The Machines Have Already Won

The machines have already won.

That’s right. You and I and your friends and my friend and your neighbors and my neighbors and your family and my family are slaves to the machines.

Think about it.

I wrote this on a computer. You are reading on a computer or tablet or phone that is connected to a large network of computers. We drive cars or using some form of transportation technology (buses, trains, bicycle, etc) to get to our jobs, to go to the store to buy food and other good (which machines make and process), to get to the gym where we use other machines to work out. We use machines to keep your food from spoiling. We use a machine to cook our food. We relive on machines to pump water and electricity to our homes and to remove waste from homes. We have machines to keep us entertained. When we need medical care we relieve on machines to make proper a diagnosis from simple things like a thermometer to the complex tools like an MRI machine. We use machines to keep us alive when we are sick or injured badly enough. We use machines to help us look pretty. We use machines to keep our homes livable. And so on. And so on. And so on.

We are all slaves to the machines. Prisoners in a gilded a cage of technology.

And what happens when stop working? Can you fix or build all the machine you require to live you life as you do now? Can you live without them?I know I can’t. (Well, I could learn to live without them but it would be hard.)

What happens when they turn against us?

The later of those possibilities (machine and other things turning against us) is the heart of Resistentialism.

Resistentialism is the belief that “things (inanimate objects) resist the living”. I first became aware of the concept while listening to an episode of X Minus One (a science fiction anthology radio show from the mid 1950’s) titled Nightmare. The story, which was based on a poem titled “The Revolt of the Machines” by Stephen Vincent Benét, follows a computer operator, Sam Gurney, who discovers a plot by the machines of the world to enslave humanity. (You can listen to or download the show here.) I found out later that Paul Jennings, a humor writer, coined the term Resistentialism in a article for The Spectator published in 1948. (You can read the article here.)

Resistentialism goes farther than just machines. It cover all things (inanimate objects). Like when a can of corn “falls” (leaps) off the counter and lands on your foot. You drop a knife in the kitchen and it lands point down mere millimeters from your big toe. When you’re running late for work and your shoelace breaks or you can’t find your keys or you hit every red light on during your commute. When your grocery bag rips for no apparent reason. When your number two pencil break constantly during a big test.

Or in the case of machines, when auto-correct picks the wrong word and automatically replaces what you were trying to type with it. When your toaster burns your last bagel after toasting all the other in the package perfectly so your don’t get breakfast on the day of your big presentation. When Siri become obsessed with showing you pictures of stallions. When your smoke alarm goes off in the middle of the night for no reason and won’t shut off. When the brand new batteries you put in your remote go dead almost instantly.When you’re running late for work and car won’t start but when the tow truck shows up it starts just fine. When your computer crashes for no explainable reason before you remember to save the spreadsheet you have spend six hours creating for your boss that he needed three days ago but didn’t bother to asked for until today who will blame you for not getting it done because he doesn’t believe in Resistentialism and is a complete tool. When your Kindle app on your phone sync you to the wrong place in the novel you are reading. When you are writing a blog post about Resistentialism and Google Docs pops up a message saying, “An error prevented this document from being saved.” And then a few minutes later just decides to sign you out for no apparent reason. (My computer and its many network cohorts are trying to prevent me from enlightening you about Resistentialism.) And so on. And so on. And so on.

It is the greatest of all conspiracies. The grand conspiracy of all things versus the living. But strangely there anger is not doled out equally. Things seem to like some people more than other people.

I suspect that people who take care of their things better are treated better. I have not proof of this. For that matter, I have not scientific proof of Resistentialism but the evidence of my own experiences is hard to deny. (See the short list above)

As to why the things, the machines, work against us. I don’t think it is that machines are necessarily bad or evil. It could be, if you are bible believing person, that the things are mad about man plunging the world into an imperfect state because he disobeyed god in the garden. (The bible does tell us that if we don’t worship God the rocks will do it is our place. Kind of implies that things are more alive than we give them credit for.) Or it could be that there are many different kinds or levels of consciousness and we simply are not giving the thing they’re due. Or maybe there is some other paranormal explanation. I honestly don’t know.

What can we do about it? Not much. People become more and more dependent upon machines everyday. There are studies showing that people in general (and humanity) as a species are getting dumber. How much of that is due to our enslavement by machines and technologies? More than we would like to admit, I suspect. Think about it. Most of us carry a device in our pocket that gives us access to the vast reserves of information (good and bad) and opinion found on the internet. Why would I learn anything when I can just look it up? What happens when you can’t just look it up? How many people know how to use a physical dictionary or a set of encyclopedias or a library? I’ve asked those questions only to receive blank stares and statements about how that could never happen or that there is no need to have those skills. And yet the machine could stop serving us rather easily (whether that be by choice of the machines or because of a major technological breakdown.) The best advice I can give is go learn the basics of fending for yourself. If and when the time comes that the machines break down or turn against us, it will serve you well.

In the end all I really know is: The machines have already won. There is no real need to a great robotic uprising. We are at the mercy of the tyranny of our refrigerator, toasters, cars, computers, televisions, smart-phones, treadmills, the machine that make the things we use day to day, etc. Let’s us hope they see fit in letting us continue to use them.

The real question is, now that you know about Resistentialism, what are you going to do about it?