The Human Machine
Excerpt: ...this business of daily living, of ordinary usage of the machine in hourly intercourse, there occurs sometimes a phenomenon which is the ... Show synopsis Excerpt: ...this business of daily living, of ordinary usage of the machine in hourly intercourse, there occurs sometimes a phenomenon which is the cause of a great deal of trouble, and the result of a very ill-tended machine. It is a phenomenon impossible to ignore, and yet, so shameful is it, so degrading, so shocking, so miserable, that I hesitate to mention it. For one class of reader is certain to ridicule me, loftily saying: 'One really doesn't expect to find this sort of thing in print nowadays!' And another class of reader is certain to get angry. Nevertheless, as one of my main objects in the present book is to discuss matters which 'people don't talk about, ' I shall discuss this matter. But my diffidence in doing so is such that I must approach it deviously, describing it first by means of a figure. Imagine that, looking at a man's house, you suddenly perceive it to be on fire. The flame is scarcely perceptible. You could put it out if you had a free hand. But you have not got a free hand. It is his house, not yours. He may or may not know that his house is burning. You are aware, by experience, however, that if you directed his attention to the flame, the effect of your warning would be exceedingly singular, almost incredible. For the effect would be that he would instantly begin to strike matches, pour on petroleum, and fan the flame, violently resenting interference. Therefore you can only stand and watch, hoping that he will notice the flames before they are beyond control, and extinguish them. The probability is, however, that he will notice the flames too late. And powerless to avert disaster, you are condemned, therefore, to watch the damage of valuable property. The flames leap higher and higher, and they do not die down till they have burned themselves out. You avert your gaze from the spectacle, and until you are gone the owner of the house pretends that nothing has occurred. When alone he curses himself for his carelessness. The foregoing..