Weekend Poem: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Right now, I'm reading Fred Turner's history, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, from which I'd extracted bits and pieces, start to finish. It's the rather glorious and unlikely story of how ideas about computers and networks fostered by the Cold War military industrial complex underwent a magical transformation into cornerstones of the counterculture through the person and network of Stewart Brand. Turner uses Richard Brautigan's poem, "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace," to show that a good chunk of that cultural work had been completed by 1967, when the poem debuted on the streets of San Francisco.

Reading it now, I still find its mix of influences startling and intoxicating, even knowing what we do about how the Internet didn't make the world a utopia for the enlightened.

More recently, the poem gave its name to a recent BBC documentary series by Adam Curtis. Enjoy the original.


All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Presented by

The Blacksmith: A Short Film About Art Forged From Metal

"I'm exploiting the maximum of what you can ask a piece of metal to do."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Technology

Just In