Response to The Machine Stops

This science fiction’s main idea is focusing on that people’s excessively depending on machine in the future leads to the end of human civilization. Vashti, the mom, is one of the most typical examples of people who are crazy about machine–staying at her cell house “where buttons and switches everywhere–buttons to call for food for music, for clothing”(4) underground all the time,  having no interest in traveling even visiting her son Kuno. However, Kuno is an opposite example–a rebel who wants to visit the surface which is not permitted.

Human beings created machine. Machine obeys human’s order. But in that world, people worshiped machine as a god. On the air-ship, all the passengers were shouting “How we have advanced, thanks to the Machine!”(8) They completely forgot it is human who creates those machine.

It seems that Kuno is the only person who is clear about machine. He said “we created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It was 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”(13). Without machine, human has no longer any ability to survive. So the genocide of human is undisputed. Compared to other movies like I, RobotAI, this novel gives us a deeper cautionary that in no way will human beings get advantages if we over depend on machine.

The Machine Stops: But this blog post is just starting!

I am not sure what part of the story I want to talk about first, nor do I think I can manage to cover all I would like to in a simple response. What I would most like to say is, wow, that sure is relevant for something written in 1909.

First, it reminded me quite a bit of H.G Well’s Time Machine.

 

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In the Time Machine, he underground apparatus of the Moorlocks, equipped with air vents is very reminiscent of the physical nature of “The Machine.” Not to mention, there is a continuous man v. nature conflict consistent throughout both novels. Man’s apparent triumph over nature, causes man to become lazy, ultimately leading in the re-triumph of nature, and man’s demise.

The Machine has “conquered Leviathan,” which is an allusion to Thomas Hobbes’ book demonstrating the brutality of living within a state of nature. The totalitarian government Hobbes’ calls for is provided by the Machine.

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Secondly, it reminded my of The Circle, by Dave Eggers

In this novel, the corporate empire called “The Circle” creates and manages immense amounts of social media tools. The speaking tubes in The Machine Stops remind me of Mae, from The Circle. She has a job to answer continuous questions via headset, just as Vashti was asked her opinion on the food. Both have the ability to be constantly flooded with conversation and questions; yet, they can turn off these features when they need to focus on one thing. It is stressful just to imagine having so much on your mind at one time.

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I would also like to point out the current relevance this piece plays in our school. As we transfer from a material to e-books, we can say we are departing the “Age of Litter,” mentioned in The Machine Stops. One thing I would like to say about books is that when the machine did stop, it is interesting that they found comfort in the physical and material book. I think the materiality of the book stands for something quite important in this story.

 

The documentary, Transcendent Man, follows the life of the technologist Ray Kurzweil, and it is interesting in relation to The Machine Stops. The idea of the “cyborg” or the half-human, half machine is prevalent in both pieces. But, what Kurzweil doesn’t cover is the essential question of the piece we read today. What happens if the machine stops? Can we put so much trust into a piece of machinery?

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Lastly I would like to compare this piece to the infamous Facebook. Facebook has its users in a chokehold. We can’t leave it, even if we wanted to. You would miss out on events, on the pictures, on your life! Friends I have without Facebook are much more difficult to contact. But, whenever Facebook makes a change people argue, but no one leaves. People don’t like the new messenger, but hey, we still use Facebook. This is just like The Machine Stops. People were readily adapting themselves to the defects of the machine. “This went from bad to worse unchallenged.”

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“The Machine Stops” Reflection

I enjoyed reading “The Machine Stops” this week. I liked how the main character,

Vashti, seemed like both a character the reader isn’t supposed to like (at least immediately) and

the most relatable character in the story. She seems a bit irritable, lazy, and heartless by our

standards, within the world of the story she is also practical, educated and a caring mother.

Though I’d like to believe I’d be more like Kuno, a rebellious, free thinker, if raised in the world

of the story, I’d likely be more hesitant, more complacent, and more like Vashti.

I also noticed how some parallels can be drawn between the Machine and today’s digital

technology. For example, no one knows how to operate the Machine, and today, almost everyone

owns a smartphone, but a much smaller number of people fully understand how it actually

works. The way people passively accept the Machine’s wills can be compared to a lot of things.

Almost anything could be snuck into a “Terms and Conditions” agreement and people would

accept it immediately without even knowing (myself included).

One thing I found particularly interesting was how the Machine became a sort of religion

for many people. A world that abolished religion for technology ended up circling around and

worshipping the technology as religion. I think this comments on both dependency on

technology, in that people became so reliant on the Machine it becomes a superior being, and the

human creation of religion, in that it suggests that other religions are created in a similar way, as

a manmade creation that rose above.

