Knowledge Worker’s Dream
I recently remembered the most amazing story that I’ve read 5 or 6 years ago, and my wife found the book that contains it yesterday. The book is called “Fairy Tales For Computers“. , and the story is “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster.
The story was written in 1909 and since it’s in public domain now, so the full text of it is online.
It’s a story of a future in which people live in small apartments underground, all cared for by an almost Matrix-style machine, communicating almost exclusively through telepresence.
“‘Who is it?’ she called. Her voice was irritable, for she had been interrupted often since the music began. She knew several thousand people, in certain directions human intercourse had advanced enormously.”
“Vashanti’s next move was to turn off the isolation switch, and all the accumulations of the last three minutes burst upon her. The room was filled with the noise of bells, and speaking-tubes. What was the new food like? Could she recommend it? Has she had any ideas lately? Might one tell her one’s own ideas? Would she make an engagement to visit the public nurseries at an early date? – say this day month.
To most of these questions she replied with irritation – a growing quality in that accelerated age. She said that the new food was horrible. That she could not visit the public nurseries through press of engagements. That she had no ideas of her own but had just been told one-that four stars and three in the middle were like a man: she doubted there was much in it. Then she switched off her correspondents, for it was time to deliver her lecture on Australian music. “
Living constantly communicating with hundreds or even thousands of correspondents, looking for and generating “ideas”, being served by and cared for by automatons – isn’t that a knowledge worker’s dream? Are you scared yet? Don’t “accumulations of the last three minutes” strike you familiar? Your inbox, your livejournal “friends” feed?
Too bad that “A Logic Named Joe” is not out of copyright. These two stories together are an irrefutable proof of time travel. But none of you will read it, so nobody will believe me anyway.