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A Mechanical Moses

An odd thing occurs if one tries to locate Mount Sinai within a recent atlas – for that mountain of such storied import is no longer where one might expect to find it. Today, alas, if one wants to find Mount Sinai, one is better off looking in the direction of Silicon Valley where its rocky façade has blended seamlessly in with its corporate surroundings. What other explanation could there be for the way that so many of us mill around in the mountain’s shadow, waiting for a booming voice from that mountaintop that will precede the prophet emerging to once more tell us what we must do to reach the promised land?

It is a strange god whose words we await, and it is a questionable band of prophets whose messages we receive – a mad for mechanization Moses and a deity who goes by the broad name of technology. If many of those gathered at the foot of the mountain (some of whom are actually quite far away) cannot quite remember how it is that we came to be here, or cannot remember whether or not we reached this point after some form of exodus, than that is besides the point. What matters, we are assured by the priesthood, is that we are here now and at any moment Moses will return to us with a new smart phone model, wearable doodad, social networking platform, self-driving something, a plenitude of apps, or some other magnificent display of the technological deity’s power. We may not be certain where we were before we came to the foot of this mountain, but we are repeatedly assured that wherever it was, it was terrible.

No golden calf has been created at the base of this Sinai, for none was needed (besides, all of the worshipers’ gold has already been sent up the mountain). After all, those gathered have been actively encouraged to engage in idolatrous activity – treating everything that has been brought down thus far as worthy of endless praise: each new device a perfect miniature statue to which prayers can be addressed. A steady supply of disruptive miracles have filled the worshipers with delight, continually affirming the validity of their faith, and keeping them ever primed for the moments when the sky clears and the prophet steps out to make yet another pronouncement. Scattered headlines warn us that if we stray to far from this locale that we will be mired in the darkness of cloudy skies, but here we are bathed in the bright glow of the back-lit screen.

And then…

A cacophonous rumbling! A laser show of lightning! The quiet whir of a computer starting up! A voice in the crowd shouts “look!” and all eyes turn towards the figure emerging from the mountain – one of the prophets descending in a black turtleneck (or is it a hooded sweatshirt) gently cradling a new tablet computer in each arm upon the screen of which it seems that a list has been written in glowing type. The prophet holds the tablets aloft for all to see – there is a collective intake of breath – as the prophet clears his throat. All the assembled prepare for these Ten Commandments from technology to be delivered unto those who would bask in the light of the screen. After a few moments of carefully crafted appeals to the listeners, the prophet begins to recite:

