The Rise of the Machines and the Rage Against the Machine
Guy Reynolds gave the first CAS Inquire lecture on September 10, 2019. Originally titled "The rise of the machines - and how we can resist them: British novels of the twentieth-century".
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:04.050]My name is Mark Button,
[00:00:04.883]I am the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences,
[00:00:07.120]I am here to welcome you
[00:00:08.158]to our College of Arts and Sciences Inquire lecture series.
[00:00:13.820]The CAS Inquire lecture series,
[00:00:16.000]the first of what we hope will be a long tradition
[00:00:18.740]in the college.
[00:00:19.860]This lecture is designed to serve as an intellectual
[00:00:23.147]touchstone for the college, giving all of us a chance
[00:00:27.330]to have a shared set of experiences
[00:00:30.620]that might facilitate deeper conversations
[00:00:33.440]and further our collective inquiry.
[00:00:35.940]The CAS Inquire program is designed to build around
[00:00:39.050]a college-wide series of public lectures
[00:00:41.340]centering on a new theme each year.
[00:00:45.740]The CAS Inquire program also empowers students,
[00:00:49.110]who you'll meet here in just a moment,
[00:00:51.160]to play a leadership role in planning and facilitating
[00:00:54.030]future lecture series events
[00:00:55.770]and the final panel discussion.
[00:00:58.070]This year's theme, as you see, the Rise of the Machines,
[00:01:01.380]and I guess the rage against them, as well,
[00:01:04.400]provides an opportunity for all of us to think critically,
[00:01:08.011]to think historically, and in a manner informed
[00:01:11.120]by the latest scientific developments
[00:01:13.470]about the complexities of the interrelationship
[00:01:16.080]between human and the machine.
[00:01:18.370]And with the help of really talented faculty
[00:01:20.890]in English, Computer Science, Biology, Anthropology,
[00:01:24.368]and Physics, we'll have the chance to think anew
[00:01:28.270]about this ambivalent and yet ubiquitous relationship
[00:01:32.195]from a variety of different perspectives.
[00:01:35.160]And in doing that, I think we're really exercising
[00:01:37.120]the very heart of what a College of Arts and Sciences does,
[00:01:40.580]which is to hone our capacities,
[00:01:42.853]to look upon a contemporary challenge
[00:01:45.830]or an enduring question from multiple points of view
[00:01:48.987]and multiple intellectual frames of reference,
[00:01:52.100]and then to draw upon those diverse perspectives
[00:01:55.010]to open new pathways for thought, for expression,
[00:01:58.270]and for action, and so that's why I think we're all here.
[00:02:02.240]Before we get started, I just wanna also take a moment
[00:02:04.380]to say that for the creative vision,
[00:02:06.903]to create this lecture series and to bring this
[00:02:09.110]all together, I hope you'll please join me
[00:02:11.400]in thanking Associate Dean Jim Griffin,
[00:02:13.910]and professors Anne Duncan, Pat Dussault,
[00:02:16.050]and Heather Richards-Rissetto
[00:02:17.540]for getting this going for us.
[00:02:26.540]Thank you to all of you for your efforts in doing this.
[00:02:28.910]And now let me turn it over to Dr. Taylor Livingston,
[00:02:31.201]a new faculty member here in the college
[00:02:33.950]in Anthropology and the CAS Inquire director,
[00:02:36.910]who will introduce tonight's speaker, thank you.
[00:02:46.090]Thank you, Dean Button, and thank you, for all of you,
[00:02:49.130]for coming to our first CAS Inquire lecture.
[00:02:52.500]Before I introduce tonight's speaker,
[00:02:54.250]I'd like to recognize the Inquire scholars,
[00:02:57.050]so if you all could please stand up.
[00:03:10.440]This fantastic group of 14 students will spend a year
[00:03:13.330]delving deeper into the theme Rise of the Machines.
[00:03:17.439]Helping them in their exploration are the five peer leaders.
(applause drowns out speaker)
[00:03:31.010]So thank you all for being a part of this program.
[00:03:34.890]It is my pleasure tonight to introduce the first speaker
[00:03:37.840]of our Inquire lecture series, Dr. Guy Reynolds.
[00:03:41.269]Dr. Reynolds is a professor of English
[00:03:43.940]and Women's and Gender Studies, and he is chair
[00:03:46.600]of the undergraduate program in English.
[00:03:49.430]He joined UNL in 2003, and his work focuses on
[00:03:53.460]Willa Cather's writing, and it explores post World War II
[00:03:56.980]American writers' perspectives on the US involvement
[00:04:00.750]in international relations.
[00:04:02.960]Tonight his talk, Rise of the Machines,
[00:04:05.770]and how we can resist them,
[00:04:07.440]British novels of the 20th century,
[00:04:10.020]takes us on an intellectual journey across the pond
[00:04:13.310]as he discusses four British authors
[00:04:15.330]writing about technology.
[00:04:17.410]Please join me in welcoming Dr. Guy Reynolds.
[00:04:27.520]Okay, can you hear me?
[00:04:29.370]Yup, okay, as you can see, I've changed the title
[00:04:32.190]of the talk because I couldn't resist it.
[00:04:37.270]So what I'm gonna talk to you about tonight
[00:04:39.800]is kind of a long history of the machine
[00:04:42.450]and how we related to and reacted against machines,
[00:04:45.837]and I'm gonna concentrate on a number of writers
[00:04:48.860]who I know you will know, Tolkien, for instance,
[00:04:51.810]Anthony Burgess, and then I'm gonna range
[00:04:54.956]kind of more widely over culture towards the end.
[00:04:58.350]What I'm really interested in is not just a history
[00:05:00.810]of technology, but how we've reacted against technology,
[00:05:05.170]and how we continue to react with and against technology.
[00:05:10.150]So the scope of transformation in our societies
[00:05:12.330]is quite remarkable, as some facts will illustrate.
[00:05:15.441]Around a century ago, there were 14 million horses
[00:05:18.733]in continental Europe, and just 15,000 motor vehicles.
[00:05:23.581]40% of the labor force was in agriculture.
[00:05:27.340]Societies were still moving towards industrial production,
[00:05:30.716]life became mechanized, and death became mechanized.
[00:05:35.190]At one point in World War I, the first day
[00:05:37.490]of the Somme offensive in 1916,
[00:05:40.130]the British army suffered nearly 60,000 casualties,
[00:05:44.130]including 20,000 killed in just one day of the war,
[00:05:48.880]which would then produce nearly 18 million deaths.
[00:05:52.750]The battle had begun with the detonation
[00:05:55.210]of the so-called Lochnagar mine,
[00:05:58.522]which with its 66,000 pounds of high explosives
[00:06:02.339]could be heard 165 miles away on London's Hampstead Heath.
[00:06:08.210]High explosive munitions and artillery systems
[00:06:10.836]were products of the rise of the machines
[00:06:13.560]and caused around 75% of casualties,
[00:06:17.660]so you can see here, a kind of little,
[00:06:21.100]kind of view of some of the machinery
[00:06:23.940]of the First World War.
[00:06:25.593]Starting with these sobering details reminds us
[00:06:29.403]that 20th century technology brought terror
[00:06:32.510]and destruction as much as comfort, pleasure, and ease.
[00:06:36.730]Machine guns and washing machines,
[00:06:38.674]tanks and air conditioned cars,
[00:06:41.400]the railway cars of the Holocaust,
[00:06:43.520]and the computer games which keep us amused.
[00:06:47.260]In this talk I'll explain how these contradictions
[00:06:49.240]have shaped writers' imaginations,
[00:06:51.490]sometimes because writers have taken sides in the struggle
[00:06:54.680]between the new world of machines,
[00:06:56.227]and a world becoming obsolete.
[00:06:58.610]But also because writers, and I'm primarily discussing
[00:07:01.410]novelists in the talk, storytellers,
[00:07:03.615]often sit within this contradiction,
[00:07:05.890]creating fables, the fables of the Machine Age,
[00:07:09.480]we might call them,
[00:07:11.491]who, in attempting to see into the future
[00:07:12.920]of our technological age, or have looked into
[00:07:15.340]an imagined past to resolve the paradoxes
[00:07:18.750]and contradictions of technologized modernity.
