A machine is a tool consisting of one or more parts that is constructed to achieve a particular goal. Machines are powered devices, usually mechanically, chemically, thermally or electrically powered, and are frequently motorized. Historically, a device required moving parts to classify as a machine; however, the advent of electronics technology has led to the development of devices without moving parts that are considered machines.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author.
A - F
- Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation... tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.
- Jean Arp; As cited in: Carol Dingle (2000) Memorable Quotations: French Writers of the Past. p. 8.
- The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.
- Warren G. Bennis; As cited in: Mark Fisher (1991) The millionaire's book of quotations. p. 151.
- Do you realize if it weren't for Edison we'd be watching TV by candlelight?
- Al Boliska, as cited in: Stuart Kantor (2004) Beer, Boxers, Batteries, And Bodily Noises. p. 39.
- It is difficult not to wonder whether that combination of elements which produces a machine for labor does not create also a soul of sorts, a dull resentful metallic will, which can rebel at times.
- Pearl S. Buck; As cited in: Rosalie Maggio (1996) The New Beacon book of quotations by women. p. 424.
- "There is no security"--to quote his own words--"against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organized machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time.
- “Either,” he proceeds, “a great deal of action that has been called purely mechanical and unconscious must be admitted to contain more elements of consciousness than has been allowed hitherto (and in this case germs of consciousness will be found in many actions of the higher machines)—Or (assuming the theory of evolution but at the same time denying the consciousness of vegetable and crystalline action) the race of man has descended from things which had no consciousness at all. In this case there is no à priori improbability in the descent of conscious (and more than conscious) machines from those which now exist, except that which is suggested by the apparent absence of anything like a reproductive system in the mechanical kingdom.
- But the machines which reproduce machinery do not reproduce machines after their own kind. A thimble may be made by machinery, but it was not made by, neither will it ever make, a thimble. Here, again, if we turn to nature we shall find abundance of analogies which will teach us that a reproductive system may be in full force without the thing produced being of the same kind as that which produced it. Very few creatures reproduce after their own kind; they reproduce something which has the potentiality of becoming that which their parents were. Thus the butterfly lays an egg, which egg can become a caterpillar, which caterpillar can become a chrysalis, which chrysalis can become a butterfly; and though I freely grant that the machines cannot be said to have more than the germ of a true reproductive system at present, have we not just seen that they have only recently obtained the germs of a mouth and stomach? And may not some stride be made in the direction of true reproduction which shall be as great as that which has been recently taken in the direction of true feeding?
- It is possible that the system when developed may be in many cases a vicarious thing. Certain classes of machines may be alone fertile, while the rest discharge other functions in the mechanical system, just as the great majority of ants and bees have nothing to do with the continuation of their species, but get food and store it, without thought of breeding. One cannot expect the parallel to be complete or nearly so; certainly not now, and probably never; but is there not enough analogy existing at the present moment, to make us feel seriously uneasy about the future, and to render it our duty to check the evil while we can still do so? Machines can within certain limits beget machines of any class, no matter how different to themselves. Every class of machines will probably have its special mechanical breeders, and all the higher ones will owe their existence to a large number of parents and not to two only.
- Complex now, but how much simpler and more intelligibly organised may it not become in another hundred thousand years? or in twenty thousand? For man at present believes that his interest lies in that direction; he spends an incalculable amount of labour and time and thought in making machines breed always better and better; he has already succeeded in effecting much that at one time appeared impossible, and there seem no limits to the results of accumulated improvements if they are allowed to descend with modification from generation to generation.
- “Herein lies our danger. For many seem inclined to acquiesce in so dishonourable a future. They say that although man should become to the machines what the horse and dog are to us, yet that he will continue to exist, and will probably be better off in a state of domestication under the beneficent rule of the machines than in his present wild condition. We treat our domestic animals with much kindness. We give them whatever we believe to be the best for them; and there can be no doubt that our use of meat has increased their happiness rather than detracted from it. In like manner there is reason to hope that the machines will use us kindly, for their existence will be in a great measure dependent upon ours; they will rule us with a rod of iron, but they will not eat us; they will not only require our services in the reproduction and education of their young, but also in waiting upon them as servants; in gathering food for them, and feeding them; in restoring them to health when they are sick; and in either burying their dead or working up their deceased members into new forms of mechanical existence.
