Machine Operators (simian exercens machina)
Copyright 2014, John Manimas Medeiros
The human species overtly displayed its narcissism when it accepted the self-serving nomenclature that we be designated "homo sapiens" meaning "wise ape." We cannot effectively defend our self-characterization as possessing wisdom with concrete evidence. The evaluation of civilization continues indefinitely. This is why I have argued that we should call ourselves "fire monkey" or "simian arsus." Now here I will argue we may be evolving from "simian arsus" to "simian exercens machina," meaning we are fire monkeys who operate machines. We are fire monkeys not only because we play with fire, but also because the ancient Greek myth that the human species was born when Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans is the best genesis story ever conceived, because it is the most scientifically accurate. If we never lost our fear of fire, a fear that applies to all other animals, we would not have explored the world in confidence and would not have discovered how to make with our own hands, and brains, all of those things that require the use of fire. We would not have become technological animals. It is a requirement for any animal species to evolve technologically, meaning to become a technological animal, that the species must lose its fear of fire. It must develop the confidence in "friendly fire" and in its ability to control fire. We humans may be overconfident in that department. We may have an exaggerated conception of how much we do exercise control over our hot technology. In other words, technology, which is based upon fire, can get out of control. That is our permanent fear. It shows in the stories we tell. We tell stories about losing control of our technology. Such stories are stories of the end of human civilization.
But let me not be so glum. I do not intend to tell a story of apocalypse here, just a story of how our species has evolved to become machine operators. We are all machine operators. We do little, if anything, without our machines. We started our evolution, it is suggested, with hunting dogs, and later with protective cats. But we have added not only horses and other domesticated animals. We have added our machines. We started with pets, but now our machines are our pets. This is serious. I begin my story with a personal and common reality: my early contemplation of what "career" or "vocation" interested me when I was in school. I did not want to be a machine operator, and at that time, it seemed possible to earn a living doing something other than operating a machine. But now, I don't know.
Today, it looks like everyone has to operate a machine in order to live. We start every day with a machine, a clock. Then a machine that gives us news and weather, then a machine that makes coffee. We move quickly from machine to machine, until we are in the machine we love the most, the automobile, and take with us the machine that we are not supposed to operate at the same time that we operate the automobile, the cell phone. But, that may be fixed soon, because the industrialists are preparing to market cars that drive themselves. How convenient! This is what people really want, freedom to operate the phone while being transported by the car. Now we are cooking with gas. Just so long as the gas is not going to kill us. So, let me go back to the beginning of my story. I am between childhood and adolescence, and during this period I am asking myself what I want to do, what I want to be, what kind of work I would enjoy for many years of my working life. One of my earliest thoughts, and persistent desires, is that I do some kind of work that does not make me be a "machine operator." So, back then, in the late 1950s, what kind of work could a person do and not operate a machine? A teacher? A social worker? A writer? A farmer? What did it mean, anyway, to do work that did not require operating a machine? Was there really such work available? Or, were there just some old ideas about what a person does in certain lines of work?
Back then, it was still possible to think that it was reasonable to plan a working life that would not require the operation of a machine. But it was wrong even then. I thought seriously about being a writer, and I had some comments from teachers suggesting that being a writer was a realistic goal for me. I found myself getting very interested in typewriters and how they worked. Young people today might wonder how that could be true as late as 1958, but in fact we still used mechanical typewriters in 1958, and so even though I wanted to be an artist, a writing artist, I would still need to operate a machine. The mechanical typewriter was already becoming an electric typewriter, then an electronic typewriter, and would soon become computer technology (during the 1960's and 1970's a "word processor" became a possible but expensive technology). By necessity, as my aspirations and real-life experience took me from government bureaucrat, to teacher, to personnel recruiter to social worker, I learned on the way that I needed to learn a lot about computers, how to operate a computer, and how a computer worked. I did that. Therefore, even though I had originally committed to social services and civil service, to "working with people," I could not escape working with machines. I learned to use the ever evolving telephone, the computer word processor and spreadsheet and database manager, the printer, copier, and the ever-necessary automobile. And, as I was also attracted to gardening, organic gardening, and possibly even farming, I soon learned that a "farmer" though imagined as a down-to-earth person whose life revolved around plowing the earth and studying the earth and planting and harvesting and working in the company of animals, that was actually a mistaken and romantic image. Farmers were already machine operators, and they became machine operators more every year throughout the twentieth century. And, during the last two decades of the twentieth century, farmers also had to learn how to use computers, in addition to operating tractors many hours every day, and milking machines, and planters, and chemical appliers and harvesters and packagers and distributors and trucks. A farmer, since 1960, and more so since 1980, spends all day operating machines. If you want to be some kind of "artist" who works with living things, with plants, animals and humans, then farming is not the career for you. If you become a farmer, you will operate some machine, all day, every day, the same as if you were a blue collar machinist in a factory.
And, if you want to "work with people" in government, you will also operate machines all day, every day, because all record keeping and record management and all forms of government operations, such as records, applications, eligibility determinations, distribution of information and or benefits, or bills, or collections, and on and on, all require the operation of machines, including of course, our favorite machines: computers, cell phones, and automobiles. It is funny, is it not, that we do not even think of ourselves as operating a machine when we are driving, but of course we are operating one of our most expensive, most domineering, and most dangerous machines, the killer on four wheels. The life-destroyer by means of exhaust gases.
So, here is a "fun" game you can play when the television is not working, or you and your friends are slightly intoxicated, or you cannot think of anything better to do. Two, three or four players, possibly two teams of three can play. All you do is take turns trying to come up with an occupation or any productive activity that one can perform without operating a machine. Try it. The other player, or other team, can "defeat" you by knocking out your proposed "machine-free" occupation or activity simply by naming a machine that is required for the activity to be performed as stated. This game is harder than you think. Let me give you an example or two.
One: Suppose a player says "chase butterflies." Sorry, you are probably wearing some kind of footwear or foot covering, and that foot covering was manufactured by use of a machine. You are probably wearing clothing, and that clothing was manufactured by a machine, and even if you are wearing hand-made pants, or just a pair of briefs, they needed to be washed – by a machine.
Suppose a player says "die." Sorry, you cannot die without operating a machine. You have to be buried in a protective container of some kind, usually a coffin – made by a machine. A machine is used to process your dead body for the protection of the public health. And, when you die, someone will make a phone call – sorry, that is a machine.
So, I could go on, but why bother. Just play the game, and have fun. You are reading this using a machine. I used a machine to write it. It was sent to you by a machine. Here's another game: after you finish reading this, in how many seconds will you do something else that requires a machine? Really short time, right? Suppose you go to a kitchen or bathroom and draw a glass of water – gotcha! No machine, no water. Did you walk across a carpet? Now you are getting the idea. Try to prove me wrong you simian exercens machina. This game of "Work or Play Without a Machine" might become a fad after all. Can you play this game without a machine?
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