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From a cyborg manifesto to hacking humanity, read this artist’s tech-themed poetry created on the spot

Fast Company invited artist Shanelle Gabriel to perform spoken-word poems on the fly at its European Innovation Festival. Read her thought-provoking work.

From a cyborg manifesto to hacking humanity, read this artist’s tech-themed poetry created on the spot
[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

Earlier this month, Fast Company’s European Innovation Festival in Milan brought together the foremost thinkers in business, tech, and entertainment around the idea of humanity’s convergence with super intelligence. Professor Yuval Noah Harari’s keynote imagined a post-human world where machines aren’t tools of man but man becomes machine; Gucci president and CEO Marco Bizzarri explained how the legacy brand’s mix of creativity and tech won over Gen Z; Scientists Riccardo Sabatini and Moran Cerf broke down the ethics and democratization of artificial intelligence and bionics; and Director Darren Aronofsky touted the power of storytelling in conjunction with tech to effect change in environmental issues—just to name a few of the summit’s discussions.

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As an interlude between some of the panels, Brooklyn-based poet and singer Shanelle Gabriel created and performed spoken-word poetry on the spot based on what was discussed on stage. Filtering heady conversations around bleeding-edge technology through an artistic lens, she produced these five thought-provoking pieces:

“Technically Blended Body”

My phone is quite literally an extra appendage
It is glued to my palm
Stitched to my hip
It is a notebook
A well of unfinished poems and songs
It is my hype, man
Filled with playlists to help me channel my inner Gwen Stefani
My inner Spice Girl
To get in touch with my sensitive side with Drake
It is my ego
With DMs from guys whose dates I’ve declined
It is my paint brush
My canvas
My thumbs glide like Amadeus over ivory
On my own,
I can recall no numbers or birthdays
Sorry, dad
My phone is my brain
It is my world
Even as I stand here
My soul begs to know what I’m missing
What happened in Brooklyn last night
What policy is being shaped behind closed doors
Whose posted quote speaks to my present life
Which child is acting too grown
What philanthropic cause deserves a share
What did Beyoncé wear, and what did a Kardashian do
This time
My phone is technology that is a part of me
I lost my phone once and woke
Without my calendar
And thus,
Without a purpose
Spun in circles for an hour
And I sometimes feel guilty
For giving in to this cyborg life
For not knowing where I end and technology begins
For never logging off
And auto tuning out
For feeling as if my voice
Has to be synthesized and digitized to be heard
Does my need for technology make my
Own intelligence artificial
Is this an upgrade or destruction of self
Is my body, brain, and mind
Able to still exist with technology’s help?
The answer is overwhelmingly
As they say in Italy
“Sí”
I’ve seen through dating apps
How the right “like” can translate to love
Reached my niece in NYC
From a hotel in Italy with just a touch
Since my feet touched the Gucci concrete
I’ve seen
How four people can sound like a thousand
With the right DJ
Reminding me that four people can inspire a hundred thousand
With a post
Learned science wills us to grow
Embrace a divinity once imagined
Evolve, transform all we know
I can imagine bionic immune systems
Bringing an end to my lupus flares
Tracking my palpitations, moderating my sanity
Unlocking the brain’s mysteries
I look forward to the day the body blends
With science to bring healing
Imagine a way to have detected my blood clots before they’re formed
Messages sent to doctors
automatically order prescriptions
This is innovation
Learned how a city can nurture a new generation
How technology can connect communities
On a bike, in an office, and in a snap
Digital spaces that translate to true life
Connecting people across the map
Feeding the soul
While fueling social change
Technology shares ideas
So much good can be done in this digital age
But this power requires wisdom
Focus on balancing rather than conquering
Consider the consequences of creation
Avoid hijacking human attention
Or re-creating the Garden of Eden
Where perfection destroys itself
My phone is not a weapon
Or a distraction
Just an example of a level of introspection
An amalgamation of need and want
The reality that I can conquer my day
But the reality that my brain . . .
My brain can hold but so much
Grateful for the possibility of a future
Where technology is a mirror to learn myself
Where innovation is considered a cast and not a crutch

“Cyborg Manifesto”

