A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 9 Ω

The World, the Flesh and the Devil



Im Jahr 1929 veröffentlichte der damals 28 Jahre alte Mathematiker John Desmond Bernal seine einflussreiche Schrift The World, the Flesh & the Devil. An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul. The World steht dabei für die physikalische Welt, the flesh für die biologische Welt des Lebendigen und the Devil für die Triebhaften Strukturen der menschlichen Psyche. Der Text ist gemeinfrei auf verschiedene Seiten im Internet erhältlich. In den nachfolgenden Fließtext eingeschaltet sind die Seitenzahlen.

Der Original Text auf Englisch


1. The Future 1
2. The World 4
3. The Flesh 13
4. The Devil 21
5. Synthesis 27
6. Possibility 31

1 The Future

There are two futures, the future of desire and the future of fate, and man's reason has
never learnt to separate them. Desire, the strongest thing in the world, is itself all
future, and it is not for nothing that in all the religions the motive is always forwards
to an endless futurity of bliss or annihilation. Now that religion gives place to science
the paradiscial future of the soul fades before the Utopian future of the species, and
still the future rules. But always there is, on the other side, destiny, that which
inevitably will happen, a future here concerned not as the other was with man and his
desires, but blindly and inexorably with the whole universe of space and time. The
Buddhist seeks to escape from the Wheel of Life and Death, the Christian passes
through them in the faith of another world to come, the modern reformer, as
unrealistic but less imaginative, demands his chosen future in this world of men.
Can we in any better way reconcile desire and fate? In the belief of the scientist
the future can yield to an objective analysis only if he can put aside all desire of one
future or another; and yet, in reaching for this unattainable understanding, by some
mutual influence his desires and the events may grow more and more into harmony.
Holding this hope, or better still, moved by a pure curiosity for things to come, how
is it possible to examine scientifically the future? For in the science of the future
observation is as impossible as experiment; and of the three methods there is left to
us only prediction. In the other sciences prediction plays but a small part, and rightly
so, for verification follows closely on its heels; but there are general methods in
scientific prediction and we may try to apply them in dealing with the whole future

First and always, it is necessary to exclude as far as possible, illusion; for to most
of us the future is the compensation and fulfilment of all that the present and the past
have lacked; and the future being unknown and incontrovertible has been a fair
ground on which to place all these hopes and desires. But in scientific prediction
these desires are the most delusive guides. The opposite danger is as great and more
insidious: in our lives we take the present for granted to an extend far greater than we
can realize, so that even when we are thinking of the future we cannot separate the
historic accidents of the society in which we were born from the axiomatic bases of
the universe. Until the last few centuries this inability to see the future except as a
continuation of the present prevented any but mystical anticipations of it. Luckily
these complementary errors affect different parts of the future. It is in the near future
where we are still sympathetically related to men and events that our desires have the
most power to twist our appreciation of facts. We care less about the more distant
future, but to approach it at all we must divest ourselves of so many customary forms,
that even the more enlightened prophets lets their imagination stop in some static
Utopia in despite of all evidence pointing to ever increasing acceleration of change.
What positive ideas can be found to take the place of the naïve anticipation that
the future will be like the present but more pleasant (or more unpleasant according
to one's disposition)? The leading principle is that by which Lyell founded scientific
geology: the state of the present and the forces operating in it contain implicitly the
future state and point the way to its interpretation. We have three disciplines of
thought to help us to this interpretation. History (of which human history is only a
minimal part) tells us how things have changed and how by inference they will
change in the future. Strictly, prophecy should be treated as part of history, but, until
history has found its laws, it must chiefly be used as a storehouse of illustrative facts;
though one might say loosely that everything that will happen must conform with the
spirit of History. The physical sciences, as far as we know them, give us the material
of which future as much as past is built, and the manner of that building. The manner
appears to us as physical law but it may well be found to be a tautology which we are
congenitally too limited to grasp. Lastly there is the knowledge of our desires, but
though the future according to our desires, is an illusion, our desire are,
paradoxically, already tending to be the chief agent of change in the universe; it is
only that the actual change is so rarely the desired change.

The initial difficulty in the general prediction of the future is its enormous
complexity and the interdependence of all its parts; but this complexity is not
completely chaotic and we can always attack it by considering it as a product of
chance and determinism, chance where we cannot see relationships, determinism
where we can. The events out of which so complicated a thing as the general state of
the universe is built, form neither one indivisible whole nor a set of equally
independent units, but consist of complexes (nebula, planet, sea, animal, society) of
which the components are themselves complex parts. This hierarchy of complexes
is not imagined to have any objective validity, it is only an expression of the modes
of human thought, a convenient simplification which makes science possible. Inside
each complex, development proceeds according to its own rules, determined by the
nature of the complex; but these rules always include, if they do not entirely reduce
to, what is, in effect, the statistical chance interaction of complexes of a lower order.
The death-rate of a town, for instance, can be shown to be a function of the amount
of money it spends on sanitary measures, but the individual deaths appear, from the
point of view of the town, to be due to chance circumstances, though again for each
individual concerned they are determined. We can always leave out the higher
complexes when we are considering the lower. An atom of oxygen will respond to
its environment in the same way in a nebula, in a rock, or in a human brain.
Now the complex we are concerned with here is the human mind, and so we can
fairly start with the assumption that the rest of the universe goes on its way
determined by its physical, chemical and biological laws except in so far as man
himself intervenes. Absolutely, we know hardlyanything of these laws, but relatively
to our knowledge of human behavior we know them so well that the future they
present – the astronomical, geological, biological future – seems a fixed and stable

In human affairs the immediate future reveals itself in the following of tendencies
visible in the present; beyond that must come the application and development of
present knowledge. This is the minimal basis for prediction; but our present
knowledge carries with it the implication of still further advances in knowledge along
the same lines. It is the applications of this new knowledge and the secondary results
that flow from them that will chiefly concern us, because it is clearly impossible to
go further and include unimagined discovery. Of course, there is a considerable
chance that one of the unpredictable discoveries will be so important that it will turn
aside the whole course of development. But to be deterred by this chance would be
to abandon any attempt at prediction. Already the chance element comes in when we
consider applications or developments of knowledge in more than one restricted
field; because although we can predict the development in that field fairly well, we
cannot predict the rate of development; and so the rates of development in different
fields, which are constantly reacting on each other, being unpredictable, the resultant
future becomes more and more uncertain the father we look forward. The only way
to deal with this complexity is by separating the variables as best we can, by
arbitrarily considering developments as proceeding in one field without any
developments in any of the others, and then combining the results attained by
applying this method in different fields. At the same time we must keep in mind that
the state of development at any one time period must be a self-consistent whole. Each
line of development must have reached the level which is implied by the necessities
of any of the other lines: for instance, the chemical control of life requires the
development of chemical technique and apparatus of a very high order. On the other
hand, whole sections of certain developments may become superfluous owing to
developments in other fields; for instance, the manufacture of synthetic food and the
industry connected with it would be unnecessary if blood were used directly as the
motive power for animals.

Obviously we cannot proceed with this method in detail: if we could, we should
not only be able to predict the future exactly, but to make it the present. For brevity,
it is worth considering three fields only.

Man is occupied and has been persistently occupied since his separate evolution,
with three kinds of struggle: first with the massive, unintelligent forces of nature,
heat and cold, winds, rivers, matter and energy; secondly, with the things closer to
him, animals and plants, his own body, its health and disease; and lastly, with his
desires and fears, his imaginations and stupidities. In each of these divisions in turn
we will make the arbitrary assumption that his progress in it will continue while in
other respects he remains the same.

2 The World

First, then, in the material world. Here prediction is on its surest ground, and is, in
the first stages, almost a business of mathematics. The physical discoveries of the last
twenty-five years must find their application in the world of action – a process which
has hardly begun, but the nature of which can easily be seen. So far we have been
living on the discoveries of the early and mid-nineteenth century, a
macro-mechanical age of power and metal. Essentially it succeeded in substituting
mechanism for some of the simpler mechanical movements of the human body, with
steam and later electrical power in the place of muscle energy. This was sufficient to
revolutionize the whole of human life and to turn the balance definitely for man
against the gross natural forces; but the discoveries of the twentieth century,
particularly the micro-mechanics of the Quantum Theory which touch on the nature
of matter itself, are far more fundamental and must in time produce far more
important results. The first step will be the development of new materials and new
processes in which physics, chemistry and mechanics will be inextricably fused. The
stage should soon be reached when materials can be produced which are not merely
modifications of what nature has given us in the way of stones, metals, woods and
fibers, but are made to specifications of a molecular architecture. Already we know
all the varieties of atoms; we are beginning to know the forces that bind them
together; soon we shall be doing this in a way to suit our own purposes. In fact,
Professor Goldschmidt of Oslo has already made many model structures in which
existing substances are closely copied in different atoms, so as to make new
substances, softer or harder, or more or less fusible. Sulpho-nitrdes with silicate
structures will be harder and more infusible than anything on earth. A similar
substance – carboloy – which is already on the market – combines the strength of
steel with the hardness of diamond, and is capable of working glass like a metal.
There are similar possible model structures for organic substances; the complexities
are greater but the results will be more far-reaching. The linked molecules that make
fibers and elastic substances such a rubber or muscle, are already yielding to X-ray
investigation; the proteid bodies of living matter must have an analogous but more
complex structure. After the analysis will come the synthesis; and for one place in
which we can imitate nature we will be able to improve on her in ten, and furnish
models of organic materials with more varied properties and capable of withstanding
more rigorous conditions. The result – not so very distant – will probably be the
passing of the age of metals and all that it implies – mines, furnaces, and engines of
massive construction. Instead we should have a world of fabric materials, light and
elastic, strong only for the purposes for which they are being used, a world which will
imitate the balanced perfection of a living body.

