“The Machine Stops,” E. M. Forster, first publ. 1909 (re-printed 1928) – A “rational” society becomes completely dependent on the machine that cares for them in their underground pods. A young man–whose mother spends her day in a “hexagonal” room, talking to her colleagues about academia and ideas via interfaces–longs first to walk on the surface, then for catastrophe. At the conclusion, the society literally collapses and mother and son embrace for the first time.
Comments: A frequently anthologized and adapted text that has generated many commentaries. Wikipedia provides a concise analysis, and an excerpt is provided here: “In the preface to his Collected Short Stories (1947), Forster wrote that ‘The Machine Stops is a reaction to one of the earlier heavens of H. G. Wells.’ Although not all Wells’s stories were optimistic about the future, this implies Forster was concerned about human dependence on technology. The story predicted several technological and social innovations, such as the ‘cinematophote’ (television) and videoconferencing. Forster also sought to establish the value of direct experience, which is threatened by excessive involvement in virtual communities. This shows remarkable foresight, and the book describes many nuances of “online life” over 60 years before the Internet was even invented. The final destruction of the mechanical society of the Machine is not without hope, in that Kuno and Vashti recapture a part of the spirit of life and embrace each other for the first time, a mother and her son.”
Author: Wikipedia: “Edward Morgan Forster OM, CH (1 January 1879 – 7 June 1970) was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist.”