Author Topic: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'  (Read 17744 times)

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Offline squarepusher

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HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
« on: July 03, 2010, 12:56:53 am »
    I will highlight the relevant quotes later on. Anyway, if you thought Orwell's 1984 was indicative of the times we're living in, well, let's just say it was mild in comparison to the stuff HG Wells wrote.

    Wells was quite the fascist and the crazy, batshit insane powermonger. Let's go over the list shall we?
    * A 'World Brain' (something similar to an AI neural network computer system) will accumulate all knowledge and information on the planet, and it will function much like the 'All-Seeing Eye' - it will be able to process all information flows and single out people in the crowd and tell their identity
    * A 'World Government' is set up composed of 'elites' known as 'The Samurai' - these 'Samurai' are engaged in a so-called 'open conspiracy' with each other and enjoy far more privileges than the common folk. They are omni-powerful in this world and they are perfectly scientifically minded - no divergences of opinion are necessary - because according to Wells, to most problems there is usually only one correct way of doing it and countless wrong ways to do it - hence one single opinion by an able expert is all that suffices.
    * This 'World Goverment' composed of 'elite' Samurai will have a world population database at their disposal - everything is in there, including where this said person has last been seen (presumably some kind of RFID-tagged/GPS transponder was what old Wellsie was thinking about when he wrote that). Every person on the world is given a unique number and can have his ID data-mined and cross-referenced with other entries.
    * But look, the 'World Government' Samurai are not a real 'government', says Wells - in the end, they too are subordinate to the 'World Brain', which is presumably this neural network AI system that the Zeitgeist Addendum blokes are currently demanding should be set up to improve our lives at the G20 conference (no kidding).
    * Eugenics plays a big part in Wells' world - people considered to be 'dull', 'plain', 'stupid', 'imbecilic', or whatever, will be either targeted for extermination or relocated to an abandoned island (the author of this piece goes at great pains to stress this is how the British Empire used to deal with unwanted 'breeds' of people it did not want to intermingle with the other 'stock' of people.
    * He's talking about 'rewiring the human mind' - behavior modification, social engineering - social engineering that will turn the 'human' into basically something that denies his own natural instincts and drives. A negative self-fulfilling prophecy. And the language will need to be debased to Basic English so that it can become a truly 'universal language' that everybody will be able to speak.

    And there's lots more batshit insane theories and Hitlerian ideas kicked around by Wells in his books that makes you think the guy was taking notes from Satan or some other metaphysical construct that I can pin all the world's evils on.

This paper has been published in
Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50 (May 15, 1999): 557-579[/i]

H.G. Wells’s Idea of a World Brain: A Critical Re-Assessment
  • Boyd Rayward

School of Information, Library and Archive Studies,
University of New South Wales,
Sydney, NSW 2051

[email protected]

ph 217-333-2104
fax 217-2443302

What exactly is the Wellsian World Brain or World Encyclopaedia ideas to which reference is so often made? What did they mean for Wells? What might they mean for us? This paper examines closely what Wells says about it in his book, World Brain (1938), and in a number of works that elaborate what is expressed there. The paper discusses aspects of the context within which Wells’s conception of a new world encyclopaedia organisation was formulated and its role in the main thrust of his thought. The paper argues that Wells’s ideas about a World Brain are embedded in a structure of thought that may be shown to entail on the one hand notions of social repression and control that must give us pause, and on the other ideas about the nature and organisation of knowledge that may well be no longer acceptable. By examining Wells’s World Brain ideas in some detail and attempting to articulate the systems of belief which shaped them and which otherwise lie silent beneath them, the author hopes to provoke questions about current ideas about the nature of global information systems and emergent intelligence[/b].

In 1938, aged 72, H.G. Wells published in American and English editions his little book of essays and speeches titled, World Brain. At this time of his life, Wells was an internationally famous literary figure. His books, fiction and nonfiction alike, were popular and widely translated. He had access to the leading statesman of his day. Though World Brain marked an important stage in his writing, it was by no means the last of his books. His voluminous output of fiction, social criticism, and journalism continued up to the year of his death in 1946.

Despite the great length of his career, Wells is perhaps best known today for a group of novels of science fiction that appeared in the last years of the nineteenth century and of social realism that appeared early in the twentieth, though his first book was a textbook of biology that went through numerous editions (Wells, 1893 and, e.g., 1929). This work reflected his years as biology student and disciple of T.H. Huxley at what later became Imperial College of Science and Technology (Wells, 1934a, pp.159-165).

Wells was utopian social reformer. He was intrigued by socialism and was caught up for a time before the First World War with Beatrice and Sidney Webb, George Bernard Shaw and others in the Fabian Society. After the War he became increasingly and passionately dedicated to the idea that a new kind of world order was needed. In this connection he witnessed the rise of the fascism and the Russian communist State with a curious ambivalence. As contemptuously critical as he was, especially of the fascist dictators, he seemed on occasion to suggest that their totalitarian regimes represented stages in the evolution of the new kind of single, unified World State that he believed was an inevitable (Wells 1933, p. 123-128; 1934, pp.215-216; 1940-41, pp.1170-73, ch.40).

Wells was also a great autodidact and populariser of contemporary knowledge. His Outline of History (Wells 1919), Work Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (Wells, 1931b), and the Science of Life (Wells, Huxley and Wells 1931), the last prepared collaboratively with his son Gyp and Julian Huxley, T.H. Huxley’s grandson and himself a distinguished biologist, represent quite extraordinary feats of comprehensive, intelligible, plainly written synthesis.

The ideas that Wells finally pulled together in World Brain had a long gestation in his earlier writing and were profoundly important to him. They focused, as we will see, important aspects of his thinking about evolution, social reform, and world organisation. The book was, and continues to be, influential. World Brain, has been reprinted twice in the last twenty five years or so (Wells, 1971; 1994). Alan Mayne’s 1994 edition, contains a comprehensive but by no means complete bibliography of more than 200 items about the World Brain and related matters. Mayne’s introductory essay, almost half as long as Wells’s text, suggests in some detail what today needs to be done in order to achieve finally what Well’s had proposed more than half a century ago (Mayne, 1994).

Information scientists and others concerned with the creation of systems for the organisation, communication and retrieval of information constitute one group who continue to be inspired by Wells (Davis, 1937, 1965; Kochen, 1965,1967, 1972, 1975’ Garfield, e.g. 1964, 1964a, 1967, 1968, 1975, 1976; case, 1977; Lesk 1997; Petersen 1996; Shenk,1997). The World Brain or Global Brain trope also seems to be widely employed by those who speculate about the nature and impacts of the contemporary global communications infrastructure and its future development. Their focus is the Internet and the World Wide Web, from which they believe an "actual" global mind is emerging. The members of the Principia Cybernetic Group are very much concerned with these notions (1). Sometimes their work refers to Wells, but on the whole it does not (Judge, 1980, Goetzel, 1998; Heylighen 1996, 1997; Mayer-Kress 1995a, b,).

Perhaps part of the brain image’s contemporary seductiveness lies in the way in which it seems to permit an imperceptible modulation of description and analysis from the metaphorical to the material and back again. Most current invocations of Wells’s ideas about a World Brain, however, can be described as superficial, selective and nearly always en passant. The references to it are essentially incantatory. Almost casually, for example, the distinguished information scientist, Michael Lesk, recently concluded a paper disseminated on the Web with the observation that current trends suggest that "there will be enough disk space and tape storage in the world to store everything people write, say, perform, or photograph. For writing this is true already; for others it is only a year or two away." Lesk does not question the desirability of this appalling prospect, but concludes that we are now on the verge of realising that "brain" organisation that Wells envisioned. "We could build a real ‘World Encyclopedia’ with a true ‘planetary memory for all mankind’ as Wells wrote in 1938’", Lesk observed. He mentions that Wells had talked of "knitting all the intellectual workers of the world through a common interest." "We could do it," says Lesk (Lesk, 1997, p.5). But would we want to do it?

By examining Wells’s World Brain ideas in some detail and attempting to articulate the systems of belief which shaped them and which otherwise lie silent beneath them, I hope to provoke - though I do not attempt to answer - questions about current ideas of the nature of global information systems and emergent intelligence. Implicit in the concept of "Brain" is some notion of central direction and control that is exercised over some thing both consciously as a matter of intelligence and informed judgement and automatically. How do proposals for the World or Global Brain encompass these notions? Of what, for example, is the World or Global Brain a part — what is its body? How does it manifest intelligence and informed judgement? How do the systems which constitute the "World Brain" require individuals to discipline their interests and behaviour, to configure themselves in conformity with these systems. To what extent is the independence and initiative of both individuals and particular groups threatened in a social and political regime ordered by current conceptions of a global brain? To what extent is what is designed a conscious or unconscious reflection of the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies, the cognitive and imaginative limitations of the system designers or those who have commissioned and paid for such systems? To what extent are these systems necessarily an embodiment of the cultural circumstances of time and place, the reflection of a particular world view? How might an "emergent" intelligence transcend these limitations?

The argument of this paper is that Wells’s ideas about a World Brain, as startling and resonant as they seem to be, are nevertheless embedded in a structure of thought that may be shown to entail on the one hand notions of social repression and control that must give us pause, and on the other ideas about the nature and organisation of knowledge that may well be no longer acceptable. I ask: what exactly is the Wellsian World Brain or World Encyclopaedia ideas to which reference is so often made? With what social and political institutions are the texts which present Wells World Brain ideas articulated? What tacit temporally and culturally situated codes of ethics do they entail? How are World brain ideas underpinned by, or an expression of, Wells’s fundamental beliefs about mankind, government and society?

I examine closely what Wells says about the World Brain in his book of that name and in a number of works that elaborate what is expressed there. Moving beyond these descriptive limitations, I try to better understand aspects of the context within which Wells’s conception of a new world encyclopaedia organisation was formulated and its role in the main thrust of his thought.

I argue that attempting to unravel the nature and structure of these beliefs will not only affect our attitudes towards his World Brain ideas. They should influence our assessment of their continuing relevance, though to undertake that assessment is not the purpose of this paper beyond highlighting the issues of power and control, the "political-social" problematic that modern proposals for a World or Global Brain necessarily raise.

A Note on Method

The process I have adopted for presenting Wells’s ideas is a form of pastiche. It involves using his own words wherever possible. I bring together excerpts from particular works written at different times, in different circumstances, and for what may seem like different immediate purposes as though one work were in the process of endless elaboration. This commits me to a questionable assumption of continuity and consistency of ideas in Wells’s exercises in different literary genres that date from different times of his life.

This assumption, however, is not difficult to justify in that Wells is extremely repetitive in his prodigiously voluminous writing. He is also aware himself of how he has constantly restated and reworked a number of fundamental ideas. "I have become a shouting philosopher and I clamour, I clamour with an increasing shrillness for a gigantic effort to pull together the mind of the race before it is altogether too late," he tells us in 1939. Even though I am , he says, "almost alone with my outcries," he pushes on saying and repeating "first in this form and then in that, that an educational revolution, a new Encyclopedism," is necessary if humanity is not to "perish" (Wells, 1939, pp. 422-23). The sense of the frustration that came of being ignored and the sometimes hectoring, sometimes wheedling tone in which his frustration was expressed are evident in Science and the World Mind. "I am going to repeat once more certain statements of fact that I have made over and over again in the last few years," he says (Wells, 1942, p.5). And in one guise or another, often at exhaustive length, he had indeed made the same points, so much more matters of opinion than fact, over and over again with a ruthless repetitiveness for more than forty years. The importance for Wells of the reformulation and repetition of his ideas was that, for most of his life, he was acting as a propagandist for a deeply felt, deeply personal critique of his time that was closely articulated to his utopian vision of the future.

This comes out clearly in his Experiment in Autobiography (Wells, 1934). This is an extraordinarily self-conscious, frank, and even today sometimes embarrassing outline of a history of himself. In it he attempts retrospectively to integrate the recollection of intimately personal experience and feelings with his life on the public stage. To be fair, he tries to contain the subjectivity implicit in the very idea of autobiography. He bases his reflections on - and refers constantly to - correspondence and the drafts and published versions of his work as they mark what were for him important stages of development in his career as novelist, journalist and social theorist. He explicitly limits himself to a focus on that organ whose development one might say "determines" him, his brain. It is this that makes his Autobiography an "experiment." The subtitle of the work is "discoveries and conclusions of a very ordinary brain" - not life, or person, or character, or even student, lover, writer, unorthodox socialist or eccentric celebrity. His aim seems to be to demonstrate how his thinking over the long period of his productive intellectual life inevitably took the shape that it did.

Such a work as Wells’s Autobiography must necessarily be treated with some caution. There are limits to what introspection can recover. Memory inevitably distorts recollections of the past. Inherent in all autobiographical writing is a tangle of motivations and points of view. While it may be necessary for some biographical or analytical purposes to be suspicious of the accounts that the Autobiography provides, what it says must also be taken at face value as reflecting something important about Wells and his view of himself and his work. For my purpose this work provides evidence that Wells’s theories about, and observations of, people and society were strongly formed and coherent early in his life and that he held on to them tenaciously throughout his long career. They were not replaced, reinvented or radically revised as the decades went by. They were simply restated, redeveloped, further elaborated, and given various fictional and non-fictional guises in an effort to make them more effective in influencing the attitudes and opinions of his readers.