If this was longer I think I would still enjoy reading it. I like stories that set up a complex

new world with unique rules and standards, which I believe this story does well. However, since

it is a short story, it ends nearly after it finishes establishing it. It seems like the type of world

that would make a good setting for a successful dystopian future novel series today, along with

an accompanying movie adaptation, with someone like Chris Pine as Kuno.

Thoughts on “The Machine Stops”

Thoughts on “The Machine Stops”

While reading the text, I’ve been left confused and puzzled numerous times trying to understand what Vashti and Kuno were (humans or machines or parts of a bigger whole machinery) and how things operated in the underground world that they seem to inhabit controlled by “The Machine”.

I know for one that technology is of great importance to them and that it is really advanced. Everything is instant and available without having to move places. The story is like a depiction of a human world but this time it is under the surface of the earth.

At first, I thought that Vashti could behave like a charge or a signal or message that travels the wires of a machine. Like in a circuit, a bus of charges travels and at each intersection a charge leaves the bus and travels its respective path job. But as I continued reading, I got the impression that they were some sort of humans or robots that were confined and isolated under the earth and it made me wonder what they were doing under the earth? It felt like the conditions above the surface of the soil had gotten really rough and they could not go up for that reason because they would die up there.

The Machine governing, controlling and dictating all their actions tells me that they have no free will of their own. Anything that is ‘unmechanical’ is punished. This lack of freedom kind of made me sad, but at the same time reminded me of robots and the wirings in a robot, every part has a specific role to perform and obviously cannot do anything else than that specific job. This also made me think of cells in the human body or anything living being, in the sense of cancerous cells, for example when a cell stops performing its job but does something else like attacking others of its own kind and so on. This is like contamination and bad cells that have to be eliminated or removed in order to restore peace in the body. In this way, anything that is not mechanical needs to be eliminated.

I also found the juxtaposition between the need to generate and to think about new ideas for those humans against following everything the machine dictates quite funny because of the tension with the idea of freedom.

Another thing that had my attention was that this story made me think of people who are completely anti-social and always confined to technology. I thought that one cannot separate himself from the outside world completely for that long because it only does harm to one. I feel like the author is against this ‘isolation’ and confinement from everything and everyone else in the text. This is life, you have to get out and enjoy it because you only live once. There exists a natural beginning and end to everything.

 

Reflection on The Machine Stops

I would think The Machine Stops as a great prediction of the 21st century life, which is written by E. M. Forster more than 100 years ago. The three main characters in this fiction, Vashti, Kuno, and of course, the Machine, can be viewed as the three analogies of the people who are obsessed with Internet and high-tech, the people who are trying to lean back toward the old-fashion, or to say, the humane way of living, and the Internet and high-tech itself.

The fiction proceeded with the conflicts between the three main characters. The most noticeable conflict is the conflict between Vashti and Kuno, the mother and the son. The conflict seems to be the disagreement of paying Kuno an actual visit by Vashti, but what I see is the two different type of idea trying to fight each other. In the conversation described in the 1st part of the story, I can tell that Vashti worships the Machine so much while Kuno is just the opposite. As Kuno says, “[m]en made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it is not everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face, and talk about the hops that are in my mind. (Forster 2)” Isn’t that just the case we are encountering every day in life? We seem to keep in touch with our family and friends every day, but do we actually see them? What we see are just the images formed by our computers and smartphones. The more we use the Internet and high-tech to keep in touch, the more we are losing our dearest people. Also, relying on the Internet and high-tech to communicate strongly lead to the society alienation. And this alienation can sabotage the basis of human society. We become so obsessed with our smartphone, and we rarely realize that they have become our masters, ruling our daily life.

In this short fiction, there are also other conflicts: the conflict between Kuno and the Machine, which Kuno tries to escape but being captured and threatened with Homelessness (death); the conflict between Vashti and the Machine, which is described in the last part of this fiction when the Machine stops and people including Vashti are in extreme horror.

There are a lot of things can be written about this short fiction, but there is one thing that I want to point out in addition to its prediction of the 21st century, which is the consent of humans living in the underground world. For example, they take the humming of the Machine as silence because they have never lived a life without the humming of the Machine. However, after the Machine stops, people are uncomfortable with the silence because they have never lived a day without the Machine. So the silence of the humming Machine is one example of the consent of people, which they just take everything for granted and never ask. And there is another example, which is that after the Machine stops, there are problems with the music, but Vashti and her friend soon get used to the broken music and taken it for granted. That is consent, the unquestionable consent to the Machine.