At the same time, much that we require for the purposes of modern life would
become no longer necessary. With improved systems of chemical manufacture our
food and our clothing will be made with much less expenditure of energy in
manufacture and transport. And the development of mechanism will not cease: it
should turn into more refined forms – heat-engines capable of working at lower and
lower temperature differences, engines of higher and higher speed, electrical
machines of high potential and high frequency – and should lead to the solution of
two most fundamental problems, the efficient transmission of energy by low
frequency (wireless) waves, and the direct utilization of the high frequency (light)
waves of the sun. On the chemical side the problem of the production of food under
controlled conditions, biochemical and ultimately chemical, should become an
accomplished fact. In the new synthetic foods will be combined physiological
efficacy and a range of flavor equal to that which nature provides, and exceeding it
as taste demands; with a range of texture also, the lack of which so far has been the
chief disadvantage of substitute food stuffs. With such a variety of combinations to
work on, gastronomy will, for the first time, be able to rank with the other arts.
All these developments would lead to a world incomparably more efficient and
richer than the present, capable of supporting a much larger population, secure from
want and having ample leisure, but still a world limited in space to the surface of the
globe and in time to the caprices of geological epochs. Already ambition is stirring
in men to conquer space as they conquered the air, and this ambition – at first
fantastic – as time goes on become more and more reinforced by necessity.
Ultimately it would seem impossible that it should not be solved. Our opponent is
here the simple curvature of space-time – a mere matter of acquiring sufficient
acceleration on our own part – which, sooner or later, must be practicable. Even now
it is possible to imagine methods of accomplishing it, based on no more knowledge
than we already possess. The problem of the conquest of space is one in which all the
difficulties are at the beginning. Once the earth's gravitational field is overcome,
development must follow with immense rapidity. Without going too closely into the
mechanical details, it appears that the most effective method is based on the principle
of the rocket, and the difficulty, as it exists, is simply that of projecting the particles,
whose recoil is being utilized, with the greatest possible velocity, so that to
economize both energy and the amount of matter required for propulsion. Up to the
present all forms of rocket depend on the movement of masses of gas in which the
individual molecules are moving at high velocities in perfectly random directions,
and use is only made of the average velocity in the desired direction. What is wanted
in the first place is a form of Maxwell's Demon which will allow only those
molecules, whose velocities are high and in the direction opposite to the trajectory
of the rocket, to escape. The next difficulty is that to set in motion any large rocket
the mass of gas required is of the same order as the weight of the rocket itself, so that
it is difficult to imagine how the rocket could contain enough material to maintain
its propulsion for any length of time. When the radio-transmission of energy is
effected half the difficulty will be removed and the projection may very well
ultimately be effected by means of positive rays at high potential. It may be that both
the problem of space travel and the ethereal transference of energy have already been
solved by Professor Japolsky's magnetofugal waves. These are a type of magnetic
vortex ring, propagated through space, which, instead of spreading as ordinary
electromagnetic waves, remain concentrated along the axis of propagation. Apart
from its mode of projection, the construction of the space vessel offers little difficulty
since it is essentially the same problem as that of the submarine. Naturally the first
space vessels will be extremelycramped and uncomfortable, but theywill be manned
only by enthusiasts. The problem of landing on any other plant or of returning to
earth is much more difficult, mainly because it requires such a nice control of
acceleration. Probably the first journeys will be purely for exploration, without
landing, and the travellers, if they return to earth at all, will have to abandon their
machine and descend in parachutes.

However it is effected, the first leaving of the earth will have provided us with
the means of travelling through space with considerable acceleration and, therefore,
the possibility of obtaining great velocities – even if the acceleration can only be
maintained for a short time. If the problem of the utilization of solar energy has by
that time been solved, the movement of these space vessels can be maintained
indefinitely. Failing this, a form of space sailing might be developed which used the
repulsive effect of the sun's rays instead of wind. A space vessel spreading its large,
metallic wings, acres in extent, to the full, might be blown to the limit of Neptune's
orbit. Then, to increase its speed, it would tack, close-hauled, down the gravitational
field, spreading full sail again as it rushed past the sun.

So far, those who have considered spatial navigation have regarded it from the
point of view of exploration and planetary visitation, but the vast importance of
escaping from the earth's gravitational field has been almost entirely overlooked. On
earth, even if we should use all the solar energy which we received, we should still
be wasting all but one two-billionths of the energy that the sun gives out.
Consequently, when we have learnt to live on this solar energy and also to
emancipate ourselves from the earth's surface, the possibilities of the spread of
humanity will be multiplied accordingly. We can imagine this occurring in definite
stages. When the technicalities of space navigation are fully understood there will,
from desire or necessity, come the idea of building a permanent home for men in
space. The ease of actual navigation in space together with the difficulties of
taking-off from or landing on planets like the earth with considerable gravitational
fields will in the first place lead to the necessity for bases for repairs and supplies not
involving these difficulties. A damaged space vessel would, for instance, almost be
bound to be destroyed in attempting earth landing. At first space navigators, and then
scientists whose observations would be best conducted outside the earth, and then
finally those who for any reason were dissatisfied with earthly conditions would
come to inhabit these bases and found permanent spatial colonies. Even with our
present primitive knowledge we can plan out such a celestial station in considerable

[BERNAL-SPHÄRE] Imagine a spherical shell ten miles or so in diameter, made of the lightest
materials and mostly hollow; for this purpose the new molecular materials would be
admirably suited. Owing to the absence of gravitation its construction would not be
an engineering feat of any magnitude. The source of the material out of which this
would be made would only be in small part drawn from the earth; for the great bulk
of the structure would be made out of the substance of one or more smaller asteroids,
rings of Saturn or other planetary detritus. The initial stages of construction are the
most difficult to imagine. Theywill probably consist of attaching an asteroid of some
hundred yards or so diameter to a space vessel, hollowing it out and using the
removed material to build the first protective shell. Afterwards the shell could be
re-worked, bit by bit, using elaborated and more suitable substances and at the same
time increasing its size by diminishing its thickness. The globe would fulfil all the
functions by which our earth manages to support life. In default of a gravitational
field it has, perforce, to keep its atmosphere and the greater portion of its life inside;
but as all its nourishment comes in the form of energy through its outer surface it
would be forced to resemble on the whole an enormously complicated single-celled

The outermost layer would have a protective and assimilative character. The
presence of meteoric matter in the solar system moving at high speeds in eccentric
orbits would be the most formidable danger in space travelling and space
inhabitation. Certain meteorite swarms could be avoided altogether by keeping out
of their tracks; larger meteorites could be detected at a distance by visual observation
or by the effect of their gravitational fields. These might be avoided by changing the
course of the globe or deflecting the meteorites by firing high-speed projectiles into
them. Smaller meteorites would be impossible to avoid. The shell of the globe would
have to be made strong enough not to be penetrated or cracked by them, and would
have to possess regenerative mechanisms for repairing superficial damage. Possibly
the function which our atmosphere performs for the earth could be imitated by jets
of high-speed gas or electrons which, projected at meteorites, would vaporize them
and thus prevent them doing any damage. At the same time meteoric matter might

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be the chief source of the material required for the growth or propulsion of the globe
if a method of assimilating it could be found.

