We have finished another book together, woohoo! Get ready for the next book, post to vote coming later today. For now, below is the transcript for our Machine of Death chat. It was our biggest chat, yet, and we covered a lot! Even if you haven't finished or started the Machine of Death, you should check out the discussion.
CC: Hello Thinkers. So, where shall we begin?
Amanda: Well, first off perhaps, what did everyone think of the format of the book, a collection of short stories that didn't necessarily comport with one another?
Erin: i really liked the short story format
Susan: me too
Erin: i found it easier to stop and start again
and i liked the varied viewpoints
Matthew: I think it worked given the unusual premise
Amanda: I think it worked well. It felt a bit like what it would be to live in a world with the machine, where you hear snippets of stories about different people, rumors, and the people you know.
Carla: I like the short stories it was good to read on the plane, before bed...
Matthew: I actually felt very much that every story was about a different world
Matthew: with a different machine
Susan: except when it would influence your dreams
CC: agree, though it was a little frustrating that some stories had different rules and patterns on how the machine works
Susan: I liked that they were different
Matthew: I thought it was noticeable, but not really frustrating
I liked that people had different perspectives
Carla: I agree with CC:
Amanda: Did you have preferences as to which "rules" made the most sense, or were the best given the problems with knowing your cause of death (e.g., age at which you can find out, venue, etc.)?
Susan: For me, within most of the stories, the set-up "made sense"
ie I could see it being a very mall thing. or in a doctor's office. or sold through an infomercial
Carla: I think the ones where you were older made the most sense
Amanda: I think the more commercial contexts were the most likely, in my mind, as opposed to the government/health care venues.
In the US, at any rate.
Carla: because it is a choice that each individual can make
Susan: but I can see it emerging through medical technology
Matthew: Well that's another interesting one
Would it stay an individual choice
CC: I don't like when the choice to take it became mandatory
Amanda: Right. I was uncomfortable with the stories in which it was compulsory.
Susan: But I can totally see that happening!
CC: me too
Susan: People not voting for someone because they refused.
Matthew: Rather GATACCA, really
Carla: Well everything in the health care is a choice
Susan: Ahhh great connection to Gatacca
Erin: i would totally get it done
Erin: but i wouldn't want to share
Matthew: I absolutely wouldn't
Erin: especially with govt
CC: I don't think I would
Amanda: I don't think I would do it.
Erin: i liked the viewpoint that it is liberating
Amanda: It depends on the type of death, though...
that's a risk
Susan: It depends for me. Depending on how it evolved I mean (government, healthcare, side show, etc)
Amanda: And, you might not really know what the prediction means.
As so many of the stories pointed out, words are inherently ambiguous.
Carla: I don't think I would there are to many implications, I think it would be liberating but at the same time it could so easily destroy you
CC: like Joy
Matthew: Do you think that was a distinct decision to make the stories possible
CC: I think it would be the opposite of liberating
Matthew: Because I get the feeling the editors distinctly didn't want to make it a Minority Report or whatever, where everything is so specific it just becomes about self-fulfilling prophecies
Here there were some, but they tended to take it a little deeper than obvious cause-effect
CC: I think it would be restrictive because with most examples we see that people change after they read the prediction
Susan: well it always depends on if the machine is being purposefully ironic or, like today, machines just don't have the grasp of language humans do
CC: they stop taking chances
Matthew: That's an interesting point
Apart from uninteresting things like not running in front of cars, I don't think a fear of death affects my life a great deal
But people here do seem to be very changed by knowing
Carla: I agree that almost everyone does change a little after getting a prediction but in real life when you tell some one that they will die of heart disease most of the time they don't do anything to change their habits
Susan: I think people are so changed because it really reminds us of our own mortality
Erin: i think the mistake people make is that because they know, they feel like death can happen any minute
Susan: most of the time we can almost pretend, put off thinking about it
Erin: so they become obsessed with the idea of prolonging their life
Amanda: Yes. I think the machine makes the inevitability of death more tangible, more accessible.
