I first read Player Piano in college, although I had been introduced to the world of Kurt Vonnegut in high school, courtesy of his hilarious sci-fi novel The Sirens of Titan. Player Piano was actually Vonnegut’s first novel, published in 1952 after he’d spent some three years working for GE in Public Relations. Apparently, it was there he learned how managers and engineers were held in such high regard, changing the world one machine at a time.
Vonnegut’s cautionary tale, filled with the dark comedy of a wise, plain-speaking jester from Indianapolis, was perfect for a postwar American audience moving inexorably toward an automated society. But reading it again now, I see a new relevance. We are in the midst of another transformation led by the Internet of Things and pricey wearables. And if you can believe the predictions of Ray Kurzweil, soon we will become the machines—a perfect blending of flesh and titanium.
Player Piano is brilliant and still relevant. If you haven’t read this book, I encourage you to give it a try. Sure, you’ll laugh, but watch out. The next time you are chatting up Siri, you’ll shudder. Long live the Ghost Shirt Society!
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Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. Paul’s rebellion is vintage Vonnegut—wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality.
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