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The Age of Machines

June 28, 2010


I encourage anyone struggling to find the wonder with-in, go somewhere, close even, a place that allows you to expand. If you are ready, expand you will. Find the wonder with-out to find your way back in.

We are the limits of our individual and collective (and collectively decided and delineated) wombs.

So, this is the age of the machine. If you, reading this believe otherwise, I intend to propose an axiomatic argument that this is the age of the machine, we are ruled by machines.

A broad brush is a mightily difficult brush to wield gracefully.

Before and through the major part of the industrial revolution, man led the development of the machine. Man was usually more dextreous, more aware or more somethng important enough from the machine he built.

We had only begun to automate the most obvious parts. Newtonian gains. Ball hits ball and deflects at some predictable rate and angle. Man, who designed the machine, was still the king.

And remember, the kill switch was always in our hands then. Not like today where the machine decides when, in what internal order or even IF it wants to shut off. All you have recourse to is pulling out the battery/plug.

Two points then, who made who and who can definitely shut off the other.

I think, if you stay with my logic, till even a century ago, man designed machines and always had a kill switch. A machine could never go past such limits then, could it? It’s maker had the kill switch.

Not anymore.

Somewhere in the 30’s, in the spending heyday leading up to WWII, the first computers that actually sped up machines themselves began to appear.

By the 1950’s, the trend was clear. Machines had caught up with us right about  1945, A-Bomb (heavily machine designed) and all that.

Every decade since, machine stronger, human weaker (please see other article here).

Today, now, we live in the age of machines. They govern too many aspects of our lives for it to be otherwise. Can you imagine a computer gone bad workplace for 15 days? Grinding halt.

Meanwhile, we have continued to design machines that can and do run away from us.Air crashes, train crashes, automobile crashes… all happening with increasing frequency. All runaway machines.

The Gulf of Mexico Disaster (See here) is the classic runaway symptom of the age of machines.

And see how many of us shiver in cold, air conditioned buildings, breathing dirty air, so that the machines can work. Our work. Strange! Sick buildings, sick people, healthy machines. See a pattern?

And we seem eager to give over every vestige of our creativity and productivity to machines.

Our sense of time has sped up (here) in direct proportion to how much finer our machines could slice it. Days, hours, minutes, seconds, milliseconds, micro-seconds… you get it. And our lives have sped up accordingly.

Machine’s control (many times having the master over-ride)  many many aspects of our lives.

Yes, they do keep us safe, but they themselves helped in making it as complex as it is. Do you see that? Complexity breeding greater complexity, with control systems lagging all other developments since data needs to accrue first. So we live in a time when machines are making us and helping us over-reach our limits.

That might feel fantastic on a ski or a parachute but is a terrible thing in the face of a disaster like the gulf of Mexico. Deepwater Horizon. Cannot get over the prophetic nature of the name.

Earlier, we used to push machines to their limits and be safe between them.

Now machines push us to the boundaries of our limits and also help design what keeps us safe at the limit.

See how the balance of power has shifted?

Machines have helped create an infrastructure that is inherently harmful and un-natural to humans (all designed around the machine blending into our lives).

We need to get comfortable with the unknown and the unknowable. Machines have us in lock-step.

And they are shrinking our world too. See the camera-phone. In japan, the most mechanistic society, people live in their cell-phones. And the rest of the world is being nudged that way.

Small screen life. Touch, haptics , feel…all getting lost to designer materials, mimicking touch. Very strange, to my design view of the world.

We are machine controlled lemmings, whether we like it or not and are headed over the cliff on command.

A person, falling on a banana peel, will reach to save his/her cell-phone before his/her own skull.

That is how far it has gone.

Really, axiomatic when you think about it. Who designs whom and who can pull the plug is the master. Machines don’t design us (yet) but they sure do design our world. And in these mind-filled times, the machine designed and supported world is our life. Phones, television, computers, cars, escalators, elevators, planes, trains, cinema……

Feels a little dire to me. I’ve pulled the plug to a large extent. It’ s been life altering.

Get physical. Get off-beat. Be spontaneous.