- The power of custom is enormous, and so gradual will be the change, that man's sense of what is due to himself will be at no time rudely shocked; our bondage will steal upon us noiselessly and by imperceptible approaches; nor will there ever be such a clashing of desires between man and the machines as will lead to an encounter between them. Among themselves the machines will war eternally, but they will still require man as the being through whose agency the struggle will be principally conducted. In point of fact there is no occasion for anxiety about the future happiness of man so long as he continues to be in any way profitable to the machines; he may become the inferior race, but he will be infinitely better off than he is now. Is it not then both absurd and unreasonable to be envious of our benefactors? And should we not be guilty of consummate folly if we were to reject advantages which we cannot obtain otherwise, merely because they involve a greater gain to others than to ourselves?
- “With those who can argue in this way I have nothing in common. I shrink with as much horror from believing that my race can ever be superseded or surpassed, as I should do from believing that even at the remotest period my ancestors were other than human beings. Could I believe that ten hundred thousand years ago a single one of my ancestors was another kind of being to myself, I should lose all self-respect, and take no further pleasure or interest in life. I have the same feeling with regard to my descendants, and believe it to be one that will be felt so generally that the country will resolve upon putting an immediate stop to all further mechanical progress, and upon destroying all improvements that have been made for the last three hundred years. I would not urge more than this. We may trust ourselves to deal with those that remain, and though I should prefer to have seen the destruction include another two hundred years, I am aware of the necessity for compromising, and would so far sacrifice my own individual convictions as to be content with three hundred. Less than this will be insufficient.”
- Samuel Butler (novelist) Darwin among the Machines
- When a machine begins to run without human aid, it is time to scrap it - whether it be a factory or a government.
- Alexander Chase (1966) Perspectives. Cited in: Anna Hart (1988) Expert systems: an introduction for managers. p. 111.
- A blacksmith, Thomas Newcomen, in collaboration with a plumber, John Calley, produced the first commercially successful machine for "raising water by fire." Newcomen could not have based his design on prevailing scientific theory, White argued, because his engine relied on the dissolution of air in steam, and "scientists in his day were not aware that air dissolves in water." Evidently "the mastery of steam power" was a product of empirical science and was "not influenced by Galilean science."
- Clifford D. Conner, A People's History of Science (2005) quoting from Lynn White, Jr., "Pumps and Pendula: Galileo and Technology," in Galileo Reappraised ed. Carlo Luigi Golino (1966).
- I suggest that the hon. gentleman may be a good corporation lawyer, but he is slipping badly in his history. The capitalist system did not produce the machine age; the machine age produced the capitalist system. The material prosperity that the world has enjoyed for the last seventy-five years or one hundred years has been due to the introduction of power; steam power, then electric power and the internal combustion engine. The capitalist system or the free enterprise system - the terms are synonymous and interchangeable - was the product of the power age. The capitalist system did not produce the power age.
- Tommy Douglas Budget Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, March 22, 1943.
- Although it is not, abstractedly speaking, of importance to know who first made a most valuable experiment, or to what individual the community is indebted for the invention of the most useful machine, yet the sense of mankind has in this, as in several other things, been in direct opposition to frigid reasoning; and we are pleased with a recollection of benefits, and with rendering honour to the memory of those who bestowed them. Were public benefactors to be allowed to pass away like hewers of wood and drawers of water, without commemoration, genius and enterprise would be deprived of their most coveted distinction, and after-times would lose incentives to that emulation which urges us to cherish and practise what has been worthy of commendation or imitation in our forefathers; and to make their works, which may have served for a light and been useful to the age in which they lived, a guide and a spur to ourselves
- It is a medium of entertainment which permits millions of people to listen to the same joke at the same time, and yet remain lonesome.
- The greatest task before civilization at present is to make machines what they ought to be, the slaves, instead of the masters of men.
- Havelock Ellis (1948) Morals, manners, and men. p. 41.
- Education makes machines which act like men and produces men who act like machines.
- Erich Fromm; as cited in: Noah benShea (2001) Great Quotes to Inspire Great Teachers. p. 23.
