by Jessie Roberts
Today’s story has remarkable staying power: E.M. Forster wrote “The Machine Stops” in 1909, but it’s proved so prescient that technologist Jaron Lanier has called it “that preternatural oracle of internet culture.” An excerpt:
For a moment Vashti felt lonely.
Then she generated the light, and the sight of her room, flooded with radiance and studded with electric buttons, revived her. There were buttons and switches everywhere – buttons to call for food for music, for clothing. There was the hot-bath button, by pressure of which a basin of (imitation) marble rose out of the floor, filled to the brim with a warm deodorized liquid. There was the cold-bath button. There was the button that produced literature. and there were of course the buttons by which she communicated with her friends. The room, though it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for in the world.