Samuel Butler
Samuel Butler was a British novelist and cultural critic. His novel Erewhon: or, Over the Range was published anonymously in 1872 and takes the form of a utopian narrative of place. Three chapters in the book are identified as “The Book of Machines,” and they describe a society with a conflicted relationship to machines. Citing Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution, Butler represents a world with machines that have evolved consciousness and threaten to transform in ways that cannot be controlled by humans:

I would repeat that I fear none of the existing machines; what I fear is the extraordinary rapidity with which they are becoming something very different to what they are at present. No class of beings have in any time past made so rapid a movement forward. Should not that movement be jealously watched, and checked while we can still check it? And is it not necessary for this end to destroy the more advanced of the machines which are in use at present, though it is admitted that they are in themselves harmless?

Text To Speech

Samuel Butler, Erewhon and Erewhon Revisited (Everyman's Library No. 881), 1947, hardcover book, Published by J.M. Dent & Sons, London