H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Anticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought online

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than writing. To write one's best is surely suf-
ficient work for a man, but unless the author is
prepared to add to his literary toil the correspond-
ence and alert activity of a business man, he may
find that no measure of acceptance will save him
from a mysterious poverty. Publishing has be-
come a trade, differing only from the trade in
pork or butter in the tradesman's careless book-
keeping and his professed indifference to the quality
of his goods. But unless the whole mass of ar-
gument in these Anticipations is false, publishing
is as much, or even more, of a public concern than
education, and as little to be properly discharged
by private men working for profit. On the other
hand, it is not to be undertaken by a government
of the gray, for a confusion cannot undertake to
clarify itself; it is an activity in which the new
republic will necessarily engage.

The men of the new republic will be intelligently
critical men, and they will have the courage of their
critical conclusions. For the sake of the English
tongue, for the sake of the English peoples, they
will set themselves to put temptingly within the
reach of all readers of the tongue, and all possible
readers of the tongue, an abundance of living
literature. They will endeavor to shape great
publishing trusts and associations that will have



the same relation to the publishing office of to-day
that a medical association has to a patent-medicine
dealer. They will not only publish, but sell;
their efficient book-shops, their efficient system
of book-distribution will replace the present hap-
hazard dealings of quite illiterate persons under
whose shadows people in the provinces live.* If
one of these publishing groups decides that a
book, new or old, is of value to the public mind, I
conceive the copyright will be secured and the
book produced all over the world in every variety
of form and price that seems necessary to its ex-
haustive sale. Moreover, these publishing as-
sociations will sustain spaciously conceived or-
gans of opinion and criticism, which will begin
by being patiently and persistently good, and so
develop into power. And the more distinctly the
new republic emerges, the less danger there will
be of these associations being allowed to outlive
their service in a state of ossified authority. New
groups of men and new phases of thought will

* In a large town like Folkestone, for example, it is practically
impossible to buy any book but a " boomed " novel unless one
has ascertained the names of the author, the book, the edition,
and the publisher. There is no index in existence kept up to
date that supplies these particulars. If, for example, one wants
as I want (l) to read all that I have not read of the works of
Mr. Frank Stockton, (2) to read a book of essays by Professor
Ray Lankaster the title of which I have forgotten, and (3) to
buy the most convenient edition of the works of Swift, one has
to continue wanting until the British Museum Library chances
to get in one's way. The book-selling trade supplies no infor-
mation at all on these points.



organize their publishing associations as children
learn to talk.*

And while the new republic is thus developing
its idea of itself and organizing its mind, it will also
be growing out of the confused and intricate busi-
nesses and undertakings and public services of the
present time, into a recognizable material body.

* One of the least satisfactory features of the intellectual at-
mosphere of the present time is the absence of good controversy.
To follow closely an honest and subtle controversy, and to have
arrived at a definite opinion upon some general question of real
and practical interest and complicated reference, is assuredly
the most educational exercise in the world I would go so far
as to say that no person is completely educated who has not
done as much. The memorable discussions in which Huxley
figured, for example, were extraordinarily stimulating. We
lack that sort of thing now. A great number of people are ex-
pressing conflicting opinions upon all sorts of things, but there
is a quite remarkable shirking of plain issues of debate. There
is no answering back. There is much indirect answering,
depreciation of the adversary, attempts to limit his publicity,
restatements of the opposing opinion in a new way, but no con-
flict in the lists. We no longer fight obnoxious views, but as-
sassinate them. From first to last, for example, there has been
no honest discussion of the fundamental issues in the Boer war.
Something may be due to the multiplication of magazines and
newspapers, and the confusion of opinions that has scattered
the controversy -following public. It is much to be regretted
that the laws of copyright and the methods of publication stand
in the way of annotated editions of works of current controversial
value. For example, Mr. Andrew Lang has assailed the new
edition of the Golden Bough. His criticisms, which are, no
doubt, very shrewd and penetrating, ought to be accessible
with the text he criticises. Yet numerous people will read his
comments who will never read the Golden Bough ; they will
accept his dinted sword as proof of the slaughter of Mr. Fraser,
and many will read the Golden Bough and never hear of
Mr. Lang's comments. Why should it be so hopeless to suggest
an edition of the Golden Bough with foot-notes by Mr. Lang



