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Need to know was the order of the day. We were only given a very narrow description of the origins of the artifacts. We knew that they were of extra-terrestrial origin, but our government partners would not reveal anymore.
In fact, they discouraged us from talking about the alien connections and they never brought the subject up unless we asked questions. Getting information about the artifacts was like pulling teeth. Answers were slow to come, if they came at all. Apple was chosen because we were small and hungry. The government disliked monopolies and IBM was considered too much of a security threat. Some were examining the same artifacts we were given access to, others had access to areas of Affiliated off-limits to the Apple team. The LAAC was approximately the size of a soda can. Its interface is hard to explain.
The object was activated by passing your hand over its top. It was deactivated in the same manner. Upon activation, a projection, an almost dream-like image in vivid color appeared in your head. We were told that the first person to use the device died of a brain embolism within seconds of activation. Apparently, the machine was a learning device that automatically adjusted itself to the human anatomy. The next person to try the device suffered from severe migraines after a few minutes of use. Over time, the machine fully adjusted to the human anatomy and was completely safe to use.
For lack of a better term, we referred to its capabilities as magic. They were interested in what we could take from it for commercial purposes. At first we were baffled. We were interesting in its file structure. The user selected the objects by moving an imaginary mental pointing instrument. The objects could be organized in a structured manner. It was really up to the user to determine the structure data was stored in the system.
If the user wanted to draw an image, the LAAC created a sophisticated pallet with a set of advanced primitives.
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I guess you could say that the program was analogous to the modern Abobe Photoshop program, but with several profound differences. First, there were no user manuals or help functions. While hooked up the computer, the user instantly knew how to use every aspect of it and the user was free to modify the program in any way the user could imagine.
We used the LAAC to define a whole new way to use a personal computer. This is only partially true.
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We used the PARC to help us determine ways to translate the advanced alien technology into contemporary computer technology. Obviously, we were constrained in terms of interface, storage, and speed. We worked with the LAAC until early Steve Jobs worked with both teams and acted as a facilitator. Here is what I know about what actually happened. Sculley was never informed about our dealings with the government.
Jobs could have easily made Sculley do anything he wanted because of his access to the reality distortion technology, but he purposefully picked a fight with Sculley in order to create a plausible explanation for his departure from Apple. As I stated earlier, the government does not like monopolies that threaten its power.
Jobs was given an ultimatum by his handlers at Affiliated. He was told that if he wanted ongoing access to the alien artifacts, he would have to create a start up company competing against Apple. We were officially debriefed by government officials. I worked at Apple until and have since retired from the computer industry. I currently teach technology at a school that shall remain unnamed.
Why am I coming out now?
Well, I am at that age where it no longer matters what happens to me. I have recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness and before my time comes, I want to get this off my conscience. Apple is a great company, but it is shameful that we helped the government conceal the greatest secret of all time. The public must be told the truth. I knew it all along. I have been giving Steve Jobs and his Apple munchkins a. It now appears that every product Apple has ever produced probably had its origins from alien technology. Now it all makes sense to me why there are so many Apple mobile products—and it scares me.
Aliens are always moving from one galaxy to another. No wonder those Apple evangelists are such zealots, with a lemming-like behaviors, and crazy over Apple products. They would buy a toilet, if the Apple brand was emblossomed on it. Jobs burned the Apple brand into their feeble-minded brains. They will buy only Apple products for the rest of their tormented lives. Now Jobs is doing the same thing with PC Windows users.
I dugged deep into the internet, and could not find a damn thing about a company named Affiliated Xanatech. For security reasons, probably erased forever by men in black suits and sunglasses. I have a dark feeling that the company was secretly assimilated into Apple, where it now operates on black government projects to create the mobile products of tomorrow. I got to get me an LAAC computer. Screw the mouse and pointer.
Our consumer economy is driven at its most basic level by resource extraction, pulling things from the earth, an extraction that we never actually see. We pull food from the earth, of course, but we also pull our cellphones from the earth, our clothing, our computers, our flat-screen televisions, our cars—it all comes from the earth, ultimately. And pulling things from the earth can be a dirty business. To make our consumer economy hum and grow and instantly gratify, costs are driven down as low as they can go, especially at the bottom of the supply chain; this can lead to abusive conditions for workers and harm to the natural world.
