Saturday, 31 May 2014

Science fiction... ?

This week I had an unnerving experience online. My website was blocked on my wifi at home. Yes, my own website was blocked in my own home so I couldn't access it on my ipad.

My publisher set up my website and looks after it for me, but his IT guru couldn't sort out the problem. The fault appeared to lie with my router at home. Our IT technical support couldn't sort out the problem which it seemed was with BT. After an hour on the phone to BT and several blips on my blood pressure level, the problem was resolved.

Not so long ago I was amused by the horrified reaction of a class of teenagers, when asked how they would cope if the entire world wide web crashed. 'What? No internet?' they chorused, aghast. They genuinely couldn't conceive of such a world. How rapidly things change. These days I am so dependent on the internet, not being able to access my website sent me into a state of panic, just like the teenagers I had scoffed at not so long ago.

It reminds me of a novella by EM Forster, published in 1909. In the story Forster posits a utopian  society where people live in a machine which does everything for them. The machine feeds, clothes, cleaned and entertains them. People's limbs have withered because they don't have to do anything for themselves. All they do is lie in their pods enjoying themselves... The story is called The Machine Stops.

After my experience with wifi I upgraded my ipad to 4G which offers the option of using wifi or 4G to access the internet. In the Apple store, the young assistant chatted to us about back ups. 'What you need is a Time Machine,' he said.

Barely recovered from inadvertantly straying into the realms of E M Forster's The Machine Stops, I seem to have wandered into the imaginary world of H G Wells' The Time Machine. I wonder if those early science fiction writers realised quite how prescient they were.


Guillaume said...

I often have difficulties thinking of a time without the internet. I am so dependent on it. I would not have my current job without it, I would not have studied abroad or done anything of the sort. And I would not blog.

Leigh Russell said...

I agree, Guillaume. It's hard to imagine now, even to those of us who know life without the internet did once exist. We'd are so dependent on it these days. Is that a good thing?

Charles Gramlich said...

There have been a lot of later SF versions of that story The Machine Stops. A good one by John D. MacDonald was called "Wine of the dreamers."

Leigh Russell said...

It's a gripping idea, isn't it, Charles?