CC: When I was reading I wondered if the machine only put the idea into the individual's head, but the individual was the one that actually made the prediction accurate
Matthew: I guess there's an attitude that's closer to one I'd be willing to hold
Erin: not necessarily CC:
Matthew: Like those who are going to have a heart attack, so they minimise their risk of heart attack
Not to avoid it, but to delay it
Erin: because remember that suicide story?
Carla: I felt like the machine did cause people to die earlier whether or not it was a literal death or not
Amanda: Right, Erin.
Erin: where the guy gets killed by another person's suicide?
you can't help that
Susan: Didn't one of the stories have something where it says heart attack, but you can put that off for a long time by taking steps against it?
Amanda: But, are you delaying it?
Or, were you going to die then either way? The fatalism is problematic.
Matthew: I think you are delaying it
CC: but does the worry and panic not counter the steps you are taking to prevent?
Matthew: It's like if Achilles wore heel armour
He would still only die one way, but he's delayed that death
Amanda: But, do you have any control, or is it just fate? Just as you were fated to die of a heart attack, you were fated to learn of your fate from the machine, and thus fated to change your eating habits, etc.
Matthew: I wouldn't be panicked by dying by heart disease
There's already a 1/3 chance or something
Carla: but you can delay heart disease
Matthew: I think you can delay your death
CC: but was there a story where it said something so specific as "heart disease"? Wouldn't it say "heart" and with that you can interpret it to match any number of deaths
Matthew: It seems that the machine has a sense of humour
And I think it likes people's ability to play, but not to change what it tells them
Susan: a) predicting cancer or heart disease is almost cheating though, since those are very common. plus, scientists have already identified genes for certain diseases meaning you are predisposed to that
Erin: so what susan is saying is
WE ALREADY HAVE A MACHINE!!
Carla: I picked heart disease to be general there were ones that said stroke, heart attack
Dun dun duuuuuuuunnnnn
and some things are already being mandated
like testing for sickle cell anemia in high school athletes
(not maybe not yet, but there is a debate over it)
CC: but even with those, the machine would say that and really mean that someone else has a stroke/heart attack while driving and crashes into you. so how do you delay that death?
Carla: Sickle cell is being tested in high school?
Matthew: I think you just have to play the probabilities, and I don't have a problem with that approach
Amanda: So, let's talk about government intervention. In particular, I'm thinking about the story with the guy who knows he's going to die in an airplane crash, and his death is scheduled by the government even though his wife is pregnant.
CC: not cool
Susan: and then the gov't rounding up all who had nuclear bomb
Carla: Didn't get to it
Oh, sorry Carla!
Carla: no worries
Matthew: That's getting towards the direct fulfillment of the prophecy
But with the interesting twist that it would come through even if they didn't fulfill it like that
Amanda: Right. It's an interesting way of asserting control.
Carla: I thought it was interesting when the one story talked about terrorism going down because people didn't fear it anymore and it didn't wokr
Amanda: Ah, interesting.
Susan: but no one had "terrorism" as a death
Amanda: Or, the one where traitors were discovered by testing for people who would die execution?
Matthew: Well, that logic was just wrong
Matthew: But I think the story is still a genuine depiction of what would happen
Amanda: It was interesting, throughout the book, how people were convinced they understood how the machine worked, and thus tried to make it work in their favor.
Susan: I like how NO ONE knew how it worked
Matthew: It never does, though...
CC: not even the machanincs
Erin: even the inventors!
Matthew: That's probably a good thing
I think it would make a strange story if you tried to explain how it works
Amanda: Heh, I loved the one where it ran out of ink.
Susan: but would people even trust it if no one knew?
Matthew: A few stories had that
Amanda: Yes, because it proves it works when people die as predicted.
CC: that one was a good story because it covered alot. I mean what about hte guy being accused of murder when he is feeding pie to that guy
Matthew: It took a few correct predictions, but people trusted the results
Carla: But there is plenty of things we use now that we don't necessarily know how they work we just know that they do. I am thinking of some drugs they get backed enginererd
Erin: and they installed trackers in people with odd predictions
Susan: but we as humans can connect almost anything
6 degrees of Kevin Bacon
Susan: that HIMYM episode where they trace everything back to a penny
Matthew: I agree with what someone said: it is hard to escape the idea that the machine is killing the people
When things start happening like that
Carla: yeah I felt like people wanted it to be correct
Amanda: Susan, you mean that we decide the predictions are "correct" because we have a sense of irony?
