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  • Writer's pictureNathan Foley

Bow to the Laminate - CRC 2019

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

It was an overcast afternoon, as you’d come to expect as far as stereotypical Seattle afternoons go. I was standing on the 26th floor balcony overlooking a city I’ve never seen before. I expected to like it. But as I stood on the empty, dusty, balcony, I didn’t really know what to think of it. Sure, it’s a pretty city, as far as concrete labyrinths go. And not many cities have a natural backdrop quite as stunning as Mt. Rainier. Yet, I was still left with a twinge of discomfort, and I couldn’t quite explain it. First of all, I was in Seattle because my girlfriend and I were visiting her father. Before we arrived, her father warned us that his apartment is quite empty because he practically doesn’t live there due to his propensity to always be traveling for work. That piece of information didn’t surprise us because we had grown accustomed to him sending us texts from this or that part of the western hemisphere, saying things like, “Hello from Brazil!” or “It’s too damn cold in Toronto.” But we were still shocked to witness firsthand the extent to which that information really rang true.

Apparently he had moved into this space six months prior to our visit, but the piles of boxes and lack of anything else resembling life said otherwise. The cupboards housed a handful of dishes, and in the closet, there was a single jacket. I’ve seen this man wear more jackets than I could count, yet there was a single jacket hanging in the desolate closet, seemingly unworn. And there wasn’t a single light or lamp to be found, save the sole light installed in the ceiling of the kitchen. But the one attribute of this apartment that really caught my eye within the first few minutes of our visit was the fridge. The fridge had a single item in it. It was a bottle of wine, three-quarters empty, lying in wait on the door. When opened, the light inside the stainless steel smart fridge glared off of the barren glass shelves, almost blinding me as I looked inside. Judging by the contents, or lack thereof, in the fridge, I understood why the stove top looked so peculiar in its Ikea showroom perfection.

We woke the next morning at five a.m. to the sound of him on a work call in the other room. We couldn’t make out exactly what he was talking about--all we could hear were the buzzwords. Cryptic words of a foreign language such as “RDS… S3… VPC…Lambda… and Route53” rang through the closed door so much louder than the plain English that we knew he was speaking. He tried to keep quiet, but not waking us was an impossibility due to the hardwood floor connecting the living room to his bedroom, creating an echo usually reserved for the greatest of Roman cathedrals. When he finally emerged from his room--I couldn’t tell you exactly how long the call took--he was surprised to see us up and apologized if he disturbed our rest. We told him it was fine, but in truth, we were both exhausted and wished we could have gotten more rest after a long day of travel, but that opportunity for rest had passed. He offered to take us out for some coffee before he went to work for the day, so we dressed and got ready to explore this city a bit on the ground. In the elevator, on the way down the 26 floors, he lifted his briefcase to his chest and unzipped the front pocket. From that pocket he removed and placed around his neck a lanyard with his title, name, and mugshot.

We emerged from the apartment building onto a crowded street filled with more pedestrians than cars. Immediately I noticed the hordes of pedestrians were divided by attire into their own groups as if there were some unspoken rule for professional segregation. The suits all walked and talked together, the button-downs all conversed amongst themselves, and the button-ups brought up the remainder of the pack. The only sense of unity to be found was the little rectangle hanging from each of their necks. Each and every one of these nameless suits and fancy shirts were wearing a lanyard of their own, designating what they were. We pushed our way through the lanyards to his favorite Starbucks location.

I expected the territorial conquest of the lanyards to stop once we escaped the street, but inside the coffee shop, their reign continued. Every person that was not myself, my girlfriend, or wearing a green apron was branded with a lanyard of their own. After we each had a coffee in our hands and a quick bite in our stomachs, we set out to drop him off at his office. It wasn’t much of a trek, he only works 3 blocks away from his apartment building, but it felt like an eternity nonetheless. I struggled so profoundly to define each face we passed, by the name and lanyard that accompanied it. Who are these people? What are their dreams? What are their values? None of their passing conversations gave me any insight at all into this dilemma. Every conversation I managed to eavesdrop even the slightest into sounded exactly like the one that woke us so early in the morning: cryptic and calculated pseudo-English. It seemed gone were the days of human interaction because this was not human interaction, it was a perverted imitation. Is this what Seattle has become?

