SCENE Recommends: The Machine Stops

"I am dying - but we touch, we talk, not through the Machine." For March, Dan recommends this slightly too accurate prediction of modern life from 1909, by E.M. Forster...

(Image: Isis Franca, Unsplash)

Imagine if all of your days were spent confined to a chair in a hexagonal room. Imagine if you could sit in one spot and control your entire life with a switchboard of a hundred buttons and dials. Imagine never having to leave the house to meet people, chat, work, be entertained, or speak to your children.

Not that far from reality, right?

Particularly since covid, this world of virtual, machine-mediated interaction is more noticeable than ever: from zoom calls to messages, emails, and social media. Strangely though, we rarely really think about this reality. It is now conceivable for us to live our entire lives without ever having to leave the house to buy food, see friends, or have a job.

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, despite being written 115 years ago, is a gripping and unnervingly read which explores this reality with what seems to be prophetic accuracy. 

With breathtaking clarity, Forster explores questions about our relationship with ‘reality’, how we define it, and our essential human ideas about what it means to ‘feel’.

If you find the following questions interesting, consider reading this short book.

What if machines became collectively defined as God in human society? What if goodness became defined as what was ‘mechanical’? What if directly speaking to someone with your voice became unsavoury, harsh, and anxiety-inducing? What if machines became the preferable means of communicating with others? And, what if you tried to escape?

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