[00:07:22.760]Primarily, I'm gonna follow a line of British novelists
[00:07:25.012]through a 20th century journey.
[00:07:27.740]J.R.R. Tolkien, a First World War veteran,
[00:07:30.007]who of course went on to write "The Lord of the Rings,"
[00:07:32.980]George Orwell, another ex-solider, and his vision
[00:07:35.780]of technologized dystopia, "1984,"
[00:07:39.610]and then Anthony Burgess, who suggested a technological
[00:07:42.380]reprogramming at the heart of the machine culture.
[00:07:46.150]And finally I'll move on to J.T. Ballard,
[00:07:48.050]whose science fiction predicated a private future
[00:07:50.971]fashioned by advanced communications technology
[00:07:54.070]and those moving capsules which we call cars.
[00:07:58.107]But let's start with an American voice,
[00:08:00.770]an American voice.
[00:08:02.616]In 1923, a prominent UNL graduate called for revolution
[00:08:07.531]at the university, a revolt against machines.
[00:08:12.207]"One may venture to hope that the children will revolt
[00:08:15.387]"against all the heaped-up, machine-made materialism
[00:08:19.168]"around them," she wrote.
[00:08:21.820]And she chided the present generation in the 1920s
[00:08:25.610]from state leaders and university leaders
[00:08:28.080]for wanting, quote, "To buy everything ready made,
[00:08:30.747]"clothes, food, education, music, pleasure."
[00:08:35.790]So who was this outrageous and presumptuous individual?
[00:08:39.780]Well, it was none other than our very own Willa Cather.
[00:08:43.040]These sentences come from an essay called
[00:08:44.897]"Nebraska, the End of the First Cycle,"
[00:08:47.870]which Cather published in the Nation Magazine in 1923.
[00:08:52.660]This was her contribution to a series that sketched
[00:08:55.510]various states, their history and prospects.
[00:08:58.530]For Cather, Nebraska had once been a heroic place,
[00:09:02.710]the age of the pioneers,
[00:09:04.440]and she constructed a cyclical vision of history
[00:09:07.330]which took place over the history,
[00:09:09.850]Nebraska taking place over three broad generations
[00:09:12.390]from the 1870s through to 1920 when she wrote.
[00:09:17.120]Now the cycle of glory, if you like, had ended,
[00:09:19.970]the age of the pioneers.
[00:09:22.100]Well, why, you might say?
[00:09:24.230]Well, for Cather that was partly to do
[00:09:25.780]with mechanization consumerism.
[00:09:28.550]Notice her reference to ready-made clothes.
[00:09:31.193]That is to say, mass produced clothes, another feature,
[00:09:34.580]of course, of our Machine Age.
[00:09:36.890]The move from homemade or tailored clothes
[00:09:39.190]to mass-production of clothing using industrial looms
[00:09:42.392]was the central feature of the initial wave
[00:09:44.990]of industrialism in the late 1700s in Northern England,
[00:09:48.940]where I come from, as mills replaced cottage production.
[00:09:53.470]Cather was born in 1873, so she was a young woman
[00:09:57.010]when she was here as a student in 1890,
[00:09:59.840]but she continued to wear famously hand made
[00:10:02.470]or tailored clothes, just as she had a French cook
[00:10:05.510]when she became rich, who made her meals.
[00:10:07.954]In both cases, spurning the mass-production
[00:10:11.230]and utilitarianism we associate with machines.
[00:10:15.620]Now this resistance to machine production
[00:10:18.070]gives Cather's work a slightly snobbish edge,
[00:10:21.340]amongst agricultural conservatism defined by
[00:10:24.480]opposition to many aspects of modern technology.
[00:10:28.152]This is the reaction against the machines.
[00:10:31.260]Not quite rage, I can't imagine Cather raging,
[00:10:33.760]but certainly a kind of disquiet.
[00:10:36.870]Cather was, in fact, a mechaniphobe, you might say,
[00:10:40.000]a writer suspicious of the Machine Age.
[00:10:42.640]And this was one of the accusations that would later
[00:10:44.700]be leveled at her in her career, in the 1930s,
[00:10:48.670]as young and pretties condemned her lack of interest
[00:10:51.340]in the new society of the industrial cities
[00:10:53.950]such as New York, Chicago, and Detroit.
[00:10:57.300]And a number of Cather's stories featured
[00:10:59.110]quite conspicuously machines as agents of destruction,
[00:11:02.850]and this is going to be one of my themes today.
[00:11:05.780]In "My Antonia," for instance, just a passing detail,
[00:11:08.400]1918, a tramp meets his grisly end when he falls
[00:11:12.190]into a threshing machine.
[00:11:14.070]In the early story, "Paul's Case," 1905,
[00:11:17.010]the hero dies as he is run down by a train.
[00:11:20.000]And Cather's phrasing also ties his last moments
[00:11:23.050]to another important modern machine, the movie projector.
[00:11:26.370]And I'm gonna be talking about cinemas, cameras,
[00:11:28.410]and movies, at some level later on.
[00:11:31.290]Cather writes that the picture making mechanism
[00:11:34.630]had failed in him, as if his brain has been
[00:11:36.930]turned into a kind of prototype clanky projector.
[00:11:43.529]In "The Professor's House," perhaps her most
[00:11:45.706]extended discussion of these things, 1925,
[00:11:49.580]the character Tom Outland dies in the First World War.
[00:11:52.940]Again, we will see the First World War
[00:11:54.710]is one of the central themes and key episodes
[00:11:59.390]in the last 150 years, 200 years, really, of industrialism,
[00:12:03.330]a conflict I'll return to at several points.
[00:12:05.426]Character Tom Outland dies leaving behind
[00:12:08.850]an industrial invention, the outlying engine,
[00:12:12.990]which is a kind of early vacuum engine,
[00:12:15.630]a kind of prototype jet engine, you might say.
[00:12:18.240]And this helps fund his family's tacky indulgence,
[00:12:21.270]a model decoy, they make their money
[00:12:22.860]from the copyright, Outland dies, and then they
[00:12:26.770]start to spend the money just kind of creating
[00:12:30.300]a kind of rubbishy, suburban house
[00:12:33.290]in the eyes of the character St. Peter,
[00:12:36.210]who's the main protagonist and the focalized narrator,
[00:12:39.690]the narrative focus of the novel.
[00:12:50.750]All right, everybody okay?
[00:12:52.914]Course, it wouldn't be a talk about technology
[00:12:54.370]unless the technology kept stabbing me in the back.
[00:12:58.390]Machines bring wartime deaths, and a precipitous decline
[00:13:02.816]in civilized values in that novel.
[00:13:06.197]And the hero, St. Peter, is a man seemingly born
[00:13:09.340]out of time, dedicated to the old fashioned virtues
[00:13:12.510]of traditional scholarship and domestic arts
[00:13:14.890]such as gardening.
[00:13:16.440]And as if spelling her thesis out as clearly as possible,
[00:13:20.260]Cather even gives St. Peter a speech at a university,
[00:13:23.820]probably rather like UNL, where he lambasts science
[00:13:27.180]for merely offering, quote, "Dexterity and slight of hand,"
[00:13:31.100]and then adds, "Art and religion have given man
[00:13:34.667]"the only happiness he has ever had.
[00:13:37.688]"Art and religion have given man the only happiness
[00:13:40.397]"he has ever had."
[00:13:42.220]Now, in a minute, I'm gonna turn to British writers,
[00:13:44.710]but I just wanna pause for a second on this topic
[00:13:47.620]of kind of American, US, anti-mechanical litterateurs
[00:13:54.740]and writers, because it is significant.
[00:13:57.825]In the South, between the wars, it was Southern Agrarians
[00:14:01.460]associated with Vanderbilt University who also built
[00:14:03.947]an attack on the machines.
[00:14:06.280]Here, the central document is "I'll Take My Stand."
[00:14:09.130]I was gonna post some pictures up of it,
[00:14:11.470]but it's easy enough to find,
[00:14:12.640]it's got that defiant title, "I'll Take My Stand,"
[00:14:16.540]essays by 12 Southerners.
