Tag: The New Yorker

Photo CC0 by Eddi Aguirre

The Machine Stops

The Machine Stops by Oliver Sacks

Much of this, remarkably, was envisaged by E. M. Forster in his 1909 story “The Machine Stops,” in which he imagined a future where people live underground in isolated cells, never seeing one another and communicating only by audio and visual devices. In this world, original thought and direct observation are discouraged—“Beware of first-hand ideas!” people are told. Humanity has been overtaken by “the Machine,” which provides all comforts and meets all needs—except the need for human contact. One young man, Kuno, pleads with his mother via a Skype-like technology, “I want to see you not through the Machine. . . . I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine.”

He says to his mother, who is absorbed in her hectic, meaningless life, “We have lost the sense of space. . . . We have lost a part of ourselves. . . . Cannot you see . . . that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine?”

This is how I feel increasingly often about our bewitched, besotted society, too.

Thank you, Nicola.

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The Problem with Easy Technology

The Problem with Easy Technology by Tim Wu

The project of self-evolution demands an understanding of humanity’s relationship with tools, which is mysterious and defining. Some scientists, like the archaeologist Timothy Taylor, believe that our biological evolution was shaped by the tools our ancestors chose aeons ago. Anecdotally, when people describe what matters to them, second only to human relationships is usually the mastery of some demanding tool. Playing the guitar, fishing, golfing, rock-climbing, sculpting and painting all demand mastery of stubborn tools that often fail to do what we want. Perhaps the key to these and other demanding technologies is that they constantly require new learning. The brain is stimulated and forced to change. Conversely, when things are too easy, as a species we may become like unchallenged schoolchildren, sullen and perpetually dissatisfied.

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