We finally arrived at Doppler, the corporate headquarters of Amazon. We had obviously always known that he was a man of positional power at one of the largest companies on the entire planet, but it was still a shock to see it in person. We bid our farewells for the day and he handed us his plastic apartment key, much like that which you’d receive for your stay at a hotel.

My girlfriend and I decided we’d like to take a walk around for ourselves and judge whether or not what we saw so far was truly representative of the city as a whole. We picked a direction and just walked. Along the way to our unknown destination, we stopped at any shop we deemed interesting enough from our passing glances. We visited a textile shop, a comic book shop, a falafel shop, another coffee shop when our previous beverages ran empty, an antique shop, and a tourist shop. In each shop, we were assaulted by yet even more lanyards. It seemed to us that there was no solace to be found from their laminated dictatorship.

No solace until we happened across the most unlikely of oases. I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards such an establishment, but we quickly realized that this shop was entirely untainted by the lanyarded tyranny. My attention wasn’t so much drawn to it as it was abruptly hijacked by what was vigorously displayed in the window just feet away from my face. Flaunted on a podium in a spotlight of sorts was quite the veiny eyesore, but that is not what interested us. We noticed that the people inside, and there was quite a handful in this purveyor of sensuality, were actually talking. They had smiles on their faces. They seemed genuinely human. But most importantly of all, they weren’t branded by the tech overlord. It was refreshing to find this refuge, but unnerving all the same.

We came expecting to see a beautiful city with lively people, but all we encountered was the coldness you’d expect from a city living in the dystopian world of Sameness. The apartment her father lives in, while paying almost double what we do for a third of the size, is a 30 floor cold storage facility barren of emotion. The streets have no actual conversation or interaction, they’re just another office for the lanyards to conduct their business. The shops are only there to serve the servants of the overlord. The flesh which inhabits those damned lanyards are nothing but cogs in a greater machine. Their lives and aspirations don’t matter because they are replaceable. But behind that glass, it was different. This may be Seattle’s last bastion of humanity. The only haven for humanity we could find in this concrete jungle of dystopian uniformity was a sex shop. Not just any sex shop, but a sex shop that is gracing in the spotlight a glowing pedestal. And upon that pedestal, defiantly guarding its domain against the rule of Amazon, stands a sparkling, two and a half foot long, silicone dick.

It all began with a simple enough idea: selling books online. The internet was a new and unexplored world of possibilities. Only select geniuses at the time understood just how big of a deal the internet was going to be, and even fewer still knew what to do with it. Just a handful could really comprehend the chaos that was the mind of the 80s and 90s tech mogul, yet these nerdy Machiavels of industry were the sole keepers of the key to a whole new world. David Shaw and Jeff Bezos would be among those pioneers. They managed a hedge fund company in 1994 when the internet was just starting to unleash itself upon the world. They deliberated on ideas and potential ventures their company could embark on to take full advantage of this new and exciting world. In Brad Stone’s book, The Everything Store, their process is explained as: “Shaw and Bezos would meet for a few hours each week to brainstorm ideas for this coming technological wave, and then Bezos would take those ideas and investigate their feasibility” (8-9). With that process of development, they came up with 3 main ideas: free, advertising-supported email service for consumers, a financial service that ended up being the precursor to E-Trade, and finally, something they called “the everything store” (9). The “everything store” is as we know it today. Their aspiration was to become the online intermediary between retailers and consumers. But with no infrastructure in place, they couldn’t start right away with their everything store. Bezos concluded that an “everything store” was an impossibility for them to start off with. Instead, he singled in on one product to focus on: books. As Stone writes,

They were pure commodities; a copy of a book in one store was identical to the same book carried in another, so buyers knew what they were getting… If he couldn’t build a true everything store right away, he could capture its essence--unlimited selection--in at least one important product category. “With that huge diversity of products you could build a store online that simply could not exist in any other way,” Bezos said. (10)

And with that, Amazon’s conquest began.

