I see this graffiti written on a bridge every day as I drive to work.


It's on a concrete bridge, scrawled in one-foot high white letters. For those who live in the south of England who want to check this out, it's a little west of Junction 9 on the M27.

I think it's the coolest and spookiest bit of graffiti I've ever seen. It makes me ask myself, every day, if it could possibly be true. I don't think it could mean kill in a shoot someone with a gun kind of way, unless it's some bitter parent who's child was squashed by a very heavy super computer. Rather, could the graffitier mean that computers are resposible for the wasted lives of many childen? In my experience, using and playing with computers (yes, even consoles) can be an enriching and worthwhile pastime.

Update, November 2001: sadly this graffiti is no longer there! The bridge was cleaned as part of a repair.
Not wanting to argue the literal case--when is graffiti ever only literal, I would like to make a point anyway.

Think about the way computers are actually used--for example, the way you and I are using it right at the moment: reading, writing, voting, cooling writeups on everything.

This is cool, right?! But reflect upon how we're doing it--we are all alone. Yeah, there is the Chatterbox, there is the private messaging, we can even sent email to those who have email addresses (mine is themusic_ca@yahoo.com).

But this whole technology is between us. For better or for worse, this is a communications technology, the thing inbetween us. I guess what I'm saying is that a virtual community is still virtual.

How does this kill kids--or adults for that matter? What do people need? We need people! We need to talk, to play (kids especially), to interact with other people in a nonvirtual way.

Yes, there can be all sorts of good things that come from computer use. But so often, we substitute computers for the things that are no longer fashionable.

We see this in our schools. We see this in business. We see this in industry.

In school, what about music? What about sports? What about art? What about literature, and reading?

In business, what about those endless voice mail systems? Or those virtual businesses?

In industy what about all those jobs that have gone the way of the dodo?

Call this luddism if you want--I think its more correctly called neo-luddism--but think who benefits by all of this. The most biggest and most immediate benefit goes to the manufacturers of hardware and software. Those who want to fill up our schools with this stuff. And then reap massive tax writeoffs. And their political allies benefit from kickbacks. And they are now even bypassing the public schools, making their own schools. All hail Microsoft! All hail Cisco!

And in 6 months all the hardware and software is obsolete!

Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe this is no more serious than television, or cable television, or the telephone, or the record player.

But in the isolation of virtual communities, working away on machines that can only be called expensive, thinking they, too, can become Bill Gates, or Larry Ellison, these children--and adults--begin to forget, or never learn, that none of the achievements of society, none of the benefits that they enjoy--for a while--were made by people working alone.

They don't realize that what they are doing is the way to lose them.

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