Strong Silent Types: Evil Robots and Their Way with Words

A pause for The Machine Starts

It's been one year to the day since I last updated this blog with a new post. That's pretty shameful, isn't it? But don't be too embarrassed for me. There's good reason for this tardiness: I've simply been writing too much elsewhere. You might have read some of my work in New Scientist, BBC Future, The Economist, Wired and others.

Getting paid to write articles for these publications let me quit my old job last May and I've been working full-time (all the time?) as a freelance journalist ever since. It's been a wild ride and I've loved every minute of it so far.

I had just entered my teens when I first published bits of my writing online - I can't remember the exact date. But when I launched The Machine Starts just over four years ago I found at last a worthwhile subject and direction. It proved to be hugely beneficial for my professional work as a journalist. In an age of endless gadget launches and cyber panic, here was an opportunity to take a deeper look and explore the reality of our human relationship with technology.

If someone asked me to pick five posts from this blog to highlight the fun I had writing it, I'd choose these - in no particular order. "The Computer Virus: Our Cultural Contagion"; "Malice, Crime and Secret War: How 'Cyber' Became the Prefix of Evil"; " 'The Wheel of the Devil': On Vine, gifs and the power of the loop"; "It's not OK, Cupid" and "IRL or it Didn't Happen: Why We Still Dismiss the Digital".

Writing for this blog was always immense fun. I know there was a small band of people who enjoyed reading it now and again. Many of these people were kind enough to follow me on Twitter and contribute to my discussions there (and elsewhere) about culture, computing, social media and related topics.

Those discussions, I promise you this much, will continue where The Machine Starts cannot. I'll keep the blog preserved online for as long as I can, of course. And who knows, I might one day return to the format or the name. At the very least, E. M. Forster's story will always be in the back of my mind as a great talking point for the changes that people fear technology might make to their world. If you still haven't read it yet, go do that.

As for the future, there's a lot to look out for. I'll be doing regular work for BBC Future via my column "The Secret World of..." for example and there are some more big features on the way in other publications.

The best place to follow me in general is Twitter, @machinestarts, but you can also check out my online portfolio at

I hope to meet you again - out there, in cyberspace!

Stay connected ;)





Photo: "Goodbyes" by Julie Davis. Reproduced under a Creative Commons (CC) License.

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