E. M. Forster wrote the end of humans of the post-apocalyptic underground world as dying with the Machine, but he also wrote in the voice of Kuno, Vashti’s son, that humans who lived above the ground would learn the lesson and continue to strive.He hides his concern about the relationship between humans and the Machine in this short fiction, and the world he described 100 years ago now has become part or most part of the reality. We are under the impact of the Machine, and somehow the Machine’s slave, because some people cannot bear the life without the Internet and high-tech. The technology should be helping people’s life, not ruining it. It is leave to us to find out the relationship between humans and the Machine, the relationship between humans, and the importance of actual relationship and communication between people.

Only when the Machine stops can humanity find out the important things in their life.

The Machine Stops – When machine becomes part of our humanity

In E.M. Foster’s The Machine Stops, human beings cannot accept the reality that the machine stops when they rely all their life and change all their life on the machine. Although this is a really interesting fiction novel full of imagination and inspiration about the relationship between human beings and machine, I feel like we have covered similar materials all through the time from either novels – 1984 by Geoge Owell years before or the recent British TV series – Black Mirror.  People recognize the power of machine and care about the potential danger of human’s dependence on machine.

Some moments in The Machine Stops arouses my interests: “O’ Machine” appears for several times, which is like a prayer. However, a prayer seems to be a performance of humanity, except now it’s with the machine. Normally people will treat the machine as a disturbance of humanity, while in this prayer, the humanity is expressed by the machine. In this sense, I prefer this expression: Nothing is wrong with perform the humanity with a machine, and it’s only problematic when people rely all their life on the machine. In that case, when the machine stops, the world will change.

——– After the discussion in class, I’d like to add some thoughts ——————————————–

Something more about the humanity and machine: Technology is only a method to improve our life, while humanity is eternal. In the past, we use telephone to keep contact with others; now we use Skype, or wechat, or facebook; in the future, maybe we can see a more real person “standing” in front of us when we need to maintain a long-distance relationship. We need to believe that the development of technology will bring us more convenience than harm, however, with a clear consciousness of the potential danger. This danger comes from the uniqueness of the most advanced technology than others. The distinct comes from the huge change of how people express their humanity. In the TV series Blackmirror, one episode depicts what people will react when technology can store all our memories and display to ourselves every time. This technology seems convenient for people to check their memories and remind themselves, however, it turns out that people will overestimate others reactions and become crucial to suspect others. When more information has been given, people tend to rely all of their lives on the technology. That is the dangerous attitude.

 

 

machine culture = lazy culture?

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Sometimes I imagine what human future will look like. Do we still live on the earth or we have already moved to another planet? If we are on earth, is earth covered by green or desert? Also I’m most curious about,  how developed can technologies/machines be at that point?

We are around all kinds of machines. Some of them seem like they are made for lazy people, for example, remote for TV. No one wants to get out of a comfortable sofa in the middle of a show to adjust the volume, so a remote is invented. You can sit there for 5 hours without moving your ass. Is this a good invention or a bad one? I can’t tell. I don’t really watch TV now. TV is less charming in computer age. It can be the most powerful machine so far. A computer, can be used to shop without stepping out of your house, to Skype someone other side of the earth, to build and create more exciting machines. But also, people are more and more stuck in front of this tiny screen. When it is so easy to see Qomolangma online, what’s the point of making so much effort of actually going there? When you can communicate with your friends through all kinds of social media, it might seem not necessary to meet them in person.

This is why Vashanti thinks she is an “advanced-thinker” but in reality she is just stuck in a moving chair covered with countless buttons. In “The Machine Stops”, machine culture has become the main culture.Everything is controlled by buttons. People has stopped physical contact a while ago. Mom and son only talk to each other through a round plate machine that can’t even capture nuances of expression but it’s “good enough”. Vashnti’s life is limited in her room. She does everything there without going out. This is exactly what machine culture seems to bring us. Running machine enables people to run at home, but now fewer people will go run in the nature. Are we making machines for the sake of laziness?

I mean, I love technology. Withthe invention of planes, I can travel more and see more. However, when I think about the machine culture, the culture that we consider as a symbol of development and advancement, I realize that we might be losing our real culture. Everything is getting similar. People only look for the easiest and the fastest, but sometimes, they may not be the best ways.

When Power Depletes and Cogs Degrade – Response to “The Machine Stops”

“The Machine Stops” shows us a questionable futuristic impression that humanity has shied away from environmental problems, such as pollution, and proceeded to live a comfortable life beneath the surface of the earth in a humungous machine as a solution. Since the inhabitants of this machine-city accept and gradually accustom their dependent lives with the machine, they admire and revere the machine as an omnipotent being that guards them all. Remarkably, the events of the story are similar to the real historical religious events during the years between the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment in Europe.