[00:14:18.600]And this was a collection of essays in which
[00:14:20.803]the poets, Allen Tate and John Crowe Ransom,
[00:14:23.910]for instance, and others, philosophers, historians,
[00:14:26.848]attacked modern industrial society
[00:14:29.860]and praised the South's agrarian and pre-industrial society,
[00:14:33.720]and behind the whole narrative lurks
[00:14:36.000]the kind of resentment of the North's industrial prowess
[00:14:41.060]and the defeat of the Confederacy.
[00:14:43.610]This, the South, they felt, was a culture now threatened
[00:14:46.665]with extinction by machines.
[00:14:50.450]In their introduction, the Agrarians lambasted
[00:14:52.726]what they called applied sciences,
[00:14:55.169]and quite simply, the machines.
[00:14:57.627]So 1930, these essays written in the late 1920s,
[00:15:01.200]and outlined a program for cultural renewal
[00:15:04.010]that would turn it's back on modernity.
[00:15:06.620]For the Agrarians, it was no essentially no difference
[00:15:09.030]between Soviet Communist society, and the society
[00:15:12.500]that the United States was becoming,
[00:15:14.760]since both were devoted to the machine.
[00:15:17.350]Quote, "We therefore look upon the Communist menace
[00:15:20.306]"as a menace indeed, but not as a Red one,
[00:15:23.637]"because it is simply according to the blind drift
[00:15:26.451]"of our industrial development to expect in America
[00:15:30.067]"at least much the same economic system as that
[00:15:33.107]"imposed by violence upon Russia in 1917."
[00:15:38.480]Which is to say the Bolsheviks had created
[00:15:40.410]an industrial society through revolution,
[00:15:43.171]but the United States will create a similar
[00:15:45.260]kind of society through gradual economic
[00:15:50.110]industrial development with this machine at its center.
[00:15:54.169]For the Agrarians, machine culture produced
[00:15:59.520]a mechanized population, inevitably drilled into consumerism
[00:16:03.890]as the routine of their lives.
[00:16:05.440]And one of their arguments was that the success
[00:16:07.945]of the machines was part of the problem,
[00:16:10.610]that there would always be overproduction,
[00:16:12.570]and the only way, therefore, to soak up the excess
[00:16:15.820]production in the system is therefore to create
[00:16:18.660]marketing and advertising systems which will then
[00:16:21.580]enlist us in a kind of quasi-mechanistic process
[00:16:27.170]of saving, desiring, wanting, working.
[00:16:31.930]Rather than placing attachment to place and poetry
[00:16:36.000]and religion at the center of life,
[00:16:38.520]the individual now worked for the machines.
[00:16:41.211]And here's another quote, "It is an inevitable consequence
[00:16:44.937]"of industrial progress that production greatly outruns
[00:16:48.777]"the rate of natural consumption.
[00:16:51.207]"To overcome the disparity, the producers,
[00:16:53.977]"disguised as the pure idealists of progress,
[00:16:56.997]"must coerce and wheedle the public into being loyal
[00:17:00.027]"and steady consumers in order to keep
[00:17:02.437]"the machines running."
[00:17:04.000]And of courses here we see one version of one of the classic
[00:17:06.508]anti-machine, mechaniphobe critics, which is,
[00:17:12.430]the machines make us into machines, we work for them.
[00:17:16.500]And this is fed into a kind of economic argument
[00:17:19.120]by the Agrarians.
[00:17:20.770]So, for the Southern Agrarians, traditional cultures
[00:17:23.490]founded on religion, family, place, are threatened
[00:17:26.880]by what they simply say are the machines.
[00:17:30.640]It's important to note that this is a conservative attack
[00:17:33.660]on science, industry, machines, even if it has a flavor
[00:17:37.340]of a Marxist analysis, so it actually sounds like
[00:17:41.330]a Marxist analysis, but it's enlisted in terms of
[00:17:45.365]a reactionary conservative agrarianism.
[00:17:49.670]So one response to the attack on the machines,
[00:17:53.430]sorry, start again.
[00:17:54.960]One response to this attack on the machines,
[00:17:56.960]which I'm gonna try to answer,
[00:17:58.690]is that this attack is very much grounded in elite culture,
[00:18:02.120]and specifically in that bastion of elitism, the humanities.
[00:18:06.860]What, after all, is so wrong with the machines?
[00:18:10.620]Who wants to go back to washing clothes by hand?
[00:18:13.830]I can just about remember my grandmother washing clothes
[00:18:16.530]and using a ringer, which seemed to take
[00:18:18.760]a long, long time every day.
[00:18:20.950]And what about the pleasure the machines bring?
[00:18:23.410]The pleasure of the moving image, or increasingly,
[00:18:26.150]the creative energy of digital culture?
[00:18:28.510]Aren't these people, Cather and the Agrarians,
[00:18:31.320]simply miserable elitists, anti-progressives,
[00:18:34.911]opposed to technologies that have made life
[00:18:37.486]a lot more bearable and a lot more enjoyable
[00:18:40.149]for the vast majority of people?
[00:18:43.720]And so, let's move on to the British.
[00:18:46.370]The arguments that follow see British story tellers
[00:18:49.370]of the 20th century wrestling, essentially,
[00:18:52.628]with that seemingly-grim Albion or England,
[00:18:56.480]that was first described by William Blake
[00:18:58.590]at the very beginning of the 19th century
[00:19:00.830]as the industrial revolution began to unfold
[00:19:03.690]and to transform cities such as London, Manchester,
[00:19:06.960]the industrial north, and then ripple out
[00:19:09.320]across the country and across the world.
[00:19:11.370]And, of course, probably some of you are familiar
[00:19:13.940]with these kind of words, this language here.
[00:19:17.380]Blake condemned "The cruel works of many wheels, I view,
[00:19:22.497]"wheel without wheel, with cogs tyrannic."
[00:19:26.425]Wheel without wheel with cogs tyrannic,
[00:19:28.910]so it's directly an image, of course, of cogs,
[00:19:31.150]mechanical cogs, whirring, and in Blake's deeply romantic,
[00:19:37.270]anti-scientific, anti-mechanistic, anti-industrial poetry,
[00:19:42.260]visionary poetry, the cogs are tyrannic.
[00:19:45.809]Now in this argument, I'm going to allude to three stages
[00:19:50.723]of the machine, three phases of the machine,
[00:19:53.200]which I am going to kind of create partly
[00:19:55.800]'cause it helps my argument, they might not quite fit
[00:19:58.330]with some of the patterns that you've got in your heads,
[00:20:00.730]but hopefully you'll see what I'm getting at.
[00:20:03.730]First, of course, the initial phases
[00:20:05.440]of the industrial revolution in Britain,
[00:20:07.560]roughly from the mid to late 18th century,
[00:20:10.360]into the early decades of the 19th century,
[00:20:12.920]and they've been earmarked primarily first
[00:20:15.230]by revolutions in the textile industry
[00:20:17.800]and the development of the steam engine,
[00:20:19.900]and the creation of the mill culture,
[00:20:22.010]the early factories of northern England.
[00:20:25.550]And then, alongside that, of course, a very particular form,
[00:20:29.120]the Bourgeois novel as it evolved
[00:20:32.110]in the early 19th century of Britain.
[00:20:35.100]Second, late 19th century mechanical revolutions.
[00:20:38.877]The mechanization of warfare, particularly during
[00:20:43.310]the American Civil War, which is one of the reasons
[00:20:45.610]why the Agrarians were so bitter,
[00:20:49.080]and then during the First World War,
[00:20:50.880]pictures that I've been showing you.
[00:20:53.186]And here you can see and point to very specific inventions
[00:20:56.577]and see the cultural and political impacts that they had.
[00:21:01.640]One obvious thing to point to, first the Gatling gun,
[00:21:04.990]but much more importantly, the Maxim gun,
[00:21:08.260]early machine gun, the role that that played
[00:21:10.600]in the imperial adventures in Africa.
[00:21:15.400]A totemic central item technology used by late British,
[00:21:21.290]late 19th century British imperialists.
[00:21:23.800]These were devices which underwrote empire and colony.
[00:21:27.781]The late 19th century also sees three inventions
[00:21:30.900]which shaped how writers would produce and distribute
[00:21:33.790]their work, and how they would then envisage themselves
[00:21:37.037]and the society in which they worked.
