What Does It Mean to Progress?

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What Does It Mean to Progress?

Nowadays, progress in the meaning of a constant development in every sphere of life is the moving force of humanity. In fact, every human life is nothing but a plot of personal progress: first, children take their first steps, then they attain knowledge at school, and finally, they become specialists in certain spheres and improve in it, developing both socially and technologically. However, as shown in such works as the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, directed by Kubrick and the short stories “The Jaunt” by Steven King and “The Machine Stops” by Forster, progress is not always a positive thing, especially when it comes to the intensive development of technologies. Even if human beings construct the most perfect and stable machines and mechanized systems, they cannot entirely rely on them, since even the most consummate computer can make errors, which is illustrated in the analyzed works.

2001: A Space Odyssey begins with showing monkeys who were fighting with other monkeys for water. Those animals who cried louder got the water. The viewers can observe the concept of progress later, when one group of monkeys notices a monolith, which gave them some hints about how to fight with the enemies, and when the male apes found out that big bones also may be used for fighting. In such a way, they managed to deter the other group of monkeys, showing that they are stronger. This example shows how progress helped the animals to survive in the wild desert, where every drop of water was precious. Then the movie shows the Earth four million years later, when people invented spacecrafts and began to fly to the Moon and other planets. They created a perfect computer HAL 9000 that was their brain during the mission. However, people could not have imagined that a mistake could have been made while constructing the machine. As a result, the machine became self-minded and blamed people for the possible mistakes: “It can only be attributable to human error” (2001: A Space Odyssey). The computer began o set its own rules and govern the human beings. Thus, the progress turned into a dystopia for people.

The same happened in the story “The Machine Stops,” where human beings live in a world ruled by machines. People thought that they made some progress when they constructed these machines; however, as it turned out, they simply degraded instead of developing their own skills and achieving personal success. After reading this story, one can conclude that people cannot exist without live communication and interaction with each other. Only unity, trust and collaboration can help people to overcome such an obstacle as broken machines that destroy the world. Nowadays, people live in isolation and depend on machines only, and they like this way of life. However, the modern generation does not seem to fully realize the wrongfulness and risk of such isolation and continue communicating within their cells. For example, the protagonist Kuno tells, “I want to see you not through the machine. […] I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine!” (Forster). The author wanted to show to the readers that progress can sometimes bring no pleasure, and that no technology is able to replace the human communication. It is difficult for people to be alone, without any support, as people were created as social creatures. Another idea shown in the story is that the ideas of the crowd and collective mind is a very powerful tool in the rulers’ hands. Machines substituted the authorities and God, becoming “the Eternity” for the population (Forster). However, the author left a little hope for the better in the face of Kuno. If there were no individuals like Kuno, the world would have been destroyed long ago. Thus, “The Machine Stops” argues that if people rely entirely on machines and technology, the society will not be able to survive.

“The Jaunt” by Steven King depicts the humans’ evolution through an exciting and meaningful plot. A scientist Victor Carune invented a telepoortation device, which made people so excited about the possibility to transfer some objects from one place to another in several seconds that they forgot about safety and limits and began to make experiments on animals and other human beings. King writes, “The results of the announcement of the Jaunt - of working teleportation - on October 19th, 1988, was a hammerstroke of worldwide excitement and economic upheaval” (Ch. 4). Created by a human and later regulated by a machine, the Jaunt was not perfect, and those people who were conscious during teleportation died or became insane (Ch. 5). The son of the protagonist wanted to risk and stay conscious, and he paid with his life for his experiment.The Jaunt was created to make people’s life simpler and assist them but, as a result, it hazarded their lives because of the rules being violated. It was imperfect since its creation, but people continued using it despite the risk for their lives. The story teaches that not every progress may be useful and harmless for human beings.

Interestingly, Brinley Platts told that progress “means sustainability” (IBM UK). If this sustainability is disrupted, people will gain no benefit from such kind of progress. In the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and the two stories, people fully depend on computers and technologies; they believe that machines cannot not make mistakes. However, even a perfect machine can malfunction as it is illustrated in the analyzed works.

In addition, progress means changes and improvement. If there are no changes, there will be no evolution: when people do not develop their skills, they begin to degrade and become similar to primates. The same happens with machines: if people do not improve the invented technologies, they will sooner or later end up in despair. In “The Machine Stops,” people entrusted their lives to a machine, but did not pay enough effort to improve it further. They stopped developing and changing their world and became the victims of their own carelessness.

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