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Quotations about Technology


One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man. ~Elbert Hubbard

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. ~Arthur C. Clarke

How many men at this hour are living in a state of bondage to the machines? ~Samuel Butler, Erewhon, 1872

Due to my general aversion to machines and a few pronounced episodes of screaming, I was labeled a technophobe, a term that ranks fairly low on my scale of fightin' words. ~David Sedaris, "," Me Talk Pretty One Day, 2000,

That's jist the way the times will change.
      The old folks long a-slumber;
While wonders wakened since they went
      Puzzle my brain tu number.
There's telegraphs, an' telephones,
      An' lightnin' train expresses,
Electric lights, an' phonographs,
      An' things nobody guesses.
Discoveries is hatchin' fast,
      And peckin' fur existence.
The hen of years has set her time
      With patience an' persistence...
We're lucky if we git along,
      Among these hatched inventions,
'Thout being lost or gobbled up
      Tu feed their best intentions...
We'll du our duty, as I said,
      Nor hug old-fashioned notions.
The world ain't goin' tu stop fur us
      Its various locomotions.
We'll jog along as best we kin,
      An' call the changes pleasant;
Because there ain't no age, ye see,
      Like this 'ere blessed present...
~Sara L. Vickers Oberholtzer, "An Old Woman's Disposition of Her Grindstone," Souvenirs of Occasions, 1892

In a century we have seen electricity grow from a mere toy into one of the most powerful instruments of civilization... ~Gilbert Newton Lewis, The Anatomy of Science, 1926

INVENTOR, n.  A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization. ~Ambrose Bierce

As far as I'm concerned, progress peaked with frozen pizza. ~Die Hard 2, 1990, screenplay by Steven E. de Souza and Doug Richardson, based on the novel 58 Minutes by Walter Wager  [spoken by John McClane] is the machines which act upon man and make him man, as much as man who has acted upon and made the machines... ~Samuel Butler, Erewhon, 1872

You have your steam and your factories, and your patent this and your patent that, but you have not your old-fashioned homefulness, and, as for the snugness of our lives, you have no way of comprehending it. You have removed all your boundaries with your railroads and your telegraphs and your telephones and steamboats. ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "An Old-Time Thanksgiving," 1904

The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone, and computer. You'll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel or watch female mud wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home or play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam. There's no end to the possibilities! ~The Cable Guy, 1996, written by Lou Holtz Jr.

The things we referred to in our youth as science fiction today are becoming realities... ~L. B. Bates, 1955

The riddle of space has been solved by the telegraph, the wireless, and the telephone... ~Charles F. Raymond, "The Call to the Young," Just Be Glad, 1907

I have watched in spirit, hundreds of years, the machines grow out of Man like nails, like vast antennæ — a kind of enormous, more unconscious sub-body.... Man, at the present moment, with all his new machines about him, is engaged in becoming as self-controlled, as self-expressive, with his new machines, with his wireless telegraph arms and his railway legs, as he is with his flesh and blood ones.... So I have seen the machines go swinging through the world. Like archangels, like demons, they mount up our desires on the mountains.... We dive down with our steel wheels and nose for knowledge — like a great Fish — along the bottom of the sea. We beat up our wills through the air. We fling up, with our religion, with our faith, our bodies on the clouds. We fly reverently and strangely, our hearts all still and happy, in the face of God! ~Gerald Stanley Lee, "Dead as a Door Nail!", Crowds: A Moving-Picture of Democracy, Book One: Crowds and Machines, 1912

Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can't see where it keeps its brain. ~J.K. Rowling, "Dobby's Reward," Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 1999  [Arthur Weasley —tg]

Science in the service of humanity is technology, but lack of wisdom may make the service harmful. ~Isaac Asimov, "Technology," Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988

Day after day [man] invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation. Cars, airplanes, radios, and atomic bombs are the latest major triumphs of progress. Man no longer has anything essential to do, but he wants to do it at top speed and with superhuman noise. He seeks recreation and never realizes that the robot steering him is actually driving him into catastrophe and nothingness. 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 (1887–1966), "Sacred Silence," translated from French and German by Joachim Neugroschel, 1972

He thought of the telescreen with its never-sleeping ear. They could spy upon you night and day, but if you kept your head you could still outwit them. With all their cleverness they had never mastered the secret of finding out what another human being was thinking. ~George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1949

I like my new telephone, my computer works just fine, my calculator is perfect, but Lord, I miss my mind! ~Author unknown

It wishes to see only “useful things” produced, but it forgets that production of too many useful things produces too large a useless population. ~Karl Marx

      Man has traveled far in his strange pilgrimage and solaced himself with many lean and brittle husks. It is curious to think how many of his ingenious inventions are merely makeshifts to render tolerable the hardships and limitations he has imposed upon himself in the name of "civilization." How often his greatest cunning is expended in devising some pathetic substitute for the joy that once was his by birthright! He shuts himself up in beetling gibraltars of concrete, and thinks with pride of the wires, fans, and pipes that bring him light, air, and warmth. And yet sunshine and sky and the glow of blazing firewood were once common to all!
      He talks to his friends by telephone, telegraph, or machine-written letters instead of in the heart-easing face-to-face of more leisured times. He invents printing presses to do his thinking for him, reels of translucent celluloid to thrill him with vicarious romance. Not until the desire of killing other men came upon him did he perfect the loveliest of his toys — the airplane. How far, in his perverse flight from the natural sources of joy, has his love of trouble brought him! ~Christopher Morley (1890–1957), "A Slice of Sunlight," Travels in Philadelphia, 1920  [a little altered —tg]

Just done it again. I looked for the time at the top of a magazine page. ~Andy Lee, @andrewdotlee, tweet, 2012

