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My question: Does the expression have a figurative meaning? (Basically, what does it mean?)

I'm also curious about the origin and when it is usually used. Any ideas?

The expression is used in the following sentence:

It’s often by listening for the vibrations in the muck that one can pick up on the big moral conflicts looming ahead.
Rachel Marsden: Can Mankind Survive the Onslaught of the Robots

  • Of course it's figurative; one is not listening for actual vibrations in actual muck. – green_ideas Mar 25 '17 at 2:56
  • It's probably alluding to the idea of putting your head to the ground to hear the steps of horses in the distance. But for the figurative moral equivalent you need to listen to muck rather than solid ground. – Hot Licks Mar 25 '17 at 3:28
  • I have read this article twice, and I cannot figure out what she is talking about. Usually "muck" would refer to corruption, but there seems to be a disconnect. Or maybe it is me. – Cascabel Mar 25 '17 at 3:58
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    @Cascabel has a good point. I looked at the article and it seems to me that the author simply tried to write something eye-catching in the first line. – aparente001 Mar 25 '17 at 5:44
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    I think the author picked up a phrase she's heard somewhere and somewhat misapplied it. Normally it would imply that you've got to deal with some shady characters to be able to predict what the "underworld" (using the term perhaps figuratively) is up to. But in this particular case the author appears to be talking more about just observing small events around the periphery of the "big" employment "picture" to anticipate coming trends, with nothing "shady" other than what she feels are some bad outcomes for the human race as a whole. – Hot Licks Mar 26 '17 at 0:36

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