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24.The Machines—Continued
"But other questions come upon us. What is a man's eye but a machine for the little
creature that sits behind in his brain to look through? A dead eye is nearly as good as a
living one for some time after the man is dead. It is not the eye that cannot see, but the
restless one that cannot see through it. Is it man's eyes, or is it the big seeing-engine
which has revealed to us the existence of worlds beyond worlds into infinity? What has
made man familiar with the scenery of the moon, the spots on the sun, or the geography
of the planets? He is at the mercy of the seeing-engine for these things, and is powerless
unless he tack it on to his own identity, and make it part and parcel of himself. Or, again,
is it the eye, or the little see-engine, which has shown us the existence of infinitely minute
organisms which swarm unsuspected around us?
"And take man's vaunted power of calculation. Have we not engines which can do all
manner of sums more quickly and correctly than we can? What prizeman in Hypothetics
at any of our Colleges of Unreason can compare with some of these machines in their
own line? In fact, wherever precision is required man flies to the machine at once, as far
preferable to himself. Our sum-engines never drop a figure, nor our looms a stitch; the
machine is brisk and active, when the man is weary; it is clear-headed and collected,
when the man is stupid and dull; it needs no slumber, when man must sleep or drop; ever
at its post, ever ready for work, its alacrity never flags, its patience never gives in; its
might is stronger than combined hundreds, and swifter than the flight of birds; it can
burrow beneath the earth, and walk upon the largest rivers and sink not. This is the green
tree; what then shall be done in the dry?
"Who shall say that a man does see or hear? He is such a hive and swarm of parasites that
it is doubtful whether his body is not more theirs than his, and whether he is anything but
another kind of ant-heap after all. May not man himself become a sort of parasite upon
the machines? An affectionate machine-tickling aphid?
"It is said by some that our blood is composed of infinite living agents which go up and
down the highways and byways of our bodies as people in the streets of a city. When we
look down from a high place upon crowded thoroughfares, is it possible not to think of
corpuscles of blood travelling through veins and nourishing the heart of the town? No
mention shall be made of sewers, nor of the hidden nerves which serve to communicate
sensations from one part of the town's body to another; nor of the yawning jaws of the
railway stations, whereby the circulation is carried directly into the heart,--which receive
the venous lines, and disgorge the arterial, with an eternal pulse of people. And the sleep
of the town, how life-like! with its change in the circulation."
Here the writer became again so hopelessly obscure that I was obliged to miss several
pages. He resumed:-
"It can be answered that even though machines should hear never so well and speak never
so wisely, they will still always do the one or the other for our advantage, not their own;