 In many cases within the story, technology and science has merged with the essence of religion. We could see that one of the main characters, Vashti, a mom who is deeply convinced of the Machine’s “power”, embraces the Machine’s Book (the manuals of the machine) as meticulously as the Bible were in the past. Another example is the protests of the inhabitants when the machine-city is failing. They said “Punish that man to Homelessness… [and] avenge the Machine!” These quotes surprisingly resemble to the demands of the religious people against heretics in the past when they were in similar trouble (black-death anyone?). Through this poisonous ideology, the inhabitants suffered severe losses as the machine and its services stop working. Thus, as shown in the story, despite the fact that technology has the ability to progress our quality of life, we are still liable to fall into the abyss of blindness that obscures the reality of events.

The story tells us that we should be aware of the consequences behind the general usage of technology and that it is not the only means to achieve a better life. Technology can also imprison us if we are completely dependent towards it, while it can transform the very essence of what consider us humans. Certainly, we would not have our convenient present lives without technology, but we cannot fully rely on it. After all, without electricity and maintenance, a computer is a useless piece of scrap metal.Artwork by Hideyoshi

The Machine (almost always) Stops

When I read E. M Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops”, what struck me the most was the magnitude of relevance that a story written in 1909 could hold to contemporary society. Forster hints at technologies such as instant messaging (IM) and video-conferencing that currently exist in 2015, and have been around for long enough that most people cannot fathom the inconvenience of not having access to them. On page 11, when Kuno points out that “we have annihilated not space, but the sense thereof”, he tries to define for himself the meanings of the words “near” and “far” in relation to his humanity. He states that he learns to measure quantifiable and unquantifiable dimensions such as distance and feelings using his body. With this, he makes his own conclusions to how to measure things outside of the mechanizations of the machine.

It is with this in mind that I consider how we use technology today. We have come to rely on machines, both big and small, to arrive at the exact definitions and/or dimensions of things. I would sooner use a calculator to tell me what the product of 6 and 7 is before I trust my memory of the multiplication tables. Every morning, I check my weather and pollution app before I look out the window to see the weather. My friends and I tend to take videos or photos of “important” moments on our phones instead of just simply enjoying the moment, so much so that sometimes to fully recount the moment, we have to go through the videos because we were more concentrated on recording it than experiencing it.

We rely on the infallibility of technology that we forget that it was created by man, similar to how the humans forgot that they created The Machine and start to think of it as a separate godly entity. And yet, as all human inventions, technology is not immune to failure, or errors and so on. In Forster’s book, the machine eventually stops. In 2015, accounts with sensitive and confidential information are hacked, power grids can get shut off for more than 24 hours due to failure or even more trivial: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram go down for a few hours and people don’t know what to do with their lives. (see hashtag on Twitter: #facebookdown & #ThingsIDIdWhenFacebookWasDown based on Facebook and Instagram going down on 28th Jan, 2015).

Nicholas Sanchez’s Response to The Machine Stops

Motifs presented in the short story The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster are neither simple nor few. Indeed, reflected within this piece are themes of man, his relation to the world, his relation to technology, evolution, avitism, and so on. And though the narrative manifests as a story, it ultimately seems to highlight serious potential social issues created as man becomes more intimate with technology. I believe that in doing so, the text acts as a warning of what outcomes may prevail should man’s relationship to technology ever go unchecked and surpass man’s own use.

“Astonishment” is the only accurate way to describe my initial reaction to this piece, for not only is the text’s age significant, but it’s predications are all to real. An example for why this text inspired my awe is its depiction of modern technologies, such as the communication screens identical to ipads which allow for “Skype”-like calls. Another incredible aspect of the text are the underlined social implications (perhaps afflictions) derived from wanton use technology, such as the muscular atrophy and inability to make physical/eye contact with one another inherent in most people. Such facets are incredulous because they were imagined nearly a hundred years ago from today, when humanity is just now facing such issues and utilizing such technologies. Furthermore, the text raises awareness of said issues acutely.  Therefore, this piece is not only an enjoyable work of fiction, but a very relevant modern text which presents a unique opinion applicable in the field of Media and Technology.

Though this book may seem similar in form to “1984,” “Brave New World,” or even the short stories by Ray Bradbury, the gist of the text is unique and clear; the significance of this story is that of a warning, meant to forewarn society of the inevitable consequences of its rising obsession and integration of technology in modern life.