[00:21:40.250]Thus, Thomas Edison's invention, the phonograph
[00:21:43.497]or the gramophone, or as we now know it,
[00:21:46.620]the record player, 1877.
[00:21:49.770]The Lumiere brothers creation of the cinematograph
[00:21:52.376]in 1895, film, course there's dispute about
[00:21:56.510]exactly who invented film, but my film studies colleagues
[00:22:00.730]aren't here, so I can get away with that.
[00:22:02.790]And then Marconi's pioneering wireless telegraphy
[00:22:06.037]in 1897 in Wales.
[00:22:09.218]Now these three machines, roughly record player,
[00:22:12.850]film, radio, or film production, the film camera,
[00:22:16.960]separate the body from actual embodiment.
[00:22:20.240]Now I can hear your voice when you are not present,
[00:22:22.773]I can see you when you are dead,
[00:22:25.000]I can talk to you when you are miles away,
[00:22:26.890]or thousands of miles away.
[00:22:28.720]And for historians of technology, this creates a rupture
[00:22:31.816]in the way in which we think about identity and the body,
[00:22:35.410]and some historians will then see that,
[00:22:37.460]intellectual historians, as the precursor of modernism,
[00:22:41.360]a more fractured, a more disrupted, and more complex,
[00:22:47.260]you might say, envisaging of the self in society,
[00:22:50.610]built around and often alluding to technologies
[00:22:53.530]that have evolved in the late 19th century.
[00:22:56.380]The gap between voice and body,
[00:22:58.760]the gap between image and body, the problem of distance
[00:23:02.580]that arises which we now still cope with
[00:23:05.380]with our own digital cultures.
[00:23:09.290]So the technological severing of presence
[00:23:11.770]from actual bodies would have a shattering
[00:23:14.460]and creative impact on culture,
[00:23:16.750]ushering in more complex, but fractured forms of identity
[00:23:20.810]which feed into the arts.
[00:23:22.990]And the third era of the machine is our own current era,
[00:23:26.961]and I call this the era of the screen,
[00:23:30.000]dominated by the screens of television and film,
[00:23:33.100]and then computers, and then laptops, and then smartphones.
[00:23:37.160]And this era, you might say,
[00:23:38.730]as far as writers are concerned,
[00:23:40.430]straddles the analog and the digital.
[00:23:43.090]But it is quite simply dominated by the screen,
[00:23:46.250]by our psychological interaction with images on our screen,
[00:23:49.780]and with social and political responses
[00:23:51.730]to this powerful medium.
[00:23:53.480]Seemingly much more important than the phonographic
[00:23:57.581]or telegraphic revolutions because of the privacy
[00:24:00.880]of sight in our sensory cultures.
[00:24:04.160]And just to give you a kind of illustration of this,
[00:24:05.940]I was gonna show you, at one point, pictures of just rooms
[00:24:08.840]in the 1970s, primarily taken from Britain,
[00:24:12.440]but it would be the same in the US,
[00:24:14.120]where you've just got an empty living room,
[00:24:16.070]and in the corner you've got the telly,
[00:24:18.640]as I would say in a Manchester accent,
[00:24:20.450]there's the telly in the corner.
[00:24:22.580]And now, you might look at anybody in this room
[00:24:25.120]and count the number of screens that they have,
[00:24:27.610]they'd have a laptop, might have a PC,
[00:24:29.720]they've got a smartphone, they might own a camera,
[00:24:31.610]they might own a movie camera.
[00:24:34.060]So rather than having one television per four, five people,
[00:24:38.430]one screen per four or five, it's now reversed.
[00:24:41.690]We've got four or five screens per person.
[00:24:44.440]And so in the arguments that are gonna follow
[00:24:46.190]about fiction in particular, what you will see
[00:24:48.910]is the shattering, again, I don't wanna kind of,
[00:24:52.010]I think it's a shattering impact that
[00:24:54.275]that transformation has over the last 40 years,
[00:24:59.070]really, from the 70s onwards, okay?
[00:25:03.139]Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah.
[00:25:04.520]Here the chain, here, think about the chain here,
[00:25:06.840]below the chain goes Lumiere brothers and cinema, 1895,
[00:25:11.040]television, 1928, first television station
[00:25:14.734]in New York State, the first color television broadcast,
[00:25:18.820]1954, the personal computer, 1973, the laptop, early 1980s,
[00:25:26.127]the smartphone, the iPhone, 2007.
[00:25:30.300]So it looks like a kind of acceleration,
[00:25:33.570]it creates more and more screens,
[00:25:36.643]they're cheaper and cheaper,
[00:25:37.843]they're more and more portable.
[00:25:40.230]And we also see the steady integration
[00:25:43.494]of technological systems around image, text,
[00:25:47.110]portability, and the individual usage of these technologies.
[00:25:50.508]An integration which is now ongoing,
[00:25:53.310]which are remapping societies
[00:25:55.470]and possibly our own selfhood at the beginning
[00:25:58.450]of the 21st century.
[00:26:00.510]Okay, let's talk about Tolkien.
[00:26:03.254]J.R.R. Tolkien was a victim of the machine,
[00:26:05.660]and I've drawn Beth Bird, you helped me with this,
[00:26:07.760]drawn images from computer games, from the films,
[00:26:11.099]so you'll see a kind of mixture of things
[00:26:13.170]that show you the Tolkien world.
[00:26:15.950]Now J.R.R. Tolkien was a victim of the machine.
[00:26:18.371]He was a soldier during the First World War,
[00:26:21.390]a lieutenant, ironically enough,
[00:26:24.280]in the Lancashire Fusiliers.
[00:26:26.060]He was actually from the midlands, from Birmingham,
[00:26:27.660]but he worked, he commanded, as a young officer,
[00:26:31.289]men who came from the mill towns of Northern England.
[00:26:35.610]He served in the Somme epic series of battles in 1916
[00:26:40.209]before being invalided out of military service,
[00:26:43.370]suffering from the lice-born illness, trench fever.
[00:26:47.170]And interestingly, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
[00:26:50.840]were both British army officers invalided out
[00:26:53.050]of the First World War, who both then went on
[00:26:55.600]to create pastoral fantasy literature
[00:26:59.480]which dominates the world of children's literature,
[00:27:02.730]which all of you, I can guess, encounters
[00:27:05.710]one point or another, the world of Narnia,
[00:27:08.800]the world of Middle Earth.
[00:27:10.153]And as many readers recognize, "The Lord of the Rings"
[00:27:13.230]echoes those experiences, translating them into fables
[00:27:18.180]of pastoralism and industrialism.
[00:27:21.580]The Hobbits, after all, are English patoralists,
[00:27:24.250]with their fondness for beer and their questionable
[00:27:27.070]personal hygiene, seemingly not prepared
[00:27:29.810]even to shave their feet, something which has puzzled me
[00:27:33.610]for decades now.
[00:27:35.620]They're peaceable folk, drawn into conflict with
[00:27:37.880]the all-too-industrialized Orcs and Super Orcs,
[00:27:41.970]and here you can see some of those characters,
[00:27:44.630]the Uruk-hai, and Sauron's highly mechanized
[00:27:48.380]quasi-industrial regime, the Hobbits' allies
[00:27:52.040]are intensely pastoralized, the elves in Rivendell,
[00:27:56.050]not to mention the Ents, Tolkien pushes his fable so far
[00:27:59.379]as to bring talking, moving trees into the narrative
[00:28:02.980]as agents of goodness.
[00:28:04.630]So it's an extraordinarily stark and sort of
[00:28:07.910]binary structure that underwrites the narrative.
[00:28:11.940]And if anything, the films, which many of you will know,
[00:28:14.090]of course, pushed this theme even further.
[00:28:17.630]Reading out the implications of Tolkien's mapping
[00:28:20.134]of the mythological structures of Middle Earth,
[00:28:23.560]for instance, in the films, let's just wander on
[00:28:26.360]a little bit here, here you go.
[00:28:28.060]For instance, in the films, the key episode
[00:28:30.090]turns on the mechanical birthing of the Uruk-hai.
[00:28:35.170]They are hatched from slime,
[00:28:37.100]in a conveyor belt process of gestation,
[00:28:40.180]bodies as machine-like products, and then fully formed,
[00:28:43.520]they wear metallic armor, which gives them a hybrid
[00:28:46.109]organic industrial quality as you can see here.