Turn off. Tune out. Drop in.



9 Comments leave one →
  1. davetek permalink
    July 20, 2011 12:44 pm

    While I definitely agree that machines have become ‘stronger’ and humans ‘weaker’, I think the issue here is more of dependency. I don’t think dependency has changed much, a farmer with a sick oxen and/or a broken plow in the 1700’s was just as immobilized as an office building during a network crash. (I had the experience of sitting, staring out the window while our network had been taken down by some virus on several occassions.)

    Japan is always a great example to use; the culture is definitely one of minimization of the ‘self’ in many ways. For the average western person (for which the ‘self’ must be maintained at all costs esp. here in the US) to embrace the same principles, people must be very unfulfilled. Perhaps it is escapism, perhaps it is freedom-seeking anonymity (one in the same?). Perhaps it is just human nature. After all, ther previous generation had their cars and music, and I seriously doubt they would not have embraced the ‘i-tech’ we have so coddled, though surely in their own way.

    In the end, ther differences between humans’ ability to make tools is of course a double-edged sword. Once the tool is created and perfected things become more complex and it becomes difficult to live without. One wonders if our survival is dependent on creating ever more tools…

    • May 19, 2015 2:56 pm

      Long overdue reply! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Even the 3 and some years since your comment…see the pace of change….zipping….

  2. June 5, 2012 9:33 am

    What I am wondering about is what the Age of Aquarius will be like. Aquarius is said to be about technology and being radical and revolutionary and the “brotherhood of man.” I am scared to death of any more technology or cold hearted revolution. Leo is the opposite of Aquarius and rules the heart. Aquarius rules the circulation. They are opposites and therefore ONE. It seems to me that unless the new Aquarians are as much heart as they are technology – as warm and regal and royal as Leo while being as much about brotherhood, the World is going into a really horribly cold time – like the Bolshevick revolution which just hurt millions upon million of people, and killed about 150 million – according to “Two Hundred Years Together.” Solzenitsyn’s last book. God help us all if we cannot learn to be open hearted and generous and warm as Leo is said to be in this new age – of the machine.

    In about the 6th Century BC the Judeans or Hebrews decided that Asherah, the wife of their tribal god Yahweh, was no longer wanted and they destroyed her (with intense hatred it seems, reading teh bible account!) She was the symbol of Mother Nature in that area, like Isis or Astarte and so on – and her main symbol was The Tree of Life. Thta silly old fool Socrates did something similar at around the same time – he said he did not believe in myths and he was a homosexual.

    It is between Feeling and Thinking – and Thinking is now so dominant that we are ruled by machines. Obviously the Thinkin function of the mind has invented these machines, so we do not have much Feeling now. It is Water – Feeling versus Air – Thinking. They are supposed to be in balance. Yin Yang.

    • June 8, 2012 5:50 am

      Thanks for the deeply thoughtful comment Natural.

      Indeed we are watching the birth of the age of Aquarius. No birthing is ever without some death-ing.

      More waters, waters breaking, seamless networks, flow, over-flow. All a part of our Aquarian future.

      Let this period of history give us it’s gems, it’s pearls, figurative even. The rest belongs in Ashes and Dust.

      I’m ready.


  3. June 8, 2012 7:37 am

    Thank you Anadianant. Somehow my name which was supposed to be “NaturalLaw has come out as “naturuallow”!! And I cannot make out how to correct – so thank you for just calling me “Natural.” !

  4. Henry Balfour permalink
    April 2, 2014 8:50 am

    Machines were mice, and men were lions, once upon a time.
    But now that it’s the opposite, it’s twice upon a time.
    – Moondog

  5. jack permalink
    May 31, 2015 5:11 pm

    Nice, Ray Kurzweil exhaustively fleshes the concept of machines supplanting humans in “The Singularity is Near”.

    • May 31, 2015 5:50 pm

      Yes Jack, Mr. Curse-a-while’s dystopia is quite something, is it not? To my mind, He and his transhumanist brothers and sisters represent the peak of the materialism movement, the need to hang on to at least the idea of this body for-ever. What a light-weight goal…

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