The outer shell would be hard, transparent and thin. Its chief function would be
to prevent the escape of gases from the interior, to preserve the rigidity of the
structure, and to allow the free access of radiant energy. Immediately underneath this
epidermis would be the apparatus for utilizing this energy either in the form of a
network carrying a chlorophyll-like fluid capable of re-synthesizing carbohydrate
bodies from carbon dioxide, or some purely electrical contrivance for the absorption
of radiant energy. In the latter case the globe would almost certainly be supplied with
vast, tenuous, membranous wings which would increase its area of utilization of
sunlight. The subcutaneous circulation would also have the necessary function of
dissipating superfluous heat, in as low temperature radiation as possible. Underneath
this layer would probably lie the main stores of the globe in the form of layers of
solid oxygen, ice and carbon or hydro-carbons. Inside these layers, which might be
a quarter of a mile in thickness, would lie the controlling mechanisms of the globe.
These mechanisms would primarily maintain the general metabolism, that is, they
would regulate the atmosphere and climate both as to composition and movements.
They would elaborate the necessary food products and distribute mechanical energy
where it was required. They would also deal with all waste matters, reconverting
them with the use of energy into a consumable form; for it must be remembered that
the globe takes the place of the whole earth and not of any part of it, and in the earth
nothing can afford to be permanently wasted. In this layer, too, would be the
workshops and laboratories concerned with the improvement of the globe and
arrangements for its growth.

Inside the mechanical layer would be the living region and here imagination has
a more difficult task. It would, of course, not be necessary to have either houses or
rooms in the same sense in which we have them on the earth. The absence of bad
weather and of gravitation makes most of the uses that we have for houses
superfluous. Perhaps we can safely assume that a certain number of cells closed by
thin, but sound-proof, partitions would be necessary for work requiring special
isolation, but the major part of the lives of the inhabitants of the globe would be spent
in the free space which would occupy the greater portion of the center of the globe.
This three-dimensional, gravitationless way of living is very difficult for us to
imagine, but there is no reason to suppose that we would not ultimately adjust
ourselves to it. We should be released from the way we are dragged down on the
surface of the earth all our lives: the slightest push against a relatively rigid object
would send us yards away; a good jump – and we should be spinning across from one
side of the globe to the other. Resistance to the air would, of course, come in, as it
does on earth; but this could be turned to advantage by the use of short wings.
Objects would become endowed with a peculiar levity. We should have to devise
ways of holding them in place other than by putting them down; liquids and powders
would at first cause great complications. An attempt to put down a cup of tea would
result in the cup descending and the tea remaining as a vibrating globule in the air.
Dust would be an unbearable nuisance and would have to be suppressed, because
even wetting it would never make it settle. We should find in the end that all these
things were great conveniences, but at first they would be extremely awkward. The
possibilities of three-dimensional life would make the globes much roomier than
their size would suggest. A globe interior eight miles across would contain as much
effective space as a countryside one hundred and fifty miles square even if one gave
a liberal allowance of air, say fifty feet above the ground.

The activity of the globe is, of course, by no means confined to its interior. In the
first place it would necessarily have a number of effective sense and motor organs.
Essentially the former would consist of an observatory which continually recorded
the position of the globe and at the same time kept a look-out for an meteoric bodies
of perceptible size which might damage it. On the whole the globe would not be
designed for travel. It would move in an orbit around the sun without any expenditure
of energy; but occasionally it might be necessary to shift its orbital position to a more
advantageous one, and for this it would require a small motor of a rocket variety.
Yet the globe would be by no means isolated. It would be in continuous
communication by wireless with other globes and with the earth, and this
communication would include the transmission of everysort of sense message which
we have at present acquired as well as those which we may require in the future.
Interplanetary vessels would insure the transport of men and materials, and see to it
that the colonies were not isolated units.

[VERMEHRUNG] However, the essential positive activity of the globe or colony would be in the
development, growth and reproduction of the globe. A globe which was merely a
satisfactory way of continuing life indefinitely would barely be more than a
reproduction of terrestrial conditions in a more restricted sphere. But the necessity
of preserving the outer shell would prevent a continuous alteration of structure, and
development would have to proceed either by the crustacean-like development in
which a new and better globe could be put together inside the larger one, which could
be subsequently broken open and re-absorbed; or, as in the molluscs, by the building
out of new sections in a spiral form; or, more probably, by keeping the even simpler
form of behavior of the protozoa by the building of a new globe outside the original
globe, but in contact with it until it should be in a position to set up an independent

[SOZIALUTOPIE] So far we have considered the construction and mechanism of the globe rather
than its inhabitants. The inhabitants can be divided into the personnel or the crew,
and the citizens or passengers. With the first – except that their tasks would be more
complicated and more scientific than those that fall to the officers and crew of a
modern ship – we need not be concerned. To the others the globe would appear both
as hotels and laboratories. The population of each globe would be by no means fixed;
constant interchange would be taking place between them and the earth even when
the greater portion of human beings were actually inhabiting globes. There would
probably be no more need for government than in a modern hotel: there would be a
few restrictions concerned with the safety of the vessel and that would be all.
Criticism might be made on the ground that life in a globe, say of twenty or thirty
thousand inhabitants would be extremely dull, and that the diversity of scene, of
animals and plants and historical associations which exist even in the smallest and
most isolated country on earth would be lacking. This criticism is valid on the initial
assumption that men have not in any way changed. Here, to make globe life
plausible, we must anticipate the later chapters and assume men's interests and
occupations to have altered. Already the scientist is more immersed in his work and
concentrates more on relations with his colleagues than in the immediate life of his
neighborhood. On the other hand, present æsthetic tendencies verge towards the
abstract and do not demand so much inspiration from untouched nature. What has
made a small town or a small country seem in the past a narrow sphere of interest has
been on the one hand its isolation, and on the other hand the fact that the majority of
its inhabitants are at so low a level of culture as to prevent any considerable
intellectual interchange within its boundaries. Neither limitation holds for the globes,
and the case of ancient Athens is enough to show that small size alone does not
prevent cultural activity. Free communications and voluntary associations of
interested persons will be the rule, and for those whose primary interest is in
primitive nature there will always remain the earth which, free from the economic
necessity of producing vast quantities of agricultural products, could be allowed to
revert to a very much more natural state.

[DIVERSITÄT] As the globes multiplied they would undoubtedly develop very differently
according to their construction and to the tendencies of their colonists, and at the
same time they would compete increasingly both for the sunlight which kept them
alive and for the asteroidal and meteoric matter which enabled them to grow. Sooner
or later this pressure, or perhaps the knowledge of the imminent failure of the sun,
would force some more adventurous colony to set out beyond the bounds of the solar
system. The difficulty involved in making this jump is probably as great as that of
leaving the earth itself. Interstellar distances are so large that high velocities,
approaching those of light, would be necessary; and though high velocities would be
easy to attain – it beingmerely a matter of allowing acceleration to accumulate – they
would expose the space vessels to very serious dangers, particularly from dispersed
meteoric bodies. A space vessel would, in fact, have to be a comet, ejecting from its
anterior end a stream of gas which, meeting and vaporizing any matter in its path,
would sweep it to the sides and behind in a luminous trail. Such a method would be
verywasteful of matter, and one might perhaps count on some better one having been
devised by that time. Even with such velocities journeys would have to last for
hundreds and thousands of years, and it would be necessary – if man remains as he
is – for colonies of ancestors to start out who might expect the arrival of remote
descendants. [GENERATIONENSCHIFF] This would require a self-sacrifice and a perfection of educational
method that we could hardly demand at the present. However, once acclimatized to
space living, it is unlikely that man will stop until he has roamed over and colonized
most of the sidereal universe, or that even this will be the end. Man will not
ultimately be content to be parasitic on the stars but will invade them and organize
them for his own purposes.

A star is essentially an immense reservoir of energy which is being dissipated as
rapidly as its bulk will allow. It may be that, in the future, man will have no use for
energy and be indifferent to stars except as spectacles, but if (and this seems more
probable) energy is still needed, the stars cannot be allowed to continue to in their old
way, but will be turned into efficient heat engines. The second law of
thermodynamics, as Jeans delights in pointing out to us, will ultimately bring this
universe to an inglorious close, may perhaps always remain the final factor. But by
intelligent organization the life of the universe could probably be prolonged to many
millions of millions of times what it would be without organization. Besides, we are
still too close to the birth of the universe to be certain about its death. In any case,
long before these questions become urgent it would seem impossible not to assume
that man himself would have changed radically in this environment and the nature
of this change we must consider in the next chapter.