[00:28:49.960]And if you remember the films, you'll remember that
[00:28:51.640]kind of amazing sequence of kind of like factories,
[00:28:55.460]there's smoke billowing, there's the slime,
[00:28:57.503]there's the dirt, and out at the end
[00:28:59.500]come these super warriors who are gonna be the ones
[00:29:02.360]that Bilbo and Gandalf are gonna have to take down
[00:29:07.490]in one way or another.
[00:29:09.080]Now, it's always a little dangerous to talk about Tolkien,
[00:29:11.410]I find, in Nebraska, because the state is largely inhabited
[00:29:15.900]by "Lord of the Rings" fanatics.
[00:29:19.989]And many of them will have complained,
[00:29:21.330]and will continue to complain that I don't, for instance,
[00:29:24.550]speak Elvish, I've seriously been asked that question.
[00:29:27.773]I've been chastised by a student for having
[00:29:30.840]a less than complete understanding of Middle Earth
[00:29:33.920]than would be typically required of an Englishman.
[00:29:39.270]I was gonna launch a Title IX case on the back of that one,
[00:29:42.413]that will really get the lawyers going, won't it?
[00:29:46.408]So where does this stuff come from?
[00:29:49.500]Well, there's one sentence, this is where,
[00:29:51.620]I know there's quite an argument,
[00:29:52.453]there's somebody in this room who knows about this stuff,
[00:29:55.100]and they're twitching, ready to kind of get at me.
[00:29:59.067]There's one sentence in the earliest writings
[00:30:00.980]about Middle Earth, "The Lost Tales" of 1917,
[00:30:04.133]produced just after Tolkien left the Western Front
[00:30:07.590]as an invalid, where he referred to the Orcs being,
[00:30:11.940]quote, "Bred from the heats and slimes of the earth."
[00:30:15.530]"Bred from the heats and slimes of the earth."
[00:30:18.060]And this is surely an allusion to the grim trench warfare
[00:30:22.020]of the Western Front, and the films open up
[00:30:24.850]this one phrase to create the nightmarish vision
[00:30:27.810]of mechanized bodies.
[00:30:30.120]Now the director and writer of those films, of course,
[00:30:32.800]was Peter Jackson of New Zealand, and his most,
[00:30:35.840]one of his most recent projects, of course,
[00:30:38.036]was "They Shall Not Grow Old," which is a recolorization
[00:30:42.490]of footage from the First World War,
[00:30:45.040]adding through advanced computer technology,
[00:30:47.860]color to footage which had been accumulated,
[00:30:50.720]and which was owned by the Imperial War Museum.
[00:30:53.460]And then using lip readers, he could work out
[00:30:57.290]what these men were saying in some of these sequences,
[00:31:00.350]and they've added a soundtrack to it as well.
[00:31:02.800]Very important project.
[00:31:04.970]What's interesting there, of course, is that
[00:31:06.520]Peter Jackson's grandfather, an Englishman,
[00:31:10.380]the family then immigrated to New Zealand,
[00:31:12.400]fought also in the First World War,
[00:31:14.673]so you can see the links in the chain here,
[00:31:17.170]very, very clearly.
[00:31:19.130]The grandson of a man who fought in the Great War
[00:31:22.172]reworking a fable written by another survivor
[00:31:26.140]of that conflict.
[00:31:27.370]All these creative processes directed to highlighting
[00:31:30.355]the role of the machines.
[00:31:33.620]Now, there are very many, very many reasons,
[00:31:36.140]let me just move on again, very many reasons,
[00:31:39.730]to place George Orwell at the center,
[00:31:41.888]the absolute center of 20th century
[00:31:43.930]British literary culture, but his understanding
[00:31:47.280]of technology, I think, would be one of the,
[00:31:49.050]if not the most central.
[00:31:50.880]Orwell had worked for the BBC during the Second World War.
[00:31:54.040]Essentially, he was a propagandist,
[00:31:56.225]and some people even believe that it was he that wrote
[00:31:58.682]the keep calm and carry on slogan that you all have
[00:32:02.300]on your mugs and on your T-shirts,
[00:32:04.430]and that originally appeared on walls around London
[00:32:07.320]during the blitz in 1941 to two.
[00:32:11.020]He was deeply involved, George Orwell,
[00:32:13.670]in the new communications world's radio,
[00:32:16.460]and he worked for the BBC's Eastern Service
[00:32:19.380]from 1941 to 1943, writing materials
[00:32:23.440]and broadcasting himself, and thereby shaping
[00:32:26.120]public opinion in the Indian Raj, which was then crucial
[00:32:29.830]to the British empire's war effort,
[00:32:31.620]but was also, of course, moving towards
[00:32:33.560]a pre-independence state, and then in 1948, independence.
[00:32:37.461]Orwell himself supported independence,
[00:32:40.400]he would have seen it just before he died, perhaps,
[00:32:42.590]can't quite remember exactly synchronization there,
[00:32:45.560]but as a government employee, he was taxed with producing
[00:32:48.880]information to keep Britain on side with Britain.
[00:32:52.264]To keep India on side with Britain.
[00:32:54.750]And these experiences lie behind Orwell's creation
[00:32:57.510]of the Ministry of Truth, in fact, the ministry of lies,
[00:33:00.680]in "1984," a novel which, again, I hope you all know
[00:33:04.100]and know well.
[00:33:05.980]Now, at the BBC, the writer Orwell was directly involved
[00:33:08.730]with the machines of communication and propaganda.
[00:33:12.820]Other, these are also tremendous essential model machines,
[00:33:16.830]typewriter, radio studio, printing press.
[00:33:20.448]In "1984" he went further to imagine what
[00:33:23.700]future communications might look like.
[00:33:25.980]And we can now recognize the uncanny prescience
[00:33:28.725]of Orwell's late 1940s techno-knowledge.
[00:33:32.330]I've given you some photos here,
[00:33:34.000]which I'll talk about in a minute.
[00:33:36.270]In the novel, the Party uses helicopters, for instance,
[00:33:39.720]and that was then a very new invention.
[00:33:41.980]The Sikorsky R-4 was only mass produced in 1944,
[00:33:46.020]two or three years before Orwell
[00:33:47.600]started to work on the novel.
[00:33:49.688]Winston and then Charrington,
[00:33:51.709]here you can see John Hurt in the excellent "1984"
[00:33:55.130]film version, in 1984, that's the back of Hurt's head.
[00:34:00.680]Sorry, Winston worked with telescreens,
[00:34:02.410]that's what they called them in the novel,
[00:34:03.610]a device which, quote, "Received and transmitted
[00:34:06.146]"simultaneously," and as with your smartphones,
[00:34:09.842]that device was pretty much on continually.
[00:34:12.925]Orwell writes, "There was no way
[00:34:14.887]"of shutting it off completely."
[00:34:16.800]And if you remember when he goes to meet O'Brien
[00:34:18.970]in a central sequence in the novel and film,
[00:34:21.203]he is shocked when he sees O'Brien turn off
[00:34:23.859]one of the screens, how you are, why you are to do that,
[00:34:26.970]how do you do that?
[00:34:29.320]His days are spent in a version
[00:34:30.927]of one of our office cubicles, this is an early version
[00:34:34.250]of the dreaded office cubicle,
[00:34:36.460]where he uses a device called a speakwrite,
[00:34:38.950]one of those new neologisms which Orwell uses.
[00:34:42.800]And that's essentially a machine with
[00:34:44.310]what we would now call voice recognition software.
[00:34:48.706]"1984's" communication machines are pervasive
[00:34:51.834]and deeply enmeshed into networks with power
[00:34:54.858]and surveillance, as our own technologies are,
[00:34:57.690]and they're also tellingly also linked to entertainment,
[00:35:01.630]and this is another key aspect of the novel.
[00:35:04.100]There's something called the versificator,
[00:35:06.530]which creates the pop songs that the populists listen to.
[00:35:10.213]A kind of early version of the modern
[00:35:12.660]producer and DJ who anonymously engineer pop hits.
[00:35:16.100]We don't quite know where they live,
[00:35:17.990]I think a couple of these guys are up at Stockholm,
[00:35:21.030]and then you go, now you've got another
[00:35:22.500]kind of R&B hit or something, where the hell
[00:35:23.820]did this thing come from?
