Worshipping Technology, Facing Extinction.

By Audio Pervert - 1/27/2020

Even as we love Sonar Festival, and appreciate it's grand reputation as one of the world's most sought-after electronic music festival, this article is not about that. It's about a different tide (trend) that we have been observing, for a while now. What tipped over our initial curiosity, was the latest newsletter sent by Sonar Press about a new initiative and seminar called 'Xside'. The landing page of the newsletter displayed a photo of super-star DJ Richie Hawtins brandishing a mixer, dressed in his brand-black with the usual 'I-am-a-serious-artist' expression. The headline reads "Xside presents leading international voices in music and technology." And what is Xside ?xside is a fantastic meeting of cultures, industries and creative minds, bringing together two of Barcelona’s premier events, each representing significant but distinct communities,” states John Hoffman, CEO GSMA Ltd. So what is GSMA? Essentially a global conglomerate selling mobile technology, cyber-networks and 5G connectivity. It operates in more than 20 odd nations, with about 400 corporations, spanning EU, China, Japan and North America. At X-side it will be all 'state of the art' off-course. Be it the gadget in your hands, or the presentation on the screen or the discourses by select icons and off-course the music as well. "Leading international voices in music and technology at a fantastic meeting of cultures, industries and creative mindsSums up very well doesn't it? Well, not really. What's going on here? Why is a super-star DJ (also a brand ambassador of software and hardware) posing for a global telecom giant? Why is an institution like Sonar co-hosting the event? What's making all the leading icons come together to worship technology? Who are these self-styled "technologists" ? What do the proponents and vendors of 5G have to do with the divas and heroes of electronic music? There is a connection, and we feel it needs to be explained. Let's dive in...

Welcome to the Club!
The access to emerging technology, systems, code, design and data does not come cheap. Neither does speed and reliability. Nor do the machines and industrial structures, to host all such wonderful power. It all has a big cost. An impact which is clearly felt, yet far from all such gala events. A cost and impact that all such institutions and seminars never address, worse ignore when solicited for a response. Instead we are told about the attractive prices which will give us access into the elite circle, abound with technology and opportunity. A circle made of big business, finance, overwhelming corporate patronage, futurists, start-up gurus and globe trotting DJs. The newsletters and websites tell us how indispensable the seminar, the experts and presentations will be.  Yes, but 449 Euros ?! To listen to Richie Hawtins talk about a supposed future, or Honey Dijon drop cool tunes while we look for new opportunities with prospective clients. Or listen to some futurist unravel cyber road-maps? With all due respect, it simply sounds like a 'well lit' scam. However that's just entertainment, to garnish a bigger agenda. For the artists and DJs it's business as usual. Next deal, next flight, next stage, next-whatever-makes-me-do-for-money. Join the dots, or if your wealthy enough just join the cartel.

The mantra of the club!
Industrial civilisation's mantra or call it the zeitgeist of technology is a big promise at best. Something wonderful is coming, just over the horizon! A life which is set to be faster, better, fitter, richer, more productive, connected and all such 'vertically driven' tenets. Ethics which mirror across mainstream culture and it's industry. So the next 'big thing' is 5G? Just like 3G and 4G, now 5G is being pimped as "ground-breaking". Wonder how many times the ground will break, given there is no end to human desire based on technology and speed. But, we will get to that in a bit. As we investigate a bit more, about the keynote speakers at Xside, we observe similar narratives running across their profiles. Take for example David Vogel from AKQA (a corporate digital design firm). The company website improvises on the above mantra "The future, faster. " How, dare we ask? The response "By designing cohesive blueprints and delivering thoughtful work, our teams transform experiences, surpass goals and help future-proof organisations". As jargon heavy or bogus as that sounds, converse to a reality replete with climate crisis caused by a collapsing industrial civilisation. Never-mind that AKQA's top clients include big exploitation based brands like Nike, Rolls Royce, Walt Disney and also a local butcher shop. Yummy sirloin steak and we're off to business as usual! Simplified vector-based design is the zeitgeist of the day. That visual hegemony applied across millions of institutions, corporations, websites and brands. Everything must look loud, crisp and clear. They call it high-definition, however visibly dulled down in diversity and form. Traffic signs or designer sneakers or cancer-donations or tomato-jam, it all appears the same - vectorised, simplified, grid aligned, digital hegemony. Another keynote speaker at Xside, VerĂ²nica Fuerte, founder, Hey Studio based in Barcelona when asked about the design firm's larger goal "I would like to work on big identities" Perhaps, that's the one and only ethic in the corporate design-bible. 

