E.M. Forster – The Machine Stops (1909)
In this reading, we are essentially given a tour around the world that “The Machine” inhabited. This futuristic society, or world, that is being portrayed by Forster is a grim prediction of the future of mankind and it’s relationship with technology. Many different aspects of this reading struck me as alarming.
Firstly, the year that it was written – 1909. Forster has predicted the outcome and the potential direction that development of technology might bring to the world, which is the removal of all physical endeavors, of human connections with one another and our surrounding environment. If we were to look at the world and technology of today, than we will see just how much we have progressed in recent years, but, “Have we progressed in the right direction?” is what bothers me.
Also, the contradiction of the population living in “The Machine” that they have evolved past the point of believing in superstition, that things like religion is nonsense. Despite them saying that believing in religion is nonsense, they cling to their manuals of “The Machine” as if their life depends on it and whisper mantras that call out to this abomination.
Another aspect that we must bear in mind is that in this story there is a committee, one that is comparable to the likes of our government that dictate what we do and nudge us towards their desired path, like a shepherd would to his flock, all the while thinking of eating the sheep in front of him. With their cries and chants that portray “The Machine” as an all-powerful omnipotent being, resulting in the brainwashing of the population. It is them who helped give rise to the “religion” and decides who dies out on the surface which is now uninhabitable. Therefore, I see this aspect as a cry from Forster to open our eyes to the reality around us and question the moves of the government and that everything has an expiration date, even an omnipotent machine.
This futuristic world also warns of the danger of losing ones sense of individuality. Not only has all the people that inhabit the world lost their sense of individualism, their aesthetic has also seeped into their environment. Ancient sites and modern cities are now plain, devoid of any culture and defining feature. Now that everyone thinks, imagines, talks and lives the exact same life, they are most vulnerable to destruction. As there is no one to challenge and criticize, there is no “new idea”.
Forster warns us of the dangers that technology might bring, while also telling us to stay vigilant and curious, as curiosity is what drove us to reach the stage that we are at today.
Jorge Luis Borges – The Garden of Forking Paths
This reading, when compared to Forster’s, shows us just how immensely important our decisions are and how little they are at the same time. The concept of parallel universes is one that has been very popular in recent years and each of them show a similar picture: the very thought or idea that someone conjures in their mind can be embodied as separate timeline. For example: Yu Tsun and Dr. Albert have different relationships in various different timelines as they are enemies in one, while in another universe they are friends. I believe that this reading tries its best to show how important our decisions really are and that ideas are powerful and infinite.