Views & Reviews Personal View

The cowardly cyborg

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 10 February 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b522
  1. James Woodcock, lecturer, Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,
  2. Rachel Aldred, senior lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies, University of East London
  1. james.woodcock{at}, r.e.aldred{at}

    A century ago, on 20 February 1909, the Italian poet Filippo Marinetti published the Futurist Manifesto ( The manifesto brusquely rejected history and tradition—what Marinetti called Italy’s “great secondhand market”—to celebrate a new world, full of noise, speed, and industry.

    This new world’s icon would be the car. The manifesto celebrated the roar of the “hungry automobile” over the “faint prayers” of Italy’s past. Marinetti sought to replace the idealised female beauty of the classical nudes with the beauty of the machine. “A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath . . . a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the [classical sculpture] Victory of Samothrace.” Heralding the age of the automobile, Futurism anticipated the social themes and theories of the 20th century. It portrayed a society where clock time had been replaced by simultaneity and chaos. Marinetti wrote: “Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since …

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