Ghost in the Machine
Yes, a great album by The Police, but what does it mean? I have always thought that this phrase stemmed from an explanation of sorts to define metaphorically why computers or other technological equipment have their occasional quirks. However, in researching the phrase today, I didn’t find anything like that.
I did find some great references though that do explain the phrase. I link them here rather than trying to re-hash the psychological arguments that the phrase relates to:
In a nutshell, however, the “ghost” is the spirit and the “machine” is the body. It’s an interesting concept.
But back to The Police. It turns out Sting, being a well-read man, read Koestler which inspired much of the music (and of course, the title) of the 1981 album. Consider the titles:
- “Spirits in the Material World” – 2:59
- “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” – 4:22
- “Invisible Sun” – 3:44
- “Hungry for You (J’aurais Toujours Faim de Toi)” – 2:52
- “Demolition Man” – 5:57
- “Too Much Information” – 3:43
- “Rehumanize Yourself” (Sting, Stewart Copeland) – 3:10
- “One World (Not Three)” – 4:47
- “Ωmegaman” (Andy Summers) – 2:48 (“Omegaman” on some editions)
- “Secret Journey“– 3:34
- “Darkness” (Copeland) – 3:14
The whole album is a study in the technology of the world and how we interact with it. And remember, this was 1981! Think of how much more technology is embedded in our daily lives now and how some of us rely on it so heavily. Smart rock.
Give Up the Ghost
Another interesting phrase. A euphemism for dying, or for something mechanical to quit working (maybe I was mixing up my meanings of ‘ghost in the machine’ with ‘give up the ghost’).
The phrase is in the King James Bible, but has an alternate metaphorical meaning (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/155500.html) to not be living and not able to become a ghost.
Again, I’ve always had somewhat of a different understanding of the phrase. I interpreted it to convey or include a willingness to be finished or done. As in the person who died or the item that shuts down is simply ready to do so and is okay with it.
It seems, from a literal standpoint, to be backwards. If you give up the ghost, aren’t you really choosing the corporeal over the ethereal? Still it’s a lovely phrase, alliterative, evocative.