Sunday, February 18, 2007

Machines! Machines! (New York Times, 1927)

I recently found a New York Times article with the headline, "Machines, Machines! The Futurist's Cry!" from December 11, 1927.

The article quotes Signor Azari as saying, "[In the future] ....our food will have to be mainly synthetic and artificial - machine-made. The cities of the future will contain no useless garbage of trees and flowers or loathsome promiscuity of animals, but geometrical buildings in glass and armed cement. Above all, there will be machines, machines, machines!"

It is difficult to imagine the world of 1927, when there was considerable awe in witnessing simple tasks being performed by machines. The technology we take for granted in 2007 were the magical fantasies of 1927.

The article contends, "'Open Sesame' used to be a term belonging to magic: The masters of a machine age are robbing the fairy tale of its ancient glamour. Once it took a magician of considerable ability to lure obedience from things inanimate."

There seemed to be a very real fear that people's jobs were at stake:
"Machines....machines...machines. Two and two into the Ark of the modern world they come: Monsters that almost of themselves turn out the product of a great factory....."

Yet, there was an odd sense of optimism that machines could help the average worker:
" means of cunning mechanisms of many sorts we are everywhere freeing men's hands from the bondage of labor; causing to straighten the backs that are bent in toil."

If you have a TimesSelect subscription you can read the entire article.


Unknown said...

It reminds me of the same sort of attitudes people have towards the "Singularity". I hear the same rhetoric from Singularitarians, minus the industrialism.

Indefensible said...

Just wanted to say that I really enjoy this blog. Great subject matter. Well done.

Matt Novak said...

Thanks, I really appreciate it.

Jack said...

Above all, there will be machines, machines, machines! sounds like a line from Marinetti's wonderful Futurist Manifesto.