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The Machine Stops

Facebook logo on a smartphone screen. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

News of Facebook being down has reminded me of an excellent and eerily prophetic short story by E. M. Forster. Originally published in 1909, “The Machine Stops” imagines a future in which everyone exists, voluntarily, underground in little cells, rarely ever sees any other humans physically, communicates entirely via something like FaceTime and messaging apps, and has all of his needs tended to by the giant apparatus that oversees all these functions, simply referred to as The Machine. But one day, well . . . you can probably guess:

But there came a day when, without the slightest warning, without any previous hint of feebleness, the entire communication-system broke down, all over the world, and the world, as they understood it, ended.

Anyway, you can read the whole thing here. Since you might have time to now.


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