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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.