Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Cyborg Sequence No. 1" by James Frederick William Rowe, Frequent Contributor

Cyborg Sequence No. 1
James Frederick William Rowe

It used to be that we conceived of clouds as the realm of the blessed.  Now when I upload my mind to the same I have to pay attention to questions of semantic security and policies of delinquent debt.

Dear customer
You may lose your childhood
If payment is late

Running on the LAN of my nerves my thoughts were instantaneous yet sorely lacking in portability.  I thought it wiser to distribute access.  Very useful until a glut of thought-traffic buffered the screen of my Cartesian theatre.  I could only manage the message:

The laggy server
In which my mind now functions
Stultifies my thoughts

When network integrity was restored, I was prompted anew for my passwords.  Lacking the access to my data, I failed all five attempts of input, leaving me to rage when locked out of my own mind:

Grr, son of a bitch!
I have forgot the password
To my memory

Unable to answer even for my name, I called tech support and was told to look for the serial number printed in the fold behind the back of my ear.  Complaining as I craned to see:

Give me back my mind!
I've suffered from your service!
Three days of credit

Poet’s Notes:  “Cyborg Sequence No. 1” began as three haiku which I had written a few years ago during my successful (albeit grueling) Lenten sacrifice of procrastination in respect to writing. Some people give up chocolate, some people give up booze, I give up procrastination (thanks Catholicism!), and as a consequence I managed to get some work done that I would not have otherwise. Of course, I also pulled a bit of legalism in giving myself the opportunity to write short haiku to satisfy my condition of "at least one poem or 300 words of prose per day". I think Jesuits would approve of me satisfying the letter of the law if not the spirit of it, so I think I'm okay.

I always intended to return to these haiku some time later, as I thought they'd really do best in a sequence of some sort rather than alone, given they are united in their common theme of the problems of a future cable-companyesque cyborg cloud computing service. I like taking a somewhat cynically humorous look at such future problems I could imagine easily resulting from any such attempts, especially as trans-humanistic enterprises are so terrifying that they need to be treated lightly to divest them of some of their power. Or at least, that's how I feel, as I legitimately find the entire prospect of replacing our humanity with machinery to be profoundly disturbing.

But returning to the composition, the poem includes a fourth haiku—the last one—which was not part of the original series. I did not think the poem felt complete with the one I had, and another haiku I had respecting physical cyborg-parts did not seem suited to the theme of the poem (I'll save that for a future “Cyborg Sequence No. 2”).

The poem did not come entirely as easily as I would like. I was stuck on the last haiku for a while. Nevertheless, drawing on my extensive frustrations with dealing with cable companies—and more broadly, cable companies in general—I think I captured the sheer annoyance I think would come with digitizing our lives. That was my aesthetic goal, as I find that the more my life has become dominated by digital problems, the more problems I have had to contend with on a regular basis. Specifically, I chose to end the poem with "three days of credit" because of how frequently that is the resolution you can expect from cable tech support. It's the universal palliative measure.


Editor’s Note:  “Cyborg Sequence No. 1” was originally submitted to me with what are now the prose portions of the haibun presented in verses.  As I read, I heard inside my head a robotic voice speaking the prose/prosaic portions, with a human voice--perhaps only a remnant of one--breaking through to narrate the haiku.  With the poet’s permission, I removed the line breaks to create a haibun format.  I selected a “robotic” font, Syncho LET, to emphasize the mechanical voice, all caps to emphasize the monotone of the voice.  I chose to italicize the haiku portions in Baskerville font to add a touch of sad beauty from a visual standpoint.  Since the presentation has enough visual impact, I decided to eschew an accompanying graphic.

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