Thus, in my exploration of Wells’s ideas about a World Brain and my attempt to create a context for them, I ignore what distinguishes one work from another. I ignore the cumulating experiences of an eventful life and the possibility of interpreting the effects of these experiences on Wells’s attitudes, ideas and beliefs. I ignore the changing contemporary social, historical and intellectual circumstances which provide a frame within which Wells’s ideas, and the works in which they were expressed, took shape.(2)

My argument is that the juxtapositions I make reveal an organised system of thought, a systematic articulation of ideas about politics, society, biology and "human ecology." This helps us to draw new kinds of insight into and understanding of the particular "leading idea" of Wells’s which is my focus – the World Brain. At one level this seems a simple general notion. It captures a new kind of requirement for knowledge organisation and access in a superficially arresting image, the World Brain. But I argue that this notion has a complexity, a disturbing resonance that arises from its place in the structure of Wells’s thought. By means of the technique I have adopted, I attempt to cast Well’s idea of a World Brain in a new light and to give it the clarity, shape and definition that it has lacked as a result of the casual references I have referred to above.

Social and Political Need for a World Brain.

Examining the social and political trends of his day, Wells believed that at last, slowly, in a fragmentary and disorderly fashion, intelligent men and woman throughout the world were beginning to realise the full dimensions of what he called the "World Problem" (Wells, 1938, p. 50). They had begun to see the implications both of the failure of, and the potential for transformation implicit in, the internationalising initiatives – what he called "projects for Cosmopolitan Synthesis" – evident all around them (Wells, 1931b, pp. 709-715). What was needed, he declared, was a "New World or nothing. We have to make a new world for ourselves or we shall suffer and perish amidst the downfall of the decaying old" (Wells, 1938, p.47).

As he contemplated the portentous events of the 1930s, Wells still believed (at least before the repudiation of all hope that occurred in Mind at the End of its Tether published in 1945 not long before he died) that there were forces at large in society that were driving mankind "towards release, abundance, one World Pax, one world control of violence"(Wells, 1938, p.54). But he was fearful: "all this experimenting and muddling towards world organisation takes time." He saw terrible danger ahead as he argued for an active, thoughtful, open approach – what he called a world-wide "Open Conspiracy" (Wells, 1928; 1931) – to creating a new unity, a new organisational and social synthesis for the world. The Open Conspiracy was necessary, he believed, if "human society" were to be rescued "from the net of tradition in which it is entangled and [reconstructed] upon planetary lines’ (Wells 1934, p. 549).

As early as 1902 he had formulated a preliminary version of the Open Conspiracy, what he called the New Republic. It would mobilise power and intelligence to create a new kind of social and political synthesis, a new world unity beyond the confines of the established political order, (Wells, 1902). His terms for this new unity, this new synthesis, were variously a New Republic, a new world state, a world commonweal, a federation of all humanity, a new world organism, a world government (Wells, 1920, p.579;1934, pp.549-707 passim; Wells, 1965, pp. 273-5, 288-301).

At first he seems to have thought that the Open Conspiracy that would transform the world would be best served if it evolved "special ad hoc organisations, societies for the promotion of Research, for Research Defence, for World Indexing, for the Translation of Scientific Papers, for the Diffusion of New Knowledge." In this piecemeal way a "new world organisation of scientific work" might be built up embracing rather than displacing "dear old institutions as the Royal Society of London, the various European Academies of Science and the like" (Wells, 1928, p.120). But he soon came to the view that something more profound, far-reaching, systematic and centralised was needed, what he would call a World Brain.

The Inadequacy of the Modern Knowledge Apparatus

In his Work, Wealth and the Happiness of Mankind (1931b), Wells noted "the immense amount of incoherent learning in progress throughout the world. "There was "a clamour of statement, misstatement and counter-statement" that suggested the need for a "systematic ordering and drawing together of human thought and knowledge." He discussed the "Role of an Encyclopaedia in a Progressive Civilisation," concluding that the new encyclopedia organisation that he was proposing would become "the central ganglion, as it were, of the collective human brain." That a reference of this kind is essentially metaphorical is suggested by the captions to the illustrations of this section of the book. A picture of the main reading room of the New York Public Library is labelled: "the mind of the world: a cell in its brain." A picture of a high-speed printing press for newspapers and magazines is labelled: "The mind of the world: its nerve and brain tissue"(Wells, 1931b, pp.839, 854, between 820-821)

Wells’s address in 1936 to the Royal Institution began a concentrated period of promoting his World Brain ideas. In stressing the "conspicuous ineffectiveness of modern knowledge" (Wells, 1938, p.5), Wells referred to President Roosevelt’s social experimentation as represented by the Brains Trust and the New Deal. Wells had visited Roosevelt and was very impressed with him both as a statesman and a personality (Wells, 1934, pp. 679-682). Roosevelt had appealed, said Wells, "for such knowledge and understanding as existed to come to his aid." Here was someone who was "open and receptive for the organised information and guidance…that wasn’t there (Wells 1938, p. 9 original punctuation and italics; also cf. 1942c p.155-6).

He elaborated these ideas when he made his American tour in the autumn of 1937 in a speech that was repeated in Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Washington and New York, where the speech was also broadcast (Smith, 1986, p.336).

"A great new world is struggling into existence. But its struggle remains catastrophic until it can produce an adequate knowledge organisation…An immense, an ever-increasing wealth of knowledge is scattered about the world today, a wealth of knowledge and suggestion that – systematically ordered and generally disseminated – would probably give this giant vision and direction and suffice to solve all the mighty difficulties of our age, but the knowledge is still dispersed, unorganised, impotent in the face of adventurous violence and mass excitement" (Wells, 1938, pp.66-67)

"I believe," he wrote to the publisher, Nelson Doubleday, "that those great modern communities which it is now the fashion to call democracies, and more particularly those that speak English, are in need of a much more elaborate, powerful and closely knit knowledge and educational organisation than they possess at the present. Their mental equipment, their will system, is not equal to the challenges of our modern world." What is needed "for a modern world educational structure," he continued, is a "new centralising and unifying organ, which I have called the Permanent World Encyclopaedia" (Wells -Doubleday Memo [1938], p.1).

The "knowledge apparatus" of the world, Wells observed, had grown up through the ages "Unpremeditated. Without a plan" (Wells, 1938, p. 59). It was now simply "not up to our necessities," he said. (Wells 1938, p 61). It had to be modernised. Wells acknowledged that we have now begun to frame "preliminary ideas for a federal world control of such things as communications, health, money, economic adjustments, and the suppression of crime." But "all of these ideas of unifying mankind’s affairs depend ultimately for their realisation on mankind having a unified mind for the job" (Wells, 1938 p. 57, 58). The emergence of that unified mind was to be the result of the creation and the essential function of a World Brain. "It would be the concrete beginnings of an actual world mind" (Wells-Doubleday Memo, [1938] p.8). In 1939 he returned to what he called " my refrain: ‘We need a World Brain,’" and to his "insistence that the creation of a greater mental superstructure to reorient the mind of the world is an entirely practicable proposal" (Wells, 1942c p.158).

The World Brain

He believed that his " modern encyclopaedism" constituted a "scheme for the reorganization and reorientation of education and information throughout the world. No less" (Wells, 1938, p17). It would involve assembling, he declared, "facts and suggestions with the same insistence upon scientific reality and the same exclusion of irrelevancies that has controlled the establishment of the world outlook that I have put before the reader." The result was the publication in 1938 of his "small book," World Brain. He described this as "a book quite bold and uncompromising in substance, but still with a distinctly propitiatory manner" (Wells, 1942 a, p.59).

He began a campaign for the acceptance of his ideas in the U.S. and Australia in 1937. He was a tremendous success. When he gave his speech about the World Brain at Northwestern University, for example, over 5,000 people crowded in to hear him. This was the largest crowd ever assembled under one roof in Evanston the Daily Northwestern reported (3), showing a picture of him planting a tree, the kind of activity usually reserved for Heads of State. He continued the campaign in Australia. Here he was bewildered and disappointed by the disjunction that occurred between the lively interest that was expressed in his lectures on the "new encyclopaedia and a radical revision of the world’s educational organisation" and the lack of any practical effect of what he said on his audiences, who "were not," he observed "a consciously backward people" (Wells, 1942a p.62).

He did not give up, he tells us, but continued to pursue these ideas as best he could. He believed that "it is only in such an educational organisation as I have been deducing from our present needs, and I hope, forecasting here, in such a permanent organisation of knowledge, systematically assembled, continually extended and renewed and made freely and easily accessible to everyone, that there is the slightest hope of our species meeting the serried challenges of destiny that are advancing upon it" (pp.62-3)

The World brain and Universities

Wells was adamant that what was needed was a quite new kind of organisation. It might draw perhaps on existing organisations but it would not be an adaptation of any of them. "It is a super university I am thinking of, a world brain; no less. It is nothing in the nature of a supplementary enterprise. It is a completion necessary to modernise the university idea" (Wells, 1938 p.27). He stressed this repeatedly. It is a "a new social organ, a new institution" (p.17). "I am talking of an essentially new organisation - an addition to the intellectual apparatus of the world ( p.73 - his italics).

In theory one might suppose that the universities would be a primary focus for the reforms in knowledge organisation that Wells was recommending. But he was scathing about the irrelevance of the universities of the day. He described them as "floating over the general disorder of mankind like a beautiful sunset over a battlefield" (Wells, 1938, p.45). In another equally vivid image he said that "Universities go out to meet the tremendous challenges of our social and political life, like men who go out in armour with bows and arrows to meet a bombing aeroplane"(p. 46). He was impatient with the collegiate or "finishing school" aspects of much of what they did (p. 51). In an article he prepared for the new Encyclopédie française in 1937, he was sceptical of "…any further tinkering with the highly conservative and resistant university system, local, national and traditional in texture, which already exists" (p. 58).

But he could not deny universities some importance in the new organisation he was proposing. In the Work Wealth and Happiness of Mankind he had hesitated to speculate about "how far this establishment of an encyclopaedia as a recognized central organ of mental life of mankind may be attainable by a transformation of university activities" among other things (Wells, 1934b, p.796). But later he saw the "tentacles" of his encyclopedia reaching into the universities for the research and scholarship that "is the living reality of the university" (Wells, 1938, p.51). "Every university and research institution should be feeding it "(p.14). "It would become the logical nucleus of the world’s research universities and post-graduate studies" (Wells, 1934b p. 796). It would be a "clearing house" for them, a cerebral cortex for which they were "essential ganglia"(Wells, 1938, p. 50).

Indeed he suggested that the organisation he was proposing "would outgrow in scale and influence alike any single university that exists, and it would inevitably take the place of the loose-knit university system of the world in the concentration of research and thought and the direction of the general education of mankind" (Wells, 1938, p. 95). In fact the new encyclopedism he was advocating was "the only possible method I can imagine, of bringing the universities and research institutions around the world into effective co-operation and creating an intellectual authority sufficient to control and direct collective life" (Wells 1938, p. 48). Ultimately the World Encyclopaedia" would be "a permanent institution, a mighty super-university, holding together, utilising and dominating all of the teaching and research organisations at present in existence" (Wells, 1942, p.59).

The Socio-technical Organisation of the World Encyclopaedia

The nearest Wells came to thinking through his scheme in relatively practical terms was when he tried to interest Nelson Doubleday, the American publisher, in taking up the idea. He wrote enthusiastically to Doubleday at the end of 1937 about it, calling it " a magnificent idea" (Wells-Doubleday correspondence, Dec 12, 1937). Then a few months later he sent Doubleday "a private memorandum." In which he stated, "I can’t get anything going with the Encyclopaedia in this period of Blue Funk. It is altogether too big for the time." This memorandum, he said, "is really addressed to myself, so to speak, to get the situation clear" (Wells-Doubleday correspondence, March 17, 1938).

He believed that rather than beginning the project ab initio, a publisher like Doubleday might well get it underway by taking over the Encyclopédie française that was then being produced. The "Plan" of the new French work Wells believed was excellent (Wells-Doubleday correspondence , Dec.12 1937). "It is a very valuable experiment in the co-ordination of ideas. It is intended to be a permanent institution and it is issued in the form of volumes of replaceable parts so that it can be kept permanently up-to-date" (Wells-Doubleday Memorandum, [1938]). It was he said, later, recapitulating his ideas, "a magnificent attempt to create an orderly modern outlook upon the world" (Wells, 1942, p36. ).

But it was not a matter simply of translating the Encyclopédie française . "It would have to be cut here, expanded there, supplemented, the volumes rearranged by an interchange of matter." To get the thing underway Wells suggested that Doubleday should set up a promotions company "which included H.G.W." The purpose of the new company would be to "acquire an unambiguous control of the translation rights, with unlimited power to abridge, expand, alter, adapt, supplement, etc. etc.…" He did not think acquiring these rights would cost much. He also thought that the French parent might wish ultimately to come into the venture as a joint shareholder (Wells-Doubleday Correspondence, Dec, 12, 1937).

An editorial committee could be put to work to guide the revisions and expansion of the material At first he suggested that "you would find that H.G.W. for all his faults would be the best chairman of the editorial committee and the best general editor of the matter" (Wells -Doubleday Correspondence, 12 Dec. 1937) Later, perhaps reflecting the less than enthusiastic response he had so far had to his ideas, he suggested that he should not continue to have too close an association with the scheme. To remove "this menace of a Wellsian bias," he suggested that "a representative and catholic committee - neither too numerous nor too narrow, of, seven, let us say, which will give a satisfactory guarantee against the definite exploitation .in the interests of any person, party, propaganda or profit seeking whatever. ."(Wells-Doubleday Memo, [1938], p.4).

