There's a fellow sitting pretty in a tower near the sea,
And he uses mathematics to describe both you and me.
As he uses his computers, in a way that I detest;
He has caused our ravelled lives to be distinguished from the rest.


I have seen him try to smile
in a way that can't beguile
the masses who just wish to be anon.
His unfeeling lack of charm
as he uses his strong arm
of robotic machinations making us feel put upon.


So the future is computers, as we all know very well
And in general we welcome this, the newest road to Hell.
We should honour our new overlords, the data mining bots
For they make our shopping simpler, ease the economic costs


Social media's the thing
That Big Brother, being King
Convinces us is vital in the end.
Ken the cost to all of us
If we fail to make a fuss
Is the AI Singularity we will have to befriend.


So to our new robot owners in that future very near,
I will offer you this sacrifice, and make it very clear
That we love you as we fear you, for we failed to count the cost
Of procrastination's consequence; our privacy is lost.




I'm pretty serious about my privacy. I remember as a child feeling distressed if someone was looking over my shoulder at what I was reading or writing. As a young man living at home I hated that my mother would go through the stuff in my room. When I read 1984 it filled me with dread; the thought of having my whole life visible to others was truly the ultimate dystopian vision. I would never choose to sit with my back to a room if I could help it, not out of any training or paranoia, but just because whatever I was doing was mine and I didn't want to share it with just anyone.

When I started using computers, and especially the internet, my desire to keep some stuff private and separate from my online life continued. In general I'd only post what I will willing to have anyone see, but then along came Google, GMail and all the other stuff like Facebook. Initially I bought into it, especially as Google had always said they'd never be evil. Slowly over the years I realised that they'd been fibbing to me, that they were building up data that would enable me to be identified and tracked wherever I went. I began to withdraw; at first simply by not using their services, but over time by installing software that reduced or negated their tracking efforts. These days I use Firefox with a variety of plug-ins and features that afford me some protection.

I'm readying myself to delete all the information I can that's held by Google and Facebook et al. I'm reducing my reliance on Android phones and software. I'm changing my online habits. Not because I've anything to hide, but even allowing "anonymous" software to know what I'm reading, watching, buying or going makes me itch.


I feel doubly sad for the generation growing up with parents who feel the need to document their children's lives on social media. I only had to deal with the naked-on-a-rug photo being dragged out of the box to embarrass me should I bring a girl home to tea. Modern kids have to handle that years later as they grow up and pics of their toilet training are on Facebook, Instagram or even a parental blog. The whole world can see it, and they were never given a choice in the matter. A close friend of mine suffered discomfiture when she discovered that her mother had posted a pic of her in her first bra, and the boys at school had cruelly shared the image with a lot pf people. She cringed as she told me the tale, and how she had to fight to persuade her Mum to take down all the pics she'd posted of her growing up.

Now that facial recognition software can tag you wherever a photograph of each of us can be found, I increasingly worry that every facet of our lives will increasingly be under scrutiny. Even if that data is only being used by an advertising algorithm, that data is out there, and won't be going away any time soon.




Sincere apologies to Rudyard Kipling and riverrun, the latter having gently challenged me to pen this monstrosity (or rather, encouraged me to write poetry in general). Thanks also to etouffee, who gave extraordinarily valuable feedback (some of which I ignored). I'd like to thank the Python programming language, my comic tin-foil hat, Ralph Vaughan Williams (for keeping me sane during the process), grundoon (for the nodeshell) and several cups of tea. I take full responsibility for this dreck, and decline to dedicate it to anyone, though I'm taking suggestions (one of our lizard-people overlords is a possibility).

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