Deus ex machina
Deus ex machina, meaning literally God from machine, is a Latin phrase used to describe a device or machine used in ancient Greek theater to bring an actor or actors portraying deities on stage. It usually took the form of a crane or riser used to lower the actors onstage or lift them up through a trapdoor. The overall purpose of these devices was to allow a plot resolution to save the hero or heroine from a sticky situation. Usually, the hero was facing a life-or-death situation that seemed impossible to avoid until a god came on the scene to rescue them from certain death, as was the case in Euripides’ play “Medea,” in which Helios, the God of the Sun, sends a golden chariot that swoops down from the heavens to rescue the title character (and his granddaughter), transporting her from danger at the hands of her husband Jason to the safety of Athens.
Today, deus ex machina has a negative connotation because it suggests a lack of creativity on the part of a playwright, author, or screenwriter to get the character out of a sticky situation. However, in ancient Greek theater, its use as a plot device required the finetuning of machinery to pull off seamlessly.
Deus ex machina mirrors the driving force behind many of today’s new products and technologies. While the consequences are usually not life-or-death in nature, inventors and innovators create products and technologies to get us out of sticky situations (e.g. – map apps that help us find our destination) or make life a little easier (e.g. – travel apps that help us find the cheapest hotel deal). The next time you see an invention or app that is practical and makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself, just know that the creator thought to themselves, “How do I solve this simple, but frequent inconvenience for people?”
by Sterling W.
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