Machines are human, too

Have you ever had a sensuous experience with a machine?  Well, I have – and in fact, I am enjoying one right now.

I know, that’s a titillating way to start a blog post.  But it’s true.  The Petchary is enjoying the start of a long, sweet love affair with something that is made of metal, plastic and some bits of wire and other unidentifiable materials.  I cannot imagine how computers are made, actually.  And yes, you are right, it is one of Mr. Steve Jobs‘ creations.

(OK, I am never quite sure of the difference between “sensuous” and “sensual” – but I am sure you get my drift.  It’s a good feeling, is what I mean to say, and it does involve quite a few of the senses, if not all).

Apple iMac
The object of my (our) affections.

Back to this beautiful creature, which sits on a table and emits some kind of attraction – is it called pheromones or something? – that makes us want to draw closer to it.  It sends out “vibes,” to use the vernacular.  I swear it does.  Oh, and it does appeal to both sexes, by the way, so I will call the iMac neither a “him” nor a “her.”  Mr. Petchary is equally fascinated – so I suppose one could call the household a menage a trois.

Why does this machine hold us in its thrall?  It is a complete experience, and it is as far from the workaholic PC that most people use in the office as you can imagine.  It is, in fact, twirling out there on a completely different galaxy, far beyond our everyday constellations.  The pictures simply glow, and you can do artistic stuff with them.  It has iTunes (something I haven’t fully explored yet) and the sound from a minute and perfectly hidden microphone is perfect.  You can flick through websites like the pages in a book, and spin them around the screen if you want, flicking them here and there.  You can take a photo of yourself, and talk to people on FaceTime, which reflects faces back to you with startling clarity (yes, it has the tiniest built-in webcam).  It has an address book that can be used for everything.  It talks to you – a middle-aged lady called Vicky is currently telling us what time it is, on the hour.  And much more.

Like a practiced lover, it is fluid, flexible, sleek, sensitive and simply…beautiful.  And I – we – love it with all our hearts.

Yes, this is it.  I have finally fallen.  Thank you, Mr. Jobs, for bringing us together in perfect harmony.

Another machine has, in a more limited way, also brought huge pleasure into our domestic lives.  It sits on our rooftop, squat and ugly compared to the lovely Mac.  It is a solar water heater.  Practical, energy-saving… and also a sensuous (sensual?) experience.  Gushing hot water!  As the evenings, even in Kingston, are chilly these days by our tropical standards, it is a wonderful thing.  Not as visually appealing as the iMac Lion (don’t you love the name… Its predecessor was the Snow Leopard) but still, a delicious pleasure.  Sheer hedonism.

Solar Water Heater
Hardly a thing of beauty, but...

This reminds me of my parents.  My mother was a self-confessed Luddite, with a strong suspicion of any kind of technological innovation.  She would purse her lips at the very mention of the word “computer.”  She even had an aversion to kitchen gadgets, and disapproved of our garlic crusher and our potato peeler, refusing to use them when she came to stay with us.  No, potatoes were to be peeled with a regular knife, and garlic was to be chopped up – never crushed in that awful thing.  She was someone who always wanted to do things the hard way.

My father, on the other hand, loved technology.  As a boy he used to build radio sets, and as a young soldier in World War II he was in charge of communications, trailing wires for miles so that his brothers in arms in Sicily and Italy could keep in touch.  He would spend hours fiddling with wires at home, as I grew up, with varying results.  We did, later in his life, buy a laptop for him, as he was rather intrigued by email.  Always the great communicator and writer of letters to the newspapers (often printed), I was looking forward to receiving daily comments from him on current affairs and/or daily trivia.  But it was not to be, as he became too ill to focus on the laptop, which purred quietly waiting for him to use it.  He never really did.  I wish he could send emails, or radio signals, from up there in the sky.

And where did the term “Luddite” come from, you may ask?  Well, there was an Englishman called Ned Ludd (or Lud), possibly from Leicestershire, who in 1799 smashed some machines in a fit of rage, with a hammer.  They were knitting machines.  But a few years later, he was immortalized in a movement of Luddites, who ran riot for several years during the Industrial Revolution in Nottinghamshire, Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire, smashing and burning like there was no tomorrow.  They were in a permanent state of fury.  The Luddites were mostly working in the textile industry of that period (the mid-1800s) which was becoming increasingly mechanized.  And – just as the cry often goes up today – they were afraid that the machines were creating unemployment.  But no, a machine is just a tool – isn’t it?  Or maybe more than that.  It is, after all, a creation of humans…

Luddites on the rampage. I would hate to be a machine in their way..

I, too have felt that wave of irritation and powerlessness – usually in encounters with photo-copy machines – so to an extent I can empathize with Ned and his infuriated followers.  A hammer would have often come in handy for me, in the office.  But I often wonder what our ancestors would think if they were to encounter the technology of today.

How would a medieval farmer feel at the sight of a huge combine harvester lumbering towards him across a field of wheat?  What would a nineteenth century college student think if a laptop was placed before him, instead of sheets of paper and a quill pen?  Would a 1930s housewife be able to find her way round a 2012 kitchen, or would she just flap around in perplexity?  Would a 1950s teenager figure out an iPad, if it was placed in his/her hands?  And would our great- great-grandfathers have a clue what to do if they were handed the keys to a latest model Ferrari with GPS and all the trimmings?

