Thoughts on “The Machine Stops”by EM Forster

I am going to give away certain plot points and the ending but don’t think of this as a spoiler because it is easy to figure out the end
Since I am recommending audiobooks, I would suggest imagining it to be like a poem that lasts an hour and seventeen minutes instead of the traditional novel format
Since I have burned myself out on Zombie stuff on YouTube, I have turned to apocalypse and dystopian themes
I listened to apocalyptic book “The Scarlet Plague” by Jack London, which is set 60 years after a plague and it was pretty good
Then I saw one titled  “The Machine Stops” by EM Forster, which was published in Great Britain in 1909
This is a dystopian story

The general framework is a bit different from the Orwellian ideal of oppressive government
Not only is the authority figure replaced by a machine but the machine is a god instead of an oppressive force
It does have a little bit in common with “The Time Machine” by HG Wells but only in that they share a theory of de-evolution
Their society developed underground after the planet became uninhabitable and not from totalitarianism
They are not oppressed, they are captives of enforced luxury and have been that way for so long that the machine is truly their god
Their bible is a handbook on what all of the buttons and features of the cells do and how to ask them to be fixed
They recite passages from it when they have anxiety

The only thing that these people value is the exchange of ideas
Most of them never even leave their cells because they have audio/visual communication with the other cells as well as a database
That’s right, this book predicted the internet
And all these people do is give lectures to each other
The machine will provide everything else so that you can achieve a higher consciousness

These people abhor being in the proximity of others and especially hate touching each other
There is public transportation but people only use it when they are told to go to other  zones or to propagate the species
Nobody breaks any rules because there are none needed
The only punishment in this world is called “homelessness” which is basically expulsion to the surface, which means death
The only thing that gets you expelled is questioning the machine

I am not sure of how many other stories follow this tangent but this is the one that has the most relevance to our current situation and it is not hard to see the seeds of the future in today
This also puts me into conflict because I have always thought that my role in society was to do exactly what these people are doing
I have always perceived myself as a gatherer of knowledge and my role is to disseminate it
This image of myself really started to solidify when I started editing video
Just like most people and their dislike for hearing their own voices, I disliked my own lyrics because they sounded too trite
Instead, I chose to produce videos that made my points for me and also to have conversations that would expose people to new ideas that they didn’t have time to see because they were busy with normal life
Imagine how deflated I feel right now when faced with the possibility that I might be a symptom of the pacification of the human race

My sense of self worth is based on my intellect and my ability to perceive things that others do not
An artist is supposed to use all of their heightened awareness to give pleasant distraction to the masses while also serving as emotional support
It’s easy to entertain but you need to have empathy in order to provide support
The people in this future are all about the entertainment aspect but they have no impetus to provide support to each other
Not because they are competing for resources or some kind of enforced civility but because they have become disconnected from each other by generations of isolated convenience

They never do tell you what runs the machine but you find out what happens when the machine stops
Even though there are people in this world that I would not like to see suffer, there are parts of me that wish our machine would stop so that I would have a reason to get out of my cell
Even if it is to die in the poisonous air, it might be worth it to see what the sun looks like

 

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