Hello,
My name is (screech)
My name is (screech)
My name is (screech)
I am one part human
One part human creation
I am built with blood and bone
Untethered to your biases
I am my own
Built blind to boxes
And brands
And push-up bras
And flags
I may not be able to properly utilize sarcasm
The most savvy of human linguistic techniques
In the fight against stupidity
And I may not be able to identify
The perfect percentage of orange juice to champagne
On a Sunday morning
Artificial intelligence is still being perfected
Still
I am a combination of nature and nurture
Who I am
Who I am told to be
I break easily
(Tic) Break easily
They put me back together
Break easily
Able to shift circuits
I’m made whole
My name is
My name is . . .
My name is Cyborg
I step on Stepford wives
No longer required to smile
Or twist and contort into gender roles
No longer required to assimilate to the man I date
Ignore male insecurity
I am a blend of intelligence and consciousness
I am not a toaster
I don’t need your bread
Or for you to push me down
I’m not an accessory
I’m the whole outfit
Descendant from purple hearts
And politics
But able to spin
My history into more than my forefathers
. . . and foremothers wanted
A cyborg is everything a mad scientist
Wishes they could be
Lively where they battle insecurity
I get to live out their fantasy
Of boldness
Of bravery
A fearlessness
A childlike innocence
I am tier 2
Contradicting all systems within this world
My name is
My name is
Nonbinary
Everything humanity should be
I exist outside of the matrix
My name is all of the above
Above the one
I am power without regard to privilege
I do not require another class
Another gender
Another race
Another other to be submissive
There is no threat to my existence
There is no need
To build money stacks on the backs of
Marginalized bodies
I reject algorithms that don’t reflect reality
I am a sales-force to be reckoned with
I hear voice irrespective of accent
I feel hearts instead of background checks
I see room for error
I see a mirror
I see that stones I throw can destroy my own home
I call the Earth and all that dwell in it my home
Every person can be a home
I want to feel at home
I am just glad to live
To breathe
To have electricity coursing through my body
Blessed with fresh eyes, bear witness to nature’s beauty
You should be like me
Appreciate the part of you still human
That lets rain kiss cheeks
Is warmed by hugs
Clings to hands
Toils in rough soil
In the hopes that something,
Anything will bloom
That is still amazed by a crackle of a fire
I admire the ocean
Happy to have left the lab
And exist in the real world
My name is hopeful
My name is ambitious

“Hacking Humanity”

In the prehistoric age
1998 BC
Before cell phones
Before technology hacked humanity
We were forced to watch the Weather Channel for the forecast
We wrote in notebooks
Walked with school planners
Used actual cameras
And we waited
We waited for photos to be developed
And hated wasting exposures and hurt thumbs turning knobs
We waited for Dewey decimal numbers at libraries
We waited for computers to load
We waited for new albums to come out
We waited to get home to play them in our players
We waited for friends to come over
Because before Candy Crush there was Candyland
We waited for movie trailers and music video premieres
We waited in the living room for someone to reach out
God forbid
Your mom had to make a call
And tied up the line
A phone upgrade was when the house phone went cordless
And you could hide behind the couch
Talk for hours
We walked with a case of quarters in case of emergencies
And used
(Gasp)
a pay phone!
To call when running late
We learned numbers
Shared AOL codes and NetZero CDs
We were kicked offline when the someone called
We waited for entertainment
We waited for connection
We waited for people
We waited for friendships to develop
We were kids, and we had a lot of patience
I imagine teens today
Can’t help but want everything now
They can’t imagine what it would be like
To not have the world so close
To their fingertips
To depend on elders for information
To not have Google as a verb
I imagine adults today
Think technology brings entitlement
Like “These kids don’t know how good they have it”
They don’t know the struggles of distance
But I see things a little different
I see a generation who can sit in a room with 5 friends
And not say a word
But still be heard
I see gamers
Battling friends across continents
I see the virtual world
Serving as a springboard
For more
More opportunities to network
Through a Wi-Fi network
Communities beginning online
Making it easier for introverts
To find their tribe
And we see thousands who galvanized
Against the NRA after school shootings
That took so many lives
I see technology hacking humanity
Restoring hearing and sight
Giving limbs and life
Our kids may see
New vaccines
A world without Parkinson’s disease
Virtual reality
Guiding doctor surgeries
Enhancing the body
This is technology hacking humanity
While I wouldn’t give up my mortality
Or the experiences that led to today’s maturity
And while I recognize the evils of bullying online
And addiction to likes
And issues around morality and cybersecurity
All of which we sometimes oversimplify
I believe this and future generations
Will be able to reach
Greater heights
And not because of bionic legs
I believe efforts for good can be amplified
As long as we remember
Our dreams are a rehearsal for real life
And like our dreams
Technology isn’t black or white
It’s a tool
And every innovator needs to create
With a focus on the why

