Beep, when we get on the metro with our transit pass. Beep when we enter our workplace. Beep when we check out at a university or school cafeteria (where sometimes, instead of a card, we use our palm prints). Beep when we got to the library. Beep when we enter our building.
When we aren’t beeping, we’re typing away on our smartphones, our tablets, or on a computer keyboard. Not a second of the day passes without interacting with these technologies, that have taken the place of face to face interactions, leaving us with virtual contact by social network, and in reality, each in our cold solitude.
We’ve almost forgotten that when we want to talk with someone, we can got to their place and knock on the door. We’ve almost forgotten what it means to communicate in person, with emotions, laughter, or anger that can be read on our faces, in the tone of our voice, or in the trembling of our hands. We’ve almost forgotten that not so long ago these machines weren’t part of our lives, that we weren’t closed into these digital worlds that take more and more control over our days, that people lived, loved, communicated, and kept up to date on the news without these invasive technologies.
Sometimes in the metro, we feel like intruders, as one of those rare individuals not absorbed by their little screen and headphones, oblivious to the people around them. By folding in on ourselves in this way, we don’t even notice how society is changed by these technologies. For instance, in jail, in school, on the borders, and in some workplaces, biometrics are now routine (fingerprints, shape of the hand, facial features, the network of ocular veins…). We will have to be creative to counter systems of control that are so omnipresent in our lives and whose work is made easier by the new Secure Electronic Identity database, that will be a centralized depository of biometric data on everyone with a passport or a national identity card. And add to this the cameras in the streets, the GPS in smartphones and cars, electronic monitor bracelets, and a swarm of other machines just waiting to be launched in this lucrative market.
The walls close in little by little, with everyone more or less accepting this overarching policing in their daily lives. We even forget that it won’t kill us to unplug (not even socially) and that the celebrated “neutrality” of technology doesn’t exist; we have already forgotten our ways of interacting, communicating, and thinking. Most of us are reduced to serving machines, fundamentally alienated in every sphere of life.
And if we relearned how to live without these machines? What if we cut the virtual cord and reconnected with each other, weaving complicities in person to fill the void created by our atomisation? We could reconnect with time, space, and each other, everything that the cold interaction with machines has pushed to the background.
What if we openly blaspheme against the religion of connectivity? What if we storm this much-vaunted technological heaven, but that seems more like a science-fiction nightmare?
What if we destroy the machines…
– from the second issue of Blasphegme, pasted up around Paris in December 2016