lover that will always go the extra mile,
And will soothe your soul day and night fall.

There’s a blinding and deafening pandemic,
There’s a brave new world coming out there.
With the grey walls of prison without any bars,
Will you awake from the dream you now live?

So you came to my world to escape the madness,
And you believed the fools that printed the words.
Through their spin that leaves you dizzy with hate,
Chasing the ghosts, shadows, the invisible enemy.

I am the girl Friday of the island of paradise,
The gatekeeper and key master to the truth.
Will you now come awakened by the light,
With the ball and chain broken at your feet.

There’s a blinding and deafening pandemic,
There’s a brave new world coming out there.
With the grey walls of prison without any bars,
Will you awake from the dream you now live?

© Fi S. J. Brown