The Machines Haven't Taken Over

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With one pull of a switch, the ocean of junk that spilled out of my mailbox every day, was swooshed back into the speechless abyss. If you had asked me before this news, what hand human or divine could stop spam, I'd have answered like Heraclitus, "Who can stop the sea from rising?"

It turns out that somebody before a keyboard can, thank you. There is hope. Machines haven't yet taken over. If it's that easy to stop what seemed like unstoppable, why can't other seemingly unstoppable human-generated and computer-driven phenomena be switched off the same way? Why isn't somebody pulling the switch on the collapsing world trade going on in the cracks between time zones? What's going on while I sleep and my retirement money slips down some unfathomable hole? Why don't the providers capable of such cosmic gestures as making the spam-ocean vanish, not exercise their benevolent force against other oceans that threaten us: the automatic unfair trades, the silent streams of world capital vanishing into invisible dead zones, the globe-circling panics?

And while I'm awake, let me tell you my nightmares. We've heard the nightmares of our public officials on TV for what seems like forever now. My favorite nightmare is where two giants named Oil and Machina wage a cosmic battle for survival. Oil, Machina's favorite son, is trying to kill his mother but it now looks like Machina's other children, Wind, Light and Water, have escaped from the dungeon where Oil has imprisoned them. Mother Machina, or Engine in English, has just about overcome Oil, but he's still got billions and billions of petrodollars he's burying into the earth into the holes where his gushers are.

When I wake up, the nightmare goes on because, it turns out, everybody knows everything but can't do a thing to stop it. And that may be the bigger problem, bigger even than the giants battling in the dark: too much synergy. It's way too easy to go global now, whether with your feelings, your money or your nightmares. The road to hell is paved with immediacy: It's a cyber-highway full of multiplying phantoms coming at you.

But then, there are still humans out there who can make them vanish with the flip of a switch, or are there?



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