The Machine Stops Essay, Research Paper
The Machine Stops
Communities and communications are progressing each and every day. Regardless of the different perspectives that have been adopted in the study of the cities, communities and communications are intended to impact reciprocally, either in a positive or negative way. Over the centuries, technologies have changed rapidly, bringing about innumerable advantages to the global community. At the same time, technologies have also caused many unpredicted catastrophes to the human world, as illustrated in E.M. Forster s The Machine Stops . His story depicts a machine-dominated society, which appear to be utopian at first, but which turn out to be dystopian. As such, the story contains warnings about our own society. Many predictions that are made about the Machine in Forster s society have either occurred or are beginning to surface in today s world. According to Forster, the relationship between the Machine and human is an outcome of the social construction of technology. Hence, this imaginary world might possibly be a reflection of the future of our society.
In Forster s imaginary community, people live under the surface of the earth, where they have no contact with the open air. Every living or non-living element is destroyed and all that remains is dust and dirt. Going beyond the surface of the earth is thus, an extremely unpopular idea. If the trip must be made, individuals would need to put on a respirator and request for an Egression permit. The Committee governed by the Machine guides every aspects of the community. Any thoughts or actions against the Machine will end in homelessness – death. Each individual live in a single room connected to the Machine, where everything is done by buttons and stoppers. People are sent to different parts of the world by the public nurseries to inhabit the rooms of those who had died in various parts of earth. In this imaginary world, people travel for a purpose, not for leisure. They ride on an air ship, which is accessible through the tunnel of their rooms. Every part of the world, even every human being is the same; there is no difference in traveling. In addition, superstition is eliminated by the Machine. The Machine itself is the only thing anyone worships and everyone live by the rules found in the Book of Machine. In terms of communication, the Machine also affects human relationships. People seldom see each other, they only stay in their rooms and communicate through a screen. Physical contacts are eliminated and it is considered impolite to touch one another.
Many of these predictions do have merits in today s society. In fact, many of the factors in today s world do seem to lead towards these predictions that was made a century ago. First of all, many parts of the world have become extremely over-crowded and over-polluted that, living condition is lowered and lives are being harmed. For instance, in cities such as Hong Kong and Tokyo, the air pollution is so bad that people need to cover their nose when they cross the road. The city is so crowded that each person can only occupy a tiny room. Thus, many people would prefer to live in suburbs, where living conditions are better. When humanities have reach the stage where every corners of the earth is packed with people and affected by pollution, the idea of using a respirator in the open air and living underground can possibly become a fact, though it might sound silly for now. Nevertheless, machines have dominated our life so much that nobody could afford to live without it. Over the centuries, machines have brought human into civilization, but in turn increased our dependence on it. When televisions became available, people abandoned their books and other leisure activities and devoted their time to watching television. When the assembly lines came about, employers abandoned their workers and devoted their money to the machine. Today, when the Internet came about, people again abandoned video games, television or their friends and devoted their time to the machine. Some people could even stay in their room for hours playing the Internet without physically seeing or talking to others. People rely on the microwaves and ovens to do the cooking and use a vacuum cleaner instead of a broom. One single button on a machine can help us do the work, as portrayed in Forster s story. All of these machines improve our living conditions, increase efficiency and productivity, giving us more leisure time. On the other hand, physical human contact seems to be less and our dependence on machines is greatly increased. Almost nobody can live without light, heat, or even television. Even if a single machine broke down, our lifestyle will be affected. Furthermore, science and technologies have progressed to a stage where, a single cell in the body can be made to create another identical body. Therefore, having everyone absolutely identical as portrayed in Forster s story is not merely just an imagination. Are we really safer with all of these machines around us, or the opposite? What would become of the human race without machines? Will the machine and the world progress to the stage as predicted by Forster? These questions are still unanswerable now, but one thing is certain: Machines do need repair and will break down one day. If we rely too much on it, we will not be able to adapt to the changes caused by it. This is the message that Forster is trying to point out.
Forster believes the relationship between the Machine and human is an outcome of the social construction of technology approach, as illustrated by his story. This approach argues that at all levels choices exist in the ways to design, develop or adopt technologies. Thus, technology is born of the social, the economic and technical relations that are already in place. This is quite true as evident from the story and from our society today. In the story, people chose to obey the Machine; they chose to go by all rules directed by the Book of Machine; they chose to let the buttons and stoppers to do their daily works. It is because of their willingness to accept and follow, which encourage the advancing and domination of the Machine. Similarly in today s society, humans created the machine in hopes for a better lifestyle. Humans chose to design the television that will dominated hours of our time; human chose to develop a new way of having babies; human chose to use machines to satisfy their needs and wants. These are all the choices that we have made without realizing the consequences. In other words, we encourage, accept and brought about the advancing of technologies. In making these decisions, human beings are becoming more and more civilized. But in turn, technologies have pushed us towards the unknown, almost as fearful as described in the story. Nobody can promise that the existing domination by the machines will not increase. Who is to say that the future of our society will not turn out to be the same as the one described by Forster? However, there is no way of turning back since technologies are only becoming better each and everyday. The only possible solution is if we could control our reliance on machines.
In Forster s machine dominated society, he suggested that humanities would not be able to survive without the Machine. This is certainly true in our world today, where machines dominate every aspects of our life. Individuals will be vulnerable and helpless without the machines. Many of his predictions are already beginning to become visible. While others might possibly be a reflection of our future society. Furthermore, the conception that the relationship between human and machines being a result of the social construction of technology is proven through the fact that, human beings made choices regarding issues surrounding technologies. If we are not too careful, our world can possibly become exactly the same as Forster has predicted. That is, a world without changes, new ideas and development, where life is no longer exciting and lively; a world in which Kuno described as, human are dying, the only thing that really lives is the Machine. It is doing, making humans do their will. It makes them lose their sense of touch, space, blurred human relations and narrowed down love to a carnal act; paralyzed bodies and wills, compels them to worship it. Obviously, this is not what the human race want. We desire changes, options, love and the power to control ourselves. Without these advantages, we will all go mad.