FWD: I saw the Light

Peter Cappello (cappello@cs.ucsb.edu)
Tue, 09 Mar 1999 13:17:54 -0800

Todd, a very popular musician, may be a good prospect (see below). My apologies, if this is old news.


March 9, 1999

                 I saw the Light

                By Todd Rundgren

                    Technology has not changed my life. The
                    chill that many feel when they hear that
                    word is unknown to me. I grew up in a
                    house filled with my father's tools. I
                 don't remember a time without a refrigerator,
                 toaster, electric range, radio, record
                 player...or the TV where Walt Disney showed
                 us Tomorrowland. The family magazine pile
                 was substantially stacked with issues of
                 Popular Science and Popular
                 Mechanics--technology was already

                 In high school, while others gravitated
                 toward the gymnasium and athletic fields, I
                 found myself showing up at the local Bell
                 Telephone office to watch what is now a
                 primitive form of data processing. After I
                 graduated I joined a band and spent hours
                 honing my "technique"--a style of blues
                 guitar playing called "bottleneck" or "slide" to
                 which I applied a pulley from a computer
                 punched-card sorter.

                 I later discovered the wonders of altered
                 consciousness through substances that were
                 created in a "lab"--complex molecules only
                 recently isolated and synthesized, but around
                 in some form since before man crawled from
                 the ooze. I wondered about other ways of
                 life and cultures, and airliners allowed me to
                 follow the pathways I had only read about
                 and imagined, carried along substantially by
                 the electrified commerce of my American
                 Express card.

                        It is only in those
                        moments, when
                        consciousness is
                       disconnected from
                    mankind and its artifacts,
                     that technology is not a
                    contributing factor to the
                         quality of life.

                 Economics--the inexorable dynamic of the
                 marketplace--has changed my life. There
                 came a time when all the computing power of
                 that roomful of Bell Telephone mainframes
                 was available to me at the cost of a
                 good-quality guitar, which is still a lot less
                 than a grand piano. How could I refuse the
                 latest technologies? It was a perfectly
                 natural buying decision that millions of people
                 have since made.

                 The first automobile was a technology. The
                 millionth automobile is a commodity. Would
                 life be different without a particular
                 technology? Yes, but not for long. Someone
                 would soon recognize the need and discover
                 a way to satisfy it, economics allowing. And
                 we will all experience and benefit from those
                 discoveries. We are not a technologically
                 advanced culture as opposed to, say, a
                 village of Mongolian jute farmers. We are
                 within an economic milieu that makes certain
                 things affordable to us and not to them.

                 Technology allows me to leave quibbles about
                 technology and economics aside. Because of
                 the increasing ubiquity of a relatively
                 primitive technology called the Internet, I
                 can deliver my product to a global audience
                 in the morning, walk the trails of the Na Pali
                 coast in the afternoon and gaze upon the
                 Milky Way at night--from my vantage point,
                 out here in the middle of the ocean, the
                 celestial bodies are vivid and detailed
                 because of the lack of city lights. It is only in
                 those moments, when consciousness is
                 disconnected from mankind and its artifacts,
                 that technology is not a contributing factor
                 to the quality of life. Yet, before long, I start
                 to wonder what it would take to travel to
                 those stars....

                 Todd Rundgren is a producer and musician
                 who is currently creating and selling his
                 music through his web site TR-i.com. When
                 not touring or producing, he lives in Hawaii,
                 where he communicates only by E-mail. He
                 does not have a telephone.

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