My review of "The Machine Stops," by E. M. Forster.

In this science fiction classic written in 1909, Forster predicted email, text messaging, Facetime (video chat), Zoom (video conferencing), self-driving cars and airplanes, smart homes, and the Internet of Things.

This book should be required reading for everyone involved in artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), from software and hardware development to sales and marketing.


Forster's book gives a prescient look at one possible future, where people become so dependent on technology for survival that they lose the will to chart their individual destinies.

Vashti, the main character, fully embraces the technology that provides all of her physical comforts and facilitates all of her social interaction. Her son, Kuno, is the voice of reason, which Vashti interprets as the voice of madness.


Kuno tries to warn Vashti of the problems technology has created, and the author gives us a peek inside her mind as she denies the problem, then rationalizes the problem, and - too late - acknowledges the problem.

The story is also an allegory that may inform our understanding of all sorts of other slow-moving, but life-altering, issues, such as global warming, energy dependence, and food production and distribution.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.


@fifonetworks @ashfurrow I wrote about the story at the beginning of the permademic:
"But the story doesn’t discuss why the machine started. From this viewpoint 111 years in Forster’s future, that now seems like an odd omission. What if there were perfectly good reasons for everyone to live in isolation, communicating via video chat and instant messaging, never touching another human being, and receiving all supplies via mail order?"

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon for Tech Folks

This Mastodon instance is for people interested in technology. Discussions aren't limited to technology, because tech folks shouldn't be limited to technology either!