image If you like reading short stories, I’ve got a great one for you. In 1909, E. M. Forster published the short story The Machine Stops which told of a future in which humans live in temperature-controlled underground rooms with no outside human contact, communicating to others exclusively using“cinematophoes” (his prediction of video conferencing).

The story was written

  • before TVs and computers, just after the first radios
  • before dishwashers, washing machines, air conditioning, universal electrical lighting, and fast food
  • before cars were mainstream, just after the Wright brothers’ flight

He predicts

  • people having 1000s of “friends” that they never see in person (including family), only on a screen
  • people eating processed foods and loosing physical strength
  • people feeling totally overloaded by the sheer amount of communication they receive every day
  • the total, unquestioning acceptance of technology by society and the rejection of original thought

The story is a fascinating look at what would happen if society got to a point where people could only relate to one another through some kind of technology (bonus for alluding to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and foreshadowing everything from Brave New World to The Matrix to Wall-E). The story focuses on a mother and son’s relationship, and it’s was a little eerie to me because my mom also lives lives far away, and we mostly communicate through phone calls, email, facebook, etc. Thankfully my mom loves to visit and would never prefer the virtual world over the real world.

Though the author is not writing as a Christian, he seems to understand that the fullness of human relationship and being happens in the physical world, the world into which the Son of God incarnated himself. Technological mediums are great for enabling relationships when one can’t be physically present, but we need to careful that it doesn’t replace real-life contact. Not only does it erode our relationships, it ultimately can erode what we are as humans. Yikes!

If you get a chance to read the story let me know what you think.

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