The dominance has never stopped, but most importantly, that dominance was not confined to the selling of goods made by other companies. They developed their AWS, or Amazon Web Services, sector to improve their retail infrastructure online. As Alec Rojas details in “A Brief History of AWS,” “the Amazon leadership team was asked to identify the core strengths of the company. One thing became abundantly clear: Its infrastructures services gave them a huge advantage over their competition.” They recognized that they had a very far reaching grasp on much of the country and the world thanks to their distribution centers, but there was more potential to that than filling them with more boxes to sell online. Rojas continues, “From there, a grander idea emerged: That a combination of infrastructure services and developer tools could become a pseudo-operating system for the internet.” And with that, AWS was born, but for it to survive and prosper, it had to be treated as essentially an entirely new company. And for an entirely new company to prosper, it needs space to grow into.

For so long, Amazon was only synonymous with online retail shopping, but very quickly that identity changed thanks to the creation and rapid growth of AWS. The tide really did turn, at least to the public eye, in the year 2010 when Amazon began its hostile takeover of Seattle. Amazon had already been headquartered in Seattle, but the turn of the decade ushered in a real estate expansion like no other by a single company in a single city. In 2007, the only buildings Amazon operated out of in Seattle were the 11 buildings at their original South Lake Union Campus. As of 2018, since the leasing of 2201 Westlake in 2010, Amazon inhabited an additional 33 locations in Seattle alone. According to GeekWire’s compilation of Amazon offices in Seattle, their original campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood topped off at 1.7 million square feet. The total square footage of their additional acquisitions since 2010 ascended to an absolutely staggering 11,871,300 square feet of Seattle real estate. With the 11,871,300 square feet of additional space added to their original Seattle headquarters, Amazon’s grand total of 13,571,300 square feet of permeation can not be forgotten, overlooked, or otherwise understated. Any single company that has carved out that much physical space in a single city over the course of a decade is a company that has seized its city in a strangle. There is no wonder then as to why the people in the heart of Amazon’s empire seem so lifeless to the point of being robotic. The company has carved out so much space in an existing and thriving city, that it has forever changed the culture of that city. Just a single day walking around Seattle will provide that information. As so eloquently stated in CML’s blog post on Gawker, “Seattle is dead and Amazon killed it.”

Beyond the economic implications that a stake like that has over a city, the cultural implications are just as dangerous. Before Amazon, it was an impossibility to have at your fingertips a source from which you could purchase and receive, sometimes within a few hours, anything you could imagine from the comfort of your office at home, your couch while watching tv, your bed as you’re getting ready for sleep, or your toilet as you aimlessly scroll on your phone while wiping your ass. Before, if you needed something, you would go out and shop around for that item. If a particular store didn’t have it, you would go to another store. And if they didn’t have it, you’d wait until it was back in stock. Amazon’s convenience has bred an insatiable thirst to instantly consume, and to immediately experience the reward of that consumption.

Unfortunately, that thirst for instantaneous reward is not confined to Amazon’s retail shop. Literally any kind of product has an app or website through which you can shop and receive that item in hand within a day, an hour, or even minutes. A market that only belonged to pizza delivery is now expanded to any and all food with the help of apps like Doordash, Uber Eats, Postmates, and Grubhub. Netflix is a movie theater in your own home, allowing you the freedom to movie hop with impunity. Spotify is a library where you can instantaneously gain access to any music you could possibly want, all for free. If you live in a state that has legalized marijuana, apps like Eaze and Greenrush can put an ounce of weed in your hand in as little as 45 minutes. And the same even goes for dating. Apps like Tinder allow you to window shop for people in your area, providing the opportunity to “swipe” on, or choose, someone with no actual interaction. This allows you to achieve that one night stand you have so desperately been yearning for without actually needing to leave the comfort of your own home. All of these apps depend on the same type of model that has stemmed from the instant gratification culture that we came to love and depend on, fostered by Amazon’s retail platform.