The synthetic proce.ss that is going on in the case
of many of the larger of the businesses of the world,
that formation of trusts that bulks so large in
American discussion, is of the utmost significance
in this connection. Conceivably the first impulse
to form trusts came from a mere desire to control
competition and economize working expenses,
but even in its very first stages this process of

and Mr. Eraser's replies? There are all sorts of books to which
Mr. Lang might add foot-notes with infinite benefit to every one.
Mr. Mallock, again, is going to explain how science and re-
ligion stand at the present time. If only some one would ex-
plain in the margin how Mr. Mallock stands, the thing would
be complete. Such a book, again, as these Anticipations,
would stand a vast amount of controversial foot-noting. It
bristles with pegs for discussion vacant pegs ; it is written to
provoke. I hope that some publisher, sooner or later, will do
something of this kind, and will give us not only the text of an
author's work, but a series of foot-notes and appendices by
reputable antagonists. The experiment, well handled, might
prove successful enough to start a fashion a very beneficial
fashion for authors and readers alike. People would write
twice as carefully and twice as clearly with that possible second
edition (with foot-notes by X and Y) in view. Imagine The
Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture as it might have been
edited by the late Professor Huxley ; Froude's edition of the
Grammar of Assent ; Mr. G. B. Shaw's edition of the works
of Mr. Lecky ; or the criticism of art and life of Ruskin the Beau-
ties of Ruskin annotated by Mr. Whistler and carefully pre-
pared for the press by Professor William James. Like the
tomato and the cucumber, every book would carry its antidote
wrapped about it. Impossible, you say. But is it? Or is it
only unprecedented? If novelists will consent to the illustration
of their stories by artists whose chief aim appears to be to con-
tradict their statements, I do not see why controversial writers
who believe their opinions are correct should object to the check-
ing of their facts and logic by persons with a different way of
thinking. Why should not men of opposite opinions collaborate
in their discussion?

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coalescence has passed out of the region of com-
mercial operations into that of public affairs. The
trust develops into the organization under men
far more capable than any sort of public officials,
of entire industries, of entire departments of public
life, quite outside the ostensible democratic govern-
ment system altogether. The whole apparatus
of communications, which we have seen to be of
such primary importance in the making of the
future, promises to pass, in the case of the United
States at least, out of the region of scramble into
the domain of deliberate control. Even to-day
the trusts are taking over quite consciously the
most vital national matters. The American iron
and steel industries have been drawn together
and developed in a manner that is a necessary pre-
liminary to the capture of the empire of the seas.
That end is declaredly within the vista of these
operations, within their initial design. These
things are not the work of dividend-hunting im-
beciles, but of men who regard wealth as a conven-
tion, as a means to spacious material ends. There
is an animated little paper published in Los Angeles
in the interests of Mr. Wilshire, which bears upon
its forefront the maxim, " Let the Nation own the
Trusts." Well, under their mantle of property,
the trusts grow continually more elaborate and
efficient machines of production and public service,
while the formal nation chooses its bosses and
buttons and reads its illustrated press. I must



confess I do not see the negro and the poor Irishman
and all the emigrant sweepings of Europe, which
constitute the bulk of the American abyss, uniting
to form that great Socialist party of which Mr.
Wilshire dreams, and with a little demonstrating
and balloting taking over the foundry and the
electrical works, the engine-shed and the signal-
box, from the capable men in charge. But that a
confluent system of trust -owned business organ-
isms and of universities -and reorganized military
and naval services may presently discover an
essential unity of purpose, presently begin think-
ing a literature and behaving like a state, is a
much more possible thing.

In its more developed phases I seem to see the
new republic as (if I may use an expressive bull)
a sort of outspoken secret society, with which
even the prominent men of the ostensible state
may be openly affiliated. A vast number of men
admit the need, but hesitate at the means of revolu-
tion; and in this conception of a slowly growing
new social order, organized with open deliberation
within the substance of he old, there are no doubt
elements of technical treason, but an enormous
gain in the thoroughness, effectiveness, and sta-
bility of the possible change.

So it is, or at least in some such ways, that I
conceive the growing sense of itself which the new
class of modern efficients will develop, will become
manifest in movements and concerns that are now



heterogeneous and distinct, but will presently
drift into co-operation and coalescence. This
idea of a synthetic reconstruction within the bodies
of the English-speaking states may very possibly
clothe itself in quite other formulae than my phrase
of the new republic; but the need is with us, the
social elements are developing among us, the
appliances are arranging themselves for the hands
that will use them, and I cannot but believe that
the idea of a spacious common action will presently
come. In a few years I believe many men who
are now rather aimless men who have discon-
solately watched the collapse of the old liberalism
will be clearly telling themselves and one another
of their adhesion to this new ideal. They will be
working in schools and newspaper offices, in foun-
dries and factories, in colleges and laboratories,
in county councils and on school boards even, it
may be, in pulpits for the time when the coming
of the new republic will be ripe. It may be dawning
even in the schools of law, because presently there
will be a new and scientific handling of jurispru-
dence. The highly educated and efficient officers'
mess will rise mechanically and drink to the mon-
arch, and sit down to go on discussing the new
republic's growth. I do not see, indeed, why
an intelligent monarch himself, in these days,
should not waive any silliness about Divine right
and all the ill-bred pretensions that must sit so
heavily on a gentlemanly king, and come into



the movement with thevse others. When the grow-
ing conception touches, as in America I believe it
has already touched, the legacy-leaving class,
there will be fewer new asylums perhaps, but more
university chairs.