Taken to the extreme it means slavery and catastrophic environmental destruction. But all this normally happens far from any prying eyes. It is us—the consumer culture of the rich north. Shrimp, fish, gold, diamonds, steel, beef, sugar, and the other fruits of slavery and environmental devastation flow into the stores of North America, Europe, Japan, and, increasingly, China. The profits generated when we go shopping flow back down the chain and fuel more assaults on the natural world, drive more people toward enslavement, and feed more goods into the global supply chain.
Round and round it goes— our spending drives a criminal perpetual motion machine that eats people and nature like a cancer. How closely linked are these two crimes? Well, we know environmental change is part of the engine of slavery. The sharp end of environmental change, whether slow as rising sea levels and desertification, or disastrously sudden like a hurricane or a tsunami, comes first to the poor.
Homes and livelihoods lost, these people and communities are easily abused. Especially in countries where corruption is rife, slavers act with impunity after environmental devastation, luring and capturing the refugees, the destitute, and the dispossessed. This has happened in countries like Mali, where sand dunes drift right over villages, forcing the inhabitants to flee in desperation, seeking new livelihoods, only to find themselves enslaved. It happens in Asia every time a tidal wave slams into a coastline, pushing survivors inland, and in Brazil when forests are destroyed and the land washes away in the next tropical storm, leaving small farmers bereft and vulnerable.
Slaves lured or captured from the pool of vulnerable migrants are then forced to rip up the earth or level the forests, completing the cycle. Out of our sight, slaves numbering in the hundreds of thousands do the work that slaves have done for millennia: That cutting and digging moves like a scythe through the most protected parts of our natural world—nature reserves, protected forests, UNESCO World Heritage Sites— destroying the last refuges of protected species and, in the process, often the slave workers.
And as gold or tantalum or iron or even shrimp and fish are carried away from the devastation, these commodities begin their journey across the world and into our homes and our lives. But how can the estimated After all, while When they mine gold they saturate thousands of acres with toxic mercury.
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When they cut timber, they clear-cut and burn, taking a few high-value trees and leaving behind a dead ecosystem. Laws and treaties may control law-abiding individuals, corporations, and governments, but not the criminal slaveholders who flout the gravest of laws. When it comes to global warming, these slaveholders outpace all but the very biggest polluters.
Adding together their slave-based deforestation and other CO 2 -producing crimes leads to a sobering conclusion. Environmentalists are right to call for laws and treaties that will apply to the community of nations, but that is not enough. We need to end slavery. The good news is that slavery can be stopped.
We know how to bust slaveholders and free slaves, we know how much it costs and where to start, and we know that freed slaves tend to be willing workers in the rebuilding of our natural world. Ending slavery is a step forward in fixing our earth. There is a deadly triangular trade going on today that reaches from these threatened villages and forests in the most remote parts of the earth all the way to our homes in America and Europe. It is a trade cycle that grinds up the natural world and crushes human beings to more efficiently and cheaply churn out commodities like the cassiterite and other minerals we need for our laptops and cellphones.
To stop it, we have to understand it. My initial comprehension of this deadly combination was purely circumstantial. I needed to collect real and careful proof, because if the link between environmental destruction and slavery proved real, and our consumption could be demonstrated to perpetuate this crime, then breaking these links could contribute toward solving two of the most grievous problems in our world. I thought if we could pin down how this vicious cycle of human misery and environmental destruction works, we could also discover how to stop it.
To get a clear picture has taken seven years and a far-reaching journey that took me down suffocating mines and into sweltering jungles. I started in the Eastern Congo, where all the pieces of the puzzle are exposed—slavery, greed, a war against both nature and people, all for resources that flowed right back into our consumer economy, into our work and homes and pockets.
I knew if I could get there—and stay clear of the warlords and their armed gangs— I could begin to uncover the truth. The helicopter dropped like an elevator in free fall to dodge any rebel-fired rocket from the surrounding forest. We landed inside a tight circle of UN soldiers on a small soccer field. The soldiers stood with their backs to us, aiming their automatic weapons at the tree line, as the blast from the rotors whipped the tall grass around their legs.
As we touched down, jeeps and four-by-fours roared up, bringing injured soldiers for evacuation, goods and gear to ship out, then reloading with arriving people and equipment. Yet children stood a few feet from the soldiers, complaining about the disruption to their soccer game. Moments later, after our papers were checked, the UN pilot, a Russian with a rich baritone, called the children together and got them singing French folk songs.
