Men and Machines -- Stewart Chase

Stuart Chase
Copyright © 1929
The Macmillan Company
354 pages

This is an amazing, prescient book. It was written shortly before the stock market crash of October 24, 1929. I quote excerpts below, preceded by [pageno].

Nineteen chapters include those on robots, skills, the flood of goods, the two-hour war, a billion wild horses. ...

[p8]"An intricate differential equation of the second order may take man weeks to solve, but with the new integrating machine invented by MIT professors, he can have his answer in an hour. Indeed he can have answers to problems too difficult for any human mind to solve. With his own hand he can write fifty words a minute, but with a rotary press he can in an equal time lay down two hundred thousand words."

[p9] "Whether machines for all their power are worth the human price which has been paid for them is still, for all the philosopers, an open question."

[206] "The machine is irrelevant in any given process unless it can save labour. One man stays and nine men go. Society has gained a cheaper process, and nine men have lost their jobs. The final net gain is not always so clear."

[206] "The United States has about the worst unemployent statistics of any civilized country. In the spring of 1928 the newspapers and magazines were filled for months with a vast debate as to whether there was, or was not, and unemployment crisis. Estimates of men out of work ranged from a few hundred thousand to six million -- and nobody really knew anything conclusive about it." ed. this was pre-depression!

[230] The business man often cannot tolerate durability, because of the brake it puts upon sales. Big investments demand big turnovers. Imagine a modern department store seeking to sell a vacuum cleaner good for a generation, as sewing machines once were!"

[234]"We ultimate consumers have to take what we can get, and in altogether too many cases it is far from being good enough."

[235]"We ultimate consumers ...stand google-eyed before a thousand advertising campaigns pulling us in as many directions. (ed. before TV and the internet.)"

[285] "...Indeed the only certainty is constant change,
so long as technology maintains its present pace."

[315] Premonition of 9/11 In the chapter 'The Two Hour War' ... Particularly complete would be the termination of New York.
With her bridges and tunnels bombed, with her many tall buildings crashing like glorified tenpins, with her super-congestion, citizens would hardly have time to seize their checkbooks before being summoned to the waiting rooms of the recording angel.
...This is the sort of thing which airplanes, with bombs swung below them, pilot controlled or automatic, are perfectly equipped to do.

The persons capable of imaginging the holocaust in advance are so few,
and of such slight influence -- particularly in the war and navy departments --
that the world cannot realize what it now faces until it has faced it in a
fait accompli.

[338-9]"Far be it from a statistical Don Quixote to instruct the Dictator
in his duties, but if you should honor me with an unofficial conference behind
the battery of television telephones upon your desk ..."
following advice:
"You must take the lead among your fellow rulers in relentlessly
surpressing war machines."

[339]"You must resolutely check the blind and furious activity of machine
in the erection of cities already over-congested, and whose nerves are over-exposed,
and transfer that energy to a program of decentralization and regional planning."