(Article originally published here on December 17, 2018)
E. M. Forster wrote a dystopian novella about a world where people live in separate cubicles and interact with others almost exclusively via screens and keyboards. Human touch comes to feel unwelcome and threatening. Artificial Intelligence controls the machines that run the world's production systems, and it is no longer clear whether the machines exist to serve human needs or the humans exist to serve the machines.
"I have called you before, mother, but you were always busy or isolated. I have something particular to say."
"What is it, dearest boy? Be quick. Why could you not text it to me?"
"Because I prefer direct speech in this case. I want--"
"I want you to come and see me."
Vashti watched his Facebook image fade and recompose.
"But I can see you!" she exclaimed. "What more do you want?"
"I want to see you not through the Machine," said Kuno. "I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine."
"Oh, hush!" said his mother, vaguely shocked. "You mustn't say anything against the Machine."