Sunday, February 15, 2015

Last Week's Great Writer Tease Revealed!

Last Sunday, I posted this, an excerpt from a long-ago book, believing it to be remarkably relevant to today:

 We created the computer, to do our will, but we can not make it do our will now.  It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralyzed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The computer develops, but not on our lines.  The Computer proceeds  —  but not to our goal.    We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die.

I substituted the term "The Machine" with "The Computer."

Who wrote it, and when?

E. M. Forster, in 1909, before the time of his great novels, the most famous of which is A Passage to India:

Here is an entry about the work in Wikipedia:

"The Machine Stops" is a science fiction short story (12,300 words) by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review (November 1909), the story was republished in Forster's The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928. After being voted one of the best novellas up to 1965, it was included that same year in the populist anthology Modern Short Stories.[1] In 1973 it was also included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two. The story is particularly notable for predicting new technologies such as instant messaging and the Internet. The story is set in a post apocalyptic world where people are living underground because the surface is uninhabitable, and they rely on a giant machine to provide their needs."

I was astonished to discover this from one of my favorite authors.  I've read all five of his major novels, none of which, as I recall, hints at such a talent for science fiction.

The little book in which it appears, The Eternal Moment, was placed in front of my door by the lady across hall, with whom I communicate by passing notes -- easier than having to shout in her ear when we pass each other coming and going and her hearing aid is either not on or not working.  She's funny that way. 


Douglas McPherson said...

What an amazingly prescient story! The internet, webcams... a thousand friends and no personal contact... that's Facebook, isn't it? My favourite image is of man creating a garment that serves him as long as he can still take it off. The "machine" definitely serves us when I can communicate with you across continents and summon Forster's story to my laptop without leaving my chair. But when you look at the number of people carrying the internet around with them all day and paying more attention to their phones than their immediate surroundings, the day when we can't take off that garment is upon us. Just watch those withdrawal pains when people find themselves somewhere without wi-fi!

Showbiz David said...

Totally agree! Here is a bit of hope. My much younger friend, Boyi, from China, although he has an iPhone with him all the time, a while back, while we were face to face talking -- and without any prompting on my part -- railed against his Face Book friends, most of whom he has never met or even spoken to on the phone. "They are fake friends," he said, venting his frustration over people not talking to each other in person. That he should understand and value what is being lost impressed me. Maybe, among some younger generation out there, humanity will reclaim its humanity.

The movie Her, in which a fellow, while looking for a hook up online, falls into a virtual relationship with an operating system, evokes a brilliant and disturbing portrait of a time when people may give up on each other, opting out for the technology in their hand.

What I find most appalling is that so many people are being seduced down this alienating road.
How I would love to witness a mass wi-fi meltdown.