3 The Flesh

In the alteration of himself man has a great deal further to go than in the alteration of
his inorganic environment. He has been doing the latter more or less unconsciously
and empirically for several thousand years, ever since he cased being parasitic on his
environment like any other animal, and consciously and intelligently for at least
hundreds of years; whereas he has not been able to change himself at all and has had
only fifty years or so to begin to understand how he works. Of course, this is not
strictly true: man has altered himself in the evolutionary process, he has lost a good
deal of hair, his wisdom teeth are failing to pierce, and his nasal passages are
becoming more and more degenerate. But the processes of natural evolution are so
much slower than the development of man's control over environment that we might,
in such a developing world, still consider man's body as constant and unchanging. If
it is not to be so then man himself must actively interfere in his own making and
interfere in a highly unnatural manner. [EUGENIK] The eugenists and apostles of healthy life,
may, in a very considerable course of time, realize the full potentialities of the
species: we may count on beautiful, healthy and long-lived men and women, but they
do not touch the alteration of the species. To do this we must alter either the germ
plasm or the living structure of the body, or both together. [GENTECHNIK] The first method – the
favorite of Mr. J. B. S. Haldane – has so far received the most attention. With it we
might achieve such a variation as we have empirically produced in dogs and goldfish,
or perhaps even manage to produce new species with special potentialities. But the
method is bound to be slow and finally limited by the possibilities of flesh and blood.
The germ plasm is a very inaccessible unit, before we can deal with it adequately we
must isolate it, and to do this already involves us in surgery. It is quite conceivable
that the mechanism of evolution, as we know it up to the present, may well be
superseded at this point. Biologists are apt, even if they are not vitalists, to consider
it as almost divine; but after all it is only nature's way of achieving a shifting
equilibrium with an environment; and if we can find a more direct way by the use of
intelligence, that way is bound to supersede the unconscious mechanism of growth
and reproduction.

In a sense we have already started using the direct method; when the ape-ancestor
first used a stone he was modifying his bodily structure by the inclusion of a foreign
substance. [ERWEITERTER GEIST] This inclusionwas temporary, but with the adoption of clothes there began
a series of permanent additions to the body, affecting nearly all its functions and
even, as with spectacles, its sense organs. In the modern world, the variety of objects
which really form part of an effective human body is very great. Yet they all (if we
except such rarities as artificial larynges) still have the quality of being outside the
cell layers of the human body. [TRANSHUMANISMUS] The decisive step will come when we extend the
foreign body into the actual structure of living matter. Parallel with this development
is the alteration of the body by tampering with its chemical reactions – again a very
old-established but rather sporadic process resorted to to cure illness or procure
intoxication. But with the development of surgery on the one hand and physiological
chemistry on the other, the possibility of radical alteration of the body appears for the
first time. Here we may proceed, not by allowing evolution to work the changes, but
by copying and short-circuiting its methods.

The changes that evolution produces apart from mere growth in size, or diversity
of form without change of function, are in the nature of perversions: a part of the
fish's gut becomes a swimming bladder, the swimming bladder becomes a lung; a
salivary gland and an extra eye are charged with the function of producing hormones.
Under the pressure of environment or whatever else is the cause of evolution, nature
takes hold of what already had existed for some now superseded activity, and with
a minimum of alteration gives it a new function. There is nothing essentially
mysterious in the process: it is both the easiest and the only possible way of
achieving the change. Starting de novo to deal with a new situation is not within the
power of natural, unintelligent processes; they can only modify in a limited way
already existing structures by altering their chemical environment. Men may well
copy the process, in so far as original structures are used as the basis for new ones,
simply because it is the most economical method, but they are not bound to the very
limited range of methods of change which nature adopts.

Now modern mechanical and modern chemical discoveries have rendered both
the skeletal and metabolic functions of the body to a large extent useless. In
teleological biochemistry one might say that an animal moves his limbs in order to
get his food, and uses his body organs in order to turn that food into blood to keep
his body alive and active. Now if man is only an animal this is all very satisfactory,
but viewed from the standpoint of the mental activity by which he increasingly lives,
it is a highly inefficient way of keeping his mind working. In a civilized worker the
limbs are mere parasites, demanding nine-tenths of the energy of the food and even
a kind of blackmail in the exercise they need to prevent disease, while the bodily
organs wear themselves out in supplying their requirements. On the other hand, the
increasing complexity of man's existence, particularly the mental capacity required
to deal with its mechanical and physical complications, gives rise to the need for a
much more complex sensory and motor organization, and even more fundamentally
for a better organized cerebral mechanism. Sooner or later the useless parts of the
bodymust be given more modern functions or dispensed with altogether, and in their
place we must incorporate in the effective body the mechanisms of the new
functions. Surgery and biochemistry are sciences still too young to predict exactly
how this will happen. The account I am about to give must be taken rather as a fable.
Take, as a starting point, the perfect man such as the doctors, the eugenists and
the public health officers between them hope to make of humanity: a man living
perhaps an average of a hundred and twenty years but still mortal, and increasingly
feeling the burden of this mortality. Already Shaw in his mystical fashion cries out
for life to give us hundreds of years to experience, learn and understand; but without
the vitalist's faith in the efficacy of human will we shall have to resort to some
artifice in order to achieve this purpose. Sooner or later some eminent physiologist
will have his neck broken in a super-civilized accident or find his body cells worn
beyond capacity for repair. He will then be forced to decide whether to abandon his
body or his life. After all it is brain that counts, and to have a brain suffused by fresh
and correctly prescribed blood is to be alive – to think. The experiment is not
impossible; it has already been performed on a dog and that is three-quarters of the
way towards achieving it with a human subject. [SOLIPSISMUS] But only a Brahmin philosopher
would care to exist as an isolated brain, perpetually centered on its own meditations.
Permanently to break off all communications with the world is as good as to be dead.
However, the channels of communication are ready to hand. Already we know the
essential electrical nature of nerve impulses; it is a matter of delicate surgery to attach
nerves permanently to apparatus which will either send messages to the nerves or
receive them. [GEHIRN IM TANK] And the brain thus connected up continues an existence, purely mental
and with very different delights from those of the body, but even now perhaps
preferable to complete extinction. The example may have been too far-fetched;
perhaps the same result may be achieved much more gradually by use of the many
superfluous nerves with which our body is endowed for various auxiliary and motor
services. We badly need a small sense organ for detecting wireless frequencies, eyes
for infra-red, ultra-violet and X-rays, ears for supersonics, detectors of high and low
temperatures, of electrical potential and current, and chemical organs of many kinds.
We may perhaps be able to train a great number of hot and cold and pain receiving
nerves to take over these functions; on the motor side we shall soon be, if we are not
already, obliged to control mechanisms for which two hands and feet are an entirely
inadequate number; and, apart from that, the direction of mechanism by pure volition
would enormously simplify its operation. Where the motor mechanism is not
primarily electrical, it might be simpler and more effective to use nerve-muscle
preparations instead of direct nerve connections. Even the pain nerves may be
pressed into service to report any failure in the associated mechanism. A mechanical
stage, utilizing some or all of these alterations of the bodily form might, if the initial
experiments were successful in the sense of leading to a tolerable existence, become
the regular culmination to ordinary life. Whether this should ever be so for the whole
of the population we will discuss later, but for the moment we may attempt to picture
what would at this period be the course of existence for a transformable human

Starting, as Mr. J. B. S. Haldane so convincingly predicts, in an ectogenetic
factory, man will have anything from sixty to a hundred and twenty years of larval,
unspecialized existence – surely enough to satisfy the advocates of a natural life. In
this stage he need not be cursed by the age of science and mechanism, but can occupy
his time (without the conscience of wasting it) in dancing, poetry and love-making,
and perhaps incidentally take part in the reproductive activity. Then he will leave the
body whose potentialities he should have sufficiently explored. [LARVEN-MENSCHEN]

The next stage might be compared to that of a chrysalis, a complicated and rather
unpleasant process of transforming the already existing organs and grafting on all the
new sensory and motor mechanisms. There would follow a period of re-education in
which he would grow to understand the functioning of his new sensory organs and
practise the manipulation of his new motor mechanism. Finally, he would emerge as
a completely effective, mentally-directed mechanism, and set about the tasks
appropriate to his new capacities. But this is by no means the end of his development,
although it marks his last great metamorphosis. Apart from such mental development
as his increased faculties will demand from him, he will be physically plastic in a
way quite transcending the capacities of untransformed humanity. Should he need a
new sense organ or have a new mechanism to operate, he will have undifferentiated
nerve connections to attach to them, and will be able to extend indefinitely his
possible sensations and actions by using successively different end-organs.

The carrying out of these complicated surgical and physiological operations
would be in the hands of a medical profession which would be bound to come rapidly
under the control of transformed men. The operations themselves would probably be
conducted by mechanisms controlled by the transformed heads of the profession,
though in the earlier and experimental stages, of course, it would still be done by
human surgeons and physiologists. [ROBOT-CHIRURGIE]

It is much more difficult to form a picture of the final state, partly because this
final state would be so fluid and so liable to improve, and partly because there would
be no reason whatever why all people should transform in the same way. Probably
a great number of typical forms would be developed, each specialized in certain
directions. If we confine ourselves to what might be called the first stage of
mechanized humanity and to a person mechanized for scientific rather than æsthetic
purposes – for to predict even the shapes that men would adopt if they would make
of themselves a harmony of form and sensation must be beyond imagination – then
the description might run roughly as follows.