Once the promotions company had acquired the rights to the French encyclopedia it should be replaced by a Production company to carry the venture through. Then "x" (he crossed through a first suggestion of "two") years after publication of the work, the production company itself would be reconstituted as "a permanent international educational organ, supplementing and co-ordinating universities, research institutions and schools of the English-speaking world" (Wells-Doubleday Correspondence, Dec12,1937).

As an organisation he wanted to ensure that it was not tainted by overt commercialism. It must not be "another merely business venture," he argued (Wells-Doubleday Memo, [1938], p.4). But he believed that, because the organisation, world-wide in scope, would have "roped in the larger part of the original sources of exposition, discussion and information," it would become a world monopoly. As such it could levy and distribute "direct and indirect revenue on a scale quite beyond the resources of any private publishing enterprise." Wells goes on to observe rather quaintly, "I do not see that the financial aspects of this huge enterprise, big though the sums involved may be, present any insurmountable difficulties in the way of realisation" (Wells, 1938, p. 30). What was needed financially, he suggested, was an endowment to provide the resources for employing "thousands of workers permanently, spending and recovering millions of pounds yearly" (Wells, 1931b, p.846).

The new organisation would have "a directorate and a staff of men who would act as, specialised editors and summarists." It would accumulate files and have conference rooms. It was an organisation that would function as a "sort of mental clearing house for the mind, a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarised, digested, clarified, compared" (Wells, 1938, p 69). In musing on the "Work room of the world-mind," Wells observed that both general and particular digests or summaries would be needed. This would require the employment of "hundreds of thousands of workers" continually to "replan" the summaries and digests and bring them up-to-date (Wells, 1942, p.35). The personnel of the new organisation " would be in correspondence with all of the universities, research organisations and so on throughout the world" (Wells, 1938, p.69). Indeed these workers might not actually all be in one place and the organisation might take the form of a "network", though he did not examine the implications of this statement (4).

Wells saw it as a "double-faced organisation, a perpetual digest and conference on the one hand and a system of publication and distribution on the other" (Wells, 1938, p.70-71). He referred to the library and "book-copying operation" of the Museum of Alexandria (Wells, 1931b, p.841) and suggested that the new Encyclopedia organisation would revive "on a modern scale the high ambitions of the Alexandria Museum:" it would become "the central Museum of the world…"(p.847). Reflecting on these ideas towards the end of his life, he thought a more effective name for what he was proposing would have been World Institute of Thought and Knowledge rather than World Encyclopaedia or World Brain (Wells, 1942, pp.36).

He suggested that a preparatory survey of existing material and the compilation of bibliographies of authoritative sources would collectively "give the best, clearest and most quintessential renderings of what is known and thought within their departments" (Wells, 1938, p.28). The world "is smothered in a multiplicity of books," he observed, "yet it is quite practicable that in every department of thought and knowledge, the best statement, the best diagrams, the clearest arguments and the most lucid summaries are to be found in a relatively small number of key volumes and key passages in books." He believed that "Such a bibliography of fundamentals would be in effect the index to an unassembled modern encyclopaedia. In the public library, in schools and college, it would at once become a most valuable reader’s guide" (Wells-Doubleday Memo, [1938] p. 6). It could also be published separately to give some financial return. Wells saw other saleable and useful products deriving from the work of the encyclopedia organisation as well, such as "a series of textbooks, and shorter reference encyclopaedias and encyclopaedic dictionaries" designed for "individual and casual use" (Wells, 1938, p. 70).

Wells, Documentation and Microfilm

The new organisation he was proposing would "include all the museums, art galleries, libraries, muniment rooms, Atlases, Surveys in the world." As such it constituted "a vast, dispersed – or shall we say imperfectly assembled? – largely inaccessible wealth of knowledge, and our first line of attack has to be the indexing of this primary material" (Wells,1942, p.34). Thus the encyclopedia would be an "organ for the collection, indexing, summarizing and release of knowledge". It would be "a synthesis of bibliography and documentation with the indexed archives of the world" (Wells, 1938, p.85). It would consist "of selections, extracts, quotations very carefully assembled with the approval of outstanding authorities in each subject, carefully collated and edited and critically presented. It would not be a miscellany but a concentration, clarification and a synthesis" (Wells, 1938, pp.20). "I attach considerable importance," he said, "to the making of approved abstracts and quotations. There has been too much second rate abstracting in preceding Encyclopaedias. In all cases when a thing has already been stated in a masterly way it is better to quote frankly than to rewrite" (Wells-Doubleday Correspondence 12 Dec 1937).

In his Doubleday-Doran memorandum of 1938, Wells observed that "a sort of organic encyclopaedism is already appearing in the shape of a more and more comprehensive organisation of documentation, bibliography, microfilm records and so on" (Wells-Doubleday Correspondence, [1938], p. 6). "Few people as yet," he observed, "outside the world of expert librarians and museum curators and so forth, know how manageable well-ordered facts can be made, however multitudinous, and how swiftly and completely even the rarest visions and the most recondite matters can be recalled, once they have been put in place in a well-ordered scheme of reference and reproduction." He had become aware that "there is no practical obstacle whatever now to the creation of an efficient index of all human knowledge, ideas and achievements, to the creation that is of a complete planetary memory for all." (Wells, 1938, p .86). In speaking to the World Congress on Universal Documentation in Paris in 1937, he observed that he saw in the work of documentation and bibliography "nothing less than the beginning of a world brain, a common world brain. What you are making me realize is a sort of cerebrum for humanity, a cerebral cortex which (when it is fully developed) will constitute a memory and a perception of current reality for the entire human race" (Wells, 1938, p. 91; also Rayward 1983).

These ideas reflected the influence on Wells of the work of Watson Davis who corresponded with Wells about microfilm early in 1937 ( and the two men met at the 1937 World Congress on Universal Documentation and probably in Washington when Wells visited the US in the Fall of 1937) (Davis -Wells, 1937) (5) Equally important was the work of the British documentalists, A.F.C Pollard of Imperial College and Dr S. C. Bradford of the Science Museum (6). When they learned of Wells’s participation in the 1937 World Congress on Documentation in Paris, which was in part to be a test of the continued viability of the International Institute of Documentation (Rayward, 1983), they made contact with him (7). They explained the new kinds of documentary work that they were sponsoring, especially the creation of a universal catalogue of science literature that Bradford was attempting to build up in the Science Museum Library as an aspect of the re-organised work of the International Institute of Bibliography (Rayward, 1975, ch .13). They suggested that what the documentalists were doing could provide a practical foundation on which Well’s World Encyclopedia could be erected.

Wells made their acquaintance and some limited social contact developed between the three men. Eventually Wells suggested that Pollard prepare a major paper on his ideas for creating Wells’ encyclopedia for presentation and discussion at the Conference of the International Institute of Documentation which was to be held at Oxford later in 1938. There was even some thought that Wells might chair the appropriate session (Pollard, 1838; Wells-IIB, 1937-1938). Certainly Wells acknowledges clearly and generously his debt to these "documentalists (Wells, 1942, p. 34).

Wells recognised that "modern facilities of transport, radio, photographic reproduction and so forth are rendering practicable a much more fully succinct and accessible assembly of fact and ideas than was ever possible before"(Wells, 1938, p. 84). But microfilm would have a special role. Because of the developments that had been occurring in microfilm, "the direct reproduction of the thing itself can be summoned to any properly prepared spot" (Wells, 1938, p.86). In the future he believed that there may well be "microscopic libraries of record, in which a photograph of every important book and document in the world will be stowed away and made easily available…" (p. 76).

Wells’s imagination was powerfully stimulated by the development of this avant-garde information technology of the day and he used a vivid cortical image to emphasise its potential. He thought that microfilm presaged a "a real intellectual unification of our race. The whole of human memory can be, and probably in short time will be, made accessible to every individual." But this "new all-human cerebellum" created through the agency of microfilm would not be subject to "the same vulnerabilities of ordinary human beings because of the ease of making duplicate copies" (Wells, 1938, p. 86-7). "In these days of destruction, violence and general insecurity, it is comforting to think that the brain of mankind, the race brain, can exist in numerous replicas throughout the world" (p.92). He believed that this replicability of microfilm represented "the abolition of distance on the intellectual plane" (Wells, 1942, p 35) ( 8 ).


The descriptions given above place Wells’s World Encylopedia ideas in the limited context within which they were initially presented – in what he wrote to Nelson Doubleday and what he included in his World Brain, with some of his preliminary and subsequent reflections on what he called "modern encyclopaedism." I now turn to considering the implications of Wells’s view that this organisation could be thought to constitute a foundation for, a manifestation of, a World Brain or World Mind. Though Wells speaks, as in the passages given above, of a World Brain as a development of a conventional, print-based encyclopedia, he also speaks of it as some kind of mysteriously emergent organisational phenomenon. To see what Wells had in mind about this notion it is necessary to place it in the wider context of his writing about social Darwinism and the nature of the World State.

Biology, evolution and the Science of Life

In the massive, four-volume The Science of Life, (Wells, Huxley and Wells, 1931 one might expect to find an account of the physical brain that could guide one’s understanding of the metaphorical uses Wells made of the notion in writing about a "World" Brain. And in a sense this is so but in an entirely surprising way (9).

What emerges in the final chapters of this massive work, at the end of some 1400 pages reviewing evolutionary and biological processes in the world of man and animals, is the observation that the development of contemporary social life is "the latest, greatest and strangest of the products of evolution"(p.1439). In the long evolutionary process of man and beast the only real differences to emerge between human thought and the mental life of the higher animals lie in acuity of perception and exactness of response, but these crucial differences have allowed mankind to form and follow "directive" ideas (p.1328). Gradually in the evolutionary process man’s thinking becomes more realistic, his sympathies expand, "his sense of fellowship replaces an animal hostility to strangers and to unfamiliar types." Throughout the story is "the concurrent improvement of mankind’s means of transport, and a steady development of his methods of expression, record and communication" (p.1451). "By means of books, pictures, museums and the like, the species builds up the apparatus of a super-human memory. Imaginatively the individual now links himself with and secures the use of this continually increasing and continually more systematic and accessible super-memory….(p.1472). What is happening is a process of "mental personal expansion to which the only visible limit is our planet and the entire human species" (p.1451).

This progressive, expansionary evolutionary process, Wells believed, has led variously to the development of new kinds of education, "the development of that conscious unification of the human species which is going on very rapidly," and the possibility of the ultimate suppression of war (p.1471). In a passage describing the trajectory of the work’s subject from cell to civilisation, and emphasising the strict scientific terms of the discussion, a case is made for the emergence of a new form of social organisation which could only be constituted on the basis of the as-yet-unnamed World Brain

"In this work we have traced the long process of synthesis from the single cell to the multicellular organism and from the coelenterate to the coelomate. We have seen the interdependence of individuals in space increase with the development of colonial and gregarious forms, and of individuals in time with the growing care and intimacy of parent for young. The higher forms of interdependence have evolved great extensions of mental correlation. We have shown how human social economy is based almost entirely upon the mental modifications of the individual and how little it owes to instinct. This mental modification is steadily in the direction of subordination of egotism and the suppression of extremes of uncorrelated individual activity. An inflation of the personal has gone on, so that the individual had become tribal, patriotic, loyal, or devotee. Homo Sapiens accommodates this persona, by which he conducts his individual life, to wider and wider conceptions" (p. 1472).

Wells spoke of the gradual appearance "in the species Homo Sapiens" of "synthetic super-minds… into which individual consciousnesses tend to merge themselves." These super-individual organisations, are cultures, churches, communities, states, classes and creeds, and they represent "accumulations of mentality." Wells suggested that current trends seem to suggest that these are "coalescing". They seem to be heading towards "an ultimate unification into a collective human organism, whose knowledge and memory will be all science and all history, which will synthesise the pervading will to live and reproduce into a collective purpose of continuation and growth"(p.1473).

Ultimately, we must see that Wells’s understanding of man and society is grounded in biology and evolution, in the nearness of the ape and nature of learning in dogs. In The Science of Life. he gave much space to Pavlov’s work with dogs and Koehler’s with chimpanzees and apes. He examined and dismissed the then powerfully influential psychological theories of the behaviourist, J.B. Watson, as too limited to explain the functioning of the human brain. He did acknowledge, though, that "Watson and his school have made a real contribution to psychology in showing how plastic the mind of a child is, and what a huge part conditioning plays in building up much human behaviour that looks at first glance simple, characteristic, and instinctive" (pp.1222-23). It is clear that Wells was much influenced by a kind of biological determinism implicit in this kind of theorising and he discussed the research supporting it at some length.

The Outlook for Homo Sapiens
, contains an account of learning in animals, especially dogs. Wells described how dogs can be socialised by the development of conditioned reflexes that ultimately lead to "the establishment of a taught secondary self in the cerebral cortex. None of these creatures are (sic) behaving in accordance with the primary tendencies they have inherited. They are behaving in accordance with an adaptive mental superstructure imposed upon their natural dispositions. It enables them to survive not simply as tolerated but as contributing individuals in a complex social organisation which otherwise would have no alternative but their extermination" (Wells, 1942 b, p.24).

For Wells "the difference between adult human thought and the mental reactions of a dog or monkey, or a very young child, seems to be a difference not in kind but in complexity" (Wells, Huxley and Wells, p.1327). Wells would certainly accept that mankind was subject to a process of socialisation not dissimilar to what he described as occurring in dog training. In the socialising process, an "adaptive mental superstructure" must be imposed on man’s "natural dispositions." In this way a secondary self within society, "a world mind," might be formed within the cortex of a "world brain." For Wells and his colleagues there is no mind-body problem but two aspects of the same thing (p.1276). With the evolution of a World Brain-World Mind, mankind will be able to adapt in the face of all of the evolutionary hazards with which the contemporary world confronts him, especially those threats that have been created as a result of inventions and discoveries that especially improve the efficiency of war and transportation.