Response to The Machine Stops

In The Machine Stops  E.M Foster poses to the readers a question: will machines get out of control and dominate the world? In the novella human beings are gradually controlled by the machines and lose the ability to think, feel or interact with others. However, I personally believe that “machine domination” can only exist in scientific novels because human’s desire to feel and interact is not easy to be erased. Even The Machine Stops is more like a warning than a prediction because of the character Kuno.

I remember talking about Mechanical Reproduction last semester in GPC. Walter Benjamin raised the point in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction that “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.” People have the desire to see the original art piece because they want to not only see the piece but also feel it, which enables them to interact, in some extent, with the artist.  Just like Jingyi Sun mentioned in class discussion, ” (People’s desire to see the original is why) no one takes selfies with prints of Mona Lisa, but everyone takes selfies with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.” Digital Reproduction is similar to Mechanical Reproduction, in a sense that machines only help to transfer pixel instead of the feeling of the artist.

The Machine Stops Response

The Machine Stops parallels many dystopian themed works such as the Matrix, or Gattaca, where the running plot or rise to conflict in these dystopian societies is usually caused by humans’ dependency on technology or some sort of advancement in humanity. I think this has a lot to with the way in which humans tend to always be looking forward, and we are always trying to look for ways to improve our standards of living. This is obviously not a bad thing, but at what point do things become too convenient and too perfect?

In the same way as Vashti is dependent on The Machine to survive, I feel I am just as dependent on my iPhone. The sad truth is, some of my most important information is stored on my phone and my most memorable moments on my phone’s camera. Everything I do, and all my interactions with people has essentially become digital. Works like The Machine Stops are very uncomfortable to read because it makes you really take a step back and think about how much we’ve let ourselves become consumed by technology and its convenience.

However, I don’t believe, or maybe I’m just hopeful, that our society will allow itself to develop into one that survives solely on the power of technology. Because at the end of the day, a machine is really nothing without the power of a human, it only does what we tell it to do.

Even the most high-end machine is not reliable!

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In 1909, E.M. Forster published a short science fiction novel The Machine Stops. The story happens in the age when machines are highly-developed. People are forced to live beneath the ground because the heavy pollution on the ground. Their life are completely taken cared of by the “Big machine”. The joyful life makes them deeply believe that they have already reached the peak of human civilisation until one day when the “Big machine” stops running…

We can somehow guess the final result of the story: people can find no way to continue their living and the society goes into chaos. The novel makes me reconsider the relationship between machines and human beings. Instead of the “Big machine”, which controls man’s body and mind, Man is the one that should be blamed. Living in the age when science can fully replace human beings to do every work, people can choose to live their life in two different ways: One is presented by Vanshanti—fully depending on the “Big machine” and letting herself degenerate, while another is presented by her son Kuno—by using his ability to touch the authentic world, he keeps his body and mind active and avoids degeneration. People like Kuno survive when one day the “Big machine” stops running. Live or die, is controlled by ourselves.

The result brought out by over-depending on machine may be exaggerated in the novel. It won’t destroy human beings, but it does cause inconvenience. During the final week last semester, I accidentally drop my coffee into mac. Unluckily, it died (as expected). I ran into crazy and endless regret since I only kept my draft of GPC final essay in my laptop. My machine stopped and it would take at least one week to recover, that is probably when the winter break starts. Now I need to restart with a brand-new white page. Sigh. :(((((((

Reflection on The Machine Stops

After reading The Machine Stops, what first came to my mind are the Matrix and Wall-E. All of them give us the scene that science and technology control us not only physically but also mentally, which sounds shocking and unbelievable. This story may not really happen in the future and we also may not really become extinct. However, we need to learn something from the story, to have a consciousness on technology, which I think is also the aim of the author — to call for rethinking on technology and science.

Why we invent and develop technology? This question raised when I was reading this story. Probably, because we, human being, are lazy. We want something help us making our lives more convenient. In the past, we had light to make the night bright. We had steam train to enable us go to other places faster. Nowadays, we have internet, which makes it possible for us to chat with friends even what they are really far from us. Also, our technology on robots become more and more  advanced, like we have robots to clean room for us. But what about the future? Are we going to be controlled by the technology instead of control it? Are we treating what we have invented incorrectly?

More over, these issues leads to the problem which exactly in the story that people become crazy and believe in machine, which makes me think about Orwellian nightmares. In his vision, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. Just as the mother in the story, she prays the Machine almost everyday, like this artificial thing comes from the nature, which is definitely wrong.

All in all, we may question our attitude on what we create and reconsider it, to let it help us make the life better, or let it destroy us in the future.