Machines – Comprehension


Wren and Martin Comprehension Exercise 147

The third great defect of our civilization is that it does not know what to do with its knowledge. Science has given us powers fit for the gods, yet we use them like small children. For example, we do not know how to manage our machines. Machines were made to be man’s servants; yet he has grown so dependent on them that they are in a far way to become his masters. Already most men spend most of their lives looking after and waiting upon machines. An the machines are very stern masters. They must be fed with coal, and given petrol to drink, and oil to wash with, and they must be kept at the right temperature. And if they do not get their meals when they expect them, they row sulky and refuse to work, or burst with rage, and blow up, and spread ruin and destruction all round them. So we have to wait upon them very attentively and do all that we can to keep them in a good temper. Already we find it difficult either to work or play without the machines, and a time may come when they will rule us altogether, just as we rule the animals.

And this brings me to the point at which I asked, “What do we do with all the time which the machines have saved for us, and die new energy they have given us ?” On the whole, it must be admitted, we do very little. For the most part we use our time and energy to make more and better machines; but more and better machines will only give us still more time and still more energy, and what are we to do with them ? The answer, I think, is that we should try to become mere civilized. For the machine themselves, arid the power which the machines have given us, are not civilization but aids to civilization. But you will remember that we agreed at the beginning that being civilized meant making and liking beautiful things, thinking freely, and living rightly and maintaining justice equally between man and man. Man has a better chance today to do these things than he ever had before; he has more time, more energy, less to fear and less to fight against. If he will give his time and energy which his machines have won for him to making more beautiful things, to finding out more and more about the universe, to removing the causes of quarrels between nations, to discovering how to prevent poverty, then I think our civilization would undoubtedly be the greater, as it would be the most lasting that there has ever been.
– C.E.M. Joad

1. Instead of making machines our servants the author says they have become our masters. In what sense has this come about?
Machines were made to be our servants. Yet, we have become so dependent on them, that the machines have become our masters. Machines need their meals when they expect them. If not given, they spread destruction and ruin and refuse to work.

2. The use of machines has brought us more leisure and more energy. But the author says that this has been a curse rather than a blessing. Why?
Machines have been a curse rather than a blessing. For, they do help us save time, but we do very little in the saved time. Thus, we should try to become mere civilized. Using simple machines will not make us look after them attentively.

3. “Making more beautiful things” What does this expression mean?
Making more beautiful things means making things that one will enjoy.

4. Mention some plans you may have to prevent poverty in the world. Who would receive your most particular attention, and why?
Poverty, according to me, can be drastically reduced by engaging in charity and by supporting organizations

5. The author uses phrases like, “fed with coal”; “given petrol to drink”; “oil to wash”; “kept at the right temperature” What machines would require these things?
Steam engine requires coal to run. Vehicles require petrol to drink and oil to wash with. Diesel engines require the right temperature.