Deus Ex Machina

Factory workers

Two thousand years ago the Greeks coined the phrase Deus Ex Machina – God out of the machine. This perfectly captures the moment we now inhabitat: from machines we have become as gods. Indeed, for better or worse, several commentators have described humanity’s new power in the Anthropocene as God like.

But the Greeks created the phrase Deus Ex Machina for a reason. A reason that will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter novels. Deus Ex Machina describes ridiculous plot devices whereby the hero or heroine is rescued from the jaws of death by some magic trick or ridiculous contrivance. Aristotle did all he could to hound this literary device from serious literature.

As the implications of the concept of the Anthropocene take hold the Greek phrase becomes ever more significant. The Anthropocene demands humanity shoulders a new responsibility for the world in which we live: we now control the narrative. It may  be unwise to rely on some unexpected plot twist to rescue us.

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