From the way the kids mobbed him, this had to be a feature of every landing. Their voices rippled with giggles, like water flutes. As I listened, I took in the mountains ranged so beautifully around us. It seemed, for a moment, like paradise. But there was trouble here. No electricity, no running water, and the enemy at the gates. The only way in, I discovered, was on a UN forces helicopter, since rebels control all the roads. Walikale is like Fort Apache, an isolated outpost surrounded by hostile forces, dense forests, and sheltering a handful of locals who scurried here through the bush to avoid capture after their villages were overrun by rebels.
As we climbed the hill from the landing field, I took my cellphone from my pocket, out of habit more than anything. I assumed it would be useless here, but then watched as the little bars built up on its screen. No electricity or running water, no paving on the roads, and good luck if you needed a doctor, but incredibly I had a signal. Our phones are so ubiquitous, we tend to forget that they only arrived on the scene about twenty years ago. In about fifty million cellphones were purchased worldwide, by the end of sales were up to two billion and there were more phones in the world than people.
By , 91 percent of all human beings owned a cellphone. The scientists who made the packets of our conversations jump from tower to tower, the engineers that made our phones smaller and smarter, the designers that made our phones fit snugly into our lives, together they changed everything. The idea that people once had to call a telephone wired to a building in the hope of reaching a person who might be there seems quaint, clunky, and a little absurd to our children.
All the power of modern technology transformed a world of copper wires into a world where billions of conversations fill the air. It was brilliant, but it had a cost. The ideas might have come from Silicon Valley, but to make our phones we needed other minerals, like tin and coltan. And while silicon is found everywhere, tin and coltan are concentrated in only a few parts of the world. The frictionless genius of our creative class, which we see every day in our lives and in advertising, leads us to support environmental destruction and human enslavement that we never see. We want our clever phones, the market needs resources to make them, and getting those resources creates and feeds conflict.
It turns out that the foundations of our ingenious new economy rest on the forceful extraction of minerals in places where laws do not work and criminals control everything. Rubber and ivory worth millions were arriving in Europe, but the ships going back carried little besides weapons [and] manacles. The threat looming over Walikale, the cause of all the lawlessness, is the echo of a much larger conflict. The two provinces in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo are like the elbow pipe under your sink, the place where ugly stuff sticks and festers.
After the genocide in next-door Rwanda, first many of the Tutsi refugees, and then many of the perpetrators, Hutu militias and soldiers, as well as an even larger number of Hutu civilians, fled across the weakly policed border and settled in the Eastern Congo. The militia men took over villages and stole land, goods, food, and even people at gunpoint. Nineteen years later they are still there, living like parasitic plants, their roots driven deeply into the region.
Chaos reigns, government control has collapsed, and ten different armed groups fight over minerals, gold, and diamonds—and the slaves to mine them. The big dog is a Hutu group called the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda FDLR , a force that is not democratic and has never tried to liberate anyone or anything. The one thing that all these warring groups have in common is that they make slaves of the local people.
These eastern provinces are called North Kivu and South Kivu, and they hold some of the wildest, most deeply beautiful and seriously dangerous terrain on the planet. The mixture of mountains, river valleys, great lakes, and volcanoes is spectacular, though the endemic parasites and diseases, including typhoid and plague, are a constant threat. The nature reserves and national parks in the Kivus are some of the last places to find a number of threatened animal species, like the great gorillas.
Two kinds of elephants roam the forests, and hippos work the riverbanks. High in their treetop nests, this is the only place in the world to find our closest relative, the bonobo chimpanzee.
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But when the rebel groups pushed into these protected forests and habitats, deforestation and illegal poaching followed, and the bonobo population fell by 95 percent. At the very beginning of the twentieth century there was an unquenchable demand in America and Europe for an amazing new technology—air-filled rubber tires. The Age of the Railroad was ending. Henry Ford was making cars by the million, bicycles were pouring out of factories, freight was moving in gasoline-powered trucks, and they all ran on rubber.
The Congo had more natural rubber than anywhere else. To meet this demand King Leopold II of Belgium, in one of the greatest scams in history, tricked local tribes into signing away their lands and lives in bogus treaties that none of them could read. The profits from the slave-driving concessions were stupendous. Wild rubber, as well as elephant ivory for piano keys and decoration, was ripped out of the forests at an incredible human cost.
Experts believe that ten million people died. It is the great forgotten genocide of the twentieth century. The genocide, the killers, and the corrupt king were exposed by a whistle-blower, an English shipping clerk named Edmund Morel. Assigned to keep track of the goods flowing in and out of the Congo, he realized that rubber and ivory worth millions were arriving in Europe, but the ships going back carried little besides weapons, manacles, and luxury goods for the bosses.