Mankind, however, has teaching and learning advantages over dogs and the training to which they are subjected. While so much of human behaviour, like that of animals, consists of conditioned reflexes and is socially determined, Wells believed that mankind’s capacity to use speech and language to shape the conscious mind and in "excavating the unconscious mind" set him apart (Wells, Huxley and Wells, 1931, vol. 4, ch 7). As a result, for mankind "the taught stuff in the cerebellum becomes of overpoweringly greater importance than mere hard experience" (Wells, 1942 b, p.25). Mankind’s ability to use language for the purposes of thought and in the processes of instruction allied to the extraordinary educability of the infant human, have brought him by a process of progressive natural development, Wells believed, to a stage in which a kind of global will and awareness are emerging. These in their turn offer a promise that man can eventually "control not only his destiny but that of all life on the planet" but for this to occur he must now act and take control.

Scientists will have a major role to play in this development. While recognising that there may continue in the short term to be war and social dislocations, the authors of the Science of Life placed their faith in "the progressive development of the scientific mind" to direct the current "drift of constructive thought and power" (Wells, Huxley and Wells, 1931, p. 1474). The direction of evolution, given a push by the scientist, is towards realising an emergent phenomenon, "the Possibility of One Collective Human Mind and Will" (Section heading p.1471).
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Offline squarepusher

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Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
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    The Outline of the Future

    These ideas are taken up in Wells's The Shape of Things to Come (Wells,1933). Though cast as a fiction, "the Dream book of Dr Philip Raven," this work may well be a version of that "Outline of the Future" about which Wells wrote enthusiastically to Doubleday. Announcing his idea for the new book, Wells said, "It won't be a 'fantastic' story; it will, if I don't fall down, be solidly real as well as wonderful" (Wells-Doubleday, 1932). In effect The Outline of the Future would complement the great trilogy, the "three correlated compilations," that Wells believed represented "together a complete system of ideas." First had come The Outline of History (1919, but with many editions subsequently). Then, first in parts and then as a four volume consolidation, came The Science of Life, 1929-31. Finally, in 1931 came what he described as "the most difficult and original of all of these encyclopaedic essays" (Wells 1942a, p.56), The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. In order to make explicit the relationship between the three works, Wells proposed that subsequent editions of the last two should be subtitled respectively "Outline of Biological Science" and "Outline of Economic and Social Science (Johnson-Wells, 1933, Wells, 1934, p. 616) (10).

    The importance of these works in Wells's thinking cannot be over estimated. The Open Conspiracy, he tells us "rests upon and arises out of a synthesis of historical, biological, and sociological realizations" (Wells, 1931c, p.101), precisely what Wells had provided in the three synthetic treatises. In effect these works present what Wells described as "the threefold basis for a modern ideology, historical, biological and economic" (Wells, 1928, p.104). Such an 'ideology' provided a foundation on which the "Open Conspiracy" could proceed in its task of slowly, in a piecemeal way, bringing into being the World State on which, in Wells's view, mankind's future survival depended (Wells 1931c, p.18).

    An Outline of the Future, such as is given in The Shape of Things to Come, extrapolates the trends of development in the earlier "scientific" syntheses. It gives Wells the opportunity to present both what he calls a "theory of world revolution" (Wells, 1933, p.430) and his picture of the ideal World State that will emerge from this revolution. This in its turn is a reworking of his ideas about the New Republic first presented more than a generation before first in Anticipations (Wells, 1902) and in extenso in A Modern Utopia (Wells, 1905).

    Wells observed that the Shape of Things to Come "is as deliberate and laborious a piece of work as anything I have ever done'.I think I have contrived to set out in it my matured theory of revolution and world government very plainly" (Wells 1934, p.640). As an "Outline of the Future" it is a story of evolutionary adaptation. The evolutionary developments discussed in the Science of Life are, Wells tells us, "only the opening sentences of the next chapter of human biology" (Wells 1931, p.1476). In The Shape of Things to come he described how, as one dips further into that chapter of human development, mankind is shown as progressively emerging from the "decadence," "the twilight of social order" of the mid-twentieth century into a far more exalted state in the years of the 21 first century.

    This culmination is a technocratic achievement. The adaptive steps conform to Wells's notions of an "Open Conspiracy," though they are not labelled as such in the work itself. They are initiated by groups of scientists and engineers who "invade" politics in a "movement that spreads from workshop to workshop and from laboratory to laboratory" (Wells, 1933, pp.262-266)." These groups of people are guided by theories of group psychology, especially the theories of "social nucleation" of a Wellsian avatar Gustave de Windt (Wells, 1933, p.250). De Windt, we are told, is "not so much a creator as a summariser, a concentrator, a lens that gathers to a burning focus the accumulating mental illumination of his day" (Wells, 1933, p.260) ' like Wells himself. The successful application of de Windt's theories brings about "an epoch in biological history" (p.425). This is a world renaissance and the emergence of the World State that Wells believed had become necessary if "the species was not to collapse, degenerate and perish by the wayside" (p.254).

    History is presented as a "readjustment of the individual to the racial life" (Wells, 1933, p. 427.) This readjustment involves a commitment to eugenics, very much in the air at this time. While Wells does not adopt Nazi-like ideas of racial purity, he clearly supports the notion that the application of eugenic principles can help achieve racial strength and adaptability. He recommends, for example, "the painless destruction of monsters and the more dreadful and pitiful sorts of defective 'and also the sterilisation of various types that would otherwise have transmitted tendencies that were plainly undesirable" (p. 394).

    This is a recurrent and important issue for Wells. Almost thirty years before The Shape of Things To Come appeared, he stated the problem and the resolution he proposes for it even more graphically in A Modern Utopia (Wells 1905). The problem is how society is to deal with the evolutionary implications of its "invalids, its idiots and madmen, its drunkards and men of vicious mind, its cruel and furtive souls, its stupid people, too stupid to be of use to the community, its lumpish, unteachable, and unimaginative people"? The answer comes without hesitation: "these people will have to be in the descendant phase, the species must be engage in eliminating them; there is no escape from that, and conversely, the people of exceptional quality must be ascendant. The better sort of people, so far as they can be distinguished, must have the fullest freedom of public service, the fullest opportunity of parentage" (Wells, 1905, p. 36). The State would provide support for "the mildly incompetent, the spiritless and dull, the poorer sort who are ill'," though in return for support they must undertake to remain childless (p. 141)

    Of course, in a society that he claims would have a "government as merciful and deliberate as it is powerful and decisive", there will be no need to execute criminals. There may even be no gaols. Quietly, with "the strength that begets mercy," the state will remove those who are not acceptable to it to remote islands - a special island for the drunkards, for example, another for "cheats." In an extraordinarily anachronistic proposal, Wells harked back to the model of the British system of convict transportation of the late eighteenth century. This system is to be used not only to deal with the criminal strictly defined but those who have socially undesirable characteristics that might affect the genetic stock and the evolutionary process. That he should single out apparently so casually the dull, the unimaginative, the stupid, the furtive and so on for extermination or isolation is simply staggering to a late twentieth century sensibility. Who is to make these determinations and against what criteria ? How is one to define precisely the "poorer sort" and the "better sort"? Might there not be among the "unteachable" those who resolutely refuse to accept Wells's (the orthodox, the State's) view of things? In order to avoid the possibility of children being produced by these literal outcasts, Wells suggested that "it may even be necessary to make these island prisons a system of monasteries and nunneries" (p.144).

    In The Shape of Things to Come he portrayed the adaptive processes at work in human society as overcoming "the inherent distaste in the individual for subordination and self-sacrifice." By means of a "steady obliteration of primary motives" ( Wells, 1933, p. 422) the necessary "sublimation of individuality "(p. 427) may be achieved. To ensure the success of the new social order that is beginning to appear in the twenty-first century "man's life and interests have been socialised against his natural disposition." This is described as a subversive individualism. In the future Wells's believed that "the obscurer processes of selection" will be "accelerated and directed by eugenic effort" and man will eventually become a new species (p. 426).

    Taking up the ideas of language set out in The Science of Life, Wells suggests in The Shape of Things to Come that the developmental processes which he sees beginning to transform mankind will have an important linguistic dimension. English will first be reduced and purified to a form of C.K. Ogden's Basic English which was enjoying enormous popularity at the time Wells was writing. This linguistic activity would be monitored and developed by a Language Bureau. The Language Bureau in its turn would draw on the "science of significs" proposed by Ogden and I.A. Richards in their Meaning of Meaning of 1923. As a result of these attentions, Wells suggests, English will gradually become more lucid, more comprehensive and more able to function effectively as a "truly universal language." Improvements in language will contribute to the evolutionary process by allowing man's brain to become " far more neatly packed and better arranged, cleaner and better lubricated" than in the past (p.418). This will involve a kind of physical rewiring of the brain. "The rearrangement of the association systems of the human brain which is now in progress brings with it ' long before we begin to dream of eugenic developments ' the prospect of at present inconceivable extensions of human capacity" (p.419).

    The ideal society into which we are being propelled by the forces of evolution, given a helping hand by modern Science and Technology, will culminate in a central intellectual organism, a World Brain. At the same time, these developments will be paralleled by "an immense increase in the amount, the quality, and the accessibility of knowledge." He suggests that "the continual advance in productive efficiency [will liberate] fresh multitudes of workers for its services" and will encourage the rapid growth of the World Brain. Wells sets up the head quarters of the Fundamental Knowledge System that he sees his new society requiring in Barcelona, but notes that it will have special stations everywhere as well as regional bureaux (Wells, 1933, p.130).

    "As the individual brain quickens and becomes more skilful, there also appears a collective Brain, the Encyclopaedia, the Fundamental Knowledge System which accumulates, sorts, keeps in order and renders available everything that is known. The Encyclopaedia Organisation, which centres on Barcelona, with its seventeen million active workers, is the Memory of Mankind. Its tentacles spread out in one direction to millions of investigators, checkers and correspondents, and in the other to keep the education a process in living touch with mental advance" " (Wells, 1933, pp.419-20)

    Ideology, Politics, and the World Encyclopedia

    For Wells the World Brain had an essential ideological and political function. It would "bring all of the scattered and ineffective mental wealth of our world into something like common understanding, and into effective reaction upon our vulgar everyday political, social and economic life" (Wells, 1938, p 17). Wells speaks of the World Encyclopedia as providing a "directive synthesis" (Wells, 1934, p.794). It will "reach down to direct the ideological side of human education'" (p.795). He sees the new organisation spreading "like a nervous network, a system of mental control about the globe, knitting all of the intellectual workers of the world through a common interest and common medium of expression into a more and more conscious co-operating unity and a growing sense of their own dignity, informing without pressure or propaganda, directing without tyranny"(Wells, 1938, p. 33). It is, he said, the only "possible method I can imagine of bringing the universities and research institutions of the world into effective co-operation and creating an intellectual authority sufficient to control and direct our collective life" (p.68).

    He sees the new central encyclopedic organisation "informing, suggesting, directing unifying" reaching into "every corner of the world" (p.71). It would "hold men's minds together in something like a common interpretation of reality" (p. 35). It foreshadowed "a real intellectual unification of our race" (p. 86-7). It would be a world organ whose function would be to "'pull the mind of the world together.'" (p.85). Wells observed that "a common ideology based on this Permanent World encyclopaedia is a possible means, to some it seems the only means, of dissolving human conflict into unity" (p.62). He suggested with apparent approval that it would "compel men to come to terms with one another" (Wells's emphasis, pp.23).

    It is clear that for Wells one of the attractions of the new World Encyclopedia organisation, the World Brain, is that it will allow us to wind up and replace outmoded institutions as the new World State is established. A new form of direction and control of human affairs will emerge that will rescue us from the dangers into which we are drifting. Wells foresees no real obstacles developing to what he calls "the production of such a ruling World Brain."

    "In a universal organisation and clarification of knowledge and ideas, in a closer synthesis of university and educational activities, in the evocation, that is, of what I have here called a World Brain, operating by an enhanced educational system through the whole body of mankind, a World Brain which will replace our multitude of uncoordinated ganglia, our powerless miscellany of universities, research institutions, literatures with a purpose, national education systems and the like; in that and in that alone, it is maintained, is there any clear hope of a really Competent Receiver for world affairs, any hope of an adequate directive control of the present destructive drift of world affairs (Wells 1938, p. xvi).

    The most common meaning of Receiver, apart from that related to stolen goods, is an official appointed to help wind up the affairs of a company going into liquidation. The Competent Receiver is an important aspect for Wells of the Open Conspiracy ' a sort of Oliver Cromwell on a white charger purging the state of reactionary elements inimical to the emerging world polity. Beatrice Webb sums up something of the effect these ideas were having at about this time on one thoughtful observer and long-time acquaintance. In her diary for 31st March, 1939, she records that she had lunched with Wells. "He was obsessed with his own vague vision of a world order, with his search for a 'competent receiver' of the power to organise mankind. The mass electorate and its representatives were totally unfit for the job. But he utterly failed to make me understand what kind of social institution he had in mind" (Webb, 1985, IV, pp.431).