So it is I conceive the elements of the new re-
public taking shape and running together through
the social mass, picking themselves out more
and more clearly from the share-holder, the para-
sitic speculator, and the wretched multitudes of
the abyss. The new republicans will constitute
an informal and open freemasonry. In all sorts
of ways they will be influencing and controlling
the apparatus of the ostensible governments;
they will be pruning irresponsible property, check-
ing speculators, and controlling the abyssward
drift; but at that, at an indirect control, at any
sort of fiction, the new republic, from the very
nature of its cardinal ideas, will not rest. The
clearest and simplest statement, the clearest and
simplest method, is inevitably associated with
the conceptions of that science upon which the
new republic will arise. There will be a time,
in peace it may be, or under the stresses of war-
fare, when the new republic w r ill find itself ready
to arrive, when the theory will have been worked out
and the details will be generally accepted, and the
new order will be ripe to begin. And then, indeed, it
will begin. What life or strength will be left in the
old order to prevent this new order beginning?




IF the surmise of a developing new republic a
republic that must ultimately become a world
state of capable, rational men, developing amid
the fading contours and colors of our existing
nations and institutions be, indeed, no idle dream,
but an attainable possibility in the future and to
that end it is that the preceding Anticipations have
been mainly written it becomes a speculation of
very great interest to forecast something of the
general shape and something even of certain de-
tails of that common body of opinion which the
new republic, when at last it discovers and de-
clares itself, will possess. Since we have sup-
posed this new republic will already be conscious-
ly and pretty freely controlling the general affairs
of humanity before this century closes, its broad
principles and opinions must necessarily shape
and determine that still ampler future of which
the coming hundred years is but the opening
phase. There are many processes, many aspects



of things, that are now, as it were, in the domain
of natural laws and outside human control, or
controlled unintelligent 1 y and superstitiously, that
in the future, in the days of the coming new re-
public, will be definitely taken in hand as part of
the general work of humanity, as indeed already,
since the beginning of the nineteenth century,
the control of pestilence has been taken in hand.
And in particular, there are certain broad questions
much under discussion to which, thus far, I have
purposely given a value disproportionately small.
While the new republic is gathering itself to-
gether and becoming aware of itself, that other
great element, which I have called the people of
the abyss, will also have followed out its destiny.
For many decades that development will be largely
or entirely out of all human control. To the multi-
plying rejected of the white and yellow civilizations
there will have been added a vast proportion of
the black and brown races, and collectively these
masses will propound the general question, " What
will you do with us, we hundreds of millions, who
cannot keep pace with you?" If the new re-
public emerges at all it will emerge by grappling
with this riddle; it must come into existence by
the passes this sphinx will guard. Moreover,
the necessary results of the reaction of irresponsible
wealth upon that infirm and dangerous thing, the
human will, the spreading moral rot of gambling
which is associated with irresponsible wealth, will



have been working out, and will continue to work
out, so long as there is such a thing as irrespon-
sible wealth pervading the social body. That,
too, the new republic must in its very develop-
ment overcome. In the preceding paper it is
clearly implicit that I believe that the new re-
public, as its consciousness and influence develop
together, will meet, check, and control these things ;
but the broad principles upon which the control
will go, the nature of the methods employed, still
remain to be deduced. And to make that deduction
it is necessary that the primary conception of life,
the fundamental, religious, and moral ideas of
these predominant men of the new time should
first be considered.

Now, quite inevitably, these men will be religious
men. Being themselves as by the nature of the
forces that have selected them they will certainly
be men of will and purpose, they will be disposed
to find, and consequently they will find, an effect of
purpose in the totality of things. Either one must
believe the universe to be one and systematic, and
held together by some omnipresent quality, or one
must believe it to be a casual aggregation, an inco-
herent accumulation, with no unity whatsoever
outside the unity of the personality regarding it.
All science and most modern religious systems
presuppose the former, and to believe the former is,
to any one not too anxious to quibble, to believe in
God. But I believe that these prevailing men



of the future, like many of the saner men of to-
day having so formulated their -fundamental be-
lief, will presume to no knowledge whatever, will
presume to no possibility of knowledge of the
real being of God. They will have no positive
definition of God at all. They will certainly not
indulge in "that something, not ourselves, that
makes for righteousness" (not defined), or any
defective claptrap of that sort. They will content
themselves with denying the self-contradictory
absurdities of an obstinately anthropomorphic
theology,* they will regard the whole of being,