[GEHIRN IM TANK] Instead of the present body structure we should have the whole framework of
some very rigid material, probably not metal but one of the new fibrous substances.
In shape it might well be rather a short cylinder. Inside the cylinder, and supported
very carefully to prevent shock, is the brain with its nerve connections, immersed in
a liquid of the nature of cerebro-spinal fluid, kept circulating over it at a uniform
temperature. The brain and nerve cells are kept supplied with fresh oxygenated blood
and drained of de-oxygenated blood through their arteries and veins which connect
outside the cylinder to the artificial heart-lung digestive system – an elaborate,
automatic contrivance. This might in large part be made from living organs, although
these would have to be carefully arranged so that no failure on their part would
endanger the blood supply to the brain (only a fraction of the body's present
requirements) and so that theycould be inter-changed and repaired without disturbing
its functions. The brain thus guaranteed continuous awareness, is connected in the
anterior of the case with its immediate sense organs, the eye and the ear – which will
probably retain this connection for a long time. The eyes will look into a kind of
optical box which will enable them alternatively to look into periscopes projecting
from the case, telescopes, microscopes and awhole range of televisual apparatus. The
ear would have the corresponding microphone attachments and would still be the
chief organ for wireless reception. Smell and taste organs, on the other hand, would
be prolonged into connections outside the case and would be changed into chemical
tasting organs, achieving a more conscious and less purely emotional role than they
have at present. It may perhaps be impossible to do this owing to the particularly
close relation between the brain and olfactory organs, in which case the chemical
sense would have to be indirect. The remaining sensory nerves, those of touch,
temperature, muscular position and visceral functioning, would go to the
corresponding part of the exterior machinery or to the blood supplying organs.
Attached to the brain cylinder would be its immediate motor organs, corresponding
to but much more complex than, our mouth, tongue and hands. This appendage
system would probably be built up like that of a crustacean which uses the same
general type for antenna, jaw and limb; and they would range from delicate
micro-manipulators to lever capable of exerting considerable forces, all controlled
by the appropriate motor nerves. Closely associated with the brain-case would also
be sound, color and wireless producing organs. In addition to these there would be
certain organs of a type we do not possess at present – the self-repairing organs –
which under the control of the brain would be able to manipulate the other organs,
particularly the visceral blood supply organs, and to keep them in effective working
order. Serious derangements, such as those involving loss of consciousness would
still, of course, call for outside assistance, but with proper care these would be in the
nature of rare accidents.

The remaining organs would have a more temporary connection with the
brain-case. There would be locomotor apparatus of different kinds, which could be
used alternativelyfor slow movement, equivalent to walking, for rapid transit and for
flight. On the whole, however, the locomotor organs would not be much used
because the extension of the sense organs would tend to take their place. Most of
these would be mere mechanisms quite apart from the body; there would be the
sending parts of the television apparatus, tele-acoustic and tele-chemical organs, and
tele-sensory organs of the nature of touch for determining all forms of textures.
Besides these there would be various tele-motor organs for manipulating materials
at great distances from the controlling mind. These extended organs would only
belong in a loose sense to any particular person, or rather, they would belong only
temporarily to the person who was using them and could equivalently be operated by
other people. This capacity for indefinite extension might in the end lead to the
relative fixity of the different brains; and this would, in itself, be an advantage from
the point of view of security and uniformity of conditions, only some of the more
active considering it necessary to be on the spot to observe and do things.
The new man must appear to those who have not contemplated him before as a
strange, monstrous and inhuman creature, but he is only the logical outcome of the
type of humanity that exists at present. It may be argued that this tampering with
bodily mechanisms is as unnecessary as it is difficult, that all the increase of control
needed may be obtained by extremely responsive mechanisms outside the unaltered
human body. But though it is possible that in the earlystages a surgically transformed
man would be at a disadvantage in capacity of performance to a normal, healthyman,
he would still be better off than a dead man. Although it is possible that man has far
to go before his inherent physiological and psychological make-up becomes the
limiting factor to his development, this must happen sooner or later, and it is then that
the mechanized man will begin to show a definite advantage. Normal man is an
evolutionary dead end; mechanical man, apparently a break in organic evolution, is
actually more in the true tradition of a further evolution.

[ERWEITERTER GEIST] A much more fundamental break is implicit in the means of his development. If
a method has been found of connecting a nerve ending in a brain directly with an
electrical reactor, then the way is open for connecting it with a brain-cell of another
person. Such a connection being, of course, essentially electrical, could be effected
just as well through the ether as along wires. At first this would limit itself to the
more perfect and economic transference of thought which would be necessary in the
co-operative thinking of the future. But it cannot stop here. Connections between two
or more minds would tend to become a more and more permanent condition until
they functioned as a dual or multiple organism. The minds would always preserve a
certain individuality, the network of cells inside a single brain being more dense than
that existing between brains, each brain being chiefly occupied with its individual
mental development and only communicating with the others for some common
purpose. Once the more or less permanent compound brain came into existence two
of the ineluctable limitations of present existence would be surmounted. In the first
place death would take on a different and far less terrible aspect. Death would still
exist for the mentally-directed mechanism we have just described; it would merely
be postponed for three hundred or perhaps a thousand years, as long as the brain cells
could be persuaded to live in the most favorable environment, but not forever. But
the multiple individual would be, barring cataclysmic accidents, immortal, the older
component as they died being replaced by newer ones without losing the continuity
of the self, the memories and feelings of the older member transferring themselves
almost completely to the common stock before its death. And if this seems only a
way of cheating death, we must realize that the individual brain will feel itself part
of the whole in a way that completely transcends the devotion of the most fanatical
adherent of a religious sect. It is admittedly difficult to imagine this state of affairs
effectively. It would be a state of ecstasy in the literal sense, and this is the second
great alteration that the compound mind makes possible. Whatever the intensity of
our feeling, however much we may strive to reach beyond ourselves or into another's
mind, we are always barred by the limitations of our individuality. Here at least those
barriers would be down: feeling would truly communicate itself, memories would be
held in common, and yet in all this, identity and continuity of individual development
would not be lost. It is possible, even probably, that the different individuals of a
compound mind would not all have similar functions or even be of the same rank of
importance. Division of labor would soon set in: to some minds might be delegated
the task of ensuring the proper functioning of the others, some might specialize in
sense reception and so on. Thus would grow up a hierarchy of minds that would be
more truly a complex than a compound mind. [KOMPOSIT-WESEN]

The complex minds could, with their lease of life, extend their perceptions and
understanding and their actions far beyond those of the individual. Time senses could
be altered: the events that moved with the slowness of geological ages would be
apprehended as movement, and at the same time the most rapid vibrations of the
physical world could be separated. As we have seen, sense organs would tend to be
less and less attached to bodies, and the host of subsidiary, purely mechanical agents
and preceptors would be capable of penetrating those regions where organic bodies
cannot enter or hope to survive. The interior of the earth and the stars, the inmost
cells of living things themselves, would be open to consciousness through these
angels, and through these angels also the motions of stars and living things could be

This is perhaps far enough; beyond that the future must direct itself. Yet why
should we stop until our imaginations are exhausted. Even beyond this there are
foreseeable possibilities. Undoubtedly the nature of life processes themselves will be
far more intensively studied. To make life itself will be only a preliminary stage,
because in its simplest phases life can differ very little from the inorganic world. But
the mere making of life would only be important if we intended to allow it to evolve
of itself anew. This, as Mr. Whyte suggests in Archimedes, is necessarily a lengthy
process, but there is no need to wait for it. Instead, artificial life would undoubtedly
be used as ancillary to human activity and not allowed to evolve freely except for
experimental purposes. [KÜNSTLICHES LEBEN] Men will not be content to manufacture life: they will want
to improve on it. For one material out of which nature has been forced to make life,
man will have a thousand; living and organized material will be as much at the call
of the mechanized or compound man as metals are to-day, and gradually this living
material will come to substitute more and more for such inferior functions of the
brain as memory,reflex actions, etc., in the compound man himself; for bodies at this
time would be left far behind. The brain itself would become more and more
separated into different groups of cells or individual cells with complicated
connections, and probably occupying considerable space. This would mean loss of
motility which would not be a disadvantage owing to the extension of the sense
faculties. Everypart would not be accessible for replacing or repairing and this would
in itself ensure a practical eternity of existence, for even the replacement of a
previously organic brain-cell by a synthetic apparatus would not destroy the
continuity of consciousness. [UNSTERBLICHKEIT]

The new life would be more plastic, more directly controllable and at the same
time more variable and more permanent than that produced by the triumphant
opportunism of nature. Bit by bit the heritage of the direct line of mankind – the
heritage of the original life emerging on the face of the world – would dwindle, and
in the end disappear effectively, being preserved perhaps as some curious relic, while
the new life which conserves none of the substance and all of the spirit of the old
would take its place and continue its development. Such a change would be as
important as that in which life first appeared on the earth's surface and might be as
gradual and imperceptible. Finally, consciousness itself may end or vanish in a
humanity that has become completely etherealized, losing the close-knit organism,
becoming masses of atoms in space communicating by radiation, and ultimately
perhaps resolving itself entirely into light. That may be an end or a beginning, but
from here it is out of sight.