Unfortunately, Amazon’s influence doesn’t stop with just the people. Just over a year ago, Amazon held a competition of sorts between cities across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. All participating cities battled for the opportunity to be crowned the tech giant’s second headquarters. In September 2017, Amazon announced their plans to expand into another city and name the eventual city the home of their second headquarters, or HQ2. Almost immediately, city governments came groveling at the feet of Jeff Bezos for the glory of being conquered by Amazon. For example, Gary, IN took out an ad in the New York Times, in which they anthropomorphized the city of Gary and wrote from “his” perspective, begging Jeff Bezos to consult “his” mayor (Clark). Detroit, MI announced extensive infrastructure projects, such as expanding its regional transportation system, because they were told by Amazon their current system wasn’t sufficient enough to be the site of HQ2 (Florida). Charlotte, NC created their own website and social media campaign titled: “CLT is Prime,” complete with a hype video written as an extended spoken-word poem posted on YouTube, in addition to pimping out His Airness himself, Michael Jordan to plead on the city’s behalf (CLT Is Prime). And Kansas City, MO’s mayor fictionally reviewed 1,000 products on the retailer’s site for a short video, in which he wrote one of those reviews, complete with an embarrassingly childish voice-over, for a toddler’s train conductor costume (“What Kansas City Can Learn”). These cities were just a few of the many cities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States that battled for the opportunity to house HQ2. In fact, according to Richard Florida’s Citylab article, “The Hypocrisy of Amazon’s HQ2 Process,” a grand total of 238 cities shamelessly placed themselves in Jeff Bezos’ line and begged at his feet. What other company in the history of our world has had this much power, not only in their industry, but over so many local and state governments? Cities competed like their very livelihoods depended on it. They battled with different incentives they could give the tech giant, leaving Amazon to pick and choose what benefits it wanted to reap from the various governments stupid enough to beg so pathetically. Yes, companies have always taken advantage of tax breaks and incentives from local and state governments--that’s not the issue. The issue so many saw with this display was that it turned into an all out bidding war between states and cities over a single company. As it all unfolded, it is downright embarrassing what many of these government officials did in order to plead for Amazon’s favor, but ultimately it was all for naught because Amazon scrapped the idea entirely. So many know of Amazon’s dirty--sometimes downright unethical--practices, and there is a whole plethora of information on that matter, but governments let that slide if it meant they could add some numbers to their GDP. They all knew, and yet they chose to ignore it in their embarrassing pursuits to win Bezos’ favor.

Amazon has been known to push its workers to the limit to achieve what they view as greatness. As Kantor and Streitfeld detail in The New York Times article, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” the over-the-moon ambitions of Jeff Bezos are the only goals set for Amazon’s white collar employees. Bo Olson, a former employee at Amazon’s book marketing division, revealed “his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well.” He continues, “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” Given that the only goal for its white collar employees is to strive for absolute, unwavering, greatness--and that anything less is a waste of resources--any employee that falters in the face of this lofty goal is immediately replaceable. If you can’t successfully perform a task, they will find someone who will. No wonder it is common-place to witness your colleagues weeping at their desks. The burnout culture so prevalent in in today’s society, especially in places like Japan, and it is so perfectly embodied by Amazon. Work your employees until they drop, and when they drop, replace them. And in a time of unprecedented transparency, much of the turmoil goes undocumented because of the efforts Amazon takes to keep their business operations under wraps. As further stated in the article, “Tens of millions of Americans know Amazon as customers, but life inside its corporate offices is largely a mystery. Secrecy is required; even low-level employees sign a lengthy confidentiality agreement.” The terminology used in Amazon’s employee contracts are notoriously ambiguous, even those for seasonal employees.

In March of 2015, The Verge obtained a copy of the contracts given to seasonal warehouse employees. Spencer Woodman details this contract in his article; the contract states:

During employment and for 18 months after the Separation Date, Employee will not, directly or indirectly, whether on Employee’s own behalf or on behalf of any other entity (for example, as an employee, agent, partner, or consultant), engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing, or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon (or intended to be sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon in the future) that Employee worked on or supported, or about which Employee obtained or received Confidential Information.

