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.
- 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.
- Were we required to characterise this age of ours by any single epithet, we should be tempted to call it, not an Heroical, Devotional, Philosophical, or Moral Age, but, above all others, the Mechanical Age. It is the Age of Machinery, in every outward and inward sense of that word; the age which, with its whole undivided might, forwards, teaches and practises the great art of adapting means to ends. Nothing is now done directly, or by hand; all is by rule and calculated contrivance. For the simplest operation, some helps and accompaniments, some cunning abbreviating process is in readiness. Our old modes of exertion are all discredited, and thrown aside. On every hand, the living artisan is driven from his workshop, to make room for a speedier, inanimate one. The shuttle drops from the fingers of the weaver, and falls into iron fingers that ply it faster.
- Thomas Carlyle, Signs of the Times (1829)
- 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).
- Leaving aside genetic surgery applied humans, I foresee that the coming century will place in our hands two other forms of biological technology which are less dangerous but still revolutionary enough to transform the conditions of our existence. I count these new technologies as powerful allies in the attack on Bernal's three enemies. I give them the names “biological engineering” and “self-reproducing machinery.” Biological engineering means the artificial synthesis of living organisms designed to fulfil human purposes. Self-reproducing machinery means the imitation of the function and reproduction of a living organism with non-living materials, a computer-program imitating the function of DNA and a miniature factory imitating the functions of protein molecules. After we have attained a complete understanding of the principles of organization and development of a simple multicellular organism, both of these avenues of technological exploitation should be open to us.
- Freeman Dyson, from 3rd J.D. Bernal Lecture, Birkbeck College London (16 May 1972), The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1972), 6. Collected in The Scientist as Rebel (2006), 292. (The World, the Flesh & the Devil: An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul is the title of a book by J. D Bernal, a scientist who pioneered X-ray crystallography.)
- 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.
- Another scientific development that we find difficult to absorb into our traditional value system is the new science of cybernetics: machines that may soon equal or surpass man in original thinking and problem-solving. [...] In the hands of the present establishment there is no doubt that the machine could be used – is being used – to intensify the apparatus of repression and to increase established power. But again, as in the issue of population control, misuse of science has often obscured the value of science itself. In this case, though perhaps the response may not be quite so hysterical and evasive, we still often have the same unimaginative concentration on the evils of the machine itself, rather than a recognition of its revolutionary significance.
- 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.
- We must ask whether our machine technology makes us proof against all those destructive forces which plagued Roman society and ultimately wrecked Roman civilization.
- Robert Strausz-Hupe, Philadelphia Inquirer (1978).
- 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.
- You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steam-roller will not plant flowers.
- Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Politics (New York: Michael Kennerley, 1913), p. 30
M - R
- 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.
- The preparation for the machine that took place between the tenth and the eighteenth century gave it a broad foundation and assured its speedy and universal conquest throughout Western Civilization. But in back of this lay the long development of technics itself: the original exploration of the raw environment, the utilization of objects shaped by nature--shells and stones and animal gut- for tools and utensils: the development of fundamental industrial processes, digging, chipping, hammering, scraping, spinning, drying: the deliberate shaping of specific tools as necessities pressed and as skill increased.
- Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (1934) Ch. II "Agents of Mechanization," p. 60
- 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." p.325
- 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," p.365
- Looking back over the last thousand years, one can divide the development of the machine and the machine civilization into three successive but over-lapping and interpenetrating phases: eotechnic, paleotechnic, neotechnic … Speaking in terms of power and characteristic materials, the eotechnic phase is a water-and-wood complex: the paleotechnic phase is a coal-and-wood complex… The dawn-age of our modern technics stretches roughly from the year 1000 to 1750. It did not, of course, come suddenly to an end in the middle of the eighteenth century. A new movement appeared in industrial society which had been gathering headway almost unnoticed from the fifteenth century on: after 1750 industry passed into a new phase, with a different source of power, different materials, different objectives.
- Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilisation (1934), 109.
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)
- The particular ‘desire’ of the Eregion Elves—an ‘allegory’ if you like of a love of machinery, and technical devices—is also symbolised by their special friendship with the Dwarves of Moria.
- John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien, from Letter draft to Peter Hastings (manager of a Catholic bookshop in Oxford, who wrote about his enthusiasm for Lord of the Rings) (Sep 1954). In Humphrey Carpenter (ed.) assisted by Christopher Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1995, 2014), 190, Letter No. 153
- 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
- ... the construction of machines, the functioning of which he can foresee, constitutes the most spectacular accomplishment of the physicist. In these machines, the physicist creates a situation in which all the relevant coordinates are known so that the behavior of the machine can be predicted. Radars and nuclear reactors are examples of such machines.
- Eugene Wigner: (1960). "The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences. Richard Courant lecture in mathematical sciences delivered at New York University, May 11, 1959". Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics 13: 1–14. DOI:10.1002/cpa.3160130102.
- Never before have people been so infantilized, made so dependent on the machine for everything; as the earth rapidly approaches its extinction due to technology, our souls are shrunk and flattened by its pervasive rule. Any sense of wholeness and freedom can only return by the undoing of the massive division of labour at the heart of technological progress. This is the liberatory project in all its depth.
- John Zerzan, Future Primitive and Other Essays (1994)
- Calculating machine
- History of technology
- Industrial Revolution
- Steam engine