4 The Devil

Why do the first lines of attack against the inorganic forces of the world and the
organic structure of our bodies seem so doubtful, fanciful and Utopian? Because we
can abandon the world and subdue the flesh only if we first expel the devil, and the
devil, for all that he has lost individuality, is still as powerful as ever. The devil is the
most difficult of all to deal with: he is inside ourselves, we cannot see him. Our
capacities, our desires, our inner confusions are almost impossible to understand or
cope with in the present, still less can we predict what will be the future of them.
Psychology at the present day is hardly in a better state than physics in the time of
Aristotle; it has acquired a vocabulary, the general movements and transformations
of conscious and unconscious motives are described, but nothing more. Yet in the
absence of scientific analysis something must be said, because all the changes I have
predicted in the organic or inorganic world must, in the first place, start from some
human psychological motive and effect themselves through the operation of human
intellectual processes. We are obviouslynot in a position to predict the particular new
orientations which a change in psychology would give to human development,
beyond that which would result from the removal of what we know are inhibitory
causes, so that here I will only attempt to estimate the effect of psychological forces
in preventing or retarding the kind of processes outlined in the first two sections. The
progress of the future depends no longer on physiological evolution but on the
reaction of intelligence on a material universe. It will be hindered or stopped either
by a failure in the capacity for maintaining creative intellectual thinking, or by the
lack of desire to apply such thinking to the progress of humanity, or, of course, by
both these causes together. Consider first the retarding factors that endanger the
capacity for creative thinking. Some are apparent now. It is pretty clear that they are
ineffective in stopping the course of thought at present, but theyhave not always been
so in the past and we cannot be sure that they will not be so in the future. One of the
most threatening retarding factors of the present is specialization, particularly as it
is bound to increase with scientific knowledge itself. But it is doubtful whether
specialization in itself is capable of bringing scientific thought to a standstill. It
retards it in so far as the specialist is ignorant of current thought in other fields, and
the remedy for this is obviously an intelligently operated system of distribution and
grading of knowledge so that each worker may have the amount he requires outside
his own field, in a form which can be absorbed with a minimum of mental effort. The
problem is essentially that of communications to an army in action. After a rapid
advance communications become disorganized, and there is a temporaryhalting until
they are again in working order.

Such an organization of intellectual work for definite ends involves a
fundamental change: it is analogous to the change from a good-gathering to a
food-producing society. The modern scientist is a primitive savage. If he is active and
enterprising he tracks his prey down alone or in small parties; if he is industrious and
thorough he gathers and piles up the natural products around him, but for his success
he has to thank not only his own skill and the lore of his craft but the richness of
nature and the paucity of his companions. Good hunting will not last much longer,
but the tilled ground is richer.

We shall be forced to attempt planned and directed research employing hundreds
of workers for many years, and this cannot be done without risking the loss of
independence and originality. This is a serious and fundamental obstacle but it may
be overcome in two ways. It should be possible so to improve educational methods,
that mental activity, the capacity to form new associations, should not be
incompatible with the performance of routine work: that is, every research worker
should be potentially able to add to and modify the whole course of the research and
suggestions. At the same time it is certain that originality, organizing power and
industriousness will continue as now to be very unevenly distributed; and it is an
essentially social problem to make the best apportionment of functions, using for the
more routine operations people who under present conditions would not be scientific
workers at all, and using the organizers to translate into plans of action the incoherent
ideas of the thinkers. Pedantry and bureaucracy – symptoms of an unintelligent
respect for the past – are at present real dangers, but, once their genesis is understood,
they can be made to vanish.

Specialization is brought about by the wideness of the field in which science
operates, but as we go more deeply into nature the intrinsic complication of the
phenomena increases and the modes of thinking used in ordinary life become more
inadequate to deal with them. It is conceivable that the supply of minds capable of
making any impression on these deeper problems maymore and more fall behind the
number required, and that all the efforts of education to produce ten genii where one
grew before will be foiled by intrinsic difficulties in nature. It is impossible to know
whether this will happen. One may guess, from experience of the past, that nature is
never so complicated as it looks; that the value of theory and deductive thinking and
the use of appropriate language and symbolism will reduce the difficulties in the
measure that they are approached.

However they appear to the pessimist of the present day, it is not in specialization
or complication that the chief danger to progress seems to lie: it is in something much
more deep-seated and much more elusive. Bertrand Russell, in one of his Skeptical
Essays, predicting the approaching end of the scientific age, suggests that people will
turn from physics to metaphysics because the hope that the former held out is seen
to be vain except to new, half-cultivated peoples. Perhaps after all it is hope that
really determines whether an age is or is not creative. But the existence of hope in a
society at any time itself depends on many unexplored psychological, economic and
political causes. I do not think that the factors involved are of a mystical order, but
that they require considerable disentangling.

There seem to be two psychological determinants in any culture: a crop of
perverted individuals capable of more than average performance, and a mass of
people effective not so much by their number as by their secure hold on tradition. In
the normal state the perverse are dominated by the mass in two ways. Their mode of
expression is dictated by the modes conceivable in the society; everywhere, even the
most aberrant individual must conform to one of a small number of recognized types.
The same type of mind that would now make a physicist would in the middle ages
have made a scholastic theologian. Further, there is a process of selection in which
the current tradition decides what is to be the relative value and effectiveness of each
type. Thus, even, if at all times types are always produced in the same abundance,
only the selected are effective, as meditative ascetics in India or energetic salesmen
in America. The mass of the people, or more properly the ruling class, pay the piper
and call the tune; genius is potent only when it fits the tendencies of the age. From
this standpoint we are approaching the close of the period of respectable comfort
which puritanism demanded and mathematics and handicraft produced. But this
period may not end in a regression to the mediæval state through the ultimate
dissatisfaction with science; before that happens science, raised to power by
industrialism, may in its turn become the directing tradition.

Political and social events must also be effective, but not in a very obvious
fashion. But political confusion and prolonged peace undoubtedly affect creative
thought but whether they respectively hinder or help it is not at all certain. When one
contrasts Athens, renaissance Italy and feudal China, on the one hand, with the
Roman, the Spanish and the Chinese Empires on the other, war would seem
positively to help mental activity. But as many examples could be found to the
contrary. There may be something in the suggestion that wherever war appeared
stimulating it was a war between approximate equals so that the disasters were seen
to be due to human folly or perversity. In the case of of the Empires, on the other
hand, peace was achieved at the price of a submission to authority, bureaucratic or
spiritual, which deprived men of their self-reliance and creative ability. However this
may be, historical factors tend to have somewhat of a cyclic nature, and in the long
run to cancel each other out, although it is always possible that one age will destroy,
or cause to be forgotten, more than the previous ages produced, and that a definite
culmination may be reached in human progress. This may be closer than we think (if
it is not already passed) and humanity may become static until it is destroyed by
cosmic forces. Yet it seems more probably that we are on the point, owing to our
material achievement of reaching another order of cyclic changes, which may lead
us to the stars.

