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Byron Shire
January 18, 2022

Do machines liberate or enslave us?

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Charlie Chaplin heard that Mahatma Gandhi disapproved of the conventional view of machinery. In 1931 Charlie suggested to the Mahatma in regard to machinery “… it should help to release man from the bondage of slavery, and give him shorter hours of labour and time to improve his mind and enjoy life.” (Gandhi: First Sight, Thomas Weber (ed.))

This view, shared by the whole of the West, of the usefulness of machinery is not well thought out. There is no proof that humans experience bondage without machinery. Traditional Australian Indigenous people did not feel enslaved despite mostly eschewing machinery. Moreover, tribal, pre-literate peoples did not work as many hours as the civilised. It is for example common, for some civilised, modern households to work 16-hour days!

The ability to improve one’s mind and enjoy life does not suddenly occur with the advent of machinery. A working life can be enjoyed provided it is not arduous and there is no reason why a human mind cannot be stimulated by humane work.

Reduction in arduousness is dependent on people using human smarts to minimally but adequately supply food, clothing and shelter, rather than particularly, machinery.

The reason why many of the civilised feel enslaved is that they demand excessive stuff in the hope it will bring happiness.

After 10,000 years of civilisations, the civilised are still to remember that contentment comes primarily from within. It is related to the sociability that the civilised have turned their backs on, in favour of materialism and an obsessive concern for the economic.


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