Nothing was going in to pay for what was coming out. Morel kept digging, getting the facts. By , he was working with others in a full-time campaign against slavery in the Congo that brought in celebrity supporters like Mark Twain. Armed thugs still run the place. More fortunes are being made, more people are being brutalized, and slave-produced commodities are still feeding the demand for new technologies.
But the truth is out under there in the rain forests and protected habitats suffering the onslaught of slave workers driven by rogue militias. Walikale used to be a sleepy little village, but now it is crowded with refugees from the countryside. War has swept through many times in the last fifteen years, and everywhere is ruin. Rusty half-tracks and jeeps are shot up and crushed along the road.
Along the dirt track, three boys, homemade drumsticks flying, are doing their own version of STOMP on a battered and derelict Russian army truck. The walls are pocked with bullet holes, windows are smashed, and our food is cooked over an open fire. In the old colonial office, the atmosphere is genial but chilly.
I swallow hard and give in. He knows this war-torn jungle like we never will. To visit any town or village in Eastern Congo is to walk on rubble. Children play, people do their best to get by, but destruction is everywhere. And yet, there is a paradoxical air of paradise. The land is a high plateau, so even though the region sits almost on the equator, the air is cool and fresh, the sunlight crisp.
Daytime temperatures are surprisingly comfortable all year round. The rich volcanic soil is dark, crumbly, and fertile. Most nights there is short, intense rainfall that refreshes the lush greenery and riot of flowers. The low mountains are covered to their peaks with forests. Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes, holds fish, and about a thousand feet below the surface is a cache of 72 billion cubic yards of natural gas ready to fuel a new economy. Mountains, flowers, sun, water, fresh fish, fresh vegetables, fruit, and dark rich soil—this place has it all. Nature is willing, but the people are broken.
War has shattered minds and bodies and any semblance or expectation of order; life has become a scramble for survival in a population divided between those with guns and those without. This chaos is the perfect breeding ground for slavery. When valuable minerals are stirred into the mix, the odds of a slavery outbreak are even higher. The same cycle that fueled the slavery and genocide of continues to revolve today, not just in Congo but around the world.
In the rich half of the world step one arrives with great advertising fanfare. Consumer demand drives production that, in turn, requires raw materials. These materials might be foodstuffs or timber, steel or granite, or one of a hundred minerals from glittering gold and diamonds to muddy pebbles of coltan and tin. In a context of poverty and corruption the scramble for resource control is immediate and deadly. Kleptocratic governments swell with new riches that are used to buy the weapons that will keep them in power.
But for every bloated dictator there are ten lean and hungry outsiders who also know how to use guns, and they lust for the money flowing down the product chain. Soon, civil war is a chronic condition, the infrastructure of small businesses, schools, and hospitals collapses, the unarmed population is terrorized and enslaved, and the criminal vultures settle down to a long and bloody feed. Step three arrives as the pecking order stabilizes and gangs begin to focus less on fighting each other and more on increasing their profits. A little chaos is good for criminal business, but too much is disruptive, even for warlords.
Black markets also need some stability, and with territories carved up and guns pointing at workers instead of other armed gangs, the lean and hungry men begin to grow fat themselves. Step four builds on this new stability that serves only the criminals. Secure in their power, the thugs ramp up production, finding new sources of raw materials and new pools of labor to exploit.
Thus the curse has reached its full power. In that lawless, impoverished, unstable, remote region, slavery and environmental destruction flourish. A good-sized city whose main industry is foreign aid has a strange feel. A few days before flying to Walikale we arrived at the border city of Goma, a good place to start if you want to understand what is happening in Eastern Congo. It is also the home of hundreds of international non-governmental organizations that stepped in when the government collapsed.
Today these organizations fill the buildings with their offices and the streets with their distinctive four-wheel-drive SUVs. The result is a town like no other. Billboards and posters line the streets, advertising not consumer goods, but how to prevent infectious diseases and domestic violence. And looming over the city is the volcano. Called Nyiragongo, it has erupted some twenty-four times in the past one hundred and thirty years. Large eruptions occurred in , , and , culminating in a devastating explosion in That year a fissure eight miles wide opened on the side of the mountain and lava boiled out toward Goma.
Fortunately, early evacuation kept the death toll to Today the hardened lava is everywhere and streets end abruptly at a low wall of rippled black rock, a frozen torrent. Life persists on top of the hardened lava while Nyiragongo continues to churn and smoke.