All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

‘A series of films about how humans have been colonised by the machines we have built. Although we don’t realise it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of computers. It claims that computers have failed to liberate us and instead have distorted and simplified our view of the world around us’ (BBC)

‘It was amateur footage of an event involving an early video game called Pong that gave Adam Curtis the idea for his new series.In 1991, a computer engineer from California called Loren Carpenter organised a mass experiment in a huge shed. Hundreds of people were each given a paddle, and told nothing. But on a big screen in front of them was projected a game of Pong – a very basic computer game, where a ball is knocked back and forth on a screen, like table tennis. Each half of the audience jointly controlled the bat on their side of the screen; they had to operate it together and, spontaneously and without discussion, they successfully played a game of Pong, whooping and cheering at their collective collaboration.

“It was like a switch went in my head,” Curtis says. “Carpenter saw it as a world of freedom with order. But I suddenly saw it as the opposite – like old film of workers toiling in a factory. They weren’t free – they looked like disempowered slaves locked to a giant machine screen. It was a video game, which made it fun, but it still made me wonder whether power had really gone away in these self-organising systems, or if it was just a rebranding. So we became happy components in systems – and our job is to make those systems stable.” ‘ (The Guardian)

An eye-opening three part documentary by Adam Curtis shown last year on the BBC that includes concepts about technology, humans, nature and ecology systems. The title originates from a 1967 poem of the same name by Richard Brautigan. The poem suggests a time where humans, animals and computers live harmoniously amongst one another and computers allow man the freedom to return to a natural, non-consumerist state. However the context in which Curtis uses the phrase is that of a more ironic tone. He explores the preconceived notion that machines help to liberate humans by giving them opportunities to do more with their time and become truly independent by saying that in fact they do not liberate man, they stifle his creativity and allow man to become subordinate to technology systems.

It questions how exactly such systems are supposedly able to stabilise humans and orders, those such as the ones we are governed by today, i.e. political, economical. Using historical events and key thinkers, we are provided with a new way of looking at how different orders were envisioned to improve the world and how consequently, in Curtis’ eyes, they failed to work.

Complex ideas, good soundtrack – accompanied by even better visuals. Makes you feel like a 6 yr old again, sitting cross-legged, watching educational films during carpet time. Enjoy! Definitely one to watch when you’re in a thinking mood.

If you can’t stand the subtitles, just found THIS link, I didn’t watch them on this though so can’t guarantee they work, but they seem fine.


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