    A source for understanding what Wells may have had in mind is his early book, A Modern Utopia (Wells, 1905). In this work he presents a first and, from a modern point of view, frequently horrifying vision of what for him is the great new World State in the making. The new World State, he suggests, will take its origin in a society in which, because of the development of science and technology, man is finally "emancipated" from physical labour" (Wells 1905, p. 98). "The whole trend of a scientific mechanical civilisation is continually to replace labour by machinery and to increase it in its effectiveness by organisation'" (p.152). The result is to change the nature of life's "incentives" and to make it "less panic-stricken and violent and base" (p.155). But this kind of emancipation from "toil" raises the problem of finding an appropriate disposition of the working class now dispossessed of its traditional employments. This is one of Wells's persistent themes (see Wells 1902).

    In this work Wells suggests for the government of the new utopia that there must emerge a new kind of governing class, to whom he gave the name, "the Samurai." Wells acknowledged his debt to Plato's Republic and to the Japanese tradition of "bushido" in formulating his ideas about the Samurai. The responsibility for ruling the world lies in their hands. They are the administrators and politicians and only they are allowed to vote (Wells, 1905, p.310). Wells describes in considerable detail their roles and responsibilities.

    In The Shape of Things to Come some thirty years later Wells portrays the government of his new and ideal state as unashamedly absolutist and totalitarian. It would be "the landowner of the earth'it will maintain order, maintain roads, maintain a cheap efficient administration of justice, maintain cheap and rapid locomotion and be the common carrier of the planet, convey and distribute labour, control, let or administer all natural productions, pay for and secure healthy births and vigorous new generation, maintain the public health, coin money and sustain standards of measurement, subsidies research, and reward such commercially unprofitable undertakings as benefit the community as a whole, subsidise, when needful chairs of criticism ad publication, and collect and distribute information" (Wells, 1933, p 89-90).

    For purposes of government and, if necessary, preventative disposition, the populace in Well's extraordinary Utopia, is to be divided into four categories: the poietic, the kinetic, the dull and the base. This division allows Wells to "vest all of the executive and administrative work in the kinetic class. While the poietic class may have role in suggestion, criticism and legislation, the kinetic class are responsible for controlling the base and giving the dull "an incentive to kinetic effort" (Wells, 1933, p.562). Presumably, the kinetic class is a later version of Wells's new order of Samurai first described in A Modern Utopia. Although he does not use this name in The Shape of Things to Come, it is clear that, almost thirty years after first describing how the order of Samurai would be constituted, the qualifications needed for admission to its non-hereditary ranks, the work it would perform, the strict and ascetic mental and social disciplines which would sustain it, for Wells it a central importance in his system of thought. In his Experiment in Autobiography, he observes, "A Samurai order educated in such an ideology as I have since tried to shape out, is inevitable if the modern world-state is to be fully realized," he declared (Wells, 1934, p.563).

    Beatrice Webb has a rather dismissive comment on the Samurai, too. She met Wells and his son at tea with the George Bernard Shaws in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression. An ardent admirer of the communist system of the Soviet Union, she reported disapprovingly that Wells had denigrated Russian communism. "He is still infatuated," she observed, "with the conception of a conspiracy of international Samurai capitalists to rule the world of the common men and he is prepared to sit down straightaway and draft the requisite decrees which will bring back prosperity" (Webb, 1985, p.285).

    What of the machinery of government? In A Modern Utopia, written long before Wells began to think in terms of a World Brain, he suggested that the administration of the World State would require a kind of Registrar General's Department in which would be maintained a giant world index, what today would be called a database. The major function of this index would be to ensure that every person in the world can be "promptly and certainly recognised." It would provide a record of all of the movements of the populace. In it would be entered "various material facts, such as marriage, parentage, criminal convictions and the like." The new born would be recorded and the dead removed. "Each human being would be given a distinct formula, a number or a 'scientific name,' under which he or she could be docketed." The main index would be supplemented by "a system of other indices with cross references to the main one, arranged under names, under professional qualification, under diseases, crime and the like." (Wells, 1905, pp. 162-3, 164).

    This is Wells's vision of the collection and centralisation of information for control of the world state, a Big Brother organisation imagined fifty years before Orwell's chilling vision captured the popular imagination:

    "These index cards might conceivable be transparent and so contrived to give a photographic copy promptly whenever it was needed, and they could have an attachment into which would slip a ticket bearing the name of the locality in which the individual was last reported. A little army of attendants would be at work on this index day and night. From the sub-station constantly engaged in checking back thumb-marks and numbers, an incessant stream of information would come, of births, of deaths, of arrival at inns, of applications to post offices for letters, of tickets taken for long journeys, of criminal convictions, marriages, applications of public doles and the like. A filter of offices would sort the stream, and all day and all night for ever a swarm of clerks would go to and for correcting the central register, and photographing copies of its entries for transmission to the subordinate local stations, in response to their enquiries. So the inventory of the State would watch every man and the wide world would write its history as the fabric of destiny flowed on. (Wells, 1905, pp.164-5)

    Clearly the Index Organisation of A Modern Utopia must underpin the administrative and political decisions of the Samurai. It would provide them not only with the means to exercise control over the movement and behaviour of the population of the new world state but also with the information needed to govern this new state wisely and well. In 1905, Wells suggested that "Bacon's visionary House of Solomon" would at last be realised in the new utopia with "reports of scientific experiments, as full, as prompt as telegraphic reports of cricket" flashing from it about the world. (Wells, 1905, p. 60). But when he hints at the need for a World Brain it is entirely in the potentially repressive context of total social surveillance.

    "I have compared the indexing of humanity we have come upon to an eye, an eye so sensitive and alert that two strangers cannot appear anywhere upon the planet without discovery. Now an eye does not see without a brain, an eye does not turn round and look without a will or purpose". (p.172)

    The World Brain organisation described in The Shape of Things to Come of 1933, the headquarters for which is located in Barcelona, contains echoes of the index organisation described in A Modern Utopia of 1905. One imagines that the vast centralised database of A Modern Utopia that is needed for the surveillance and disposition of the population would necessarily be part of the new and improved "knowledge apparatus" Wells was latter to describe as a World Brain or World Encyclopaedia organisation

    The Nature and Unity of Knowledge

    The recurrent notion of "directiveness" is ominous in Well's discussions of the fundamental purpose of the encyclopedic organisation - though central to any notion of brain function, the "ruling World Brain" mentioned above (Wells 1938, p. xvi). Wells emphasis on direction and control highlights how far he has travelled from the philosophical underpinnings of the Encyclopédie of Diderot. This he claimed was one of the sources of his inspiration, especially in its attempt to create a new ideology on which a new kind of society might rest (Wells, 1931, pp.842, 843). "I am," he wrote to Doubleday, "a Utopian liberal socialist, with a scientific training. I consider myself in the line of succession of Diderot" (Wells-Doubleday Memo, [1938], p.3). But he was more. He clearly saw himself as a member of a newly emergent technocratic elite in whom "Science" had vested access to the simplification and absoluteness of Truth amidst all the clamour, strife, ambiguity and confusion of the modern age.

    In 1931 he made a broadcast on "What I would do with the world." The premise of the talk was that he was to be made the dictator of the world - an intriguing fiction for one so concerned with ideas of social reformation. As World Dictator, he tells us, he would at once create the World State. It would need to have governing boards for economic affairs and police. "There would also need to be a great world organisation sustaining education, scientific research, and the perpetual revision of ideas." These organisations would represent the end point of a process of administrative and political simplification because they would concentrate and harness the scientific knowledge of experts. It would be they who would carry on the essential business of the planet. "But it may well be asked, Who will make the ultimate decision?" Certainly not a world government, in Wells's view, because none would be necessary: the management of world affairs had been placed in the hands of experts. "Suppose your intellectual organisation, your body of thought, your scientific men, say and prove this, that or the other course is the right one (Wells's emphasis). Suppose they have the common-sense of an alert and educated community to sustain them. Why should not a dictatorship ' not of this or that man, nor of the proletariat, but of informed and educated common-sense ' some day rule the earth?"(Wells,1931, pp.202-3)

    Wells seems here to be once again describing his order of Samurai. He seems committed to the idea that political and social decisions are reducible to questions of scientific ' and economic ' fact. As he envisages the new society that will take shape in the future, the narrator of A Modern Utopia puts in the mouth of the social scientist de Windt what must be interpreted as Wells's own view. De Windt opposes the parliamentary system of government with its professional Opposition. "'Criticise,' he wrote, 'yes, but don't obstruct.'" De Windt taught that "if a directive organisation is fundamentally bad 'break it and throw it away ." What was intolerable was the "tangle of ideas" engendered by contemporary systems of government. De Windt/Wells believed that: "about most affairs there can be no two respectable and antagonistic opinions' there is one sole right way and endless wrong ways of doing things" (p.256).

    Wells appealed, as he grew more urgent with disappointment at the lack of acceptance of his ideas and as the world seemed to draw ever close to the brink of disaster, to a new class, an intellectual elite, into which he defines himself. He refers to "we, I mean the sociologists, the human ecologists'the world intelligentsia and our sort of people generally" (Wells, 1942, pp.20-21). These are the Open Co-conspirators, perhaps conceivable as the forerunners of the Samurai with disciplined minds and steady opinions.

    Wells believed that authors ' in fact "the larger part of the world of literary artistry" ' form a class that seems to resemble the poietic class of A Modern Utopia. He describes it as a class of the "more powerfully receptive types," such as George Bernard Shaw, an old friend though they had a long falling out, and other prominent writers of Wells's day most of whom he knew to a greater or lesser extent. It is clear that for him they could never be part of the administrative and governing elite he had called the Samurai. Such "receptive types" were characterised by the "inner arbitrariness and unreality of the untrained common man." They were "impulsive, uncoordinated, wilful." Wells believed that "their education has been lacking so that they lapse "into inconsistent and dramatised ways of thinking and living." This is unacceptable. It is a fate from which "a more expert and scientific educational process" might have saved them. Ultimately the scientific and technocratic elite whose minds, like Wells's, are "systematically unified" and equipped "to get things ruthlessly mapped out and consistent" (Wells, 1934, p.529) are the ones to "clean up the problem of methods and organisation for the world-mind'" (Wells, 1942, p.20-21). Observations such as these make it clear why Hollinger sees Wells as one of those who form a "peculiar tradition of modernism" which is defined by "its faith in science, its sense that what our civilization requires in order to be rescued from itself is more likely to come from communities of knowers than from a succession of artist-heroes" (Hollinger, 1991, p.43)

    The upshot of these views is that Wells seems to suggest that he has no time for dissenting opinions. He clearly devalues the contribution that a multiplicity of viewpoints can make to the discussion of issues and the formation of opinion. He seems to repudiate the inevitable and perhaps necessary ideological conflicts and disagreements that enrich many areas of intellectual and political life and from which new knowledge on the one hand and policy on the other emerges and is tested. It is as though he believed that something akin to doctrinal conformity had become necessary in the face of a world he saw as having become too chaotic and directionless to survive. In 1942 he observed, perhaps echoing the famous phrase in the Outline of History that human beings faced " a race between education and catastrophe," that "the trend of things is still I believe towards disaster and extinction." But even so, some "obstinate" part of him believed that opportunities remained for creating a "framework of a world order with a world-mind" (Wells, 1942, p.41). Such opportunities had to be seized by his sort of people, a new scientifically educated technocratic elite with orderly minds and the ability to ascertain in the midst of the hurly burly of modern life, the one "right" way of doing things.


    It is easy to read Wells's statements today as expressing an essentially negative vision rather than a positive one, as reflecting perhaps a last and, in the final analysis, desperate appeal by an old, passionate "utopian liberal socialist" for the kind of certainty of truth that characterised the nineteenth century positivist science of his youth. How he invoked the name and nature of science! Yet, while Modern (and Postmodern) scientific and social thought had not yet issued to the mode of knowing to which he appealed the extended challenges that are so much part of the intellectual milieu of the late twentieth century, what he called for was not in the nature of things available to him. He had passed beyond the realms of science, which had nurtured his world view and of whose virtues he was so famously an exponent, to a deep emotional commitment to a social ideology.

    Over the decades Wells had lectured often on, and had written voluminously, obsessively about, the coming of a new world order. Described in detail in The Shape of Things to Come, it was to be a culmination of the evolutionary, psychological, educational and social processes set forth in The Outline of History, The World Wealth and Happiness of Mankind and the Science of Life. In the last and longest chapter of his Experiment in Autobiography, "The Idea of a Planned World," he discusses the genesis and development of these ideas (Wells 1934a, pp. 549ff). They represent his response to both the geo-political conditions and the science of his times. Especially important was his conviction that the processes of human evolution were being accelerated by the work of modern science. New and valuable forms of social organisation were emerging which continued to be threatened by nationalism, religion, narrow-mindedness, individualism, intolerance, weapons technology and the deepening threat of a new war. How to resist these disruptive forces, while the new kinds of socially desirable developments were urgently and actively delivered into being, was the fundamental problem that society had to grapple with. For Wells, mankind was now, it seemed, at a stage of development where it was possible to take control and direct the processes of evolution, but the balance between extinction and survival was delicate and in 1945, old and ill, Wells finally lost hope and faith (Wells, 1945).

