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An extract from "Erewhon"

by Samuel Butler

New and revised edition, 1901


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'... The air we breathe is hardly more necessary for our animal life than the use of any machine, on the strength of which we have increased our number, is to our civilization; it is the machines which act upon man and make him man, as much as man who has acted upon and made the machines; but we must chose between the alternative of undergoing much present suffering, or seeing ourselves gradually superseded by our own creatures, till we rank no higher in comparison with them, than the beasts of the field with ourselves.

'Herein lies our danger. For many seem inclined to acquiesce in so dishonourable a future. They say that although man should become to the machines what then horse and dog are to us, yet that he will continue to exist, and will probably be better off in a state of domestication under the beneficent rule of the machines than in his present wild condition. We treat our domestic animals with much kindness. We give them whatever we believe to be the best for them; and there can be no doubt that our use of meat has increased their happiness rather than detracted from it. In like manner there is reason to hope that the machines will use us kindly, for their existence will be in a great measure dependent upon ours; they will rule us with a rod of iron, but they will not eat us; they will not only require our services in the reproduction and education of their young, but also in waiting upon them as servants; in gathering food for them, and feeding them; in retoring them to health when they are sick; and in either burying their dead or working up their deceased members into new forms of mechnical existence.


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