The Age of the Machine

This is usually referred to as the Industrial Revolution – but I think it’s more useful to think of its effect on us – when we became obsessed with our machines, and became machine-people – a blend of machines and people. This was a shocking development, and occurred so gradually we never noticed it. Or at least most of us did not.

One of the effects of Industrialization was to create workers. They were not encouraged to think about what they were doing – but just work, for long hours under inhuman conditions.

The prototype for this was the sailor, who maned the sailing ships that were the first Industrial machines. These were followed by the factory workers, who were exploited ruthlessly. But despite these conditions, or because of them – their numbers increased rapidly.

This was not a problem in America in the 19th Century, because huge numbers of workers were needed, as Industry grew rapidly.

But then the Great Depression happened – with devastating effect – all over the world. Everyone could see that the Industrial System was unstable – but they had no idea what to do about it. Except for the Nazis, who put their people to work making war material of excellent quality. It wasn’t long before America followed their example. And war was soon seen as the solution to the business cycle.

The Cold War followed – just as I became an Electronic Engineer in 1959. This was a race to see which economy could waste the most – the American economy or the USSR. America won the war, but lost the peace – because it did not know how to have a peacetime economy.

Americans did not notice – they were busy buying new cars and new homes in the suburbs. Spending their affluence rapidly and recklessly. “Why not?” They thought, “There would always be plenty more.” This seemed to be true in the American post-war economy – that only people my age can remember. The young cannot believe that such reckless affluence ever existed.

Now that we are in the Computer economy – we can look back at the Industrial economy and marvel at it. And forget how ruthless the machine-people were.

I’m here to tell you – they were inhuman.


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