    He had put his faith in the reform of education and the creation of a World Brain, a "new encyclopedism." His Science and the World Mind (Wells, 1942) is a cry for it. But despite the burden of hope with which Wells invested the idea of a World brain, it can be argued that it was for him conceptually no more than an extension of the formidable encyclopedic overviews of knowledge that he had compiled after the First World War and which I have discussed above. Wells tells us that, as he began to make progress on the first of these works, The Outline of History, he "saw more and more plainly that this was the form, the only right form, in which history should be presented to the ordinary citizen'I realised too that even my arrangement of notes, if it was properly 'vetted' by one or two specialised and authoritative helpers, might be made to serve, provisionally at least, for just that general review of reality of which we stood in such manifest need if any permanent political unity were to be sustained in the world" (Wells 1934, p.614). He believed that together his three large syntheses of the knowledge of the day "'. give a clearer, fuller and compacter summary of what the normal citizen of the modern state should know, than any other group of books in existence. They shape out something that presently will be better done" (p.618). He does admit that they are "exploratory experiments" but he believes that they will help educate people to become "world citizens," and will help to provide a "foundation" for that "common understanding" that is necessary to hold a "world community" together (p. 619), one of the fundamental purposes of his World Brain.

    Curiously Wells is describing what might be interpreted as a revival of medieval and renaissance commonplace-books which served as the basis for some of the first modern encyclopedic compilations of knowledge (Moss, 1996). For a seminal author of science fiction whose plots, images and prescient inventions are as potent today as they ever were, this is surely anticlimactic. Technologically, Wells's "World Brain" is remarkably under-imagined and has none of the flashes of imaginative genius that have given such life and power to his books of acknowledged science fiction (11).

    In the final analysis, then, it is possible to describe Wells's the World Brain in this way. It is the latest and greatest expression of socio-biological evolution. It is to be the organ that will be at once shaped by, and responsible for, the ultimate success of that "open conspiracy" by means of which scientists and others will create a new world order. As a fundamental aspect of this new world order, it will provide the information necessary for the suppression of dissent and diversity. It will be under the control of an anti-individualist, anti-democratic administrative and scholarly elite, the Competent Receiver and the grandiosely named order of Samurai. These "officials" will carry out their duties and sustain their repressive regimes administratively on the basis of knowledge derived from a huge database in which is integrated information about all aspects of the lives of the citizens under their care. They are to manage broader socio-biological matters relating to the immediate welfare and evolutionary development of the human race, including weeding out the unfit for detention or destruction. The information they need to discharge these responsibilities will be derived from what is no more than a "properly vetted" "arrangement of notes." These notes are to be provided by the personnel constituting the World Brain organisation. These are the "carefully assembled sequence" of "selections, extracts, and quotations" that Wells identifies as grist for the World Brain's cognitive mill (Wells, 1938, pp. 14-15). They are, conceptually no more than an extension of his own notebooks. The World Brain is simply Wells's brain writ large.


    Wells's vision of a World brain is troubling in and of itself. But it also raises issues of a broader kind that pose a challenge to contemporary accounts of the Word or Global Brain, whether they echo Wells or not. All of these accounts embrace a kind of evolutionary determinism which suggests that a new kind of sentient super-organism is emerging from the complex social arrangements by which we live our lives. What is being referred to is not simply the modification of existing or even the development of new social and personal arrangements to accommodate new political realities (the new Europe for example) or technological innovation (such as the motor car, the telephone or the Television). Something far beyond the ken of ordinary people and "alive" is envisaged. It is alive also in a way that requires the subordination of the will, intelligence and interests of ordinary people. As individuals are subsumed by or absorbed into it, their independence and instrumentality in their own lives are inevitably curtailed in the expectation of general social betterment rather than an enhancement of individual potential. It is neither tool nor prosthesis but may be interpreted as becoming an expression of totalitarian values and authoritarian control.

    World Brain or Global Brain proponents tend to extrapolate quite extravagantly the capabilities and implications of emerging technology. For Wells it was microfilm. Today it is the infinitely more sophisticated Internet and World Wide Web which have enmeshed our globe in a fantastically intricate and diffused communications infrastructure. By means of this technology as World or Global Brain proponents imagine it taking shape, the effective deployment of the entire universe of knowledge will become possible. But this begs unresolved questions about the relative value of the individual and the state, about the nature of individual and social benefits and how they are best to be allocated, about what constitutes freedom and how it might be appropriately constrained. It flies in the face of the intransigent reality that what constitutes the ever-expanding store of human knowledge is almost incalculably massive in scale, is largely viewpoint-dependent, is fragmented, complex, ceaselessly in dispute and always under revision.

    Finally, one might ask what happens to individuals and to society when the World or Global Brain malfunctions, whether within the limits of normality or pathologically? What do the limitations and failures that characterise the human brain and with which we are all too familiar, mean for the World or Global Brain? At the level of the psychopathology of everyday life, through slips of the tongue, misunderstandings, preconceptions, failures of recall, inability to assimilate new ideas, lapses of attention, forgetting, dreams and daydreams, the mind and so the brain is forever tripping us up, letting us down, tricking us, unexpectedly revealing clues to subterranean depths. The human brain is the site of what is irrational as well as what is rational -- and presumably this has implications for the World Brain. Moreover, if we go from the normal to the pathological, how do we deal with the notion of a World Brain that is schizophrenic, demented, subject to cerebral haemorrhage or massive stroke.

    Issues such as these are provoked by Wells's account of the World Brain and are implicit in any modern discussion of the idea, whether at the level of metaphor or of a kind of emergent cyborg reality. If the idea is to be useful and its practical realisation convincingly argued, issues such as these must be satisfactorily resolved.


    This paper is based on work completed as George A. Miller Visiting Professor in the University of Illinois during the academic year 1997/8. The author offers thanks to the Centre for Advanced Studies/Miller Committee and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science for this wonderful opportunity. He also wishes to thank the following for their comments and suggestions: at the University of Illinois: Geof Bowker, Betsy Hearne , Cheryl Malone, Andrew Pickering, the members of the Science, Technology, Information, and Medicine (STIM) Group and the members of the GSLIS Doctoral Proseminar, Michael Buckland at the University of California at Berkeley, and Mathew Skelton at Somerville College, Oxford University.


    (1) Their Web site provides access to a range of relevant materials. See, for example, "Basic References on the Global Brain / Superorganism" and Global Brain discussion list archive by date;

    *See in this connection Dilloway (1998)

    (3) Reported in a long caption to a picture of Wells planting the tree in the Daily Northwestern and republished in The H.G.Wells Newsletter 2no.4 (Winter 1982/3): 1

    (4) Uwe Jochum sees something rather more anticipatory of contemporary developments in Well's passing references to decentralization and networks than I (Jochum, 1995).

    (5) In an earlier paper the author indicated in error that there was no correspondence between Watson Davis and Wells in the Wells Papers at the University of Illinois (Rayward, 1993, p.173). There is in fact a small file with material about Science Service that Davis sent Wells and Wells has annotated a letter from Davis for March 15, 1937)

    (6) Pollard was Professor of Physics in Imperial College and had published a translation of the tables for optics of the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). The preparation and publication of the UDC was one the raisons d' etre of the International Institute of Bibliography which had been set up in Brussels in 1895 by Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine (Rayward, 1975, 1997). In 1927 Pollard and Bradford and some other colleagues had created the British Society for International Bibliography as the British member of the International Institute of Bibliography of which Pollard was President from 1827 to 1931. Bradford was the great British apologist for the UDC (Rayward 1975, passim and 1994; Bradford, 1948).

    (7) The International Institute of Bibliography had been renamed International Institute of Documentation in 1931 under Pollard's Presidency.

    ( 8 ) It is interesting in this context to note that in 1925, discussing the nature of the "microphotic book," Goldschmidt and Otlet in Belgium had already developed a similar idea for microphotographic libraries and a Microphotic Encyclopaedia (Goldschmidt and Otlet, 1925).

    (9) I refer for convenience to Wells as the author of this work. He must certainly have been the major author for the parts that I discuss. It is very much his "voice" that one hears in these pages. He describes himself as "the senior member of the firm" who was responsible for "the initiation and organisation of the whole scheme," noting that his contribution was "mainly literary and editorial" (Wells, 1931, p.3).

    (10) Wells had scrawled across the top of Johnson's letter, "This bloody fool has disregarded my explicit condition as to the second titles."

    (11) It is interesting to compare Wells with Paul Otlet in this context. Otlet believed that Radio, x-rays, cinema and microscopic photography would all eventually be brought together in such a way to form "a mechanical, collective brain" (Otlet, 1935, pp.390-1), a kind of "exodermic appendage to the brain", "a substratum of memory," "an external mechanism and instrument of the mind"(Otlet 1934, p. 428; also Rayward, 1975, 1994b, 1997). I have not found evidence that Wells knew directly of Otlet's work though Otlet had begun publishing about what he was to call documentation as early as 1893. Wells's contacts with the European documentation movement that originated with Otlet seems to have been only through the British documentalists, Pollard and Bradford. Otlet over the years had developed his own ideas about a new form of encyclopedia both as an "Office of Documentation" and as an ever-expansible "Book" drawing on a technology of card and cabinet and later microfilm (Rayward, 1994, 1997). Nevertheless in his remarks at the 1937 documentation congress in Paris, at which both he and Wells spoke, Otlet observed, I assume referring to Wells's talk at the congress, that the ultimate aim of documentation "is to realise the World Encyclopaedia according to the needs of the twentieth century" (Rayward, 1976, p. 358).

    (12) Wells notes that he eventually had withdrawn the Open Conspiracy and that "this present book replaces it" (p.11).


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    Rayward, W. Boyd (1993), "Some Schemes for Restructuring and Mobilising Information in Documents: A Historical Perspective," Information Processing and Management 30:163-175
    Rayward, W. Boyd (1994), "Visions of Xanadu: Paul Otlet (1864-1944) and Hypertext, "Journal of the American Society for information Science 45: 235-250
    Rayward, W. Boyd (1997), "The origins of Information Science and the Work of the International Institute of Bibliography/ International Federation for Documentation and information (FID)," Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48:289-300
    Shenk, David (1997) Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut. San Francisco, Calif.: Harper Edge.
    Shenk, David (1997) "The World Wide Library" Synapse, 2 September, 1997" at
    Smith, David. C (1986), H.G. Wells: Desperately Mortal. New Haven: Yale University Press.
    Webb, Beatrice (1985), The Diary of Beatrice Webb, Vol 4: "The Wheel of Life," London: Virago in association with the London School of Economics and Political Science.
    Wells, H. G. (1893) Text-book of Biology, 2vols; London: W. B. Clive & Co. University Correspondence College Press [1893].
    Wells, H. G.. (1902), Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and thought. London: Chapman and Hall.
    Wells, H. G. (1905), A Modern Utopia. With introduction by Mark R. Hillegas. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press (1967 reprint).
    Wells, H. G.(1919), The Outline of History: being a plain history of life and mankind. 2vols; N.Y.: Macmillan, 1920 (first published in1919)
    Wells, H. G. (1928), The Open Conspiracy: blue prints (sic) for a world revolution. London: Gollancz
    Wells, H. G. (1929), Textbook of Zoology by H.G. Wells and A.M. Davies; revised and rewritten by J.T. Cunningham and W.H. Leigh-Sharpe.7th ed.; London: W.B. Clive University Tutorial Press.
    Wells, H. G., Huxley, Julian and Wells, G. P.(1931), The Science of life. 4vols; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran.
    Wells, H. G. (1931b), The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. 2 vols; New York: Greenwood, 1968 (reprint)
    Wells, H. G. (1931c) What are we to do with our lives. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran.(12)
    Wells, H. G. (1933), The Shape of Things to Come. N.Y. : Macmillan
    Wells, H. G. (1934), Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866). New York: Macmillan
    Davis-Wells (1937), Wells Correspondence: File - Davis, Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    Wells-Doubleday (1932), Letter to Nelson Doubleday, Sept.19, 1932. Wells Correspondence: File W-Doublday Duran & Co. WD42, Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
    Wells-Doubleday (1938), "Memorandum on the Project of a World Encyclopaedia," headed "Doubleday Doran" and undated [1938?], 9 pp. The Correspondence of H. G. Wells. Edited by David Smith. Vol 4; London:Pickering and Chatto, 1998.
    Wells-Doubleday (1937), Letter to Nelson Doubleday, Dec. 12, 1937, 8pp. (copy, possibly a draft), Wells Correspondence: File W-Doublday Duran & Co. WD42, Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
    Wells-IIB, (1937-8), Wells Correspondence. File: Internat'l Insitute for Documentation.includes Brit.Soc. for Int'l Bibliography I-47. Rare Book and Special Collections Library, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
    Wells, H. G.(1938), World Brain. London: Methuen.
    Wells, H. G.(1939), " H.G. Wells" in I Believe: the Personal Philosophies of Certain Eminent Men and Women of Our Time. Edited by Clifton Fadiman. pp419-423.
    Wells, H. G.(1940-1), The enlarged and revised Outline of history. 1940-41 ed. New York: Triangle Books. 1940.
    Wells, H. G.(1942), Science and the World Mind. London: new Europe Publishing Co.
    Wells. H. G. (1942a), "Sample of a generation," in Wells, 1942d, pp50-63
    Wells (1942b) "History Becomes Ecology," in Wells, 1942d, pp.24-36.
    Wells, H. G.(1942c), "American mentality" in Wells, 1942d, pp. 152-162.
    Wells, H. G.(1942d), The Outlook for Homo Sapiens: an unemotional statement of the Things that are happening to him now, and of the immediate Possibilities confronting him. An amalgamation and modernization of two books. The Fate of Homo Sapiens and The New World Order, published severally in 1939 and 1940 London: Secker and Warburg.
    Wells, H. G. (1945), Mind at the End of Its Tether. London: Heinemann
    Wells, H. G. (1965), H.G. Wells: Journalism and Prophesy, 1893-1946, edited by W. Warren Wagar. London: Bodley Head.
    Wells, H. G. (1971), World Encyclopedia. Freeport N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press.
    Wells, H. G. (1994), World Brain: H. G. Wells on the Future of World Education, with an Introduction by Alan J. Mayne. London: Adamantine Press[/list]
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    Offline TheCaliKid

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #2 on: July 03, 2010, 01:20:24 am »
    It is all vanity. That's what the Bible says, and it's true.
    Better to beg for forgiveness, than to ask for permission

    Offline simpleblend

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #3 on: July 03, 2010, 03:05:00 am »
    I don't know if any of you have read his "Open Conspiracy"....but in it he basically lays the blueprints for world socialism.

