The Machine Stops
Publisher: Penguin Books
E M Forster’s novella (first published in 1928) describes a world in which humans live underground in separate cells, and have surrendered all liberties to the Machine in exchange for an easy life. In its infancy, the Machine was controlled by the Central Committee – a group of humans – but over time it becomes clear that it has developed a sort of artificial intelligence devoid of human control. Basically, it’s Bezos’s wet dream; ‘The Machine feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being.’
When Vashti (one of the few characters) complains that the music isn’t playing properly in her cell, she receives a reply from the Committee of the Mending Apparatus that her question was ‘unmechanical’ and no help was forthcoming. Anyone who has ever sought assistance from the Amazon (‘Earth’s most customer-centric company’) Seller Central help page will know exactly how this feels. And it doesn’t end well.