Here is the full text: http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html
It's not too long--I'd recommend reading it entirely.
EDIT: For anyone looking for more dystopian socio-tech stories I'd also recommend "'Repent Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" and pretty much all the episodes of Black Mirror.
I read through Animal Farm in seventh grade and it was the first time I experienced the feeling of having read an excellent book that was simultaneously emotionally disturbing. It was confusing, though I knew that my distress was the author's intent. I spent the following summer reading novels like 1984 and Fahrenheit 459. Dystopian sci-fi quickly became my favorite genre.
The short story form also creates unease, as the form is known for it's lack of resolution (or happy endings). They typically cut off right after the climax without any resolving action. I didn't really GET this about short stories until college. Now it's my favorite form of writing.
Combine the dystopian fiction and the short story form (as in Black Mirror), and it's a pretty potent punch in the gut.
Jack Williamson's 1947 With Folded Hands,
(I trot this one out semi-regularly, it deserves more recognition than it currently has.)
I read this story at upper school(x) as part of English literature and being a total nerd my immediate reaction, which I gleefully told the class, was that Forster had it all wrong: you wouldn't have had individual buttons for all the functions, there would have been some sort of menu system or at least phone keypad with n-digit numbers assigned to each function.
(x) US readers: I was 16.
Some would likely imagine these machines may actually pick up the mantle of a deity, with humans serving them. I find that unlikely, and rather subscribe to the theory that humans as we know them will simply fade away as relics of their lineage. Declining birth rates in first would counties is a sign of that; it will only continue as mankind continues to spend more time building smarter machines, and less time building babies. This is, of course, not a bad thing. The machines are not a replacement for mankind, but rather a continuation. They will be mankind, just as our primitive ancestors were. The machines will be humans in a different, perhaps more godlike, form.
Unlike our descendants, present day humans have the great and rare privilege of enjoying apex predator status. The machine still works for us. And in 2015 the machines are getting really good: inexpensive, intelligent, rapidly evolving and networked.
And so now the primary ambition in my life is to become a god of the intelligent networked machine. To master the machine, subjugate it and make it work for me to improve my material situation.
Arduino, RepRap, CNC, sensors, laser cutters, LEDs, solar photovoltaic, the web. These are the lego blocks with which we can build a new, smarter, more humane world, one where humans are freed and machines toil for us.
Right now I have a RepRap producing parts for a new contraption I built, I have a VPS serving requests 24 hours a day, and in enough iterations my contraption and my VPS will be in communication. The real world, and the virtual, working in concert to improve my comfort, security and material prosperity, and that of others.
"When looms weave themselves human's slavery will end" - Aristotle
We are getting closer. There is so much more to learn, so much more to be done.
The lesson I take away is that we should be wary of using (or funding) any system that actively resists being understood. Moreover, we should never stop trying to understand the world to the extent that we are able. (There is also a strong lesson about the value of cultural rebellion.)
Sounds like 'memes'
We've had memes ever since we've had society.
We have random mutations: Socially awkward penguin -> Socially awesome penguin
Then there's sexual reproduction: Socially awkward penguin + socially awesome penguin -> socially awksome penguin
The process of natural selection is popular appeal. There is certainly room for debate as to the cultural merit of popular internet memes, but I don't think there's a strong argument that they are not an instance of the concept as coined by Dawkins.
An excerpt from the intro Wikipedia entry on memes:
>an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture". A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.
"Beware of first- hand ideas!" exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. "First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by live and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element - direct observation."
"The Greek engineer Ctesibius of Alexandria is credited with inventing the organ in the 3rd century BC." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipe_organ#History_and_developm...
(it looks like there were a lot of experiments and ideas flying around, so I think it would take a historian specializing in the thing to point out which one used a button first. And then there could easily be some earlier use.)