Technologists and their powerful patrons are all egging us towards a future with catch-phrases like "digital transformation" "eco-diversity" "smart-homes" "social nests" "deep tech" "deep data" and what not. To sell products, services and technology at preposterous prices, laced with hilarious promises and predictions. "Changing our present and imagining new futures...” said Ventura Barba, Executive Director of Advanced Music SL, which owns Sonar Festival. A future with an alarming possibility of human and animal extinction, as we witness climate breakdown, loss of bio-diversity and rising public unrest across the world. Sonar as a globally visible event and institution (now also in Honk Kong, Iceland, Istanbul, Buenos Aires), is a significant contributor of carbon-emissions, pollution, generating the given plastic waste and consumer-trash. Expending thousands of tons of CO and CO2 every year, while waving it's curation pointed to the future. It is sad to see a 'future-driven festival' allocating no visible space to climate-justice and the alarming issues that we (all) face today. But that's not just Sonar, as almost every major music festival in Spain has near-zero concern about contamination, emissions, climate change and justice. Sadly so is the case across Europe, with exceptions far and few. Must we repeat the mantra again? Business as usual. Digging a bit deeper, the inner circle of Xside is in essence a cartel, based on elitism, technology and made of utterly corporate ethics. By no means can we believe that these folks are 'experts' or 'visionaries' and of any social or public value. As successful business-men and business-women, who believe in expansionism, capitalism and infinite growth, yes and bravo!

Shhh! All Hail 5G!
Telecom giants like Huawei, Apple, Samsung, AT&T and Vodafone pitted against each other in market domination wars, albeit have championed 5G equivocally. It's simply  means higher profits for the said monopolies. These brands have repeatedly denied any health hazards related to 5G technology. Yet why blame just the biggest players, when almost every player in the chain is in complicit agreement for ushering in the 5G protocol globally, connecting over 100 billion+ devices - under one central navigation highway with hyper-speed. Alas we can’t avoid society’s desire for faster connectivity and endless streaming. Tapping away in the middle of a massive radiation field, in case we didn't notice. Recent studies conducted show higher probability of cancer, slowing down metabolism, falling protein formation and even slowed-down plant growth in and around high radiation zones. Late 2018, 180 odd scientists from 30 nations concluded in an open-letter to the EU parliament about the various health hazards of 5G radiation, including visible effects on children and pregnant women. 5G is contamination, however invisible and promising billions of dollars as revenue for those who want to sell it. Corporations like GSMA are a part of that destructive futurist industry. Irony of their propaganda which sounds exactly opposite of the facts, as GSMA declares in bold fonts on the website "Stratospheric-growth and game-changer for the ecosystem"... "5G is the optimum balance between privacy, security and convenience." Pardon, but these claims are valiant corporate hoodwink at best. And in order to sell a new dream, a new future and new products we need events like Xside. All such tech-based clubs are willy nilly a part of a system which is based on profit maximisation over everything else they may claim to be or do. A decade ago Sonar a was an exciting place to be, an experience like none, a native ground for emerging electronic music and diversity. But now it appears like a big fish-market with big 'digital baits' laid out by big tech-players with some celebrities spinning electronic music, for the sake of it... This is not about electronic music nor about socially beneficial technology. This is neo-liberal economics otherwise known as 'business as usual'.

*Post Script - We apologise for any reputation damage that we may have caused in our text. Yet we urge the artists and institutions mentioned in the article, to contemplate once, about what they actually stand for. Our critical view is not personal, yet written to draw objective and valid attention to the problems, facts and reality. Perhaps our annual press invitation to Sonar festival will be cancelled because of this critical outpour. However, lets not worship technology and a dying old horse called capitalism. Ciao !

**Images taken from various websites and newsletters of above mentioned institutions.

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