E. M. Forster’ın “Makine Duruyor” Öyküsünde Teknososyal Bireyler ve ‘Prometheusçu Utanç’Emine Şentürk
Edward Morgan Forster, 1909 yılında yazdığı “Makine Duruyor” öyküsünde ütopyadan distopyaya geçiş yapan bir anlatı ve aynı zamanda da sosyal bilimkurgu özelliklerini taşıyan bir kurmaca dünya yaratır. Kendi döneminin teknoloji hayranlığına uyarı niteliğinde bir öykü sunan Forster, hem gelinebilecek noktaya bir pencere açar hem de olası tehlikeler karşısında insanın var oluşunu sergiler. Öngörülen distopik toplumda, arı kovanı analojisi çerçevesinde insanlar amaca hizmet eden işçiler konumuna yerleştirilirken mağara alegorisi benzeri bir yer altı karanlığına hapsolurlar. Her birey bir petek içinde konumlanır ve burada hayatlarını yalıtılmış ve yalnız yaşamak durumundadırlar ve bu toplumda işleyiş sistemi ve düzenini sağlayan, sürekli uğuldayan ve Vernor Vinge’in “teknolojik tekillik” kavramını örnekleyen Makine isimli araçtır. Bu teknolojik gelişmişlik içinde bağımlı kalmış teknosoyal bireylere eleştirel bakış, Kuno karakteri aracılığıyla gerçekleşir. Bu nedenle, bu çalışma Kuno’nun kendi içinde bulunduğu topluma bakışını, insanın kendini kendi eliyle bağımlı hale getirdiği Makine’yi sorgulayışını, yaşadığı huzursuzluğu ve mutsuzluğu Günther Anders’in “Prometheusçu utanç” bağlamında ele alacaktır. Bunun sonucunda yaratıcı olarak yaratılana bağımlılık utancı, değişime olan inancın ve umudun temeli olarak tartışılacaktır.
Techno-social Individuals and ‘Promethean Shame’ in E. M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”Emine Şentürk
In his short story “The Machine Stops” (1909), Edward Morgan Forster creates a fictitious world that is a transitional narrative from a utopian to dystopian perspective as well as a social science fiction piece. Forster presents a story that is a warning and a rebuke to appreciation of technology at his time, and in doing so, he both presents a vision of the achievable point and demonstrates the survival of humanity against the potential threats. In the envisaged dystopian community, the analogy of the beehive positions human beings in the system as instruments that serve the entire structure as workers, as the hands of the system, and at the same time, people who are imprisoned in underground darkness, as in the cave allegory. Each individual is placed in a bee cell and establishes a life isolated and alone, and the instrument that provides the system and order in this society is the Machine, which illustrates Vernor Vinge’s concept of “technological singularity”. The main character, Kuno, is the one who provides the reader with an insightful and critical perspective with regard to the dependent techno-social individuals in this technological advancement. Hence, the purpose of this study is to analyse Kuno’s view of the society, his questioning of the Machine that man has made himself reliant on, and his uneasiness and discontent within the context of Günther Anders’s “Promethean shame”. Accordingly, as the creator, developing a sense of shame for relying on the created will be explored as the foundation for the belief in and hope for change.
In this article, the short story “The Machine Stops” by Edward Morgan Forster is discussed in terms of the “Promethean shame” coined by Günther Anders, and a critical analysis of the text is presented by referring to other concepts like technological singularity, the beehive metaphor, Frankenstein complex, and techno-social individuals. This story can be categorised as both dystopian narrative and a work of social science fiction; hence, the reason Forster’s story is not entirely ascribed to one of these genres is to avoid a limited categorization of this multi-layered work. Forster depicts a dystopian as well as a social science fiction narrative to present a kind of gloomy alternative universe with a foreboding undertone. Forster’s narrative is intended to respond to the optimistic aspects of technological advancements at the dawn of the twentieth century by providing a story that is both menacing and awakening. Thus, the introduction and the following two sections of this article will specify the differing points and common factors related to utopian/dystopian fiction and social science fiction that could be helpful to clearly recognise the main purpose of this text. Following the descriptive part related to social science fiction, the beehive metaphor and the cave allegory will be referred to as the two spatial analogies. The allusion to Plato’s “allegory of the cave” will be followed by and connected to the concept of “technological singularity”, which suggests that a machine made by humans has the potential to turn on the creator by leveraging its superior intellect. This technological singularity will be illustrated in Forster’s story, since no human touch, actual school, real teacher, physical atmosphere, physical relation, or communication is preferred by the people who are satisfied with the comfort brought to their lives by means of the Machine. The mother figure, Vashti, represents the obedient and delighted individual, whereas the son, Kuno, represents the disobedient, rebellious, inquiring, and aware character in the Machine. Kuno tells his mother that he wishes to view the stars from the surface of the earth rather than the Machine, as everything they do takes place within the Machine. This demand is against the system, against the rules, against the Machine, and it is believed to be against their physical constraints. The study depicts and clarifies the concept of technological singularity in this narrative by utilizing a comprehensive illustration of these points. Curiosity brings questioning for Kuno, since he experiences “Promethean shame” as a result of realizing the overwhelming power of a thing that was built voluntarily and deliberately by humans. In Anders’s terms, the initial “Promethean pride” is replaced by “Promethean shame”, since human beings realized the dimensions and the monstrosity of what they created, technology. The constraining feature of technology is best demonstrated in the dwelling area or the spatial depiction of the story as the setting is a beehive. This beehive metaphor is a reference to the working individuals regardless of their own emotions, thoughts, lives, choices, or other characteristics. The intriguing element that distinguishes Forster’s story from other dystopian scenarios is that he provides the characters with an opportunity to have a glimpse of the alternative reality that they are fleeing, the life that they have disregarded and for which they have created an alternative. As the final remarks of this study, it is revealed that the final chaos or the final selfdestructive moment of the Machine could be interpreted from both optimistic and pessimistic perspectives. The primary issue that Forster emphasises is the opposite positions of the individuals as obedient vs disobedient. In stark contrast to his mother Vashti’s rejection of the chaotic changes, the shame and discomfort that Kuno experiences leave open the prospect of change, as the story’s conclusion alludes to a future with its allusion to the sky.