This is the contract required for seasonal employees at Amazon’s warehouse distribution centers. These are not “skilled” workers, these are manual laborers hired for the holiday season to lift items off a shelf and place them in boxes to be shipped. This required contract locks and prevents them from attaining any job at any business that engages in the: “development, manufacture, marketing, or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon.” That is such a broad stroke of limitations applied to even the most temporary of employees. Once you sign that contract, essentially the next 2 years of your professional life, regardless of how long you worked for Amazon, are dictated by Amazon. It’s impossible for a company the size of Amazon to follow each and every one of its former employees to make sure they are abiding by their contract, but the fact that this contract exists in the first place for the most temporary of its employees is deplorable.

The lives of Amazon’s warehouse workers aren’t only toyed with by powerful contracts, but by potential technology developed by their employer as well. In 2016, Amazon filed for patents for a tracking device to be worn as a wristband by warehouse employees to ensure they are working as efficiently as possible. In January of 2018, those patents were published. According to Ceylan Yeginsu’s article, “If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know,” these patented wristbands have the potential to circumvent employee privacy for the sake of the bottom line. She writes, “Amazon’s proposed technology would emit ultrasonic sound pulses and radio transmissions to track where an employee’s hands were in relation to inventory bins, and provide ‘haptic feedback’ to steer the worker toward the correct bin.” These wristbands are designed to disrupt and disturb its user if it senses the slightest of movements that are deemed to be inefficient. These employees are already under much surveillance, and the potential of a shackle required to be worn brings about some truly dystopian and disturbing images. Yeginsu continues, as she recounts a former employee’s experiences in the warehouse, “Max Crawford, a former Amazon warehouse worker in Britain, said in a phone interview, ‘After a year working on the floor, I felt like I had become a version of the robots I was working with.’” The extensive monitoring, examining, and practically slave-driving of Amazon’s manual laborers chips away at their very humanity. Crawford continues, “You had to process the items in seconds and then move on. If you didn’t meet targets, you were fired… They want to turn people into machines. The robotic technology isn’t up to scratch yet, so until it is, they will use human robots.” Again with the notion of Amazon employees being replaceable like parts in a machine. Arguably the lowest on the totem pole, manual warehouse laborers are treated as such. They are just parts in an unstoppable machine. If a part fails, that part is replaced. This is an example of how the power and ambition of Jeff Bezos and his company have directly and negatively affected their subjects.

Power is an intoxicating thing. Once the power-hungry get even the slightest whiff of it, there is nothing that can stop them from chasing that high to its fullest extent. For Jeff Bezos and Amazon, their vice is the pursuit of industrial and technological power. Because of their reliance on that thirst, they have engaged in unethical behaviours in order to keep it going. Jeff Bezos however, is not the only example worth looking into. Dr. Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s play, Dr. Faustus, can serve as a warning of just how poorly a situation can turn when this reckless ambition is in the wrong hands. Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus is a deeply conflicted man. He has the whole world at his feet, but he still thirsts for more. It doesn’t matter to him that he quite literally is the smartest man on the planet, the knowledge he has accrued to this point is no longer enough to satiate his lust.

We first encounter Dr. Faustus as he is sitting in his study, bored out of his mind. He says he is convinced by his servants to pursue magical dark arts and teachings, but in truth, his mind had already been made up from the get. Before Faustus even begins on this journey into the unholy, he is convinced that he will acquire the power of a literal god through his studies of the dark arts. He summons the demon Mephistophilis to assist him in this pursuit, and the demon warns him that he must make a deal with Lucifer in order to achieve this goal. This deal would mean Faustus must sacrifice his soul at the end of a 24 year contract, but during those 24 years, he can achieve this power he so thoroughly craves. His conscience, however, attempts to dissuade him before he makes the fateful decision. His conscience is portrayed as a good angel and a bad angel, battling for Faustus’ attention. In Scene V, the Good Angel pleads to him, “Sweet Faustus, think of Heaven, and / heavenly things,” but the Bad Angel overshadows the Good’s plea as he says, “No, Faustus, think of honour and of / wealth,” to which Faustus proclaims, “Of wealth!” He completely ignores the good side of his conscience because he is so blinded and dictated by his greed for power that the words of the Good Angel fail to move him, leading him to follow through with this fateful pact with Lucifer.

