“If we revert to the earliest primordial types of mechanical life, to the lever, the wedge, the inclined planed, the screw… the pulley… and if we then examine the machinery of the Great Eastern, we find ourselves almost awestruck at the vast development of the mechanical world, at the gigantic strides with which it has advanced in comparison with the slow progress of the animal and vegetable kingdom. We shall find it impossible to refrain from asking ourselves what the end of this mighty movement is to be. In what direction is it tending? What will be its upshot?
What sort of creature will be man’s next successor in the supremacy of earth?… We are ourselves creating our own successors machines; we are daily adding to the beauty and delicacy of their physical organisation; we are daily giving them greater power and supplying, by all sorts of ingenious contrivances, that self-regulating, self-acting power which will be to them what intellect has been to the human race. In the course of ages we shall find ourselves the inferior race. Inferior in power, inferior in that mortal quality of self-control, we shall look up to them as the acme of all that the best and wisest man can ever dare to aim at.
Day by day, however, the machines are gaining ground upon us; day by day we are becoming more subservient to them, more men are daily bound down as slaves to tend them, more men are daily devoting the energies of their whole lives to the development of mechanical life. The upshot is simply a question of time, but that the time will come when the machines will hold the real supremacy over the world and its inhabitants is what no person of a truly philosophic mind can for a moment question.”
– Samuel Butler, “Darwin among the Machines” (1863)