Susan: I don't think computers do yet
Carla: The one where the inventors prediction was water and he died in a plane crash that had water in the fuel that was a strech
Matthew: But I felt that it worked because they mentioned that it was such an unlikely problem
Susan: yeah, so as someone said, it's just playing the probabilities
Matthew: Because it should have been noticed
Yes: if I had water, I wouldn't go swimming
Or fly over oceans
But I probably wouldn't give up flying over continents
Carla: I liked the one where people would come into the ED and if there card had the prediction they would let them die letting the machine win so easily
CC: How would people address "
Susan: But if it said "surgery" would that mean that any docotr who performs surgery can be sued?
Amanda: I think the laws would change.
Matthew: But would not performing surgery count?
Matthew: Like if it said "air", and someone died from lack of air, I think that would be reasonable
Amanda: Though, what about that one where it said "testing"
Erin: they couldnt do any tests!
Matthew: So surgery could be the same
Carla: well they would have to undergo surgery to die of surgery and how do you know that surgery would kill them
Amanda: Yes, which surgery.
That's a huge issue--knowing how, but not when.
What did you think of the story where there was a new version that could predict when?
CC: How would people adddress "crimes" committed that are altogether harmless, but are done in order to meet a prediction? For example, the Mayor's cousin who found out his roommate was sleeping with his girlfriend, and slipped pie in his food knowing that his card read "PIE"
Carla: surgeons make risk benefits everyday and are always aware that any surgery that goes wrong they can get sued
Amanda: I think that would be premeditated homicide.
Susan: but if he didn't die, could it be attempted murder?
Matthew: It's no different from now
Matthew: We no people are going to die
CC: but the roommate chocked on Turkey
Matthew: And obviously making that happen sooner is murder
Amanda: Would giving sugar to someone who is diabetic be murder, for example?
Susan: but is it really "sooner"
CC: the turkey killed him, not the pie crust
Carla: what is the intent there is man slaughter today for crimes where death was accidental versus meaning to harm
Matthew: Yes: if you have special information about someone and use that to help kill them, that's murder
Amanda: Yep. It's all about intent. But, it is interesting to think that, had the person not known the other's cause of death, they wouldn't have been able to intend that result in the first place.
Susan: I bet insurance companies would force you to get tested before insuring you
(on a slightly separate note)
Erin: there was a story about that
Amanda: Insurance was going down.
Erin: but people still got insured
(p.s. i LOVED that story)
it was my favorite
that guy was awesome
Amanda: It was a good one.
Erin: "come to me my pretty lions. come"
haha he was crazy
Carla: what would the insurance company do with the information?
Erin: but he embraced the machine in a way that i liked
Susan: he had no relationships because he freaked everyone out!
Amanda: The issue is, though... Even if you know how you're going to die, it's not all about death. What about injury? You don't know about how your life will be leading up to deaht.
CC: He made his whole life about seeing the prediction com etrue
Matthew: That's one that came up more than once
People taking pride in their cause of death
Erin: because he saw his prediction as he most exciting thing that could ever happen to him
Matthew: Again, I think it's natural, if illogical
Amanda: Yes. I thought it was interesting, the one where cliques formed at school based on COD. Boring deaths were uncool.
Matthew: And there weren't many boring deaths...
Is that just because people don't write about them
Erin: or what people considered boring
Matthew: Or is the fact that boring deaths are cool causing people to take risks in order to die in interesting ways?
Carla: "asleep with a smile on his face"
Amanda: But, death isn't cool! Life is cool. People seemed to lose sight of purpose.
Susan: but "after many years" after many years of being in a coma? in prison?
Carla: how about the cards with nothing
Susan: you mean the one without ink, Carla?