G - L
- We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us.
- John Kenneth Galbraith (2007) The new industrial state. p. 9.
- Once upon a time we were just plain people. But that was before we began having relationships with mechanical systems. Get involved with a machine and sooner or later you are reduced to a factor.
- Ellen Goodman (1978) "The Human Factor," The Washington Post, January 1987.
- If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.
- Stephen Hawking, quoted in "Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots" Huffington Post, October 8, 2015.
- One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
- Elbert Hubbard, The Roycroft Dictionary and Book of Epigrams, 1923.
- Lucca: Machines aren't capable of evil. Humans make them that way.
- Masato Kato, Takashi Tokita, Yoshinori Kitase, Yuji Horii Chrono Trigger
- All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness.
- Mark Kennedy as cited in: Stuart Kantor (2004) Beer, Boxers, Batteries, And Bodily Noises. p. 39.
- I'm convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered.
- Roger: This place, Paradigm City, is a town of forgetfulness. One day, forty years ago, every person here lost all memory of anything which had occurred before that day. But humans are adaptable creatures. They make do and go on with life. If they're smart enough to figure out how to operate machinery and get electricity, they can still have something of a civilization even without a history.
- The Big O Roger the Negotiator written by Chiaki Konaka
M - R
- You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steam-roller will not plant flowers.
- Walter Lippmann in: ictor Earl Amend, Leo Thomas Hendrick eds. (1964) Ten contemporary thinkers. p. 315.
- It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being.
- John Stuart Mill (1848); As cited in: Colin Renfrew (1972) The Emergence of Civilisation. p. 499.
- In his discussion on slavery Aristotle said that when the shuttle wove by itself and the plectrum played by itself chief workmen would not need helpers nor masters slaves. At the time he wrote, he believed that he was establishing the eternal validity of slavery; but for us today he was in reality justifying the existence of the machine. Work, it is true, is the constant form of man's interaction with his environment, if by work one means the sum total of exertions necessary to maintain life; and the lack of work usually means an impairment of function and a breakdown in organic relationship that leads to substitute forms of work, such as invalidism and neurosis. But work in the form of unwilling drudgery or of that sedentary routine which ... the Athenians so properly despised—work in these forms is the true province of machines. Instead of reducing human beings to work-mechanisms, we can now transfer the main part of burden to automatic machines. This potentially... is perhaps the largest justification of the mechanical developments of the last thousand years.
- Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch. 6 "Compensations and Reversions"
- The machine itself ... is a human product, and its very abstractions make it more definitely human in one sense than those human arts which on occasion realistically counterfit nature.
- Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch. 7 "Assimilation of the Machine"
- Today this unquestioned faith in the machine has been severely shaken. The absolute validity of the machine has become a conditioned validity: even Spengler, who has urged the men of his generation to become engineers and men of fact, regards that career as a sort of honorable suicide and looks forward to the period when the monuments of the machine civilization will be tangled masses of rusting iron and empty concrete shells. While for those of us who are more hopeful both of man's destiny and that of the machine, the machine is no longer the paragon of progress and the final expression of our desires: it is merely a series of instruments, which we will use in so far as they are serviceable to life at large, and which we will curtail where they infringe upon it or exist purely to support the adventitious structure of capitalism.
- Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch. 8 "Orientation"
- Once the major wants of mankind are satisfied by the machine process, our factory system must be on a basis of regular annual replacement instead of progressive expansion—not on a basis of premature replacement through debauched workmanship, adulterated materials, and grossly stimulated caprice. "The case," as Mr. J. A. Hobson again puts it, "is a simple one. A mere increase in the variety of our material consumption relieves the strain imposed upon man by the limits of the material universe, for such a variety enables him to utilize a larger proportion of the aggregate matter. But in proportion as we add to mere variety a higher appreciation of those adaptations of matter which are due to human skill, which we call Art, we pass outside the limit of matter and are no longer slaves of roods and acres and a law of diminishing returns." In other words: a genuine standard, once the vital physical wants are satisfied, tends to change the plane of consumption and therefore to limit, in a considerable degree, the extent of further mechanical enterprise.
- Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch.8 "Orientation"
- MAN IS FUNDAMENTALLY AN ANIMAL. Animals, as distinct from man, are not machine-like, not sadistic; their societies, within the same species, are incomparably more peaceful than those of man. The basic question, then is: What has made the animal, man, degenerate into a machine?
When I say "animal," I do not mean anything bad, cruel or "base"; I am stating a biological fact. Man has developed the peculiar concept that he is not an animal at all, but, well — man; a creature which long since has shed that which is "bad," which is "animal." He demarcates himself in all possible ways from the bad animal and points, in proof of his "being better," to culture and civilization which distinguish him from the animal. He shows, in his whole behavior, his "theories of values," his moral philosophies, his "monkey trials" and such, that he does not want to be reminded of the fact that basically he is an animal, an animal, furthermore, which has much more in common with the "animal" than with that being which he asserts to be and dreams of being. The theory of the German Übermensch has this origin. Man shows by his maliciousness, his inability to live in peace with his kind, his wars, that what distinguishes him from the other animals is only his unbounded sadism and the mechanical trinity of the authoritarian concept of life, mechanistic science and the machine. If one looks at the results of civilization as they present themselves over long periods of time, one finds that these contentions of man are not only erroneous; more than that, they seem to be made expressly for the purpose of making man forget that he is an animal.
- Wilhelm Reich, critiquing prominent early 20th century ideas of Übermensch in The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933), Ch. 10 : Work Democracy, Section 3 : Work Democracy versus Politics. The Natural Social Forces for the Mastery of the Emotional Plague.
S - Z
- The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.
- Saint-Exupéry (1939) Wind, Sand, and Stars.
- I think I should not go far wrong if I asserted that the amount of genuine leisure available in a society is generally in inverse proportion to the amount of labor-saving machinery it employs.
- E.F. Schumacher (1985) Good Work. p. 25.
- The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.
- B.F. Skinner, Contingencies of Reinforcement, 1969.
- A machine, receiving at distant times and from many hands new combinations and improvements, and becoming at last of signal benefit to mankind, may be compared to a rivulet, swelled in its course by tributary streams until it rolls along a majestic river, enriching in its progress provinces and kingdoms.
In retracing the current, too, from where it mingles with the ocean, the pretensions of even ample subsidiary streams are merged in our admiration of the master-flood. But, as we continue to ascend, those waters which, nearer the sea, would have been disregarded as unimportant, begin to rival in magnitude, and divide our attention with, the parent stream; until, at length, on our approaching the fountains of the river, it appears trickling from the rock, or oozing from among the flowers of the valley. So, also, in developing the rise of a machine, a coarse instrument or a toy may be recognized as the germ of that production of mechanical genius whose power and usefulness have stimulated our curiosity to mark its changes and to trace its origin. The same feelings of reverential gratitude which attached holiness to the spots whence mighty rivers sprung, also clothed with divinity, and raised altars in honor of the saw, the plough, the potter's wheel, and the loom.
- It’s possible to imagine a machine that could scoop up material – rocks from the Moon or rocks from asteroids – process them inside and produce just about any product: washing machines or teacups or automobiles or starships. Once such a machine exists it could gather sunlight and materials that it’s sitting on, and produce on call whatever product anybody wants to name, as long as somebody knows how to make it and those instructions can be given to the machine.
- Theodore Taylor (1978) as quoted in Nigel Calder, Spaceships of the Mind, Viking Press, New York, 1978; quoted in Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 2004
- Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point of the universe. This idea is not novel. Men have been led to it long ago by instinct or reason; it has been expressed in many ways, and in many places, in the history of old and new. We find it in the delightful myth of Antheus, who derives power from the earth; we find it among the subtle speculations of one of your splendid mathematicians and in many hints and statements of thinkers of the present time. Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic! If static our hopes are in vain; if kinetic — and this we know it is, for certain — then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.
- Nikola Tesla "Experiments With Alternate Currents Of High Potential And High Frequency" (February 1892)
- Machines do not run in order to enable men to live, but we resign ourselves to feeding men in order that they may serve the machines.
- Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty (1955), translated by A. Willis and J. Petrie (Routledge: 1958), p. 105