‘Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk-that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh-a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs.’
The Machine Stops. E. M. Forster (1909)
Our collaborative project began with the selection of a number of paragraphs from the short story The Machine Stops. From these we generated ML generated texts using GPT-3 and then fed the computer generate new versions into the text to image function on Runway.
“Beware of first-hand ideas!” exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. “First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by live and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element—direct observation”
“We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It was robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it”.
“But Humanity, in its desire for comfort, had over-reached itself. It had exploited the riches of nature too far. Quietly and complacently, it was sinking into decadence, and progress had come to mean the progress of the Machine.”
‘The man in front dropped his Book—no great matter, but it disquieted them all. In the rooms, if the Book was dropped, the floor raised it mechanically, but the gangway to the air-ship was not so prepared, and the sacred volume lay motionless. They stopped—the thing was unforeseen—and the man, instead of picking up his property, felt the muscles of his arm to see how they had failed him. Then some one actually said with direct utterance: “We shall be late”—and they trooped on board, Vashti treading on the pages as she did so.’
‘By her side, on the little reading-desk, was a survival from the ages of litter—one book. This was the Book of the Machine. In it were instructions against every possible contingency. If she was hot or cold or dyspeptic or at a loss for a word, she went to the book, and it told her which button to press. The Central Committee published it. In accordance with a growing habit, it was richly bound.’
“The air-ship barely takes two days to fly between me and you.”
“I dislike air-ships.”
“I dislike seeing the horrible brown earth, and the sea, and the stars when it is dark. I get no ideas in an air- ship.”
“I do not get them anywhere else.”
“You must excuse my common way of speaking. I have got into the habit of calling places over which I pass by their unmechanical names.” “Oh, I remember Asia. The Mongols came from it.” “Beneath us, in the open air, stood a city that was once called Simla.” “Have you ever heard of the Mongols and of the Brisbane school?” “No.” “Brisbane also stood in the open air.”
“Very well. Let us talk, I will isolate myself. I do not expect anything important will happen for the next five minutes-for I can give you fully five minutes, Kuno. Then I must deliver my lecture on “Music during the Australian Period”
She touched the isolation knob, so that no one else could speak to her. Then she touched the lighting apparatus, and the little room was plunged into darkness. “Be quick!” She called, her irritation returning. “Be quick, Kuno; here I am in the dark wasting my time.”
“I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it isnot everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come.”
|GPT 3 generated Text|
|Beware of first-hand ideas! exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. “First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by live and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element—direct observation||(A) Premise: cooperation|
Unfortunately, we are all too apt to build on foundations of sand when we think we are standing on the solid rock of facts. It is crucially important that we should be able to recognize the difference between first-hand and second-hand, and actuality and fiction. The easiest way to begin this course is to simplify it in outline, so that an idea of its main tenets may form in the mind from the beginning. This outline will also help to distinguish the really essential points
(B) Premise: The digital World
The following chapters are a transposition into the digital world of a number of insightful observations and remarks made throughout history by a diverse range of thinkers. We have sought to collect in this compendium those truths that can be helpful in understanding, avoiding, or escaping the entanglements of the digital world. To that end, we have borrowed heavily from the conceptual construct which is known as the “map is not the territory”
‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’, Friedrich Nietzsche The only thing I can think of which I can call my own is my ideas. I’m also fond of the idea of sharing them. At times, though, I cannot but conclude that they might be worth a little more. As Nietzsche so crucially urges, we must question whether our ideas are reliable. If they aren’t, then their utility is slight, if not non-existent. We must keep contextualising
premise: Harmony between man and nature Plenty of self-importance, and who could produce a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element—direct observation Lack any sense of moral purpose, every other form of life, in short, is an enemy to be conquered. As a result, if we still had a genuine democracy, and a rational socialism, he would be our chief opponent, but we haven
Premise: ecological balance In this chapter I argue for re-framing the concept of human ecology, and I suggest that ecology is a better frame. For the past quarter-century, the most prominent way to frame sustainability has been as human ecology. Not just academics, but also some organizations for whom sustainability is a core value, have adopted this as a descriptor for what we are about.
|“The air-ship barely takes two days to fly between me and you.”“I dislike air-ships.”“Why?”“I dislike seeing the horrible brown earth, and the sea, and the starswhen it is dark. I get no ideas in an air- ship.”“I do not get them anywhere else.”||(C) Premise: ecological balance Angels fear himEmily tells the cook to tell Gerald that she will not see him, as she is going out; but he appears determined to see her. The cook tells Emily that Gerald is on the terrace. Gerald says that he likes the lake, the woods, and the view from the terrace. He likes the park, the farm, and the hedge-rows. Gerald tells Emily about the Angora bunnies and the parrots. Emily says that she must go out |
Premise: cooperation“That is because you are not self-centred.””When I have met a sufficient number of plain women I will try myselfto be fanciful.””When you meet a sufficiently large number you will be old.”….”I wish I could detest you.””Do not waste your energy by disliking abstractly, hate someonealive.””I will if you will.””You would be perfectly ridiculous, no woman ever hated anyone
(D) Premise: collaboration“It is different.””Tell me of your idea.””It was about the words, “liking” and “disliking”.”They are good words.””Precisely. They are good words because they expressemotions. They suggest that one has a certain latitude,in expressing those emotions – as one may like or dislike a gamea particular kind of game, one’s profession, one’s companionsor December.”
Premise: harmony between man and nature “I do not get them when I walk, when I sit, when I lie down. I get them whenI am flying through the air.””How could you get them then?””Oh, just because I see how the stars hang together, and how the big black spaces lie between, and how the planets run along, I feel as if I understand.”I suppose you are a poet?””Yes, tell me, are poets happier?”
