Needless to say, this is not my real handwriting, which is as wayward as a shopping cart with three wheels, and harder to decipher than the Engima code. But I am a true believer in the power of ink on paper, and everything I post here starts out that way. To me, it’s important that in this virtual, digital age, writing remains a physical action, and that poems are truly created and take tangible form – even if only to feel like I’m actually doing something! . N.
A slug of moulded plastic, trailing a single wire.
A simple (so they blithely tell me) sensor
That, somehow, feels the thousandth-of-a-second tug
From a passing pea-sized magnet
And from that infinitesimal impulse
Calculates my ground-speed
And telegraphs the blessed motor
All stop or full ahead.
Until it fails.
And in that moment,
Heart in shoes,
I am crushingly aware
That I have no idea
How any of this works:
I cannot make, mend or even comprehend
The least of all the myriad devices
That make my world go round:
No wheels, axles, cogs or clues;
They go about their work
Silent, motionless, inscrutable,
Leaving me on the roadside, wondering
Exactly which of us
Is truly in control.
Suffered my first away-from-home system failure on the e-mtb yesterday (error code 503 means a speed sensor issue, for any interested Bosch Performance CX users out there). Fortunately it happened a) fairly close to the main road; b) less than four miles from the bike shop; and c) during opening hours. All painlessly resolved thanks to Danny and his excellent crew; but a reminder of our profound, unthinking reliance on technology that we (or at least I) increasingly can’t fix ourselves, and don’t really understand. N.
OK, computer, listen up:
I’m in charge here.
Yes, me. Not you.
Have you got that?
I know you think
You’re something pretty special,
With your funky icons
Four gigabytes of RAM
Weird ways of working
That I don’t understand.
You said nothing, but
I bet you laughed
At my frustration. Windows?
You have no idea
How close you came
To an old-fashioned defenestration.
I guess you thought
You’d got me whipped.
You’re new here, so
I’ll let it slide.
But from now on
I say, you do.
And above all, remember
Who can unplug whom.
After a long and frustrating couple of days, I feel I’m finally subduing my new PC and bending it to my will. Just had to show it who’s boss. N.
(My daughter was thrilled when she discovered that ‘defenestration’ is a real word. She was even more delighted when she found out what it meant! 🙂 )
The farmer rises early (lots to do)
Eats breakfast, settles in his comfy chair,
Logs on to FarmCommand Pro (Version Two).
From deep within a datahub somewhere
Instructions are dispatched. Now on the screen
The big John Deere pops up: tasks verified,
The engine fires and, unmanned, the machine
Rolls off to work, with laser beams to guide
Its every move. The farmer nods. A wink
Of infra-red detectors in the shed
Tells him how much the calves have had to drink:
Another click, and all the beasts are fed.
New window. Scroll-down menu: highlight ‘Hive’.
Check status, scan for viruses, click ‘Run’.
A hum of minute motors and they’re live;
The day’s first wave of drone strikes has begun,
While through the whispering stems, unheard, unseen
More tiny workers fan across the land
As programmed, picking wheat and barley clean
Of pests and weeds too small for any hand.
And all the while, beyond the empty skies,
The sleepless satellites are on patrol
Like gangmasters with hard, all-seeing eyes,
Reporting ceaselessly to Ground Control
With data from each square inch of the fields.
The farmer smiles; he’s constantly on top
Of fertilisers, pests, projected yields
And profits from this season’s robocrop.
No senseless labour in the heartless sun;
No wasted effort; everything exact
And micro-managed, all resources run
For optimum production, based on fact
And real-time information – farms reduced
To mere facilities; a factory floor
Where food’s no longer grown, but just produced
According to a new, unnatural law.
So, with a robot made for every task,
Our mastery of Nature is complete.
There’s only one more question left to ask:
Is this the kind of food we want to eat?
On a long drive up the M40 last week, I listened to Costing the Earth on BBC Radio 4, which investigated how “satellite technology and advances in robotics are set to revolutionise the future of farming”. It was fascinating, but I have to say I also found it absolutely chilling – it seemed to be predicting the end of everything I know and love about farms, farming and the countryside. There’s a good deal wrong with current agricultural practices, of course, but if this is the answer, I’m not sure we’re asking all the right questions yet. N.
(NB There’s no such software as FarmCommand Pro Version Two. Or at least, not yet!)
I wrote it.
I meant it.
And so I sent it.
Cut the connection.
Made with precision.
Email spares us many a tricky phone call or face-to-face conversation these days. Doesn’t mean it’s always easy, though. Inspired by real events. N.