Speed and Efficiency, can be perceived as attributes of a machine, but if we think in terms of the industrial progress since the early 20th century, fast and efficient also describe the man that works in a factory.
So, is the man a machine, whose only aim is ‘production, ever-faster production, production at any cost?’, as stated by Braham, Hale and Sadar (n.d.) in their book Rethinking Technology.
Our human side would drive us to deny this claim and to affirm, however, that men are made of feelings, emotions, pleasure, leisure and so on. Nonetheless, if we look at this from a not-human point of view, because there is nothing human about an industrialized factory, the answer is: Yes, man is a machine, the greatest of them all.
But even the most innovative one (machine) needs energy.
Speed and efficiency are so linked to a mental and physical health process whose protagonist is man’s life.
An artistic example is Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times (1936), a true revolt against the subordination to the machine.
The story is about a factory worker who had been performing the same monotonous and fast motion for years until losing his mental balance.
The eating machine, which is a fundamental element of the film, highlights the theme of time, since it feeds workers without loss of time and interruption. Even though just a fantasy, this machine depicts how men should behave at work, and how the should program and organize the lunch break as a quick efficient break that allows us to rest enough in order to be able to produce more work.
So Modern Times faces ‘the predicaments in the aftermath of America’s Great Depression, when mass unemployment coincided with the massive rise of industrial automation’, as Robinson (2004) affirms in his article Charlie Chaplin: Filming Modern Times.
Moreover the union between the workman (Charlie Chaplin) and Gamine (Paulette Goddard), a young girl ‘whose father has been killed during a labour demonstration’(Robinson, 2004), symbolizes the only two live spirits in a mechanized world, whose only aim is pricing the time.
Braham, W., Hale, J. and Sadar, J. (n.d.). Rethinking Technology.
Robinson, D. (2004). Charlie Chaplin : Filming Modern Times. [online] Charliechaplin.com. Available at: http://www.charliechaplin.com/en/biography/articles/6-Modern-Times [Accessed 16 May 2016].