Week 1: Response to “The Machine Stops” (Chen)

I think that this story was hauntingly beautiful. After I finished reading, I looked up E.M. Forster, and I think the scariest part is this was written in the last century, during a time when technology wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is today.

My key takeaways from this story are not only the obvious dangers of technology but also the value of human interaction, the value of knowledge, and the effects of globalization. Human interaction is critical when thinking about this text because it essentially does not exist. I don’t mean interaction in the sense of the blue plate, but rather what Kuno craved, real face-to-face conversations and connection. After a phone call, Vashti was upset but was immediately comforted by all of the buttons in the room and chatting with friends through the Machine, and it seemed as though she had completely substituted the need for emotional connection. I think the value of knowledge also demands our attention because at the end of the day, what was it all worth? Vashti thought she was so advanced and would attend and give lectures on the most specific topics, but what was it worth? She lacked a loving relationship with any family members or real interaction with friends, and without the Machine, a manmade thing, she was hopeless and helpless. Finally, the effects of globalization also came up, and I found it particularly interesting due to the unique community at NYUSH. When Vashti finally got on the air-ship she mentioned how no one traveled anymore because due to “rapid intercourse, from which the previous civilization had hoped so much, had ended by defeating itself.” While this is only a small part of the story, I think this is also a warning about the downside to globalization being that the entire world could potentially turn into the same place if we insist on too much interaction and infusion. I don’t necessarily agree and think that this will happen, and I hope it won’t, but I could see how someone could warn society about, for example, America’s dominate cultural power. These three concepts are all related and all point to the overlapping warning about the danger of technology.

All in all, this was an extremely long text, but I genuinely enjoyed reading it. It made me wonder if taking this class was actually bad for society because in a way it only perpetuates the worshipping of technology, but I think that there is still a lot to be learned about how we use communication technology and its contribution to the world rather than its harmful effects.

One thought on “Week 1: Response to “The Machine Stops” (Chen)

  1. Very thoughtful, well written. I should hope this class is less about idealizing technology than equipping you with the tools to build with it and the ability to think critically of it.

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