[00:35:25.940]This idea of the versificator,
[00:35:27.157]a kind of anonymous production of culture.
[00:35:31.350]It's the sheer width and range of Orwell's understanding
[00:35:33.920]of the Machine Age that really stands out.
[00:35:36.610]He sensed the machines of propaganda
[00:35:38.830]would sit alongside technologies of entertainment,
[00:35:41.670]but both would conspire, not necessarily in ways
[00:35:44.350]that were intended to produce group identities.
[00:35:48.144]And this is very well caught in the two minutes of hate,
[00:35:52.010]which you see going on there in the top left.
[00:35:54.270]Events where party members gathered to stare
[00:35:56.560]at vast screens showing the state's enemies
[00:35:59.510]and they then shout, "Hate, hate, hate,"
[00:36:01.760]and work themselves up into an absolute frenzy.
[00:36:05.854]Now, Orwell was deeply suspicious of both fascist
[00:36:08.610]and communist totalitarianism, but he also recognized
[00:36:11.593]that machines might produce quasi-voluntarist forms
[00:36:14.573]of conformity, structured around violent emotion.
[00:36:18.014]That watching screens en masse might produce waves
[00:36:22.537]of antipathy or even disgust,
[00:36:25.390]mediated by communications technology and then shared,
[00:36:29.367]and this is perhaps the most chilling moment in the novel.
[00:36:33.217]Orwell, then, was an analyst of the early screen,
[00:36:36.055]of the early screen age where group identities were central.
[00:36:39.676]For Orwell, in "1984," the future society
[00:36:42.796]is a compound collectivism with its rallies
[00:36:46.060]and terms such as group think, and an isolated individualism
[00:36:49.217]fostered by the new screen-based surveillance culture.
[00:36:53.270]And it's this blending that is pivotal,
[00:36:55.159]and which resonates for us today.
[00:36:58.199]Now, a mere 13 years later,
[00:37:02.052]Anthony Burgess in "A Clockwork Orange" created a fable
[00:37:05.470]where the technologized interplay of self and group
[00:37:09.514]is again central.
[00:37:11.680]Burgess's tale creates a dystopian future Britain,
[00:37:14.730]it's language, Nadsat, a poli-Slavonic tongue
[00:37:18.640]that suggests some kind of Sovietizing of the country.
[00:37:22.610]Alex, a young hooligan, roams the city
[00:37:24.900]seeking out ultra-violence.
[00:37:27.010]He's obsessed with the music of Beethoven,
[00:37:29.360]and pursues his violent career to the accompaniment
[00:37:31.693]of the "5th Symphony."
[00:37:34.116]"A Clockwork Orange" is one of the major
[00:37:35.790]parables about machines.
[00:37:37.520]its title, of course, suggests this,
[00:37:39.257]and the translated titles into French or Italian
[00:37:41.770]or Spanish make this absolutely clear.
[00:37:44.820]I don't think I've got the French one there.
[00:37:45.987](speaks in foreign language)
[00:37:47.429]At the center of the story is an aversion therapy,
[00:37:49.940]the Ludovico technique.
[00:37:52.150]Prison staff inject Alex with drugs to make him nauseous
[00:37:55.568]while bombarding him with images of violence.
[00:37:58.800]He will thus learn to associate violence with being sick,
[00:38:03.480]and this will reprogram and re-sensitize his body
[00:38:06.669]so he will turn away from his destructive path.
[00:38:10.360]Now here the self is a machine able to be reprogrammed,
[00:38:14.360]a physiological circuit, not a morally autonomous
[00:38:17.810]center of individualism.
[00:38:19.490]Machines lead to mechanization.
[00:38:21.880]This will eventually shape psychology and morality
[00:38:24.285]even to the extent of simply replacing morality
[00:38:27.288]with forms of Pavlovian training,
[00:38:30.067]thus the very many clockwork images
[00:38:32.370]which have been then produced relentlessly
[00:38:34.870]around its text, all of which imagine the human body
[00:38:38.206]as a Frankenstein's monster form of creation,
[00:38:41.430]a hybrid of flesh and circuitry.
[00:38:44.230]And if you look at these images from the recent
[00:38:45.970]Folio edition of the novel, you can see the head
[00:38:48.450]either framed by metal lattice or rebuilt,
[00:38:52.328]pulleys and cogs.
[00:38:55.530]Now Burgess was brought up a working-class Catholic
[00:38:58.300]in North Manchester, and this novel's strikingly futuristic,
[00:39:02.142]and surreal as it is, reflects that upbringing.
[00:39:05.566]What does it mean for the state to impose
[00:39:08.400]behavioral therapies on its citizens?
[00:39:11.170]Doesn't this rob an individual of free will?
[00:39:13.940]In fact, when Alex is in prison, it is the chaplain
[00:39:17.060]who asks exactly this question,
[00:39:19.120]accusing the government of taking away Alex's autonomy
[00:39:22.210]by stripping him of free will.
[00:39:24.460]The novel will finally take that idea towards
[00:39:26.770]a conclusion where Alex starts to sense the futility
[00:39:29.540]of his own actions, contemplates his self reform,
[00:39:32.480]and even having children.
[00:39:34.330]He accepts, again, Burgess pursuing the idea
[00:39:37.250]of free will in opposition to the mechanical,
[00:39:40.950]that his children might themselves
[00:39:43.410]turn out to be destructive criminals,
[00:39:45.750]but that is their choice.
[00:39:47.930]Now, when the novel was prepared for an American edition,
[00:39:51.661]Burgess's publishers asked for the final chapter
[00:39:54.810]to be removed.
[00:39:56.400]The US editor found the British ending unconvincing,
[00:39:59.610]and argued that American readers would not accept
[00:40:02.260]the original reformation conclusion.
[00:40:05.218]Burgess finally would restore the last chapter
[00:40:08.221]and he wrote that effectively, the Americans, he said,
[00:40:12.310]in effect, were tougher, sorry, let me get that.
[00:40:15.180]This is Burgess talking about the editors, the editor,
[00:40:17.547]"the Americans," he said, in effect, "were tougher
[00:40:19.587]"than the British, I could face up to reality.
[00:40:22.311]"Michael was Kennedian," as in John F. Kennedy,
[00:40:28.557]"and accepted the idea of moral progress."
[00:40:32.450]Burgess characterized the new edition as a Nixonian book
[00:40:35.680]with no shred of optimism in it.
[00:40:38.822]I would see this editorial dispute as partly a reflection
[00:40:42.800]of a concern with machines.
[00:40:45.090]In the British first edition there is a sense
[00:40:47.170]that Alex can overcome his machine-like conditioning.
[00:40:50.180]He asserts free will.
[00:40:51.840]The US version simply keeps Alex within the machine world,
[00:40:55.520]denying him the possibility
[00:40:57.170]of transformation outside machines.
[00:40:59.820]Now, as Burgess said of the title, raging against machines,
[00:41:03.387]"I mean it to stand for the application
[00:41:05.537]"of a mechanistic morality to a living organism,
[00:41:08.627]"oozing with juice and sweetness."
[00:41:12.510]It is this dark and anti-redemptive narrative
[00:41:14.822]that Stanley Kubrick worked with in his film,
[00:41:19.020]of the, sorry, that Stanley Kubrick worked with
[00:41:21.520]as he transformed the novel into a screenplay
[00:41:23.930]and then created the 1971 movie,
[00:41:27.050]a notorious film that sent shockwaves
[00:41:29.507]through the England of my youth.
[00:41:31.510]With it's lurid violence and its apparent nihilism,
[00:41:34.820]the novel marked a refutation
[00:41:36.470]of the '60s utopian collectivism.
[00:41:38.970]At its center was a human self not networked
[00:41:41.170]or connected in the ways that technology's
[00:41:43.460]benign profits have forecast, but a self isolated
[00:41:46.423]within what we might call the machine matrix.
[00:41:49.410]Or in its final moments, the screen matrix.
[00:41:52.570]Alex himself is now literally isolated
[00:41:54.599]in certain unforgettable sequences,
[00:41:57.390]placed as a body and a self in stark conjunction
[00:42:00.330]with machines, famous image.
