Man and Machine
First of all, let us consider man. Man himself is a machine, and that is a very complex one. Rightly does Shakespeare say in his celebrated play Julius Caesar: “What a piece of work is the man!”
Difference between man and machine
Man is a machine created by nature or God, whatever one may decide to accept. But man has life. He has consciousness. Hence, man is a conscious machine. He has feelings and sentiments. He has emotions. Man can take pity on others. He can be considerate, compassionate and sympathetic.
Examples of machines
Machines created by man are lifeless. They have no feelings, impulses, emotions or sentiments. They cannot think and will, as a man can. It is said that the computers have memory. But that memory is different from man’s since they can reproduce only that which man has fed into them. Thus, the computers are not independent agencies. Much against the common belief that the computers have a superior memory as compared to man’s, they have only the capacity to store whatever is fed into them. They can produce nothing on their own. All that appears to be new in computers is only the result of man’s own doing.
Man’s dependence on machines
Today man is so much dependent on machines that they have overwhelmed him in all walks of life. From morning till evening, indeed, all the time we are awake, we are dependent on machines. In the morning, an alarm clock may wake us up. If it is winter, the water we use for bathing purposes may be heated with the help of a geyser. Even our toilet is a plethora of all kinds of machines. We wash our clothes with the help of a washing machine. We mix several ingredients like spices, sliced vegetables etc. for recipes in a mixer which is a machine which works with electricity. We have innumerable machines and gadgets in homes, in offices and in other places like the T.V., the refrigerator, the transistor, the radio, the deck, the record player, etc. Even mechanical and electronic toys and video games are machines. The trains, the buses, the aeroplanes, the ships, the bicycles, the autos, etc. all are machines.
In the hospitals, the scanning and X-ray plants, the ECG and EEG apparatus, etc. and even the stethoscopes, all are machines. We never bother or think when we use small machines like the pen, the scissors, the compasses, etc.
Factories and mills
In the factories and mills, there are huge machines which have made mass production of goods possible. Thus the markets are today flooded with manufactured articles, and there is always a danger of a terrible recession. But, it must be admitted that keeping in view this mass production of goods, the mammoth human populations all over the world have been to a great extent saved from the agony of hunger, starvation and deprivation. Had there been no machines the existence of such a large number of people on the earth would have been well-nigh difficult, if not impossible.
C.E.M. Joad says and that rightly so that machines are only aids. They are intended to be man’s servants, but, unfortunately, they are in a fair way to become man’s masters. Machines are in certain respects like a man. They have to be fed oil off and on, just as man has to take food. They also need rest after working for some time, just as man needs rest and feels the necessity of leisure.
Gandhiji’s views :
Many people believe that Gandhiji was against the use of machines. But that is not true. Hence, it is also rightly said that Gandhiji does not reject machinery as such. This is what he observes:
How can I be against all machinery, when I know that even this body is a most delicate piece of machinery. A spinning wheel is a machine, a little toothpick is a machine. What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such. The craze is for what they call labour-saving machinery. Men go on “saving labour” till thousands are without work and are thrown on the streets to die of starvation. I want to save time and labour not for a fraction of mankind but for all.
Today we can understand how prophetic the words of Gandhiji are. This is exactly what has happened. Globalisation, industrialisation and privatisation have brought in new technology, new machines, many of them time-saving and labour saving machines. But proper and matching steps have not been taken to remedy the problems arising out of this novelty. The result is large scale unemployment. The wealth has gone into a few hands while millions have been deprived of the basic necessities of life. Machines have become our masters. The atom bombs, missiles etc. are machines which threaten man with extinction and they are man’s creations. We have got the Frankenstein’s monster that can wipe out. mankind from the face of the earth.