On the other hand, how would we pampered 21st-century men and women fare if we had to go back to hauling water from the river and cooking over a coal fire?

But hold on just a minute: a great many human beings – in Jamaica and across the planet – still do those things.  We see it on our television every night, and try to imagine living like that ourselves.  Only a fraction of us are living in this cozy relationship with machines and the latest technology; the majority, I suspect, still live in an often uncomfortably close relationship with nature and its ever-increasing unpredictability.

And then there are the complexities of a modern “developing state”… A young man in rural Jamaica, for example, is never parted from his beloved mobile phone, which directs his all-important social life;  but he still has to wait at the only standpipe in the village to wash his hair before he goes off to a dance.

As for the Petcharys, we have the extraordinary luxury of having the best of all worlds.  As I engage in this heady love affair with the iMac (I discover more about it every day), I gaze out of the window and enjoy the sight of two Smooth-Billed Anis (quaint and delightful birds) sipping from a bowl of water on our front lawn.  As Bob Marley sang, “Give thanks and praises.”

And does this wondrous creation love us back?  There are times when… I believe it does.

Smooth-Billed Anis
The lovable Smooth-Billed Anis are very close.
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6 thoughts on “Machines are human, too

  1. Oh My Goodness Miss Emms! If there was ever an evidence of evolved musings encased in the trappings of literary offering, this is it!! You have managed to capture so much, beginning from you being enthralled with your MAC Lion to wider issues of global disparity and the juxtaposition of modern versus ‘medieval’ which is the every day paradox of still developing states.

    Like a work of art which cannot possible be absorbed or interpreted over one viewing or sitting; so is this piece.. Timelessness in it’s efficient use of diction, grammar, syntax and other, usually bothersome parts of speech and rudiments of language. It is fluid, fluent and makes its mark via the distinctive use of contrasts; old versus young, modern versus old and technology versus nature and throughout all this a concurrent denominator: MAN or Woman! 🙂 and his/her constant, evolutionary state of being.

    In this write you have straddled religion and the often over-looked and misunderstood primal human response and reaction at a basic sexual/erotic level, which, while tied to libido and the sensory/sensual glands/reactors in our bodies and brains, is NOT always linked to rudimentary sexual functions or sexual intercourse.

    This is a STELLAR Write which, I think deserves much more exposure that your Blog and Facebook audience can provide. I suggest you seek to publish it to a wider audience. It fits science publications as well as more creative, ‘artsty’/artistic outlets.

    With the recent news/confirmation of BlackBerry R.I.M’s woes this confirmation of Apple’s genius via it’s I-products is very stark. Steve Jobs and Apple are visionaries.. the very seamlessness of the interfaces of its products with each other and other devices and platforms supports this. However, as with all else, there are disadvantages and many fear and curse the problems and vulnerabilities made possible by all this ‘openness’ and global networking that the Apple brand supports and helped to pioneer.

    A few months ago, I HAD TO HAVE a WordPress Blog account to comment here under your Blog, now technological advancement backed by the seamless interface capability, makes it possible for me to do so via my Facebook profile log in. It is an awesome and sometimes overwhelming feeling when we stop to absorb and acknowledge the power of technology and that which is harnessed in the World Wide Web. I submit that this, the era of rapid and mind boggling technology advancement is as significant to man’s journey through time as was the Stone age and Ice Age and those before.

    It’s the Millennium of POSSIBILITIES. All that is required is are open minds; then, not even the sky can continue to be the limit and already, this is proving to be the case.

    “God and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and God be our limit and Eternity our measurement.” –Marcus Garvey. It is an AWESOME WORLD and you, my dear Miss Emms with your inexhaustive love for nature and all it encapsulates is part of this world’s…. this UNIVERSE’s bounty! Like I always tell you:>>> ‘WRITE ON!” 🙂

    BTW How did that battle with your book go? LOL Who won and is it done yet?! 🙂

    Thanks as always for the tag.

    – Jolie Jamz: aka ‘~`FireStorm`~ aka Blck Rose and Andrea Downer


    1. It’s completely amazing… As you said, technology just takes incredible steps towards a perfectly blended and integrated flow through our lives… And the sensory value of the technology needs to be explored further. It’s not just an object – one has a relationship with that object! Your comments are very kind and flattering Ms. FireStorm Downer. Thank you. I plan to branch out a bit more. And yes, I won the battle with my book, finished about six months ago now. I am now in search of an editor and a publisher… but haven’t had a chance to really focus on that. I really want it published though. I think it is quite a powerful story. Thank you very much for all your support. Greatly appreciated, my dear.


  2. So you’ve got yourself a sexy Apple? They really know how to draw us in don’t they? They get us hooked then feed out addiction with new sexier models! Enjoy. Mobile telephones are just as big in Turkey with the young and old alike. Even covered grannies have ’em.


  3. Technology has lots of merit but when it fails to work, it is total pill and killjoy. Technophiles spend hours on this stuff and look for ways to make it better… I’m a technology lover too with some limits. 🙂


    1. Yes, that’s what I meant about the photo copy machines. We had one at work (which has now broken down completely, thank God) which drove me crazy – I would have loved Ned Ludd’s hammer for that one! 🙂


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