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Stop the machine—what EM Forster can teach us about leaving lockdown

The novelist's dystopia has some disturbing echoes of today's authoritarian technocracy

By Ben Wright  
EM Forster by Dora Carringon, 1924 Credit: Wikimedia commons

EM Forster by Dora Carringon, 1924 Credit: Wikimedia commons

In his 1909 novella The Machine Stops, EM Forster asked his readers to imagine a subterranean world where people live in isolation and rarely leave their homes. Each person is assigned a lightly furnished apartment, “hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee,” with “buttons and switches everywhere.” From there they are fed, clothed, medicated, entertained, titillated and professionally occupied. Travel outside requires permission from a technocratic elite. But none of this…

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