Man and the Machine
There came a day when Man awoke. He was all alone with the machine. From the first day he knew he couldn’t live without it, for outside of the machine there was nothing. This isolation reminded him that, though he was free to explore, his freedom was limited. Whatever he was, he was bound to the machine. As Man pondered this he was assailed by a strange sensation — a deep longing that he couldn’t shake. “From where do I come? Where shall I go? To what shall I live?” And the most puzzling question of all, “What am I?” With these questions in hand Man entered the machine.
It was his hope that within the machine he would find the answers to his questions. With great zeal he began his work. As Man explored, he marveled at the complexity of the machine. At times he was overcome with it’s beauty. He would sit silent for hours just experiencing its wonder. “What does all this mean?” he would ask himself. But no answers were forthcoming.
As Man’s quest progressed he couldn’t help but think that the nature of the machine was such that only something like Man, only much greater, had crafted it. There was much that went on within the machine that seemed impossible if it were not by the work of such a being. For what seemed like an age, Man devoted considerable energy to pondering what such a being would be like and wondering why it created what it did.
With time Man came to see that he could manipulate the machine to achieve his own purposes. This was no small revelation, for now he was able to discover so much more than he had ever dreamed! Bit by bit he brought the machine under his control. With each new advance Man’s knowledge of the machine increased and with each discovery he was stunned by what he found. Phenomena that once seemed almost magical, now appeared to have deeper mechanisms that drove them. Man was so impressed by his discoveries that he no longer felt he needed to postulate a “super-man.” With the abandonment of a creator agency, Man returned to his task, but as he worked the questions he was seeking to answer were starting to feel strangely hollow. Or perhaps it was that the field of answers he had to choose from were now starting to feel a bit more absurd. No matter where he looked, all he found was more machine, more complexity, more noise, but no reason for their existence or workings. As wonderful as the machine seemed to be at times, he could find no point for its existence. It was just there, running on a track between an apparently pointless beginning and an ultimately meaningless end.
The more Man struggled to extract answers from the machine the more it began to lose the beauty he had once seen in it. It was as if the machine mocked him. In all its intractable mystery, it continued on its blind path with no care for the pleadings of the man within it. Frustrated with his attempts to find answers by examining the machine, he traced the long journey back to the place he had first experienced it’s beauty. In desperation he screamed with everything in him, “WHAT AM I?” All his strength gone, he fell to the ground, sobbing. His body shook as waves of anger and despair washed over him. All around him there was nothing but the whirr and click of a machine that took no notice of him.
It was at this time that something caught Man’s attention. A soft glow from deep within the machine flickered through a gap in the floor. Wiping his eyes, he peered between the metal plates. Nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to discover.
Far below him he could see a small monitor nestled deep in a tangle of wires and in it there was an image of himself. It was a birds eye view, as if a camera was positioned directly above him. He looked up, hoping to see what was watching him, but as he did he realized something that wasn’t quite right. The image of himself in the monitor turned and looked towards the ceiling a split second before he did. He turned back and looked into the monitor, then quickly, he turned away. Sure enough, the visage of himself moved before he moved his body. Every move he made the monitor displayed just prior to his enacting it! He would wave his arms or shake his head but his visage would begin it’s movements before he could get his body to react.
He was beginning to think the machine was reading his mind until the video began to gradually speed up. He watched himself peering through the crack, then lift himself off the floor and proceed to sit with his hands in his lap. Apart form a slight swaying from side to side, the image of himself simply sat motionless. This went on for quite some time until suddenly the screen flickered and went dark. Terrified, he lifted himself off the floor and sat up. With his hands lying limp in his lap, Man sat. He felt like he should run, or lift his arms, anything just to prove the video wrong. He could do that couldn’t he? He was a free creature after all... He was the originator of his actions, not the machine... Right? Long hours passed as he sat motionless; his body lost all feeling as the deepest truth he had yet discovered slowly saturated his being.
All this time, even now, this very second, his actions, his thoughts... He had never been controlling the machine; it had been controlling him. Why had he not seen it before? He had no autonomous existence. He was, and always had been, merely a part of the machine. His freedom, his experience—they were all illusory. He had never really been searching for answers to begin with—it had always been the machine. Never Man. Only the machine. In a single moment Man’s existence collapsed.
The machine devoured him, and all was silent.