    Then you turn to the autobiography of Bertrand Russell, and in it, there's a letter to Mr. Wells praising him for this book. In fact, Russell says he couldn't agree more with everything in it.


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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #4 on: July 03, 2010, 03:16:04 am »
    Wells was at the core of conspiracy.

    See Dr Stan Monteiths film
    Brotherhood of Darkness

    Offline RabidSheep

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #5 on: July 03, 2010, 03:26:40 am »
    Wells was at the core of conspiracy.

    See Dr Stan Monteiths film
    Brotherhood of Darkness

    Thanks I was looking for this the other day.


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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #6 on: July 03, 2010, 03:29:14 am »
    "... even when the struggle seems to be drifting definitely towards a world social democracy, there may still be very great delays and disappointments before it becomes an efficient and beneficent world system.

    Countless people, from maharajas to millionaires and from pukkha sahibs to pretty ladies, will hate the New World Order, be rendered unhappy by frustration of their passions and ambitions through its advent and will die protesting against it.

    When we attempt to estimate its promise we have to bear in mind the distress of a generation or so of malcontents, many of them quite gallant and graceful-looking people."

    HG Wells


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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #7 on: July 03, 2010, 03:47:55 am »
    For I dipt into the future,far as human eye could see,
     Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

    Locksley Hall

    Offline Dok

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #8 on: July 03, 2010, 05:25:54 am »
    He was also the Lover of Margaret Sanger. and look at all she did.  :o

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    Offline squarepusher

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #9 on: July 16, 2010, 12:45:20 pm »

    Christopher Coenen
    Utopian Aspects of the Debate on Converging Technologies

     Pre-Print: 13.11.2007

    The 'human zoo' - scientific dictatorship - HG Wells - Huxley

    "Cybernetics and Systems Science (also: "(General) Systems Theory" or "Systems Research") constitute a somewhat fuzzily defined academic domain, that touches virtually all traditional disciplines, from mathematics, technology and biology to philosophy and the social sciences. It is more specifically related to the recently developing "sciences of complexity", including AI, neural networks, dynamical systems, chaos, and complex adaptive systems. Its history dates back to the 1940's and 1950's when thinkers such as Wiener, von Bertalanffy, Ashby and von Foerster founded the domain through a series of interdisciplinary meetings

    Posthuman - removing humanity from its pedestal

    Early cybernetics put forward the vision of creating non-biological intelligence and, by privileging “informational pattern over material instantiation”, opened up the posthumanist perspective of the human “embodiment in a biological substrate” as an “accident of history” (Hayles 1999, p.2). The cybernetic naturalisation of the mind is also an element of the metaphysical underpinnings of both posthumanism and the US NBIC initiative.

    Anglo-American Futurists

    Moreover, the cybernetic movement apparently had an anti-utopian impetus (Pias 2003), developing a vision of a future-orientated society that is perpetually adjusting to changing conditions and harmonising individual goals with societal ones, in a sociotechnical order based on man-computer interactions. The mainly Anglo-American (and more Anglo than American) early biofuturism was shaped by a circle of eminent natural scientists and intellectuals, such as H.G. Wells, famous author of science fiction, literary utopias, futurist works and political non-fiction, the biologists J.B.S. Haldane and Julian Huxley, and the crystallographer John Desmond Bernal. They were politically and culturally “progressive” and open or adherent to socialist ideas. All of them are held in high esteem by the transhumanists who, for example, named awards after Wells and Haldane and often credit Huxley as the inventor of the term “transhumanism”

    The World, The Flesh And The Devil (1929)

    'In Bernal’s essay “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil” (1929), we encounter the vision of an ever-progressing man-machine hybridisation which leads to the construction of a network of disembodied brains and egos in outer space that leaves behind and secretly controls unaltered humanity on earth. Since this network can create artificial life and bio-machine hybrids (“angels”), it possesses tremendous powers to explore, control and manipulate the observable universe up to the stars. Finally, consciousness itself may end or vanish in a humanity that has become completely “etherealized” and ultimately perhaps resolving itself entirely “into light” (cf. (My note: Rule over the entire world with an AI neural network constituting a World Brain)

    More on this essay 'The World, The Flesh And The Devil'...

    'The scientists would then have a dual function: to keep the world going as an efficient food and comfort machine, and to worry out the secrets of nature for themselves. It may well be that the dreams of Dædalus  and the doom of Icarus  may both be fulfilled. A happy prosperous humanity enjoying their bodies, exercising the arts, patronizing the religions, may be well content to leave the machine, by which their desires are satisfied, in other and more efficient hands. Psychological and physiological discoveries will give the ruling powers the means of directing the masses in harmless occupations and of maintain a perfect docility under the appearance of perfect freedom.'

    Perfect docility, rule by a scientific overlord class, 'psychological discoveries will give the ruling powers the means of directing the massesi n harmless occupations' - 'appearance of perfect freedom' - Isaiah Berlin's 'positive/negative liberty', which I'm willing to bet was taken straight from Cybernetics as well.


    'In the earlier chapters I have given some idea of one way in which this scientific development could take place by the colonization of the universe and the mechanization of the human body. Once this process had started, particularly on the physiological side, there would be an effective bar between the altered and the non-altered humanity. The separation of the scientists and those who thought like them - a class of technicians and experts who would perhaps form ten per cent. or so of the world's population - from the rest of humanity, would save the struggle and difficulty which would be bound to ensue if there were any attempt to change the whole bulk of the population, and would, to a certain extent, lessen the hostility that these fundamental changes would necessarily produce. '

    'There would be an effective bar between the altered and the non-altered humanity' - hmmm - wonder what he is talking about here, huh?

    'New wave of "eugenics"

    From the early 1960s on, biofuturist and cybernetic visions converge and are influenced by a new wave of “eugenics” (Paul 2005). Much of this visionary discourse was inspired by real and interrelated progress in the life and information sciences

    Bernal's 'human zoo' - posthuman technoscientific elite

    Particularly relevant here is the scenario that mankind will happily, but stupidly live in material plenty in a quasi-utopian world (Bernal’s “human zoo”) on earth, left behind or even secretly controlled by a posthuman technoscientific elite that conquers the universe. Bernal’s above-mentioned essay is instructive in this context: He certainly did not live in an ivory tower, but was engaged in science policy, socialist politics and the British efforts in World War II. Nonetheless, his futurism appears to be orientated towards the otherworldly with a basis in scientific materialism. The depreciation of a quasi-utopian world on a future Earth in which the traditional utopian longings of humanity are fulfilled, betrays an impulse that could be characterised as anti-utopian.
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    Offline jofortruth

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #10 on: July 16, 2010, 01:06:57 pm »
    Here are some of HG Wells books in one PDF:
    Don't believe me. Look it up yourself!


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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #11 on: July 19, 2010, 08:04:29 am »
    He was also the Lover of Margaret Sanger. and look at all she did.  :o

    Must add that to my notes if I can find a source to quote.

    Offline citizenx

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #12 on: July 19, 2010, 08:10:04 am »
    What's more frightening is that to Orwell, it was a 'dystopia' -- the technotronic era in which we are now living, but for Wells, it was his very 'utopia'.

    Offline Dok

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #13 on: July 19, 2010, 08:28:32 am »
    Must add that to my notes if I can find a source to quote.

    Margaret Sanger died on September 6, 1966, and was buried in Fishkill, NY, beside Noah Slee. Upon her death, H.G. Wells declared, "When the history of our civilization is written, it will be a biological history and Margaret Sanger will be its heroine."


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    Online Jackson Holly

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #14 on: July 19, 2010, 08:45:57 am »

    Here's one of my Shops ... David Rockefeller as one of H. G. Wells'
    evolved 'supermen' elite ELOI, as portrayed in
    the TIME MACHINE, 2002 movie version.

    ~~~ O ~~~

    St. Augustine: “The truth is like a lion; you don't have to defend it.
    Let it loose; it will defend itself."

    Offline Dig

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #15 on: July 31, 2010, 06:57:32 am »

    BY H. G. WELLS




          I.  Locomotion in the Twentieth Century
         II.  The Probable Diffusion of Great Cities
        III.  Developing Social Elements
         IV.  Certain Social Reactions
          V.  The Life-History of Democracy
         VI.  War in the Twentieth Century
        VII.  The Conflict of Languages
       VIII.  The Larger Synthesis
         IX.  Faith, Morals, and Public Policy in The Twentieth Century


    The Faith, Morals, and Public Policy of the New Republic

    If the surmise of a developing New Republic—a Republic that must ultimately become a World State of capable rational men, developing amidst the fading contours and colours 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 details of that common body of opinion which the New Republic, when at last it discovers and declares itself, will possess. Since we have supposed this New Republic will already be consciously 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,[Pg 280] in the domain of natural laws and outside human control, or controlled unintelligently and superstitiously, that in the future, in the days of the coming New Republic, 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 pestilences 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 together 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 multiplying rejected of the white and yellow civilizations there will have been added a vast proportion of the black and brown races, and collectively those 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 Republic 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[Pg 281] working out, and will continue to work out, so long as there is such a thing as irresponsible wealth pervading the social body. That too the New Republic must in its very development overcome. In the preceding chapter it is clearly implicit that I believe that the New Republic, 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 incoherent 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[Pg 282] many of the saner men of to-day, having so formulated their fundamental belief, 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,[50] they will regard the whole of being, within themselves and without, as the sufficient revelation of God to their souls, and they will set themselves[Pg 283] simply to that revelation, seeking its meaning towards themselves faithfully and courageously. 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 understanding. 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[Pg 284] 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 purpose as centres on our individual wills.

    So, or in some such phrases, I believe, these men of the New Republic will formulate their relationship 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. They 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 constantly arises. That conflict between Predestination 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 experience, will is free, just as[Pg 285] new sprung grass is green, wood hard, ice cold, and toothache painful. In the abstract world of reasoning science there is no green, no colour 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 moment 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 responsibility in relation to that indistinctly seen purpose which is the sufficient revelation of God to them so far as this sphere of being goes....

    The conception they will have of that purpose will necessarily determine their ethical scheme. It follows[Pg 286] manifestly that if we do really believe in Almighty God, the more strenuously and successfully we seek in ourselves and His world to understand the order and progress of things, and the more clearly we apprehend His purpose, the more assured and systematic will our ethical basis become.

    If, like Huxley, we do not positively believe in God, then we may still cling to an ethical system which has become an organic part of our lives and habits, and finding it manifestly in conflict with the purpose of things, speak of the non-ethical order of the universe. But to any one whose mind is pervaded by faith in God, a non-ethical universe in conflict with the incomprehensibly ethical soul of the Agnostic, is as incredible as a black horned devil, an active material anti-god with hoofs, tail, pitchfork, and Dunstan-scorched nose complete. To believe completely in God is to believe in the final rightness of all being. The ethical system that condemns the ways of life as wrong, or points to the ways of death as right, that countenances what the scheme of things condemns, and condemns the general purpose in things as it is now revealed to us, must prepare to follow the theological edifice upon which it was originally based. If the universe is non-ethical by our present standards, we must reconsider these standards and reconstruct our ethics. To hesitate to do so, however severe the conflict with old habits and traditions and sentiments may be, is to fall short of faith.

    [Pg 287]
    Now, so far as the intellectual life of the world goes, this present time is essentially the opening phase of a period of ethical reconstruction, a reconstruction of which the New Republic will possess the matured result. Throughout the nineteenth century there has been such a shattering and recasting of fundamental ideas, of the preliminaries to ethical propositions, as the world has never seen before. This breaking down and routing out of almost all the cardinal assumptions on which the minds of the Eighteenth Century dwelt securely, is a process akin to, but independent of, the development of mechanism, whose consequences we have traced. It is a part of that process of vigorous and fearless criticism which is the reality of science, and of which the development of mechanism and all that revolution in physical and social conditions we have been tracing, is merely the vast imposing material bye product. At present, indeed, its more obvious aspect on the moral and ethical side is destruction, any one can see the chips flying, but it still demands a certain faith and patience to see the form that ensues. But it is not destruction, any more than a sculptor's work is stone-breaking.

    The first chapter in the history of this intellectual development, its definite and formal opening, coincides with the opening of the nineteenth century and the publication of Malthus's Essay on Population. Malthus is one of those cardinal figures in intellectual[Pg 288] history who state definitely for all time, things apparent enough after their formulation, but never effectively conceded before. He brought clearly and emphatically into the sphere of discussion a vitally important issue that had always been shirked and tabooed heretofore, the fundamental fact that the main mass of the business of human life centres about reproduction. He stated in clear, hard, decent, and unavoidable argument what presently Schopenhauer was to discover and proclaim, in language, at times, it would seem, quite unfitted for translation into English. And, having made his statement, Malthus left it, in contact with its immediate results.

