Machine is a means of fulfillment of a technical operation for production of a commodity or providing a service.
There is a dialectical opposite, the “ends-and-means” dichotomy. A machine is a means; a special means for something. And a human being is a universal purpose (end). So there is the second one – the “universal-special” dichotomy. It is not quite clear, because the ends of one process may serve as means for another; and when there are many processes with reverse causality it is easy to lose one’s bearings.
Machines serve humans. By doing mechanical work, machines free human beings from this mechanical work and thus give them time for freedom: so that humans can realize their freedom of will.
Machines can be living beings. Animals are machines, more specifically, biomachines. A horse can be used as a machine – and it is a machine indeed, though alive.
Insects are biological machines. Many of them are machines to such an extent and are so specialized that they don’t even reproduce, they are fully a means for something. Some animals are castrated to increase their level of specialization. Sometimes humans are sterilized as well – at some point in time this was especially widespread in China.
Some people capture animals and other people to turn them into machines.
Instruments of labor can be silent, bellowing and talking. (c) Marcus Varro, Rome
When a person is used as a means for something, he/she is used as a machine. The purpose (end) is usually either another person or program. To facilitate using a person as a means for something, he/she is dehumanized and deprived of some human qualities, people refuse to acknowledge these attributes. Similar technique is used to domesticate a wild animal.
Not only individuals, but groups of people can be turned into machines as well. Societies, nations, states, ministries – all these communities may work as machines fulfilling a program. As a rule this is done for some higher purpose, which is a human being. A specific person.
Within a human-centric framework, a machine is a means (usually a complex system) for fulfilling some kind of work. But only if the purpose is a human being. But sometimes the human being happens to disappear, and the machine continues to fulfill the pre-ordered work following the built-in program. For example, a person goes away and the TV-set continues to work. Or, for big social values – people have left their homes, and the storm water drain continues to work. Or even a bigger example – people build a state bureaucratic machine, then die away while the machine continues to work, and new people coming to the place comply with its rules, but they don’t know why. The situation with programs is same: they surpass systems for which they have been developed.
A machine serves… has to serve a human being. Machine and human being exist only within the means-and-ends relations. If the means and ends – human and machine – swap places, this is falling beyond the discourse, they are no longer human and machine, this is another world, the antiworld. But this antiworld is always present in reality.
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