Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Vampires To Overlords, Part Two


We first encountered evil computers in early science fiction, but no one saw any real reason to fear them because we could always pull the plug. TVs The Outer Limits tried to warn us, but we knew we were in control. Humans were superior to machines. Or so we thought.

What we didn’t think about was what actually constituted control. We assumed, incorrectly, it was our physical ability to flip a switch or pull a plug. After all, a machine couldn’t turn itself on, could it? We were naïve enough to believe control derived from power. What we missed was another form of control: influence.

Control does not necessarily require physical action. Dictators need not physically bully their subordinates. Full obedience is easy to achieve using the smallest of veiled threats. Control doesn’t need to be in your face; it can also be behind your back.

Influence comes in many forms and from many directions, including both above and below. It can come from near or far. It can be strong or weak, direct or indirect. Influence can be blatantly obvious or invisibly clandestine.

The machines’ influence on our behavior is irresistible. They are everywhere. Their influence is so pervasive, we aren’t even aware of it, just as we are unaware of the air we breathe (the clean air, not the smog). The tyranny of the machine is now the very fabric of our existence.

We no longer control our own machines. The erosion of that ability began with vampires stealing electricity. In just 50 years, this expanded to fill our wall sockets, extension cords, and power strips. The vampires continuously powering our machines are ubiquitous. And the overlords control this power.

Once, the powerful publicly embellished their power. Our modern overlords no longer extol their power, preferring to remain in the background. When we have problems, we blame the machines. We are oblivious of the concealed overlords controlling them—and us.

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