[00:42:03.140]He's reprogrammed as part of the reform,
[00:42:05.610]linked up to endless film footage and auditory stimuli,
[00:42:09.220]he will now associate violence not with the music
[00:42:11.690]of Beethoven, but with nausea.
[00:42:14.130]Note how in this image, Alex is a dystopian precursor
[00:42:18.090]of our own digital selves, in this metal frame,
[00:42:21.200]his eyes are pried open so he has to
[00:42:23.340]watch screens continually,
[00:42:25.320]and his headphones keep him continually bombarded
[00:42:27.820]with a soundtrack he has no control over.
[00:42:30.950]This is the human self refashioned into a machine body,
[00:42:34.600]surrounded by tech, especially screens and sounds.
[00:42:38.090]Self also losing autonomy, so is that us?
[00:42:43.240]Kubrick's film, like another totemic film
[00:42:45.150]of the early 1970s, Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver,"
[00:42:49.160]placed a violence, let me get it right, violent insurgent
[00:42:53.830]against a background of screens
[00:42:55.610]and image making technologies.
[00:42:57.360]The last seconds of "A Clockwork Orange" decisively
[00:42:59.650]foregrounding this extreme matrix,
[00:43:01.850]as Alex, like Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver"
[00:43:04.790]now becomes the center of a televisual and media culture
[00:43:07.900]built around visualization.
[00:43:10.080]And this is the final image of Kubrick's film,
[00:43:12.640]just an individual just shot by cameras,
[00:43:15.520]looked at by cameras.
[00:43:17.950]At this moment in the 1970s,
[00:43:19.650]the English science fiction writer J. G. Ballard
[00:43:22.060]created three major novels of the machine matrix,
[00:43:25.090]what I would call the London trilogy,
[00:43:26.597]"Crash," 1973, "Concrete Island," 1974,
[00:43:31.530]where an architect wrecks his car
[00:43:33.240]in a motorways intersection, finds he cannot escape
[00:43:36.100]from the flyovers through rushing traffic
[00:43:38.420]and eventually accepts his Robinson Crusoe-like existence
[00:43:41.810]as a man simply trapped in a car,
[00:43:44.650]and "High Rise," 1975, where residents
[00:43:47.630]of a luxury tower block, whose every needs are met,
[00:43:51.200]the building includes a school and a supermarket,
[00:43:53.610]retreat from the outside world only to find
[00:43:56.875]their technical community disintegrating
[00:43:59.390]into rivalry and violence.
[00:44:01.552]In all three novels, the machine's promise
[00:44:04.600]has been flipped through 180 degrees,
[00:44:07.400]to produce a representation, not of technological ease,
[00:44:10.970]but mechanized disquiet.
[00:44:13.190]The great architectural theorist and architect,
[00:44:15.732]Le Corbusier, had declared in 1923 that a building
[00:44:19.930]was a machine for living (foreign language).
[00:44:24.632]But in "High Rise," and you can see the picture
[00:44:27.280]from the early first edition,
[00:44:29.120]a building is a machine for dying in.
[00:44:31.294]Ballard said that the iconic image of the 20th century
[00:44:34.755]was a man alone in a car simply driving along a highway.
[00:44:39.430]But in "Crash" and "Concrete Island,"
[00:44:41.650]that dream of speed and release has become a nightmare
[00:44:44.552]for perversion and isolation.
[00:44:46.740]If you buy "Crash," don't leave it around
[00:44:49.120]and let your grandmother read it, okay?
[00:44:53.360]Now you won't buy it.
[00:44:54.820]In these dystopias, the machine isolates the individual.
[00:44:57.940]And a further explanation of this idea also emerged
[00:45:01.370]at this time in Martin Pawley's "The Private Future," 1973.
[00:45:06.260]In this work of futurology, the British architect,
[00:45:08.995]Pawley, also critic, described a world filled
[00:45:12.435]with advanced telecommunications machines,
[00:45:15.374]the environment marked by isolation
[00:45:17.635]and forms of dysfunctional privacy.
[00:45:20.755]Written decades before the smartphone, social media,
[00:45:23.912]or even the Walkman, Pawley's vision captured
[00:45:26.750]one of the paradoxes of the current Machine Age,
[00:45:30.300]that the connectivity and networking supposedly heralded
[00:45:34.038]by a new generation of machines might, in fact,
[00:45:37.230]produce a radical atomization of society,
[00:45:40.400]throwing individuals back into
[00:45:42.730]dangerous psychological isolationism.
[00:45:45.625]Sensing this, Ballard used the term inner space
[00:45:48.745]to create the imagined worlds of his own fiction.
[00:45:52.321]Classical science fiction movements ambles
[00:45:55.160]into space, into the galaxy, but Ballard sensed
[00:45:58.200]the technological revolutions would turn inward,
[00:46:01.540]rather than outward, toward the self,
[00:46:03.900]and that these machines, cars, advanced buildings,
[00:46:06.700]computers, would thus become agents in a movement
[00:46:10.180]towards increasing self-absorption.
[00:46:12.883]I've got about two more pages to go.
[00:46:15.150]It's tempting to dismiss these writers
[00:46:16.880]as gloomy reactionists, prophets of a techno-dystopia
[00:46:20.270]far from the experiences of most ordinary people.
[00:46:23.770]Are we again in that strange and depressing
[00:46:25.800]humanities chamber where machines are destructive
[00:46:28.641]and writers heavily medicated?
[00:46:31.179]If so, then I think we'd also have to accept
[00:46:32.983]that some of the terrifying futures outlined
[00:46:35.480]by Ballard, Pawley, and Burgess have now become fables
[00:46:39.440]that many commentators seem to accept
[00:46:41.770]and even circulate.
[00:46:42.760]Pawley's vision of an atomized dysfunctional
[00:46:45.480]technological world is in fact not far
[00:46:48.050]from one narrative often circulated
[00:46:49.910]in the wake of mass shootings.
[00:46:51.960]It was the video games that made them do it.
[00:46:55.220]The narrative I've developed is a brooding
[00:46:56.870]and bleak one, you might say, and one reading
[00:46:59.180]of these dystopian texts is the can represent
[00:47:01.277]a collective creation caution,
[00:47:03.660]collective creative caution, to place against the froth
[00:47:07.018]of the wonder of technologists and their financial backers.
[00:47:11.060]Another reading might be that our responses to machines,
[00:47:13.659]to Blake's cogs tyrannic, on a social and individual level,
[00:47:18.260]have always been divided.
[00:47:20.830]There is wonder and a sense of future promise,
[00:47:23.618]but also anxiety and even fear
[00:47:26.773]in the face of accelerating
[00:47:28.900]and seemingly unstoppable technological change.
[00:47:31.974]The third response, however, might address
[00:47:34.810]what the machine has done to creativity.
[00:47:37.170]Note in this image of Alex, how he sits below
[00:47:40.098]a picture of Ludwig van Beethoven, his hero,
[00:47:43.970]and apparent creative load star.
[00:47:46.440]Alex worships romantic creativity.
[00:47:48.990]This is well-caught in the Kubrick film
[00:47:51.489]where we see droogs attack people
[00:47:54.180]in balletic and dance-like ways.
[00:47:56.800]And it is also in "1984," of course, that,
[00:47:59.970]in becoming a writer, in becoming a writer,
[00:48:03.170]that Winston is discovered, caught, tried,
[00:48:08.420]and tortured by O'Brien.
[00:48:12.360]So, I'm gonna finish quickly here.
[00:48:14.140]To a certain extent, the rise of the machines
[00:48:15.990]has always produced this response.
[00:48:17.890]As artists have then speculated about the meaning
[00:48:20.300]of their own very individualized and organic creativity.
[00:48:24.190]Romanticism at war with industrialism.
[00:48:27.310]Okay, I'm just gonna quickly read two or three sentences
[00:48:31.300]from the very end, I don't wanna take
[00:48:33.509]too much of your time.
[00:48:34.970]I think this is kind of one of the classics of dialectics
[00:48:38.940]or oppositions that you see in literature and culture
[00:48:42.160]that surrounds mechanization and technology.