He follows through with the pact to achieve magical powers and knowledge--powers he foresees unlocking so much incredible potential, but alas he is a fool. He may be the smartest man on the planet, but he is a fool and easily manipulated by these powers that are much stronger than he. His delusions of grandeur quickly dissolved into little more than devious tricks on the less fortunate. First, in Scene VII, Faustus and Mephistophilis invade the Vatican and torment the Pope and his cardinals. Hiding behind magical invisibility, Faustus and his demon companion throw dishes and food around the table as the religious men attempt to eat their dinner. A cardinal tries to explain the unnatural disturbance, hypothesizing, “My lord, it may be some ghost newly / crept out of purgatory, come to beg a pardon of / your holiness” (33). The Pope crosses himself in preparation for dealing with this proposed ghost, but Faustus scoffs at this, warning him to not cross himself a third time. When the Pope crosses himself a third and final time, Faustus “hits him a box of the ear; and they all run / away” (33). Faustus and Mephistophilis have so much fun tormenting these men that this is not where they draw the line. In Scene X, Dr. Faustus is called to court by the Emperor. He is asked to give a display of his powers, but a knight in the court doubts his ability. The knight in question doubts Faustus’ ability to materialize the spirit of Alexander the Great and challenges Faustus to turn him into a stag if he is indeed able to produce Alexander’s spirit. Faustus, instead of just proving the knight wrong by successfully materializing the spirits, he calls the knight back to court after he completes his task in order brand him with deer antlers. Only at the emperor’s plea, does Faustus remove the antlers from the poor knight. And finally, his last victim is perhaps the most vulnerable of all.

In Scene XI, Faustus and Mephistophilis meet a poor horse courser. He begs to buy Faustus’ horse, and Faustus uses his position of power to manipulate the poor man. He forces the desperate man to spend all of the money he has on him to purchase the horse. Faustus deceptively warns the man, “But I must tell you / one thing before you have him; ride him not into / the water at any hand” (43). The man does just that, and rides the horse into water. Much to his surprise, the horse immediately dissolves into a mound of hay, for the horse was a conjured being by the hand of Faustus. Faustus obviously knew this, but he deceivingly used his position of power to manipulate the vulnerable man and play a horrible trick on him. But, he doesn’t stop there. The man returns to demand a refund of his $40. Instead of obliging and admitting his wrongdoing, Faustus goes all in. He fakes being asleep, so much so that the man yanks on his leg to wake him. Faustus sees this as an opportunity to further torment the man and he conjures the illusion of his leg being ripped clean off. The man is so distraught and fearful for his life that he pleads, “O lord, sir, let me go, and I’ll give you / forty dollars more… I have none about me. Come to my / ostry and I’ll give them to you” (46). Faustus is so manipulated and blinded by his power over everyone else, that it goes entirely to his head. He abuses the power to bring harm and torment to those around him, when he could have used the power for ultimate good. His thirst goes completely unquenched from start to finish, allowing that power to invade and infect every fabric of his being, until Lucifer tore him to shreds at the end of their 24 year pact.

In addition to Dr. Faustus, the Armitage family from Jordan Peele’s horror film Get Out is yet another warning of how poorly a situation can turn when reckless ambition is in the wrong hands. Their thirst wasn’t for the domination of the internet or becoming masters of magic, but the thirst for circumventing the natural process of aging. They are a family in the woods of upstate New York who are well known in their small community. But most importantly, they are a malicious family that kidnaps young black adults and hijacks their bodies, supplanting their minds with the minds of other affluent white people--affluent white people who in their insatiable desire to cheat death, battle in a silent auction for the opportunity to inhabit the bodies of the Armitage’s victims.

In the beginning of the film, the daughter, Rose, brings her boyfriend of a few months, Chris, to meet them. From Chris’ perspective, initially they seem fairly normal, albeit a bit quirky. They ask him so many invasive questions, such as how his mother died, and to Chris’ credit, he does a good job walking that social tightrope. Early on in their visit, though, Chris is hypnotized by Roses’ mother, Missy. She invades his mind against his will and uses her position of power to manipulate him. She pulls from him the information that he was a child when his mother died, and that he blames himself for her death, and she plays on that vulnerability to further invade his mind and entrap him within it.