[LERNSTIL] Whether an age or an individual will express itself in creative thinking or in
repetitive pedantry is more a matter of desire than of intellectual power, and it is
probably more the nature of their desires than of their capacities that will determine
whether or not humanity will develop further. Now it would seem that the present
time is a very critical one for the evolution of human desire. It is an age in which the
nature of desire has been glimpsed at for the first time, and that glimpse enables us
to see two very different possibilities. The intellectual life, both in its scientific and
its æsthetic aspects, is seen no longer as the vocation of the rational mind, but as a
compensation, as a perversion of more primitive, unsatisfied desires. Now the
question arises is this perversion in the line of evolution, or is it a merely temporary,
pathological process? If by a sounder psychology, a way of livingmore in accordance
with nature, it should be found that the satisfaction of purely human – or, as we might
almost say, purely mammalian – desires is capable of absorbing all the energy that
suppression now forces into scientific or æsthetic channels, then the human race may
well find itself statically employed in leading an idyllic, Melanesian existence of
eating, drinking, friendliness, love-making, dancing and singing, and the golden age
may settle permanently on the world. On the other hand it may that though the desire,
the necessity to escape life on the paths of intellectual or æsthetic creation may be
weakened by the application of an intelligent psychology, yet a corresponding
freedom from the internal conflicts which now hinder both these forms of expression
may more than compensate for what is lost, and we may find the capacity to live at
the same time more fully human and fully intellectual lives. The latter alternative is
more in line with the recent developments of Freudian psychology which divide the
psyche into the primitive id, the ego which is its expression of contact with reality,
and the super-ego which represents its aspirations and ideals. Rationalism strove to
make the super-ego the dominant partner; it never succeeded, not only because its
standard was too high to allow any outlet for the primitive forces, but because it was
itself too arbitrary, too tainted with distorted primitive wishes ever to be brought into
correspondence with reality. Naturalism, less definitely, aimed at givingthe primitive
wishes full play but equally failed because these wishes are too primitive, too
infantile, too inconsistent with themselves to be satisfied even bythe greatest license.
The aim of applied psychology is now to bring, by analysis or education, the ideals
of the super-ego in line with external reality, using and rendering innocuous the
power of the id and leading to a life where a full adult sexuality would be balanced
with objective activity. It is this alternative that makes the mechanical, biological
progress that I have outlined not only possible but almost necessary, for a sound
intellectual humanity will never be content with repeating itself in circles of
metaphysical thinking like Shaw's Immortals, but will need a real externalization in
the transforming the universe and itself. Such a development could hardly leave
unchanged the present types of human interests in art and science and religion.
It is here that prediction is most difficult and most fascinating. Under the
influence of psychology it may well be that, just as all the branches of science itself
are coalescing into a unified world picture, so the human activities of art and attitudes
of religion may be fused into one whole action-reaction pattern of man to reality. The
recognition of the art that informs all pure science need not mean the abandonment
for it of all present art, rather it will mean the completion of the transformation of art
that has already begun. Art expressing itself on one side in a kind of generalized
architecture, massive or molecular, gives form to the infinite possibilities of the
application of science; on the other a generalized poetry expresses the ever-widening
complexities of the understanding of the universe, while religion clarified by
psychology remains at the expression of the desire that drives man through the
universe in understanding and hope.

It is not sufficient, however, to consider the absence or presence of desire for
progress, because that desire itself will not make itself effective until it can overcome
the quite real distaste and hatred which mechanization has alreadybrought into being.
This distaste is nothing to what the bulk of present humanity would feel about even
the milder of the changes which are suggested here. The reader may have already felt
that distaste, especially in relation to the bodily changes; I have felt it myself in
imagining them. The effectiveness of these conservative feelings is the balance of
two opposing factors. The changes in question do not come all at once: envisaged in
broad outline in the sequence given, their nature would suggest that they follow each
other with increasing frequency, as the past has already shown. Now the more rapid
the environmental changes the less will the individual mind be able to adapt itself to
them and the more violent will be its emotional reactions. At the same time these
changes give more and more power to those groups of men which are involved in
them and are bringing them about, so that, up to the present, in the war of the
machines, the mechanists have always been the victors; but, of course, if the
emotional reactions of the mass increased more rapidly than the power of the
mechanists, the reverse would be the case. A severe crisis in mechanical civilization
brought about by its inherent technical weakness or, as is much more likely, by its
failure to arrange secondary social adjustments, is likely to be seized upon by the
emotional factors hostile to all mechanism, and we may be closer to such a reversion
than we suppose. Two recent books representing very divergent standpoints, the last
works of Mr. Aldous Huxley and Mr. D. H. Lawrence, show at the same time the
weakening desires and the imminent realization of futility on the part of the scientist,
and a turning away from the whole of mechanization on the part of the more
humanely-minded. The same thought is echoed from still another angle in the
writings of Mr. Bertrand Russell. Theymay be prophets predicting truly the doom of
the new Babylon or merely lamenting over a past that is lost for ever. With these
uncertainties before us, each must follow his own desires, accepting that his opponent
may be as right as himself. The event will show which, but only after his own time.
There remains still another possibility: the most unexpected, but not necessarily
the most improbable, the development of a di-morphism in humanity in which the
conflict between the humanizers and the mechanizers will be solved not by the
victory of one or the other but by the splitting of the human race – the one section
developing a fully-balanced humanity, the other groping unsteadily beyond it. But
this possibility involves the consideration of mechanical and biological factors, the
synthesis of which, with the psychological, will be attempted in my concluding

5 Synthesis

Having followed our main lines of change separately, it now remains for us to
consider the interaction between the physical, physiological and psychological
elements of future human evolution. It is very easy to see the relations of the first
two: the colonization of space and the mechanization of the body are obviously
complementary. The dissimilarity between the conditions of life in space and on the
earth would in itself be sufficient to cause perfectly normal, unassisted, evolutionary
changes in human beings, but obviously spatial conditions would be more favorable
to mechanized than to organic man. If he could get rid of the major part of his body
and his necessity for a relatively large intake of oxygen and water-saturated food, the
cellular nature of the celestial globes would cease to be necessary. This would give
mechanized man an advantage similar to that which the relatively flexible and naked
animal cell has over the rigidly demarcated plant. Besides, it is only in space that the
potentialities of the more highly developed forms of complex minds would have an
adequate field of functioning, particularly in their extended time relations.
It may be that we are approaching or will ultimately reach a conception of time
that will make transit in time as easy as transit in space. But all our present
knowledge, apart from our desires, suggests that it is improbable. Even if time and
space were made equivalent, to gain a second of the future would be equivalent to
travelling 180,000 miles. But even without a fundamental change in the conception
of time the time faculties of mechanized man would still be very different from ours.
Extension will be its chief character: already in the monkey stage the actual present
of an animal embraces a short part of the past and future. Anticipation of movement,
through muscular innervation and memory, by its retention of nerve impulse images,
extend the present to the limit of a second or so. Every time we play tennis we are
prophets without knowing of the future position of the ball which is conceived of as
present. In the human stage we have extended mostly backwards as memory, our
immediate prevision being limited by lack of scientific knowledge. It is now rapidly
increasing, but is not usually accepted as prevision because it is conscious and
intellectual. However, prevision plainly tends to become more and more deductive,
and, to the mechanized man, the immediately apprehended may include years or
centuries of past and future.

One may picture then, these beings, nuclearly resident, so to speak, in a relatively
small set of mental units, each utilizing the bare minimum of energy, connected
together by a complex of ethereal intercommunication, and spreading themselves
over immense areas and periods of time by means of inert sense organs which, like
the field of their active operations, would be, in general, at a great distance from
themselves. As the scene of life would be more the cold emptiness of space than the
warm, dense atmosphere of planets, the advantage of containing no organic material
at all, so as to be independent of both these conditions, would be increasingly felt.
It is when we turn to the interaction on the psychological plane that the
difficulties again occur. The physical and the psychological have a mutual influence
which it is very difficult at the present moment to estimate. Undoubtedly, if modern
tendencies have any elements of permanency in them, a great deal of the activity of
the future will be devoted to the end of a greater understanding of the universe.
Humanity, or its descendants, maywell be much more occupied with purely scientific
research and much less with the necessity of satisfying primarily physiological and
psychological needs than it is at present. This character may stamp the whole of
future development, so that machinery will be organized not for production but for
discovery. Indeed, the great necessity for production either of food or other articles
of consumption will disappear rapidly with the progress of dehumanization. But such
changes are small compared with those which would necessarily be involved by the
physiological alterations which I have suggested.