    Probably no more shattering book than the Essay on Population has ever been, or ever will be, written. It was aimed at the facile Liberalism of the Deists and Atheists of the eighteenth century; it made as clear as daylight that all forms of social reconstruction, all dreams of earthly golden ages must be either futile or insincere or both, until the problems of human increase were manfully faced. It proffered no suggestions for facing them (in spite of the unpleasant associations of Malthus's name), it aimed simply to wither the Rationalistic Utopias of the time and by anticipation, all the Communisms, Socialisms, and Earthly Paradise movements that have since been so abundantly audible in the world. That was its aim and its immediate effect. Incidentally it must have been a torturing soul-trap[Pg 289] for innumerable idealistic but intelligent souls. Its indirect effects have been altogether greater. Aiming at unorthodox dreamers, it has set such forces in motion as have destroyed the very root-ideas of orthodox righteousness in the western world. Impinging on geological discovery, it awakened almost simultaneously in the minds of Darwin and Wallace, that train of thought that found expression and demonstration at last in the theory of natural selection. As that theory has been more and more thoroughly assimilated and understood by the general mind, it has destroyed, quietly but entirely, the belief in human equality which is implicit in all the "Liberalizing" movements of the world. In the place of an essential equality, distorted only by tradition and early training, by the artifices of those devils of the Liberal cosmogony, "kingcraft" and "priestcraft," an equality as little affected by colour as the equality of a black chess pawn and a white, we discover that all men are individual and unique, and, through long ranges of comparison, superior and inferior upon countless scores. It has become apparent that whole masses of human population are, as a whole, inferior in their claim upon the future, to other masses, that they cannot be given opportunities or trusted with power as the superior peoples are trusted, that their characteristic weaknesses are contagious and detrimental in the civilizing fabric, and that their range of incapacity tempts and demoralizes the strong.[Pg 290] To give them equality is to sink to their level, to protect and cherish them is to be swamped in their fecundity. The confident and optimistic Radicalism of the earlier nineteenth century, and the humanitarian philanthropic type of Liberalism, have bogged themselves beyond hope in these realizations. The Socialist has shirked them as he has shirked the older crux of Malthus. Liberalism is a thing of the past, it is no longer a doctrine, but a faction. There must follow some newborn thing.

    And as effectually has the mass of criticism that centres about Darwin destroyed the dogma of the Fall upon which the whole intellectual fabric of Christianity rests. For without a Fall there is no redemption, and the whole theory and meaning of the Pauline system is vain. In conjunction with the wide vistas opened by geological and astronomical discovery, the nineteenth century has indeed lost the very habit of thought from which the belief in a Fall arose. It is as if a hand had been put upon the head of the thoughtful man and had turned his eyes about from the past to the future. In matters of intelligence, at least, if not yet in matters of ethics and conduct, this turning round has occurred. In the past thought was legal in its spirit, it deduced the present from pre-existing prescription, it derived everything from the offences and promises of the dead; the idea of a universe of expiation was the most natural theory amidst such processes. The[Pg 291] purpose the older theologians saw in the world was no more than the revenge—accentuated by the special treatment of a favoured minority—of a mysteriously incompetent Deity exasperated by an unsatisfactory creation. But modern thought is altogether too constructive and creative to tolerate such a conception, and in the vaster past that has opened to us, it can find neither offence nor promise, only a spacious scheme of events, opening out—perpetually opening out—with a quality of final purpose as irresistible to most men's minds as it is incomprehensible, opening out with all that inexplicable quality of design that, for example, some great piece of music, some symphony of Beethoven's, conveys. We see future beyond future and past behind past. It has been like the coming of dawn, at first a colourless dawn, clear and spacious, before which the mists whirl and fade, and there opens to our eyes not the narrow passage, the definite end we had imagined, but the rocky, ill-defined path we follow high amidst this limitless prospect of space and time. At first the dawn is cold—there is, at times, a quality of terror almost in the cold clearness of the morning twilight; but insensibly its coldness passes, the sky is touched with fire, and presently, up out of the dayspring in the east, the sunlight will be pouring.... And these men of the New Republic will be going about in the daylight of things assured.

    And men's concern under this ampler view will no[Pg 292] longer be to work out a system of penalties for the sins of dead men, but to understand and participate in this great development that now dawns on the human understanding. The insoluble problems of pain and death, gaunt, incomprehensible facts as they were, fall into place in the gigantic order that evolution unfolds. All things are integral in the mighty scheme, the slain builds up the slayer, the wolf grooms the horse into swiftness, and the tiger calls for wisdom and courage out of man. All things are integral, but it has been left for men to be consciously integral, to take, at last, a share in the process, to have wills that have caught a harmony with the universal will, as sand grains flash into splendour under the blaze of the sun. There will be many who will never be called to this religious conviction, who will lead their little lives like fools, playing foolishly with religion and all the great issues of life, or like the beasts that perish, having sense alone; but those who, by character and intelligence, are predestinate to participate in the reality of life, will fearlessly shape all their ethical determinations and public policy anew, from a fearless study of themselves and the apparent purpose that opens out before them.

    Very much of the cry for faith that sounds in contemporary life so loudly, and often with so distressing a note of sincerity, comes from the unsatisfied egotisms of unemployed, and, therefore, unhappy and craving[Pg 293] people; but much is also due to the distress in the minds of active and serious men, due to the conflict of inductive knowledge, with conceptions of right and wrong deduced from unsound, but uncriticised, first principles. The old ethical principles, the principle of equivalents or justice, the principle of self-sacrifice, the various vague and arbitrary ideas of purity, chastity, and sexual "sin," came like rays out of the theological and philosophical lanterns men carried in the darkness. The ray of the lantern indicated and directed, and one followed it as one follows a path. But now there has come a new view of man's place in the scheme of time and space, a new illumination, dawn; the lantern rays fade in the growing brightness, and the lanterns that shone so brightly are becoming smoky and dim. To many men this is no more than a waning of the lanterns, and they call for new ones, or a trimming of the old. They blame the day for putting out these flares. And some go apart, out of the glare of life, into corners of obscurity, where the radiation of the lantern may still be faintly traced. But, indeed, with the new light there has come the time for new methods; the time of lanterns, the time of deductions from arbitrary first principles is over. The act of faith is no longer to follow your lantern, but to put it down. We can see about us, and by the landscape we must go.[51][Pg 294]

    How will the landscape shape itself to the dominant men of the new time and in relation to themselves?[Pg 295] What is the will and purpose that these men of will and purpose will find above and comprehending their own? Into this our inquiry resolves itself. They will hold with Schopenhauer, I believe, and with those who build themselves on Malthus and Darwin, that the scheme of being, in which we live[Pg 296] is a struggle of existences to expand and develop themselves to their full completeness, and to propagate and increase themselves.

    But, being men of action, they will feel nothing of the glamour of misery that irresponsible and sexually vitiated shareholder, Schopenhauer, threw over this recognition. The final object of this struggle among existences they will not understand; they will have abandoned the search for ultimates; they will state this scheme of a struggle as a proximate object, sufficiently remote and spacious to enclose and explain all their possible activities. They will seek God's purpose in the sphere of their activities, and desire no more, as the soldier in battle desires no more, than the immediate conflict before him. They will admit failure as an individual aspect of things, as a soldier seeking victory admits the possibility of death; but they will refuse to admit as a part of their faith in God that any existence, even if it is an existence that is presently entirely erased, can be needless or vain. It will have reacted on the existences that survive; it will be justified for ever in the modification it has produced in them. They will find in themselves—it must be remembered I am speaking of a class that has naturally segregated, and not of men as a whole—a desire, a passion almost, to create and organize, to put in order, to get the maximum result from certain possibilities. They will all be artists in reality, with a passion[Pg 297] for simplicity and directness and an impatience of confusion and inefficiency. The determining frame of their ethics, the more spacious scheme to which they will shape the schemes of their individual wills, will be the elaboration of that future world state to which all things are pointing. They will not conceive of it as a millennial paradise, a blissful inconsequent stagnation, but as a world state of active ampler human beings, full of knowledge and energy, free from much of the baseness and limitations, the needless pains and dishonours of the world disorder of to-day, but still struggling, struggling against ampler but still too narrow restrictions and for still more spacious objects than our vistas have revealed. For that as a general end, for the special work that contributes to it as an individual end, they will make the plans and the limiting rules of their lives.

    It is manifest that a reconstructed ethical system, reconstructed in the light of modern science and to meet the needs of such temperaments and characters as the evolution of mechanism will draw together and develop, will give very different values from those given by the existing systems (if they can be called systems) to almost all the great matters of conduct. Under scientific analysis the essential facts of life are very clearly shown to be two—birth and death. All life is the effort of the thing born, driven by fears, guided by instincts[Pg 298] and desires, to evade death, to evade even the partial death of crippling or cramping or restriction, and to attain to effective procreation, to the victory of another birth. Procreation is the triumph of the living being over death; and in the case of man, who adds mind to his body, it is not only in his child but in the dissemination of his thought, the expression of his mind in things done and made, that his triumph is to be found. And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favour the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity—beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds, and a growing body of knowledge—and to check the procreation of base and servile types, of fear-driven and cowardly souls, of all that is mean and ugly and bestial in the souls, bodies, or habits of men. To do the latter is to do the former; the two things are inseparable. And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness, and cowardice and feebleness were saved from the accomplishment of their desires, the method that has only one alternative, the method that must in some cases still be called in to the help of man, is death. In the new vision death is no inexplicable horror, no pointless terminal terror to the miseries of life, it is the end of all the pain[Pg 299] of life, the end of the bitterness of failure, the merciful obliteration of weak and silly and pointless things....

    The new ethics will hold life to be a privilege and a responsibility, not a sort of night refuge for base spirits out of the void; and the alternative in right conduct between living fully, beautifully, and efficiently will be to die. For a multitude of contemptible and silly creatures, fear-driven and helpless and useless, unhappy or hatefully happy in the midst of squalid dishonour, feeble, ugly, inefficient, born of unrestrained lusts, and increasing and multiplying through sheer incontinence and stupidity, the men of the New Republic will have little pity and less benevolence. To make life convenient for the breeding of such people will seem to them not the most virtuous and amiable thing in the world, as it is held to be now, but an exceedingly abominable proceeding. Procreation is an avoidable thing for sane persons of even the most furious passions, and the men of the New Republic will hold that the procreation of children who, by the circumstances of their parentage, must be diseased bodily or mentally—I do not think it will be difficult for the medical science of the coming time to define such circumstances—is absolutely the most loathsome of all conceivable sins. They will hold, I anticipate, that a certain portion of the population—the small minority, for example, afflicted with indisputably[Pg 300] transmissible diseases, with transmissible mental disorders, with such hideous incurable habits of mind as the craving for intoxication—exists only on sufferance, out of pity and patience, and on the understanding that they do not propagate; and I do not foresee any reason to suppose that they will hesitate to kill when that sufferance is abused. And I imagine also the plea and proof that a grave criminal is also insane will be regarded by them not as a reason for mercy, but as an added reason for death. I do not see how they can think otherwise on the principles they will profess.

    All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

    Offline citizenx

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #16 on: July 31, 2010, 07:04:37 am »
    Of course, I loved his books as a boy and young man.  It is only later in life I have come to understand what he truly believed in, and I now detest him as a human being (such as he was) and now see the veiled expression of his vile ideology in his works of fiction.

    Now I know:  Jules Verne he ain't.

    No need to name a Sci-Fi award after that old bastard any time soon.

    Offline Dig

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #17 on: July 31, 2010, 07:08:46 am »
    Of course, I loved his books as a boy and young man.  It is only later in life I have come to understand what he truly believed in, and I now detest him as a human being (such as he was) and now see the veiled expression of his vile ideology in his works of fiction.

    Now I know:  Jules Verne he ain't.

    No need to name a Sci-Fi award after that old bastard any time soon.

    The point is that this has nothing to do with him in comparison to the genocidal path the elites have been on for the last 100 years at least using him and his books. His books are the blueprints to the death star. Hating hism is all fun and stuff, but it actually diffuses from the realization that we must read these books, we must study these books, we must understand these books to the core of our being if we ever hope to free ourselves from the Dr. Moreaus of the world and their houses of pain.
    All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

    Offline citizenx

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #18 on: July 31, 2010, 07:14:16 am »
    Well, I don't really hate him as he is quite dead. And you are very right about people needing to read his works like "New World Order" for the reasons stated.  However, he was more than a tool, he was an architect.  (The billionaires aren't necessarily the architects.)

    Offline Dig

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #19 on: July 31, 2010, 07:42:56 am »
    Well, I don't really hate him as he is quite dead. And you are very right about people needing to read his works like "New World Order" for the reasons stated.  However, he was more than a tool, he was an architect.  (The billionaires aren't necessarily the architects.)

    they are the alchemists
    All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately


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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #20 on: July 31, 2010, 11:09:01 am »

    Audio book, free download, public domain - H. G. Wells "War of The Worlds"


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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #21 on: August 01, 2010, 01:49:08 am »
    Julian Huxley's "The Uniqueness of Man" and "If I Were Dictator" are also excellent books to get a hold of. You have to read between the lines a lot of the time (the same applies to Russell).

    Offline Freeski

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #22 on: August 26, 2011, 06:50:18 pm »
    "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Offline DesertEagle602

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    Re: HG Wells' books: more nightmarish than Orwell's '1984'
    « Reply #23 on: August 26, 2011, 07:34:52 pm »

    Here's one of my Shops ... David Rockefeller as one of H. G. Wells'
    evolved 'supermen' elite ELOI, as portrayed in
    the TIME MACHINE, 2002 movie version.

    ~~~ O ~~~

     :o lol