Enslave the machines

The word “applications” in physics needs to become a dirty word again, physics is about inquiry, useless, poetic inquiry, it isn’t about applications. When Faraday was asked by the mayor of his village what the point of his studies in electromagnetism were, he told him that surely one day he would find a way to tax them. Faraday was mocking the mayor, but his machines are now mocking us. These silent senseless creatures curving the spine and numbing the mind. The point of physics is to do and think beautiful things, it isn’t to make a GPS controller so that we can get to our kitty parties faster, it isn’t so that we can become more and more impatient, incapable of thinking for ourselves, of being bored. The machine is the slave, let us not forget that, as Oscar Wilde said “Human slavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the world depends.” Indeed we must enslave the machine, not become machines ourselves, human beings aren’t supposed to find applications, applications should find human beings, if and when human beings have the time for them.

One thought on “Enslave the machines

  1. Ce n’est qu’un vœu pieux, monsieur.

    La science moderne est fondamentalement, dans son principe, dans sa méthode, dans ses institutions, orientée vers les applications techniques. Elle a pour but d’arraisonner la nature. Comme l’écrit fort justement Dominique Pestre : “L’efficacité technique découle de la manière qu’a la science moderne de questionner le monde au laboratoire, elle est au point de départ de l’entreprise et non une (simple) conséquence heureuse, une application.” (A contre-science)

    Quand bien même l’on souhaiterait, individuellement, échapper à ce diktat, ses découvertes seraient immanquablement récupérées par d’autres. Tout ce qui est aujourd’hui scientifiquement valide est techniquement utile, et donc pratiquement utilisé. Toute découverte trouvera son application. Le scientifique ne peut se targuer de son innocence et de son désintéressement. Il sait pertinemment que ses travaux seront récupérés par le système technicien. Être scientifique aujourd’hui signifie collaborer activement à la mécanisation du monde et de l’homme.

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