(E) Premise: The digital world “No; you need a distant prospect to get an idea.”How do you mean?””If you look at any close thing for a long time, it becomes a meregrey spot, and you forget it altogether. But in a real distant prospect,the most ordinary things – a grey stone – a heap of earth – a speck of sand – become splendid and terrible
|I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, donot forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it isnot everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not seeyou. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do nothear you. That is why I want you to come.||(F) Premise: The digital worldThe Machine is the God of the modern world; it is the “principle ofexistence” that “produces” machines. Men, who created the machine, alsocreated religion, the world of “spirit”, “intrigue”, “fascination”,”folly” and “flirtation”, from which We is excluded. |
Premise: the eternal return The past has not gone anywhere, it is still there, deep down inside
Premise: ecological balance Indeed, the idea that a machine and it alone has charge of life is nothing but an error of men In the story, Menninger argues that people have a right to their own lives and that a machine, even though it has the power to rule over humans is not all powerful. “The Machine Stops” (1909) was the first story published in “The Anticipation: AnAnthology of the Future”.
(G) Premise: Harmony between man and nature“Superficial and pseudo-profound. Why is he so bankrupt?””The Machine, yes, it drains us, I am guilty, but there are thingsextra to the Machine, things that the Machine cannot give.
Premise: collaboration no talking, just sound.
Premise: machineThe Machine was a way to survive. It has made us powerful, but it isfragile, and if it is broken, we die. Our lives locked into thetime it ticks away. The Machine is all we know. We have neverknown anything else. Premise: machinePlease. Devotion. To give you this gift, is a humble act. To askfor it is like
Premise: cooperation The man who invented the telephone cannot speak with us through it. Theman who made the engine cannot run it. … The Great Spirit did not do it. Itone thing is easy. to make an engine. It is easy to talk through atelephone. But to do both together, that is the work of a great man. Thatof a great spirit …
|The man in front dropped his Book—no great matter, but it disquieted them all. In the rooms, if the Book was dropped, the floor raised it mechanically, but the gangway to the air-ship was not so prepared, and the sacred volume lay motionless.||(H)Premise cooperation It was no great matter, but it was startling. The man who had dropped his book did one unusual thing more. He put his hand into his pocket, took out his pipe, and knocked the bowl against the rail of the gangway. Then he took out his pouch, filled the pipe with tobacco, and looked round at his companions. None of them was smoking: their attention was fixed elsewhere. |
Premise:collaboration The leader lifted it with a quick reverence, and the portico became alive with devotion. To pick up the Book, even by the leader, was a crime of deepest dye. When the Book fell accidentally, the first duty of every citizen was to run for it, and the man nearest it took it up with a care that comes only from feeling that no other hand must touch it. At once the great outer gate was opened, and the gangway received a fresh and living load.
Premise: harmony between man and nature Then the man stooped, and raised it, and they passed into the opal craft. It was padded and panelled with purple plush, in sections, and so far as could be seen there were no controls. “But—but—” cried a man on the outskirts, “where is the steering-wheel?” “What,” said the First Visitor cheerily,—so he seemed to them,—”what, did you think I steered myself with?
Premise: ecological balance “Pick it up, you fool!” said Eleanor, but he did not move. “It is in the way,” came from Peter; and all the leopard-men were incapable of moving it. The weight—they had thought of everything except the actual weight of books. “We can’t go yet. We shall have to wait till night comes.”
Premise: The Digital World The men hastened up the gangway, and stood for a moment irresolute in the presence of all the courts and last details of the engine-room below. From its dimness and awfulness, no voice was audible; the ship was piloted by its own unerring spirit, and silent as the shadow of the deep. “Wrong room, I guess?” said the man who had dropped his Book, and picked it up again. “
|She touched the isolation knob, so that no one else could speak toher. Then she touched the lighting apparatus, and the little room wasplunged into darkness.”Be quick!” She called, her irritation returning. “Be quick, Kuno; hereI am in the dark wasting my time.”||Premise: the digital world … He came forward a step, hesitated. In the evening quiet thesoft rustle of his rich robes was plainly audible.Sh-sh-sh! thought Etsuko frantically. Not so loud! Then, with aquick movement, he touched the knob, and the room was flooded withlight … He had a plain face, an expressive, pleasant, rathercowardly face. Without knowing why she thought it, she felttrustful in his hands. |
Premise: ecological balanceThere was silence for a few moments, while Kuno, cluttered by theenvironment, struggled to action.”What is the trouble with you, these days?” he said to her finally. “Youshouldn’t be so impatient. We’ll be married soon; and then you canspeak to me as much as you like.”She made a contemptuous sound. “Such a strange thing for a man to say!”
Premise: Harmony between man and nature In a moment the voice was at her ear, deprecating, cajoling,beseeching.”Turn on the lights, beloved. I cannot see you so well in thedark.”She touched the proper knob, and the panels glowed as before.She could see him clearly now. His robe was off. He stood, a littlethin figure, before her, his chest sunken in, his shoulders rounded
Premise: collaboration Jak said to me:”It was the first of the series of the interminable interviews, ofwhich we were to grow heartily tired, though they always began witha fresh zest. The dark room, the sharp contrast with the glaringlands, the sense of mystery, and, above all, the feeling that wewere working on a common problem… These were the sensations thatwe remembered.
Premise: cooperation But still there was no sign of Kuno. The minutes went by; the onlysound was that of a clock ticking, for she had turned the music off.Then the darkness was split by a thin beam of light, which came froma slide-lamp in Kuno’s hand. The little room was flooded with light.The angry sparkle died out of her eyes, and she raised her face,welcoming him with a smile of gladness.
Images generated from computer generated text.