From here on out, Chris is incredibly uncomfortable and he knows that something fishy is up, but he can’t quite place it at first. There is a point in the film when Logan, another victim who suffered Chris’ potential fate, lunges onto Chris, screaming “Get out!” To escape this incredibly overwhelming situation, Chris and Rose go for a walk and Chris tries to unpack everything going on in his head. He tells her, “Your mom got into my head. And now I’m thinking of all this fucked up shit that I don’t want to think about.” Missy has this incredible ability to get into peoples’ minds, but instead of using that power to help, she uses it to manipulate and destroy. The buck doesn’t stop with mere hypnosis, though. They ensnare and enslave their victims, and perform involuntary brain surgery on them to replace their minds with the victor of the silent auction. Chris discovers the true extent of this demented process and fights his way out of it. He almost fails, but he is saved by his inquisitive friend Rod, only after Chris murders the entire Armitage family in his effort to escape.

The Armitages discovered this incredible technology and they have worked tirelessly to perfect it. Their pursuit for this power gave them an insatiable thirst for more. They initially succeeded in this operation for the father’s, parents, but that wasn’t enough. If they were able to do this for their family, then they can do it for their friends, at a fair price of course. The Armitages are the only keepers of this technology, so malicious predators flock to them for this gift. It is an incredible technology that has incredible revolutionary potential, but the fact of the matter is, this power is so heavily misguided in that it is only achievable on the condition that someone must die.

Tech companies have no time to waste on slowing down and doing the “right” thing at every turn because they are the key to the technological and innovative revolution we are currently experiencing, and it is their responsibility to push it even further. It is so easy to jump on the bandwagon that people such as these are the worst of the worst and they bring nothing but ruin upon our world, but, for truly revolutionary innovation, we must have Machiavellian figures and corporations that are willing to do whatever it takes to push the envelope. It is the ambition and determination of tech leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates that allows us to enjoy so many of our current luxuries since the dawning of this revolution. Yes they can be ruthless and sometimes downright dirty, but they achieved truly great things that nobody anticipated would even be possible. Their main distinctions from the Armitages and Dr. Faustus’ of the world is that whatever their faults and misgivings, they are bringing to light a true gift that everyone can use.

In any technological revolution there will always be doubts and pushback. There will always be Luddites. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a Luddite is a “member of the organized bands of 19th-century English handicraftsmen who rioted for the destruction of the textile machinery that was displacing them.” And now, the term Luddite could be used “to signify individuals or groups opposed to technological change.” Yes there are jobs being lost because of this boom, but there are also jobs being created. Even Amazon itself has a certification program available right on their AWS website for prospective engineers and up and coming programmers to develop their skills in cloud computing (“Training and Certification”).

It is a very scary thing when industries are transformed virtually overnight, but this is not the first time this has happened. The mass production and infiltration of personal cars into daily life was much a shock to all of society. The creation of the motorized vehicle didn’t come about until the 1890s, and up until then, you travelled by either horse-drawn carriage or by railroad. The first man to build and sell a single motorized vehicle in the United States was Alexander Winton. In 1930, he wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post reminiscing on his experience kickstarting an industry that would take the country and world by storm. He was a bicycle maker, but he had the ambitious dream to create a vehicle that propelled itself. Winton writes, “my mind naturally turned to something a rider wouldn’t have to push and keep pushing if he was trying to get some place. But the great obstacle to the development of the automobile was the lack of public interest.” It’s baffling to imagine now in our age, but people of this time viewed the idea of a motorized car as ludicrous. He continues with his response to his banker calling him to tell him he is disappointed in his wasteful ambitious pursuit, “That riled me, but I held my temper as I asked, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ He bellowed: ‘There’s nothing the matter with me. It’s you! You’re crazy if you think this fool contraption you’ve been wasting your time on will ever displace the horse.’” He was seen as a fool for even dreaming of this impossible pursuit. In the 1890’s, everyone thought there is no way anybody could come up with a vehicle like the bicycle or the horse-drawn carriage that would propel itself. But here we are in 2019, on the cusp of creating fully automated self-driving cars.

