“Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post.”
It’s been a long time coming, but at last the moment has arrived. I’m moving from Multiply – primarily a social networking site, with a social network that has dwindled over time – to WordPress. Probably whatever readership I have will dwindle further, but at least it won’t be a closed system, and anyone who wants can comment, and that’s got to be a good thing. It’s been six years on Multiply – six! – which has added up to a reasonable archive, and I’ll be sorry to cut that loose. Maybe I’ll have a trawl through and pick out a few of my favourite posts, although that seems rather solipsistic.
So what can readers expect from me, from this site? Well… the recurring theme will be industrial design, but if the old site is anything to go by there will be a sprinkling of personal anecdotes, photos, simple philosophical and political musings, and maybe a few sci fi-ish dabblings.
Just to get the ball rolling, though, here’s a reprint of my first posting on Multiply:
“I’ve been thinking about H G Wells’ ‘Time Machine’, and the Morlocks and Eloi that the Time Traveller meets. They’re both meant to be caricatures of humanity. So I asked myself, which one are you? – expecting that the answer would be ‘well, a bit of both’. But the answer I came up with was pretty unequivocal.
I’m a Morlock.
My work is extremely Morlockish: making addons for OEMs to bolt onto machine tools, that’s lower-level Morlock, deeply subterranean stuff. The natural assumption is to think that your hobbies and pastimes when you’re away from work balance this out… but when I started to think about it, I found my hobbies to be pretty subterranean too. My hobbies more closely resemble a Morlock downing a few jars with his buddies, than any arty farty Eloi rubbish.
So then I thought, well, hey, who the heck are these Eloi anyway, and why should I want to be like them? And the truth is, as HGW pointed out, that they weren’t very palatable creatures. My own simple theory about the Morlocks and the Eloi is that it’s all about technology: the Morlocks understood it, the Eloi didn’t. The Morlocks devoted their lives to running it, and in return, the Eloi offered up a sacrifice… no, wait – better to say that they paid a subscription fee to be able to continue using the service. The Eloi didn’t bother forming meaningful relationships – what’s the point, when the person you’re talking to might not be here tomorrow? There was no empathy, no caring, no soul. They were as beautiful and vapid and amoral as butterflies.
And that’s the deeper meaning, which didn’t really strike me until this evening – it’s a moral one. BOTH sides had abandoned any sort of human morality, by entering into their subscription fee arrangement. BOTH sides were, by OUR lights, evil and stupid. And, of course, both Eloi and Morlock are very much alive and well and living with us in the Twenty-first century. More so, even, than they were in HG’s time.
Technology has moved on, and with it, the ethical questions that we struggle with have become more imposing. The point is, it’s when people put their heads down and work that they are at their most Morlock-ish, and bad things start to happen. Morlocks are the ones who design land mines, and nerve gases, or environmentally-unfriendly SUVs with child-killing bullbars on the front. We solve the problems we’re equipped to solve – the technical ones – and we’re so busy with them that we forget that we’re living in the shadow of a much bigger, scarier ethical question. Repeat this too many times, and we become selfish, parochial, narrow-minded, amoral. All in all, I’d say the world is getting more and more Morlock-like.
So what’s a poor Eloi to do? Well… stop being an Eloi, would be my suggestion. I’m not entirely sure whether HGW meant the Eloi to represent the upper classes – a social system which doesn’t exist in quite the same blatant grasshopper-and-ants way that it did in the early Twentieth century. But… the Eloi hadn’t just given up on technology – they’d given up on each other, and they’d given up on understanding the Morlocks. They really didn’t have much going for them except a skin-deep sort of beauty. Their real strength lay in the simple fact that they weren’t Morlocks. And in my opinion the only triumph available to them was in getting the Morlocks to understand that there was more to the world than other Morlocks. The only happy outcome would be one in which relationships could once again be formed. That way information flows and empathy grows. The problems don’t get easier, but the perspective of those trying to solve it can be widened.
It’s interesting to speculate whether, unlike the hero of the novel, a time traveller from the Twenty-first century might decide to try and save the Morlocks rather than the Eloi.”