Sunday, March 16, 2014

E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops

Today on Far Future Horizons we present a television adaptation of E.M. Forster’s acclaimed science fiction story short story The Machine Stops, first published in 1909. In this story, Forster expresses his concern about humanity’s excessive dependence on technology.

Let us just suppose that on the second Tuesday of next month that a combination of events conspires to create the perfect solar super storm.

The world’s entire electrical power and communications grid is disrupted beyond immediate repair. Satellites fall from the sky, and in space aboard the evacuated International Space Station no astronauts are left to observe the night side of our planet as one by one the lights of our great cities go out and are plunged into implacable darkness as a massive blackout sweeps the entire globe.

Within a matter of hours, the whole fabric and web of our global technological civilization suddenly disintegrates.

In 1909, the English writer E.M. Forster imagined just such a scenario, but due entirely to a different set of circumstances in his short story The Machine Stops. In fact, the circumstances outlined in Forster’s story are more akin to that of a cyber attack or just plain old or wear and tear of the technology.

Yet, in my opinion Forster’s story underscores the importance of safeguarding the underlying infrastructure of our technical civilization very symbolically. 

Any society, which is highly dependent on advanced technology, is inherently extremely venerable if its technical base suddenly collapses.

Our planet’s electrical and technological infrastructure must first and foremost be protected from the threat posed by a sudden devastating electromagnetic pulse (EMP) emanating from the Sun or a deliberateattack from a rogue nation

Also, shouldn’t we as a civilization establish an insurance policy of sorts where a cache of written records and a group of highly skilled craftsmen and engineers trained in basic skills be retained to reboot civilization in the event of its sudden collapse?

These questions and issues all came to mind as I read this story recently, and will be discussed in future articles. But, now without further adieu we present – E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops.

This television adaptation of Forster’s story first aired on October 6th, 1966 as part of the BBC’s science fiction anthology television series Out of the Unknown.

E.M. Forster's The Machine Stops

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