Carla: No the one with the 170 year old man and granddaughter I
Susan: ooo ok
Carla: I think that one was emphasizing that everyone dies for a reason that death is part of our time on earth
Amanda: That one was interesting. I liked that the man kept it a secret. It really addressed the problem with immortality.
Watching everyone you love die.
Matthew: Perhaps only the people who would keep it quiet can be immortal
Those who would make a big deal of it would be killed by someone, so don't get 'nothing'
Amanda: Ah, an interesting causality problem, again.
Matthew: Yes, I find thinking too hard about anything regarding knowing the future gives causality problems
So I try not to dig to that level
Susan: which is why I liked the nerdiness of the last one
Amanda: Oh, was that the one with the kid who was smarter than everyone?
Susan: no, I mean the one where the last woman who knows destroys all machines and then gives herself electric shock therapy to bring chaos back to the universe and thus make sure the prediction doens't come true
Amanda: Ooooh, right. Sorry, I finished it last week.
(Then again, so did you unless I'm much mistaken.)
Susan: Yes, being unemployed meant I plowed through it very qucikly when it was first announced)
Amanda: But, yes, that was an interesting story.
What did you all think about the one with the support group, where people had a count down to their deaths?
CC: I didn't get to that one...
Amanda: Ah. Sorry, gang, I keep ruining the ending!
Susan: I liked the ritual of the night before
CC: no, it's cool
Does anyone have other issues to bring up from the book? :-)
Matthew: If you accidentally discovered this machine
Would you tell anyone?
Erin: i totally would
Susan: Knowing this book, no haha
Erin: but then again, i'm the only one in the group who would get my prediction haha
Amanda: I don't think I would. I'd probably destroy it, knowing what I know from the book.
Carla: What were peoples feelings on The story titled HIV from Machine of Death.
Susan: LOVED IT
CC: that's messed up
Amanda: Ultimate irony.
Erin: haha yeah but later, there was another story
Matthew: Oh, that's another things
Erin: that said the machine had a built in sterilizer
Matthew: More about the way things were written
Erin: the fugu story maybe?
Matthew: Ah, but there were different kinds of machines
Susan: but the machine (or parts) can break down
Matthew: And that one could have been broken
Amanda: Yeah, it's tricky to cross-apply the stories.
Erin: yeah that's not really meant to be done
Matthew: The stories had the crucial way of death as their title
So I felt we were put in the character's shoes
Amanda: I did like that about the book, the way the titles worked out.
Matthew: We knew how it would end, just like they knew how they'd die
OK, the title way of death wasn't always the crucial one, but that's in some ways even more like how things were for them
Susan: but not always. the titles were sometimes ironic too
Matthew: In that we knew something but not everything
Amanda: Hey gang, I think I need to go in a couple of minutes. This has been a really great conversation!
Carla: Bye Amanda
Erin: me too. i want to finish the book even more now!
CC: And, it has biggest chat, yet. Good job, team
Amanda: We should choose another book soon!
CC: That is what I wanted to talk about now
Amanda: Should we do the same thing as last time--a blog post about it, with suggestions and then voting in the comments?
CC: Are people ok with the previous choices, do we have any additions?
Carla: I would enjoy it it gives me something to look forwar
Amanda: Can we have a day to think about it, maybe?
Matthew: How about we use the last suggestions as the start of said blog post
Amanda: Yes, and then expand.
Erin: sounds good
Carla: ...d to and not just school
CC: ok, but I want to have a book chosen by Friday
so, be fast
Erin: haha tight schedule!
Carla: I am up for whatever I like the short stories because eventhough I did n't finish I could partake
Amanda: Okay, how about suggestions by Tuesday, voting by Friday? CC:, can you do a post to solicit suggestions?
Yeah, short story anthologies are useful.
CC: Ok. I'll work on getting a post tonight
Susan: sounds good to me
Amanda: Alright, I'm really out of here. Thanks for the great conversation, guys!
CC: Thank you.
Erin: bye all! good chat :)
Carla: Thanks I should get back to work too
Susan: Bye, everyone!
CC: Keep your eye on the blog for updates! Bye