Sidney Perkowitz

Recent Articles

Connecting with E.M. Forster

A futuristic fantasy from early in this century offers us a hellish version of life on the Internet.

A s my jetliner rears back, I look up from E.M. Forster's Howards End to gaze at the concrete sprawl of airport momentarily filling my window. The rows of parked airplanes and automobiles make a fitting backdrop: In the period when Forster wrote Howards End , 1908 to 1910, he was already decrying the filthy, cluttered underside of life in the motorized age. Although he was not alone in despising the stink of gasoline and the frantic pace of vehicles, Forster had an unusual grasp of how technological advance promised to change social interaction—often for the worse. Forster also had an uncanny ability to predict exactly how technology would develop. At the century's beginning the telephone was new and the computer not even invented, yet Forster anticipated their modern evolution, perhaps most explicitly with his short story "The Machine Stops." Today the Internet and its related technologies are as ubiquitous as the automobile, within easy reach even as I fly five miles up. They raise...