* As, for example, that God is an omniscient mind. This is
the last vestige of that barbaric theology which regarded God
as a vigorous but uncertain old gentleman with a beard and an
inordinate lust for praise and propitiation. The modern idea
is, indeed, scarcely more logical than the one it has replaced.
A mind thinks, and feels, and wills ; it passes from phase to
phase ; thinking and willing are a succession of mental states
which -follow and replace one another. But omniscience is a
complete knowledge, not only of the present state, but of all
past and future states, and, since it is all there at any moment,
it cannot conceivably pass from phase to phase ; it is stagnant,
infinite, and eternal. An omniscient mind is as impossible,
therefore, as an omnipresent moving body. God is outside
our mental scope ; only by faith can we attain Him ; our most
lucid moments serve only to render clearer His inaccessibility
to our intelligence. We stand a little way up in a scale of exist-
ences that may, indeed, point towards Him, but can never bring
Him to our scope. As the fulness of the conscious mental exist-
ence of a man stands to the subconscious activities of an amoeba
or of a visceral ganglion cell, so our reason forces us to admit
other possible mental existences may stand to us. But such an
existence, inconceivably great as it would be to us, would be
scarcely nearer than a transcendental God in whom the serious
men of the future will, as a class, believe.



within themselves and without, as the sufficient
revelation of God to their souls, and they will set
themselves simply to that revelation, seeking its
meaning towards themselves faithfully and cour-
ageously. Manifestly the essential being of man
in this life is his will ; he exists consciously only to
do; his main interest in life is the choice between
alternatives; and, since he moves through space
and time to effects and consequences, a general
purpose in space and time is the limit of his under-
standing. He can know God only under the
semblance of a pervading purpose, of which his
own individual freedom of will is a part, but he
can understand that the purpose that exists in
space and time is no more God than a voice calling
out of impenetrable darkness is a man. To men
of the kinetic type belief in God so manifest as
purpose is irresistible, and, to all lucid minds,
the being of God, save as that general atmosphere
of imperfectly apprehended purpose in which
our individual wills operate, is incomprehensible.
To cling to any belief more detailed than this, to
define and limit God in order to take hold of Him,
to detach one's self and parts of the universe from
God in some mysterious way in order to reduce
life to a dramatic antagonism, is not faith, but
infirmity. Excessive strenuous belief is not faith.
By faith we disbelieve, and it is the drowning
man, and not the strong swimmer, who clutches
at the floating straw. It is in the nature of man,



it is in the present purpose of things, that the
real world of our experience and will should appear
to us not only as a progressive existence in space
and time, but as a scheme of good and evil. But
choice, the antagonism of good and evil, just as
much as the formulation of things in space and
time, is merely a limiting condition of human
being, and in the thought of God as we conceive
of Him in the light of faith, this antagonism
vanishes. God is no moralist ; God is no partisan ;
He comprehends and cannot be comprehended,
and our business is only with so much of His pur-
pose as centres on our individual wills.

So, or in some such phrases, I believe, these men
of the new republic will formulate their relation-
ship to God. They will live to serve this purpose
that presents Him, without presumption and
without fear. For the same spacious faith that
will render the idea of airing their egotisms in
God's presence through prayer, or of any such
quite personal intimacy, absurd, will render the
idea of an irascible and punitive Deity ridiculous
and incredible.

The men of the new republic will hold and
understand quite clearly the doctrine that in the
real world of man's experience there is free will.
The\ 7 will understand that constantly, as a very
condition of his existence, man is exercising choice
between alternatives, and that a conflict between
motives that have different moral values con-



stantly arises. That conflict between predes-
tination and free will, which is so puzzling to
untrained minds, will not exist for them. They
will know that in the real world of sensory ex-
perience will is free, just as new -sprung grass
is green, wood hard, ice cold, and toothache pain-
ful. In the abstract world of reasoning science
there is no green, no color at all, but certain lengths
of vibration; no hardness, but a certain reaction
of molecules; no cold and no pain, but certain
molecular consequences in the nerves that reach
the misinterpreting mind. In the abstract world
of reasoning science, moreover, there is a rigid
and inevitable sequence of cause and effect; every
act of man could be foretold to its uttermost detail,
if only we knew him and all his circumstances
fully. In the abstract world of reasoned science all
things exist now potentially down to the last mo-
ment of infinite time. But the human will does
not exist in the abstract world of reasoned science,
in the world of atoms and vibrations, that rigidly
predestinate scheme of things in space and time.
The human will exists in this world of men and
women, in this world where the grass is green and
desire beckons, and the choice is often so wide
and clear between the sense of what is desirable
and what is more widely and remotely right. In
this world of sense and the daily life these men
will believe, with an absolute conviction, that
there is free will and a personal moral responsi-



bility in relation to that indistinctly seen pur-
pose which is the sufficient revelation of God to

The conception they will have of that purpose
will necessarily determine their ethical scheme.

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Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsAnticipations of the reaction of mechanical and scientific progress upon human life and thought → online text (page 18 of 21)