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.


Fred said...

Ooo, I liked this assignment! I wasn't afraid though, because to me, it's about moderation and extremes more than THROW AWAY YOUR TELEVISION OR MANKIND IS DOOMED OH GOD ROBOT APOCOLYPSE.

I have spent a long weekend on the internet. I have also spent a long weekend volunteering at a soup kitchen. I enjoy video games and the internet, and cutting myself off them entirely would make me very sad. Cutting off volunteering and reading would also make me sad.

Going to either extreme - hiding in a pod without ever seeing or touching anyone - or cutting off all access to the internet or television is like the Atkins diet. It's like, "It's too HARD for me to actually plan out my time so that I get to do everything I enjoy, so instead I will just say THE INTERNET IS EVIL." "It's too HARD for me to plan out balanced meals, so instead CARBS ARE EVIL."

Moderation. It's all about the moderation and the time management.

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.