On digital feasibility fantasies, the surrender of utopian thinking and their dissolution in literature
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Writers: Marc Elsberg (Vienna), Zoë Beck (Berlin)

Introduction and moderators: Beat Mazenauer (Lucerne) and Rüdiger Wischenbart (Vienna)

E.M. Forster dreamed up the internet and social networks in 1909; he devised a story line – and he drew it to his radical conclusion over roughly two dozen print pages. He essentially envisaged the end of the human population on earth.

Forster’s The Machine Stops compiles a blueprint that nowadays has been transformed from a dark literary fantasy to the forefront of social discourses. Not only the pessimists, but mainstream political movements anticipate that the technological ingenuities of the past 150 years – that is, from the invention and proliferation of powerful machines, railways and telegraph systems to global population growth, the digitization of all areas of life and the ensuing climate disaster – have plummeted humanity into apocalyptic cataclysms.

The trend for networking especially seems to have been fixed here as the driving force behind the threat scenarios, whereby everything is interconnected with optimal efficiency, where globalization prevails, where privacy and personal freedom is abolished and eventually culminating in a climatic ‘tipping point’.

Utopian thinking, Luddism, or even the principle of hope seem in comparison ‘so 20th century’, forsaken, outdated or passé. Or can the stories of today and tomorrow still be told differently?


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