Machine Strong, Human Weak
Carrying on from where I left off yesterday, wanted to point out a very obvious sign of the decline of Humans in almost direct proportion to the rise of machines.
If this sounds a little like a doomy science-fiction plot to you, may I suggest you stay with the narrative. As someone famous said, famously again, truth is often stranger than fiction.
If we roll the clock back on humanity prior to the rise of the Industrial age, and luckily that is a time we do have some sort of verifiable history for, we can draw a fairly accurate picture of human beings were like.
The totalitarian agriculture revolution, begun well nigh six to eight thousand years prior had given people a way of life that had not altered radically. Nowhere as radically as the last 400 years and especially nowhere as radically as the last 150 years. And the pace of change in the past 50 years has been nothing short of staggering.
And if you’ve caught my drift so far, the change has been very much to our detriment.
As more and more people got sucked into the industrial life (as opposed to their pastoral life), they became manipulators of machines. Of course, in the early years, even industrial life was hard labour, since machines themselves were in their infancy and needed significant human input (think a railway coal-man, shovelling coal into the burner hour after hour to keep the train going as a classic picture, that was hard work, but the machine, the train, carried many more people and goods than any horse-drawn carriage could have). You can extend this example to the garment industry, where people still had to be heavily involved at every stage of manufacture, often involving “heavy-lifting”.
Point I’m making is that in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, humans still had to be strong, physically to work.
As machinery got more sophisticated (only in a very newtonian way though, making better use of engineering and more and more power), the human input reduced, in direct proportion. Now, instead of heavy lifting, humans only had to pull and push levers. I’m generalizing a bit here, but you get the point. Of course there were still people doing heavy lifting, but fewer and fewer as the decades rolled on.
With the advent of Oil as fuel, human effort was replaced to an even greater extent as we had a new energy source, cheaper and more plentiful than coal. In direct proportion to the use of oil, human energetic input into the production chain reduced further.
From hard work, to lever manipulator to button pusher. Do you see a trend?
The same was happening in agriculture. Agriculture was hard work, digging, tilling, reaping. But the march of mechanization touched Agriculture too (please note, it changed from farming, which had high human input, to Agri-Culture, more machines and chemical input, both energy replacements).
And so, humans grew weaker as machines grew stronger.
Was a time you had to walk to get where you were going. Then you took the Horse carriage and your legs grew weaker. But at least you had to walk to the carriage yard. Then came the bicycle, you could go farther and used your legs but motorization was around the corner. You can chart from this point to our modern age, where you walk out our door, into you car, get off somewhere, get on an escalator, walk around a bit and then rewind to return.
Human energy input into human life has been on a downward spiral and machine energy input into human life has been on an upward spiral.
Same can be said for the use of our minds. Time was a weaver could keep a complex pattern in their head as the bobbin flew fast and furious and human input kept the design true and correct. Fast forward to today, computer designs, Computer controlled weaving system’s manufacture, humans fold, pack and ship.
Calculators took away our ability to calculate. Computers have taken away our ability to compute.
So in all aspects of our lives, from the most gross (physical labour) to the most subtle (mental processes), we have given ourselves up to the machine. The rise of machine power in our lives has been directly proportional our decline.
Look at the western world, especially the Industrial ages beacon, America as an example. Big homes, big cars, big bikes and cheap (nearly free) energy has led to a population that can barely count, is obese, largely ill and extremely dependent on the pharmaceutical industry to keep them alive….. sad to behold but very true. So true that they resort to the last bastion for keeping themselves sane, humor. Make the problem funny and laughter will hide it’s reality from you.
But back to men and machines. If we look at the slightly simplistic parallels I’ve drawn above and then look around us (and at ourselves), can you deny that we’ve given our lives over to machines and our lives are much the worse for it?
We used to grow our own food, now it it manufactured for us. We used to play, demanding games, to keep us fit. Now we are played for, sitting in stadia or in front of a TV. We used to sing, now we idolize.
The industrial revolution has left the average human a weak shadow of his forefathers. It’s a simple energy equation. Our ancestors had to put in their own physical energy to live. We depend on machines and cheap energy to fuel our lives.
Ironical that you are reading this on an electricity dependent device, but see what the advent of electricity did to us? Poor Tesla, must be rolling in his grave. His gift to mankind has turned out to be it’s greatest curse.
Nothing has weakened us like electricity has. It has provided abundant and cheap energy as a substitute for our own and left us where we are today.
We have stopped being creatures of the body and become creatures of the mind. Alone. The balance has been lost.
How can you take yourself back from the curse of the machine? Can you?
How can we be more vital in this vitality stripping world? How can we tear ourselves away from the sword of con-venience?
More in a following post.
Stay well, and try to “Know Thyself” as a first step.