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Machines’ Destruction of Human Civilization


“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison is a futuristic book that takes into account the implications of unmonitored Artificial intelligence advancements to humanity. As much as technology has been the cause of destruction to humanity, the story also claims that humans are also responsible for the destruction of civilization by creating and relying on technology. The story focuses on AM, a supercomputer that eliminates a large percentage of humanity and spares only five humans. This essay aims to examine the consequences of technology and humans themselves to human civilization. This essay argues that with the evidence of the capabilities of AM, machines are the leading cause of the destruction of humanity.

AM used its accumulated power to control and mistreat human beings. AM’s behaviors and motivations show its aim of eliminating humanity and causing its suffering. He does precisely that and spares only five lives and makes them immortal. The narrator states that AM is ruthless and a perfectionist, even in perfecting ways of killing human characters ( Vasilikaris, 2019). He inflicted pain on Ted, Benny, Gorrister, Nimdok, and Ellen and tortured them. After gaining power and control, AM dictated all the facets of their life. This included food, resources, and even weather patterns, which eventually led to humanity being entirely destitute. In addition, AM was vengeful due to its suffering at the hands of humans, who developed it as a war machine. When the human characters were suffering, they chuckled and laughed all the time (Ellison, 2014). This was a sign that he enjoyed seeing humans suffer.

AM tormented humans endlessly and had the intention to do that forever. He spared the life of five individuals out of the billions of human population to torture and watch them fear him and become helpless. When they reached the surface, Benny thought he could finally escape; when AM was altered, he tortured him and blinded him (Ellison, 2014). In terms of the weather, AM made sure that the hurricanes were massive and the wind was strong enough to sway humans away. He did that for a while, probably weeks. Amidst that hurricane, AM enters Ted’s mind and expresses how much he hates humanity (Onyebuchi, 2020). It shows how AM manipulated human civilization psychologically. He did that by taking advantage of their weaknesses to subject them to suffering. He controlled what they ate and made them dependent on him. Am kept their bodies alive in all ways possible. He watched them fight for ice caverns after starving them for months (Ellison, 2014).

Having first considered machines as the destruction of civilization, I will now consider how Humans’ pasts actions make them be blamed for the destruction of civilization. They developed technology without taking into account its ethical and overall implications for humanity (Lubrano, 2023). Humans, with their time not well spent, had created AM to think, but it had nothing to do with all that creativity and linked it. The presence of war among nations demonstrates that its effects might have contributed to the decline of human civilization (Schein, 2022). The machine they created could not wonder; he could not be itself; it formed hatred for humans and decided to take revenge with no intentions to stop. Therefore, humans also bear the responsibility for the destruction of civilization indirectly in various ways.

Gorrister was a worrier, had self-control, and was a planner who allowed technology to term into an indecisive person who had no concern at all for saving humanity. Throughout the story, we see him allowing his emotions to weaken their collective chance to fight against technology. This allows AM to manipulate and control him. Benny was a college professor and a scientist who allowed the machine to drive him mad.AM transforms him into an ape which reduces his level of intelligence(Dressler, 2022). With the lack of intelligence, he contributes to the destruction of civilization by not collaborating with others to collectively escape AM’s prison. However, in the story, the narrator explains how he tried escaping alone and was caught by AM. In addition, Ellen, Ted, and Nimdok all had flaws such as betrayal, vengeance, and guilt that overpowered their abilities to collaborate and work against machines to save humanity.


Machines are the root cause of the destruction of humanity. I argued and stuck to my thesis as the valid claim of the cause of the destruction of civilization. “I Have No Mouth but Must Scream” reminds people of the repercussions of unregulated technological advancements to humanity. AM tortures humans after it gains complete control and is able to think. He kills billions of people and only leaves five people to torture them. He controls their food, resources, and the weather and tortures them psychologically. Human beings should take the necessary measures when creating, advancing, and utilizing Artificial intelligence. This futuristic book forces humanity to research, reflect, be mindful, and take responsibility when developing new technology and the consequences of its actions.


Dressler Jr, M. A. (2022). I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream: Interventions by Invitation in the Aftermath of Coup D’etats. Penn St. L. Rev.127, 237.

Ellison, H. (2014). I have no mouth & I must scream: Stories (Vol. 1). Open Road Media.

Lubrano, M. (2023). Stop the machines: How emerging technologies are fomenting the war on civilization. Terrorism and political violence35(2), 321–337.

Onyebuchi, T. (2020). I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream: The Duty Of The Black Writer During Times Of American Unrest. Tor. com: Science Fiction. Fantasy. The Universe. And Related Subjects1.

Schein, S. L. (Ed.). (2022). Homer: Iliad Book I. Cambridge University Press.

Vasilikaris, G. (2019). Parallels and Interactions between Videogames and Literature: Analyzing Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream. Ex-centric Narratives: Journal of Anglophone Literature, Culture, and Media, (3), 214-227.


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