The Machine Stops, by E. M. Forster is a very moving story that makes you think of the direction that we as a society are currently moving towards. E. M. Forster’s vision of a cubicle society is not so far off from the truth from what we have today. As we see in the story line, The Machine stacked people on top of each other for the purpose of controlling them. Today’s high rise buildings imitate similar patterns. Apartments are stacked up one on top of the other, lined up in a perfect row of columns with similar ceiling heights and square footages. While at the helm of the building is a Manager that controls the temperature of the heat and air conditioning, monitors the water flow, and even the direction of each elevator with a touch of a button. He does this via a computer program that’s referred to as the Building Management System (BMS).
The Building Management System is a computer-based control system installed in buildings designed to integrate, control, and monitor the building’s mechanical and electrical equipment such as ventilation, lighting, power systems, fire systems, and security systems.
There are times for economic reasons that a building’s owner or Management Company may have to outsource the BMS portion of the operation to a contractor and the building is controlled by one person within the building or an offsite location in a tiny office or room many miles away.
E. M. Forster goes to great lengths to place his reader’s inside Vashti’s cold and impersonal room. Everything she needs is at a touch of a button or switch. Although she was use to the isolation and the thought of being around other people annoyed her she still finds the strength to leave her room and visit her son Kuno, on the other side of the world.
I compared the story to our current situation today and took into account the fact that we no longer need to leave our apartments or homes for anything other than fresh air, and even with that all you we need to do is open a window. Everything we could possibly need these days is at touch of a button (the computer keyboard that is). From essentials like groceries, and dry goods, to services like laundry and dry cleaning pickup and delivery, even home cleaning, are all at our disposal with just a touch of a button. Even our work force is working from home at a higher rate than ever before. Job and work station sharing has become the new standard in the Corporate world these days.
In order to save money and raise profits Corporations are steering more and more employees away from the average office work space. By working fewer hours in an office and working more from home, employers are lowering their overhead costs and raising their profits margins; we in turn lose our direct contact with people. The norm has become to contact people via emails and text, but we have lost the art of letter writing and direct human contact.
E. M. Forster’s work is a realization of what we can and would become if we as a society choose to isolate ourselves from one another. One day “The Machine” (The Computer) will take over our lives and decide and direct the way and how we should live. As Kuno, Vashti’s son said; “You know that we have lost the sense of space. We say “space is annihilated”, but we have annihilated not space, but the sense thereof. We have lost a part of ourselves.
Today we as a society are moving in the same direction as the people in the story did; let’s not make the same mistake.