Do Cylons Like Organic Farming?


In today's New York Times, the story of Erehwon Farm, just outside Chicago. People pay a flat rate for a share of the produce, access to the land, and the chance to work the farm from time to time. Most of the subscribers, the Times reports, are locavores, in it for the environmental benefits as well as a desire to "get back to the land." One of the farms' business partners boasts, "We do everything by hand for more than 100 different crops."

Erehwon is nowhere spelled backward. This same orthographic trick is played, albeit sloppily, by Samuel Butler in his 1872 novel, Erewhon.

In the book, a young man goes through the looking glass and emerges into a gentle inversion satire on Victorian society. The sick are treated like criminals, for instance, while criminals are offered nothing but solicitude and wishes for a speedy recovery.

But perhaps our charming communitarian farmers were more inspired by this element of Butler's fictional world–the citizens of Erewhon are aggressively technophobic. All manner of machinery is banned, and our hero's watch nearly gets him killed. This aspect of the book was drawn from Butler's essay "Darwin Among the Machines," which speculates on the possibility of machines evolving and eventually achieving some form of intelligence.

Could these Chicagoans laboring in the field be staving off The Rise of the Machines? Do the cylons of Battlestar Galactica, machines evolved to look like us, justify Erewhonian Ludditism?