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#740#741#742#743 Episode #744 - The Machine Stops
(Three Wise Men on The Implications of Human Stabulation)



Mon 5 December 2016  Ivan Illich, 'Vulgar Trader', E. M. Forster (reading)
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Download Hour1 Download Hour2This episode is a successor show to episode 639, which examined the connections between technology and totalitarianism. Exceptionally, our title piece is an short story so old as to be no longer under copyright! As a counterpoint to this vintage sci-fi, two other interesting thinkers: a 1974 recording of Ivan Illich on the dangers of mechanising food production while a dependent population are stabulated (housed) in sterile concrete, followed by an introduction to the outrageous ideas of the psychonaut John C. Lilly in particular his dystopian vision of the Solid State Entity.
As is fairly common, I got inspiration for our main piece this episode from a Wikispooks page. Exceptionally however, it is a work of fiction. E. M. Forster's sci-fi from 1909 is widely credited as prophetic of the internet age, and I have little doubt you will find it to be rich food for thought. Since the story has chapters and I have two pieces of other material to compliment it, I'm breaking with tradition and breaking up the 70 minute reading into its separate pieces.

We begin the show with Chapter 1 of The Machine Stops, entitled 'The Airship'. Next we hear a recording from December 1974 of a regular contributor to the show, Ivan Illich. Introducing his book Medical Nemesis, he makes a parallel between food and medicine. Local, personal and neighborhood-based provision has been eclipsed by larger scale, industrial production, resulting in counter-productivity. His highlighting the dangers of defining "improvement" from a systemic perspective provides a useful broader perspective on the E. M. Forster reading.

We continue with 'The Mending Apparatus', the second chapter of The Machine Stops, which highlights the remarkable capabilities of the supercomputer that runs the world described by E. M Forster. We follow this with a radio adaption of a short video posted on YouTube in September 2016, entitled "John C. Lilly and the Solid State Entity". It introduces the remarkable career of John C. Lilly, a psychonaut, who invented the float tank to heighten the visions he experienced under the influence of psychedelic drugs, both LSD and his drug of choice, the dissociative Ketamine. One of Lilly's more important visions was the idea of a "solid state entity", a huge super computer built by humans, which develops a consciousness of its own, and after confining humans to domed cities decides to eliminate them altogether before moving the earth out of the sun's orbit to cruise the galaxy in search of other similar entities.

The final chapter, 'The Homeless' concludes this episode. We have no time to highlight the fact that Illich was very concerned with the impact of "technological development", and referred to it as a war on subsistance. I hope the gravity of this point is realized en masse before humanity is confined to the domed cities envisioned by John C. Lilly and E. M. Forster!...
Thanks to Jenna Lee and Aaron Tivano, the Librivox readers for the reading of The Machine Stops and to 'Vulgar Trader' for his ruminations on John C. Lilly
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