When your inner man complains and wants to put his trust in something, there is nothing quite as suitable as a gadget. The gadget will presumably work, while the same thing cannot always be said of one's intelligence or of one's own nerve. ~Wolfgang Langewiesche (1907–2002), "Knapsack of Salvation," I'll Take the High Road, 1939  [a little altered; in this case, the gadget is a parachute —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Use of advanced messaging technology does not imply an endorsement of western industrial civilization. ~Author unknown, email sig line

The telegraph has conquered time. ~S. F. B. Morse, as quoted by Edward Parsons Day, 1883

By means of the magnetic telegraph the people of our country are holding a continuous mass-meeting. ~Wendell Phillips, as quoted by Edward Parsons Day, 1883

#WhenIWasYourAge: We had to open all doors by ourselves. None of them knew we were coming. ~Neil deGrasse Tyson, @neiltyson, tweet, 2014

The greatest task before civilisation at present is to make machines what they ought to be, the slaves, instead of the masters of men; and if civilisation fails at the task, then without doubt it and its makers will go down to a common destruction. ~Havelock Ellis

Hitherto it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being. ~John Stuart Mill

You cannot endow even the best machine with initiative; the jolliest steam-roller will not plant flowers. ~Walter Lippmann, "Routineer and Inventor," A Preface to Politics, 1913

Especially, in the country
      Was the backhouse used by all;
      For they had no city plumbing
      In those days beyond recall...
When 'twas dark, we'd light the lantern,
      And go forth upon our quest
      For the book of Sears & Roebuck;
      And then sit, and groan and rest...
But this backhouse, dark and gloomy,
      With its seats so cold and damp,
      Was the bane of my existence
      When I'd visit dear old Gramp!...
Gone are all those days of privies
      And of each backhouse, so plain;
      Now, we pull the chain, and presto!
      All is sweet and clean, again.
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham (1880–1971), "The Old Time Backhouse"  #outhouses  #toilets

Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them. ~A. N. Whitehead, "The Symbolism of Mathematics," An Introduction to Mathematics, 1911

I will remark here that James W. Paige, the little bright-eyed, alert, smartly dressed inventor of the machine is a most extraordinary compound of business thrift and commercial insanity; of cold calculation and jejune sentimentality; of veracity and falsehood; of fidelity and treachery; of nobility and baseness; of pluck and cowardice; of wasteful liberality and pitiful stinginess; of solid sense and weltering moonshine; of towering genius and trivial ambitions; of merciful bowels and a petrified heart; of colossal vanity and— But there the opposites stop. His vanity stands alone, sky-piercing, as sharp of outline as an Egyptian monolith. It is the only unpleasant feature in him that is not modified, softened, compensated by some converse characteristic. There is another point or two worth mentioning. He can persuade anybody, he can convince nobody. He has a crystal-clear mind as regards the grasping and concreting of an idea which has been lost and smothered under a chaos of baffling legal language; and yet it can always be depended upon to take the simplest half dozen facts and draw from them a conclusion that will astonish the idiots in the asylum. It is because he is a dreamer, a visionary. His imagination runs utterly away with him. He is a poet; a most great and genuine poet, whose sublime creations are written in steel. He is the Shakespeare of mechanical invention. In all the ages he has no peer. Indeed, there is none that even approaches him. Whoever is qualified to fully comprehend his marvelous machine will grant that its place is upon the loftiest summit of human invention, with no kindred between it and the far foothills below. ~Mark Twain

But lo! men have become the tools of their tools. ~Henry David Thoreau

Bored with all earthly things am I:
With men-machines that grind
Through long grey hours of misery,
Yet leave no trace behind...
~John Gould Fletcher, "Ennui"

To the press the electric telegraph is an invention of immense value. Charles Lamb, in one of his papers, remarks that a piece of news, which, when it left Botany Bay was true to the letter, often becomes a lie before it reaches England. It is the advantage of the telegraph that it gives you the news before circumstances have had time to alter it. The press is enabled to lay it fresh before the reader. It comes to him like a steak hot from the gridiron, instead of being cooled and made flavorless by a slow journey from a distant kitchen. A battle is fought three thousand miles away, and we have the news while they are taking the wounded to the hospital. A great orator rises in the British Parliament, and we read his words almost before the cheers of his friends have ceased... Our guest [Samuel F. B. Morse] has annihilated both space and time in the transmission of intelligence. ~William Cullen Bryant, "The Electric Telegraph," speech, 1868

I shall take the liberty this morning of transporting you one hundred years into the future... It is 1982... If you look back to 1882 you will be surprised at the rapidity of human progress... In the progress of events men considered that to keep up with the age, they must have their news at least once a week. Then came the need of a daily paper. Then the system was perfected for placing a bulletin on each man's counter three times a day and five times on Sunday. Then the telephone was used wholly to dispense with the printing press. Messages were directed to flash simultaneously once an hour to every village in the land. But even this system did not satisfy the needs of enlightenment. An hour to us seemed as long as six months to the Puritans of the seventeenth century. News must be instantaneous. Whatever occurred must be sent as by a nerve thrill through all the world. ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "New Year in 1982," Liberty and Life: Discourses by E. P. Powell, 1889  [a little altered —tg]

Without Edison we'd be watching TV by candlelight. ~Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980),

According to Alan, the bicycle is mechanical perfection. When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. ~Elizabeth West, "The simple life, on a pittance," Hovel in the Hills: An Account of 'The Simple Life', 1977

The most delicate and the most essential piece of mechanism that a man has to deal with is the human machine. ~Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919)

Maybe it was all inevitable — an unavoidable collision between mankind and technology. ~Transcendence, 2014, written by Jack Paglen  [Narrator Max]

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