“Offline”

This skirt
Showed up on my timeline
At 3 a.m. while on a train in D.C.
These earrings were on a small site on my toolbar
These shoes appeared in my inbox
This watch,
Online after a friend recommended the brand
My bra . . .
Okay, too far
Round of applause if you have something on that
Came to you though your feed . . .
Exactly
At any given time
My algorithm knows me better than my own mother
It shows me what I need
What I think I do
What I don’t
And like clickbait
I fall for it every time
My shopping cart is overflowing
With things I plan on
And may never be brave enough to buy
AI is highly intelligent
But lacks compassion
These ads lack consideration of my bank account
Of when bills are due
And there is no way to automate
Whether I look beautiful
That this highlights my waist
What this dress accentuates
I wonder
What can people tell from my profile
What do I look like online
Am I what I spend, the sites I visit
What report does it send
Can I clear my history
And forget my past
Click a link and remake who I am
Does my Genie look like me
Can I make it my ideal
Fair skin, fine hair
Replace who I am with who I wish
I could be
Some of the quietest people write the loudest posts
Pretend everything is all Gucci
Hide depression with an avatar that is always happy
The dichotomy between these personalities
How do we unite our identity
Make it not feel like
A multiplicity of people inside of me
Is this a digital takeover
Or an exploration of the psyche
We need a common framework for technology
Because every day I’m marketing a company
M-E
Incorporated
And I need to think out of the box to figure out my brand
Unite all these characters that make up who I am
Invest in myself
Not just the outward success
Ask myself what needs to shift
Are my messages succinct
Do any of them contradict
Make sure my missions all align
The rules of business all apply
I’m Human Capital amplified
Working on making sure who I am online
Is who I am in real life

“Legacy”

Legacy, legacy what will come to be
Legacy, legacy what will come to be
Will it be Star Trek or Mad Max?
I, Robot or Optimus Prime?
Red or blue pill?
Agent Smith or Johnny 5?
Every innovation comes with a story
Getting a glimpse into someone’s life
Imperative that we tell these stories
In ways that humanize
Empathy building with our creations
Aim our North Star in the direction of something true
Build a team of people who believe in better
Get a diverse group of people in the room
Scientists, engineers, artists, even chefs with ideas to brew
Consider people’s actual needs for our next breakthroughs
We need to learn ourselves better than algorithms do
Remove the biases from systems
Engage with today’s youth
How opportunity is distributed
Still has room to improve
Because talent is everywhere
Technology is a tool
But not the only one for change
There’s a fight against inequality
Education can level out the field
Investing in people through
Mentorship and capital investments
Bring fresh faces to make bigger deals
Countries do better when people do better
Give new nations a chance
Make our Future bright
Just like Jared Leto’s pants
Legacy, legacy what will come to be
They say if necessity is the mother of function
Urgency is the uncle of change
And every revolution was uncomfortable
Every brilliant idea first appeared strange
So much good can be done in this digital age
A shift from plastic
Reefs and species to preserve and save
Delivery from poverty
New limbs and healing from motherboards in brains
But this power requires wisdom
Focus on balancing rather than conquering
Consider the consequences of creation
What it means to replace skin
Software with hardware
Not confusing happiness with shiny new things
Remembering that technology should connect
Not divide
That human connection
Should happen on
And offline
This evolution can save lives
This evolution can save lives
If we can get technology and innovation channeled just right
If we step into a space that transcends
And we step back from likes
And we step into experiences
And we step
If we lead with our sense of duty to all of humanity
Lead with our stories
We can reimagine our reality
Legacy, legacy what will come to be
Legacy, legacy what will come from me

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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