[00:48:45.490]Writers and artists register the threat to their own
[00:48:48.205]primal identity, an identity constructed since romanticism
[00:48:53.109]around powerful mythos of individualized creativity,
[00:48:57.000]and in response, they shape stories where machines,
[00:48:59.230]typewriter, audio-visual cradles surrounding Alex,
[00:49:02.900]or the cars of "Concrete Island" would literally destroy
[00:49:06.069]such a self, but this is not the only story
[00:49:09.710]about machines and creativity.
[00:49:12.810]Recently, the British artist Jeremy Deller,
[00:49:14.890]winner of the Turner Prize, produced a fascinating
[00:49:17.670]documentary film which shows high school students
[00:49:20.170]interacting with the technology of the last generation,
[00:49:23.040]that is to say old people like me, who are now in their 50s.
[00:49:26.700]This is a film called "Everybody In The Place:
[00:49:29.487]"An Incomplete History of Britain 1984 to 1992."
[00:49:35.640]Now, it's a quite striking portrait of British club
[00:49:38.660]and dance culture during those years.
[00:49:40.660]It's also an account of deindustrialization,
[00:49:43.400]particularly in places like northern England and Detroit,
[00:49:46.330]and an account of how a new wave of machines,
[00:49:48.840]synthesizers, sequencers, and samplers,
[00:49:51.750]transformed popular music and its production.
[00:49:54.570]And the film takes place in a school,
[00:49:56.490]probably in London, and has as its secondary thesis
[00:49:59.546]an account of how social groups interact with technology.
[00:50:04.030]I don't have time to show you footage from the film,
[00:50:06.260]but here are some stills.
[00:50:07.690]In the first one, you can see Deller showing the class
[00:50:10.160]the Roland 303 synthesizer, which was invented
[00:50:13.220]in the early 1980s, and which, as he points out,
[00:50:16.152]was originally designed with guitars,
[00:50:18.640]but then repurposed as a music producing device
[00:50:21.550]in its own right.
[00:50:23.230]And in the second and third photographs,
[00:50:24.960]I'll show you them now,
[00:50:26.917]you see the class delightedly playing
[00:50:29.560]with the machines, learning how they work.
[00:50:32.280]And along the way, Deller constructs a lecture seminar,
[00:50:34.872]if you like, also a kind of studio or lab experience,
[00:50:38.531]which contrasts one generation of technology users
[00:50:42.170]with another, not in any hierarchical way,
[00:50:44.910]but simply to demonstrate cleverly and insistently
[00:50:48.200]that the machines are less important
[00:50:50.210]than the cultures that they produce.
[00:50:52.312]In Deller's telling, it's group production,
[00:50:55.470]rather than individual production, which is important.
[00:50:58.650]He also stresses exchange, for instance,
[00:51:00.840]between European and black American music makers,
[00:51:03.570]and repurposing, as in the 303.
[00:51:06.730]And he shows how technological shifts always create
[00:51:09.850]breakthroughs and backlashes.
[00:51:12.130]In Deller's story, it is the students who are central,
[00:51:14.870]and who carry the final meaning of the machines.
[00:51:18.170]Since they seem to be harbingers,
[00:51:20.170]just as the early ravers of the late '80s were,
[00:51:22.330]of a machine-led creative culture.
[00:51:25.700]Finally, the film seems to suggest we might find ways
[00:51:28.593]not to rage against the machine,
[00:51:30.987]but to collaborate with it, and to move beyond dystopia.
[00:51:35.050]Finally, we might talk less about threat of genius,
[00:51:37.880]but what might be called productive seniors,
[00:51:41.370]the creativity groups gathered around machines, using them,
[00:51:44.770]then exchanging ideas with other machine-led crews
[00:51:47.840]or tribes or communities.
[00:51:50.113]Thank you very much.
[00:52:03.932]Had to hurry through a little bit, but there we go.
[00:52:11.230]Anybody, there's a microphone.
I'd like to comment.
[00:52:16.180]I found very interesting what you said about
[00:52:17.526]Cather's essay, 1923.
[00:52:20.846]And I was thinking about
[00:52:25.487]Forster's "The Machine Stops."
[00:52:28.448]it was published originally
[00:52:30.580]in a small magazine, 1909, it didn't get wider circulation
[00:52:35.200]'til 1928, in that same decade as Cather.
[00:52:39.177]And here we have a British modernist reactionary,
[00:52:44.760]but yet that story, which I'll be teaching on Friday,
[00:52:47.790]is extraordinary vision of a technological future.
[00:52:53.139]It's reactionary, but at the same time,
[00:52:56.020]sort of sees this technological future as inevitable.
[00:53:03.330]Yeah, and I think that the point that Mike's making,
[00:53:05.160]that this essay was written by E.M. Forster
[00:53:07.520]before the First World War, and then has currency after
[00:53:10.580]the First World War, so in this kind of narrative,
[00:53:13.500]it's the First World War which is the moment
[00:53:16.150]that crystallizes a sense of what machines might do
[00:53:20.030]and why they might be dangerous, because you've got,
[00:53:22.262]essentially, 19th century kind of infantry tactics
[00:53:25.420]waves of people storming towards the trenches,
[00:53:30.280]you've got a kind of, like, tactics and strategy
[00:53:33.480]that haven't changed for 40 or 50 years,
[00:53:35.660]and people putting in machine guns
[00:53:37.190]and then extraordinary levels.
[00:53:39.210]I mean, just extraordinary, if you went,
[00:53:40.690]if you go through the figures,
[00:53:42.704]the use of high explosives, for instance, is terrifying,
[00:53:45.664]and it's interesting that Forster's essay
[00:53:48.600]became popular after the war.
[00:53:52.728]That's the pivot.
[00:54:01.020]No, yes, no, okay.
[00:54:03.350]Well, anyway, I tell you, I'll count down,
[00:54:07.290]going, going, gone, okay, the auction is finished.
[00:54:11.680]If you'd asked a question, I would have given you a,
[00:54:14.180]that was an airline ticket that you could have won, so.
[00:54:17.295]That just goes to show how easy it is
[00:54:19.360]to kind of lose out on something.
[00:54:21.130]This is beautiful, the one final thing I'll say is,
[00:54:23.260]it's a very interesting film,
[00:54:26.280]I find it very, very compelling,
[00:54:29.690]it's absolutely fascinating and it's a kind of work of art
[00:54:33.980]which is a lecture, I mean, this is what this guy does.
[00:54:36.280]So he's a folk modernist, if you see what I mean.
[00:54:39.880]He goes out into the communities,
[00:54:41.660]he thinks about culture, and he creates stories
[00:54:43.970]involving the community, so here's it's really
[00:54:48.330]a lecture about the time just before they were born.
[00:54:52.190]'Cause these students, about your age, some of you in here,
[00:54:55.440]probably born '95, '97, '98, 2000,
[00:55:00.570]so he deals with the period just before they were born
[00:55:02.616]and he shows them these machines,
[00:55:04.960]and it's absolutely charming, in a way.
[00:55:07.290]They go, what it this?
[00:55:08.940]And he's just like, "Well, this is a Roland receiver,"
[00:55:10.933]that's the early Roland TB 330, that's an early edition
[00:55:15.680]of that particular synthesizer, and they're amazed by it.
[00:55:19.680]You can also see the very striking kind of
[00:55:21.490]multicultural and ethnic diversity of this classroom.
[00:55:25.510]And Deller plays with that very, very interestingly,
[00:55:27.950]by not actually making a point about it at all.
[00:55:30.970]The point being, once he starts to bring people together,
[00:55:34.000]some of these things dissolve or emerge
[00:55:35.810]in different kinds of ways,
[00:55:37.120]and questions of place and origin are played with
[00:55:40.180]very cleverly in the film.
[00:55:42.080]I'm gonna show this film on a Friday, probably,
[00:55:45.032]within the next month or so.
[00:55:46.880]We'll put out a flyer by the English department
[00:55:49.050]and probably the college.
[00:55:50.343]I just, we'll put it on at Bailey Library one afternoon,
[00:55:53.820]and you can come and watch it with me
[00:55:55.050]and we'll talk about it.
[00:55:56.510]I think it's something that you really would appreciate,
[00:55:58.780]many of you.
[00:55:59.613]So thank you, everybody, and thank you for assembling.
Log in to post comments