  1. Technology shall be your Lord – as it has brought you out of the land in which you knew not its blessings. Out of the house of bondage to time consuming tasks and to the Promised Land where everything can be done with the touch of a button. Thou shalt have no other Gods but this technological one – for the power of technology shall be thy guiding light and to shun it is to be cast into the darkness. For there is no true light but that which comes from a screen.
  2. Thou shalt not make any graven images or likenesses – for the only approved of graven images and likenesses are those which are made for sale to thee. Your Lord is a jealous one, hear ye that the likeness and software of the technological God are proprietary, copyrighted, trade secrets, and ye who meddle shall be brought low by the wrath of a legal storm.
  3. Thou shalt not take the name of technology in vain – for those who do so are heathens, heretics, reactionaries, and Luddites. Woe unto those who question this path to salvation – why doest they not just go live in a cave?
  4. Ignore the concept of the Sabbath day – to set aside a gift from your technological Lord for even an hour is a crime of renunciation. How would you know what is transpiring? Thou wouldst not! A Sabbath day is an abomination before the mechanical Lord.
  5. Thou shalt honor the priesthood and prophets through which the words of thy Lord are disseminated unto you. Thou shalt not question their decisions, or motivations as such actions run afoul of the fourth commandment. Likewise, pay but little attention to the offshoot preachers declaring for alternative cryptic paths – high technology requires its ordained high priesthood – listen ye not to the heretical shouts of others.
  6. Thou shalt not destroy through purposeful action any manifestation of your Lord’s kindness. The wisdom to decide when something has become fit for disposal is found only with the wisdom of the Lord and the priesthood – currently this obsolescence is determined to set in at around sixteen months. Nevertheless shouldst thou accidentally damage thy device it must be replaced post haste – as a cracked screen is an abomination! Thou are forbidden from wondering where the discarded devices go.
  7. Thou shalt not commit adultery whence it comes to thy chosen denomination – once thou hast selected a church in which to worship thou shalt remain loyal lest thy downloads no longer be available. If thou worships at the foot of the Apple tree, or beneath the Microsoft blanket, or amidst the cooing of Google, or in the jungle of Amazon, do not let thy ardor stray. Yet do not forget the first commandment – for to it even these denominations remain true.
  8. Thou shalt not question the tithes that thou are asked to pay, and likewise thou should not waste time or energy wrestling with the word “free” when it is extolled by the priesthood. Know that your tithe is expected and comes in many forms – to block cookies or advertisements is thus tantamount to stealing, as is any cryptic or open source activity in which thou engages. Really, why wouldst thou need to steal when such abundance is made available to thee? Know ye this – thou needst not read a terms of service agreement, thou needst only click “agree.”
  9. Thou shalt not be overly concerned about bearing witness – thy Lord is satisfied by your use of the gifts that are delivered unto you; the way in which thou chooses to use them is of little import. In the eyes of the Lord the troll and the noble of heart are one and the same as long as both deign to use the same platforms and devices – that is what matters most. Let thee also know that the users are the elect, those that are most loved, thou need not concern thyself with questions regarding from whence a device came and to whence it shall go. The miraculous things bestowed upon ye simply appeared as is before you. That is why they are miraculous!
  10. Thou shalt covet thy neighbors devices if such devices are newer than the ones that thou possess. If ye are in possession of the things which are coveted by others than thou must not be content, but thou must covet for that which will be made available in the next quarter. To be sated is to be sinful.

“Now,” the prophet says, “everyone raise your hand to signal that you agree to these new Terms…”

The crowd stands stunned for a moment, slowly considering the commandments that have been pronounced. The prophet wears a calm smile, glancing to the other priests who nod in approval. But even if the comment largely goes unspoken a sentiment silently moves through the assembled host, perhaps a slightly reworked version of a comment once delivered by Eugene Debs: in looking for a Moses to lead us out of the wilderness have we wound up staying right where we are? In following one who promised to lead us to the promised land have we in fact been led further astray? Similarly some may begin to chafe at these demands of the faithful, perhaps pondering whether – as Lewis Mumford once wrote:

“If you worship a machine there is something wrong with your religion.” (81)

Yet the technological God whose priest delivered voice booms out from this Mount Sinai is a clever one – for it has moved beyond an exhortation to worship a single machine (that would be a golden calf) and instead demands supplication to the very notion of machinery. Some in the crowd scoff at the commandments, others begin to celebrate them, whilst most quietly assent and subconsciously incorporate these commandments into their daily duties.

And yet a murmur of dissent ruffles through the crowd.

After all, these terms of service agreements are starting to become rather ridiculous.

Works Cited

Mumford, Lewis. Art and Technics. Columbia University Press, 2000.

Further Reading

Riddled With Questions – Interrogating Technology

Response Ability versus Responsibility

Luddism for these Ludicrous Times

Are We Technologically Literate?

Can We Have Our Cake Without Soylent’s Goo?

“if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out.” – Eugene Debs (original quote, paraphrased above)

 

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About TheLuddbrarian

“I have no illusions that my arguments will convince anyone.” - Ellul librarianshipwreck.wordpress.com @libshipwreck

30 comments on “A Mechanical Moses

  1. rakuttendi
    August 15, 2014

    Reblogged this on BLOGTENDI.

  2. mudassirtariq911
    August 23, 2014

    Reblogged this on mudassirtariq911 and commented:
    ha ha ha very funny

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This entry was posted on August 15, 2014 by in Capitalism, Ethics, Humor, Society, Technology and tagged , , , , .

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