Vashti revisited

I began my inaugural blog on this website – On becoming Vashti – as follows: “My nomination for the most prescient work of science fiction is The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster.”

A recent comment on this posting by a former student, June Gibbons, has prompted a further re-reading of The Machine Stops. With each re-reading Forster becomes more prescient. When I wrote my inaugural blog I had not anticipated the sub-prime-credit-crunch. But Forster had:

“No one confessed the Machine was out of hand. Year by year it was served with increased efficiency and decreased intelligence. The better a man knew his own duties upon it, the less he understood the duties of his neighbour, and in all the world there was not one who understood the monster as a whole. Those master brains had perished.”

A better description of our current mess I have yet to find. The efficiency of the mechanism for creating and disseminating toxic derivatives was impressive. Understanding of the devastation they would spread was absent. Those “master brains” in whom we all wanted to believe because they were making us richer, did not perish. They never existed. They were, with beguiling gravitas, blowing a bubble; “no one confessed the Machine was out of hand.”

As a guide to the past, and present, and possibly the future, I cannot recommend Then Machine Stops too highly.

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