Wednesday, January 26, 2005

BOOKS: The Machine Stops

Here's who needs to read E.M. Forster’s prescient sci-fi short story "The Machine Stops" right away:
  • Anyone who checks their email more than five times a day.
  • Anyone who uses TiVo or a TiVo-like service.
  • Anyone who has ever spent an entire weekend without leaving their house, instead availing themselves of the Internet, television, and various telecommunications devices to meet all their creature comforts. (Extra points if you did this over a long weekend.)
Here's a scary fact:

When I first read this story (which Forster wrote in 1909, believe it or not) as assigned reading back when I was in grade seven, I thought the idea of living in a hermetically sealed, entirely self-contained pod, with no person-to-person contact, was actually really, really cool. (Also, two words: "Isolation knob.") Finally, I thought, I could read for hours without interruption.

Here's a scarier fact:

[whispers]Sometimes I still feel that way.[/whispers]

Here's something even scarier:

I just used phony UBB tags to express emotion.

Scarier still:

I only used UBB because I tried phony HTML tags, and they didn't work. So I tried again. And again. And then again. And then I gave up. I'm not even a competent antisocial nerd.

Your assignment:

  1. If you haven't read "The Machine Stops", the entire text is available online here.
  2. Then check out the Spacebox residential units being developed in the Netherlands.
  3. Then be afraid.


Tammy said...

Ha! From now on, any time I'm freaking out about anything, I know what I'll be yelling:

"Mankind is doomed! Robot apocalypse!"

I agree it's totally about moderation. For example, I loooooove the internet(s), but I also love the outdoors, so I spend roughly equal time in both. At least till we fuck up the outdoors so much that I retreat to my pod. (Did I say that out loud? Important note: Must remember to keep negative internal monologue to myself.)

Alyssa said...

Does it count if you were trapped in your house by like 4000 feet of snow? Because I totally did this over the weekend.

Also, I like the Spacebox - it's like Dorms by Ikea. What will they think of next?

Tammy said...

Heh. The mister likes Spacebox, too, but he thinks they should be bigger. At some point, though, I think that enlarging them would turn them from Spaceboxes to Spacecrates, so clearly caution is called for here.

Maybe everyone needs a Spacebox, but as an annex of their regular home. That's an idea I can get behind.