Sunday, February 23, 2020


I'm working on brochure-zines to hand to strangers, asking them to join me in tracking the path of technology. I remember the first digital device to enter my life was a wristwatch. It was a gift from my biological father, Dennis McNeil, when I turned 9. He won it playing cards. It had glowing red numbers rising out of a black background. It was like magic. After that, a tape recorder in 1976 where I recorded president Ford on the TV, a bicentennial parade, favorite songs on the radio, and the wind, THE WIND! I was obsessed with the wind and was trying to find ways of recording different kinds of wind. What are different kinds of wind? I do not remember my theories, but I am happy it was on my mind. I held the recorder into the expansive song of the maw, then held it a different way, but each time it was the same sound of intense blowing against the microphone.
           Between 1975 to now, it feels like a blur of technological growth in industry and science. My digital watch was like a miracle. I remember staring at it in the dark JUST BEFORE it changed time, especially if all the numbers were about to switch to 10:00. We are now unable to grasp precisely what is in use and what is still ideas in the realm of science fiction. So often, I hear about a remarkable advancement in robotics or genetics that is already five years old. I am not interested in studying scientific journals as a tracking device; I want to see what is in use. Entering a grocery store is an overwhelming and exciting flood of technology, from the automatic doors to the massive rows of freezers and conveyor belts, and the laser beam EPS: Electronic Point of Sale at the checkout register. I know, because I was once a cashier. Where has technology entered our lives, and how did the new relationships with these different devices turn out?
One of the most remarkable things about being alive in 2020 is that we are surrounded by things that would make people a hundred years ago laugh in disbelief. Imagine telling them about the new US Navy drone that can dive into a body of water and swim underwater as fast as it can fly. This time is a hinge, and there has never been anything like it. Talking about people a hundred years ago, in 1920, only 35% of homes had electricity in the US. How quickly we learned to rely upon it. This year I have been taking one full 24-hour day each month to be technology-free. January I was in a friend's cabin with a wood stove, which was cozy and filling a notebook. The climate crisis gave me a very warm February. I am excited how the outdoors feel and taste when I am not allowing myself in a car or bus, I have to walk without a phone. My magnifying glass and binoculars are allowed because they do not require electricity or gas—a pen, notebook, fork, spoon, matches, wood. Cooking on the wood stove was exciting, trying to estimate the temperature and opening the flue to ride the flame with a breath. How fantastic, and if I had children, we would do that once a month for their entire childhood. What an adventure to unplug everything.
           The first thing I do on my first day back in the maze of pipes, wires, and airwaves of our human world is to begin looking at every movement made possible or tracked by technology. I am excited to compare these notes with notes I will take ten years from now, twenty, or more. How much more surrounded will we be by then? How much deeper will technology be in the human body? The merge is happening, quietly, gradually, and some days I have no idea how everyone else is feeling about it. When I ask, many people seems suspicious of it, but often I hear, "Well, it's inevitable at this point." What is inevitable? The merge with metal and human bone, blood, and meat? People I love have had their lives extended due to breakthroughs in medicine and science. Writing poems in the glow of artificial light, wondering when the time will come when we can have bioluminescent body parts. I would love to have glow-in-the-dark earlobes; it sounds warm, and I imagine the earrings that are possible. Let us write poems together while carefully studying the machinery of the human world.