The same kind of ignorance prevailed against the internet. In the 90’s, nobody except the titans of the internet industry knew what capabilities the internet was going to unlock for humanity. In 1994, the cast of the Today Show grappled and struggled in an attempt to understand just what the internet was. Katie Couric first admits that she didn’t know what the @ symbol meant, and that she had originally thought it meant “roundabout.” And then Bryant Gumbel follows with his honest question, “What is internet, anyway?” To which Couric tentatively responds, “Internet is, uh, that massive computer network. The one that’s becoming really big now.” In retrospect, this interaction is downright hilarious because everyone knows what the internet is in 2019. But in 1994, just a couple short decades ago, those determined tech leaders were at the forefront of this new world that everyone else simply couldn’t understand yet. If they weren’t so driven and ruthless in their pursuit for technological power, we would not be as technologically advanced as we are today. Today, children as young as 5 and 6 years old are learning how to use the computer. Classes can be entirely conducted online at any level of education. We can stay in constant contact with family and friends who are thousands of miles away. The internet now is so accessible to anybody with a computer or a phone and that accessibility is thanks to these ruthless nerds.

Amazon has done incredible work with AWS, leading the industry and the world in cloud computing. Companies big and small flock to AWS for cloud hosting and computing, so they don’t have to shell out of their own pocket the capital required to build their own server infrastructure. Their services are damn near impeccable, which is why they are the leader in this industry. Any industry that relies on the internet, chances are much of that industry is supported by AWS. Gaming, entertainment, media, finance, and technology startups of any imaginable kind come to AWS for their services because AWS is the best on the market. According to Amazon’s Director of Professional Services for the Americas, David Lavanty, “AWS’ primary services include but are not limited to: computing, storage, and database management.” They, more so than any other company, have all of the necessary infrastructure in place allowing them to serve so many clients across the entire globe. And that amount of clients is astonishing. Lavanty continues, “AWS’ total amount of clients exceeds just over 1,000,000.” The most notable clients being Netflix, Adobe, General Electric, European Space Agency, Sony, US Department of State, and the Ministry of Justice in the United Kingdom. Having serving so much of today’s world, not only in our homes, but in our businesses and governments, Amazon is providing an unprecedented level of service to humanity as a whole. A single company has managed to improve how entire industries function, assist governments in better serving and connecting to their people, and create a level of accessibility and connectivity within our homes never before seen. Yes, Amazon has practiced some questionable, and at times unethical methods, but their contribution to the advancement of society and technology through their ambitious pursuits is unequivocally undeniable.

In most cases, Machiavellian ambition and yearning for exploration and knowledge, though scary at times, can lead to truly incredible and revolutionary discoveries and technological advancements. We need these people of incredible power to take the reigns of progress to better humanity and society as a whole. It is because of these Machiavels that we have cars in our driveways, computers in our pockets, flags on the moon, probes voyaging space almost 14 billion miles away from the sun, and interconnectivity across our entire planet, and eventually, across our galaxy. These feats cannot be accomplished by you or me. These feats can only be accomplished by the Alexander Wintons, Elon Musks, Bill Gates’, and Jeff Bezos’. It is up to them to think of the possibilities that we cannot. A truly revolutionary technology like the internet, factory machines, and automobiles cannot be introduced into society without engraving its mark on said society. These innovators are not Dr. Faustus’, nor are they Armitages. They use their power for what they honestly see as legitimate contributions to society, and it’s hard to argue that. Jeff Bezos is a man whose imagination has affected and improved many of our lives. We may complain about Amazon’s power trips, and about their attempted infiltration of our cities, but we will still open up our phones and order things off of Amazon within the same breath. It is undeniable that Amazon’s contributions have stained much of society, but the good must also be weighed with the bad. Regardless of our warranted hesitations and reservations towards the company, Amazon’s ambition, and the ambitions of companies like Amazon, are unequivocally the driving force behind the current technological advancement and revolution of planet Earth.

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Marlowe, Christopher. Dr. Faustus. Dover Thrift Edition, 1994.

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Winton, Alexander. “Get a Horse! America’s Skepticism Toward the First Automobiles.” Saturday Evening Post, 15 Apr. 1930.

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