The human mind evolved always in the company of the human body, and of the
animal body before it was human. The intricate connections of mind and body must
exceed our imagination, as from our point of view we are peculiarly prevented from
observing them. Altering in any perfectly sound physiological or surgical way the
functionings of the body will certainly have secondary but far-reaching effects on the
mind, and these secondary effects will be still unpredictable at the time when the
physiological changes take place. But it is thoroughly in accord with both human and
natural evolution that secondary changes should not be taken into account when
reacting to the primary desire or stimulus: in other words, the physiological steps will
probably be taken without consideration of the psychological consequences, which
may, of course, wreck the whole organism, or, on the other hand, lead to an
unpredictable large increase in mental grasp and efficiency. It is on account of this
delicate balance between physiological and psychological factors that the future, as
well as the present, will be full of dangerous turning-points and pitfalls. We shall
have very sane reactionaries at all periods warning us to remain in the natural and
primitive state of humanity, which is usually the last stage but one in their cultural
history. But the secondary consequences of what men have already done – the
reactionaries as much as any – will carry them away then as now. Obviously certain
considerable psychological displacements or perversions must occur to balance the
physiological perversions. The sexual instincts in particular, which still find
considerable direct gratification, would be unrecognizably changed. One may assume
that there is some kind of principle of psychological conservation which will prevent
them, as it has prevented them up to the present, being suppressed altogether. But
what will they be changed into? The solution may be an extension of sublimation, a
process which is at present outside conscious control but which may not always
remain so. A part of sexuality may go to research, and a much larger part must lead
to æsthetic creation. The art of the future will, because of the very opportunities and
materials it will have at its command, need an infinitely stronger formative impulse
than it does now. The cardinal tendency of progress is the replacement of an
indifferent chance environment by a deliberately created one. As time goes on, the
acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less
needed. In its place will come the need to determine the desirable form of the
humanly-controlled universe which is nothing more nor less than art.
The psychology of a complex mind must differ almost as much from that of a
simple, mechanizedmind as its psychologywould from ours; because something that
must underlie and perhaps be even greater than sex is involved. By the intimate
intercommunication of minds, the very existence of the ego would be impaired for
the first time. Some kind of equilibrium will have to be found between each partial
and corporate personality. This we can vaguely adumbrate when we think of the
conflicts involved between ego and sexual impulses, the latter attempting always to
break the isolation of the former and reach out to another individual or a group. If it
is once possible to achieve this reaching out of feeling, the results are bound to be
enormous and perhaps overwhelming. Will the corporate personalities form greater
and greater complexes until there is only one intelligence, or will there be a
multiplication of separate and differently-evolving complexes with resulting
conflicts? Spatial considerations seem on the whole to favor the latter view, but we
must allow for enormous increases in communications and in the capacityfor rational

Another even deeper psychological consideration arises at this point. What is to
be the future of feeling? Is it to be perverted or superseded altogether? In other
words, are the mechanical or corporate men of the future to be emotional or rational?
Here we have very little to guide us; we are not certain whether the comparative
coldness of modern intellectualism is the effect of considerable development or of
dangerous perversion. Even if we did know the answer to this it would hardly help
us, since our new beings would have a different physiological balance. This balance
will not be, as in us, at the mercy of the uncontrolled interactions of individual and
environment. Feeling, or at any rate, feeling-tones, will almost certainly be under
conscious control: a feeling-tone will be induced in order to favor the performance
of a particular kind of operation. Of course, it would be excessively dangerous for
human beings in their present state to have this control of their feelings. A great
majority would probably be content to remain in a state of more or less ecstatic
happiness, but the man of the future will probably have discovered that happiness is
not an end of life. This is as far as we may go even in guessing. The psychology of
the completely mechanized organism must remain a mystery.

Viewed from the standpoint of the present the carrying out of such a program of
human development must seem a very pointless occupation; but it is doubtful
whether the present civilization would appear to an educated Athenian as something
worthy to mark the culmination of his efforts. We must not assume a static
psychology and a further static knowledge. The immediate future which is our own
desire, we seek; in achieving it we become different; becoming different we desire
something new, so there is no staleness except when development itself has stopped.
Moreover, development, even in the most refined stages, will always be a very
critical process; the dangers to the whole structure of humanity and its successors will
not decrease as their wisdom increases, because, knowing more and wanting more
theywill dare more, and in daring will risk their own destruction. But this daring, this
experimentation, is really the essential quality of life.


By now it should be possible to make a picture of the general scheme of development
as a unified whole, and though each part may seem plausible in detail, yet in some
obscure way the total result seems unbelievable. This disbelief may be well founded,
for what is suggested is not so much a fulfilling as a transformation of humanity, a
setting up of what is virtually a new species or several new species, and a mode of
setting up which is in itself a departure from the time-hallowed methods of evolution.
Now, I believe, that this scheme is more than a bare possibility, that it, or something
like it, has about an even chance of occurring; but I must justify this belief not by
hypothetics of the future but by analysis of causes acting in the present. Perhaps the
most fruitful way is to ask the question, "What is the effective purpose of the human
race as it now is?" We can eliminate such satisfactory answers as "For the glory of
God," because, however true, they do not differentiate humanity from other parts of
creation. The answer one seeks is the historical and economic one. Human societies
are recent products and, up to the present, can be essentially qualified as co-operative
food-producing societies – or perhaps, to include comfort, as co-operative
body-satisfying societies. They are distinguished in this way from insect societies,
which are essentially, as Wheeler has pointed out, reproductive societies. True, in
fulfilling the function of securing a brood, insect societies have gone far in becoming
food producing units, and the complementary process in man is shown by the
increased care taken over education; but devotion to children has never been the
mainspring of human activity. Hunger and sex still dominate the primitive
mammalian side of human existence, but at the present time it looks as if humanity
were within sight of their satisfaction. Permanent plenty, no longer a Utopian dream,
awaits the arrival of permanent peace. Even now, through rationalized capitalism or
Soviet state planning, the problem of the production and distribution of necessaries
to the primarysatisfaction of all human beings, is being pushed forward with uniform
and intelligent method. Stupidity and the perversityof separate interests mayhold the
consummation back for centuries, but it must come gradually and surely.
Now supposing this state achieved or approximating to achievement, what is to
become of humanity? Is it, like the stabilized insect societies, to settle down to an
eternity of methodical enjoyment, or is there appearing, by some unforeseen chance,
a new objective, a new reason for existing beyond the calls of hunger and lust? The
primates, and subsequently man, developed intelligence in order to satisfy their
desires in a world that was getting more and more difficult to live in. They developed
it as primitive plants develop the habit of eating, or fish that of breathing, and just as
those plants became animals who lived to eat and those fish became animals who
lived to breathe, so we may, in time, come to live to think instead of thinking to live.
But this biological analogy carries a very suggestive element; more fish remain in the
sea than ever came out of it. It is not the habit of the evolutionary process to
transform the whole of one state of living into another. Rather does nature pick some
particularly happy development and allow it to expand in the place of and even at the
expense of her earlier efforts. If man is to develop something new, the insistent
question is, whether all humanity is going to develop or only a part of it? The
biological analogy in favor of the latter would be overwhelming if man were an
ordinary species, but it happens that at the moment, for the first time in history, he
consists virtually of one society, and we have no precedent for the development of
any new types, particularly of solitary types, from the middle of a single society; but
what, of course, could develop from a society would be another society, at first
simply a part of it, but afterwards differentiating itself more and more clearly.
If we consider only those alternatives that lead to development, leaving on one
side the not impossible state in which mankind would be stabilized and live an
oscillating existence for millennia, we have to consider, in the light of the present,
the alternatives: whether mankind will progress as a whole or will divide definitely
into a progressive and an unprogressive part. [DIMORPHE EVOLUTION] Over and over again in history there has
occurred the raising of a particular class or a particular culture to a point at which
there seemed a permanent gulf between it and other cultures or classes. Yet the gulf
was not permanent; the particular aristocracyfell or its advantages spread themselves
so widely that they became common stock. The cause for this is not obscure: first, the
aristocrats differed only superficially from the many, and secondly they were not
progressing themselves in such a wayas to increase their distance and leave humanity
behind. The present aristocracy of western culture, at the moment when it most
clearly dominates the world, is being imitated rapidly and successfully in every
eastern country. It is not on the lines of a cultural aristocracy or the formation of a
class more able to lead the good life that the splitting of the human race is likely to
occur; because such aristocracies are onlyreaching to a more complete humanity, and
where they lead the race will follow. It is rather the aristocracy of scientific
intelligence that may give rise to new developments. They have come down the
earlier centuries, scattered singly or in small groups, but the mechanical revolution
and its consequences have increased their number and at the same time their
compactness. More and more, the world may be run by the scientific expert. The new
nations, America, China and Russia, have begun to adapt to this idea consciously.
Scientific bodies naturally are at first conceived of as advisory and theywill probably
never become anything else; but, with every advance in the direction of a more
rational psychology, the power of advice will increase and that of force
proportionately decrease. This development, coupled with the broadening of the idea
of private interest to include, almost necessarily, some consideration of humanity,
will tend to center real sovereigntyin advisorybodies. 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 Daedalus 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. [SCHÖNE NEUE WELT] But this cannot happen
unless the ruling powers are scientists themselves. For a state in which the present
rulers impose themselves in this way, the prospect of which so appalls Mr. Bertrand
Russell, though possible, is essentially unstable and bound to lead to revolution,
which would be brought about by the gradually increasing inefficiency of the rulers
and the increasinglyeffective insurgence of the excluded intelligent. Even a scientific
state could only maintain itself by perpetually increasing its power over the
non-living and living environment. If it failed to do so, it would relapse into pedantry
and become a perfectly ordinaryaristocracy. 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, particularlyon 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. Mankind as a whole given peace, plenty and freedom, might well be content
to let alone the fanatical but useful people who chose to distort their bodies or blow
themselves into space; and if, at some time, the magnitude of the changes made them
aware that something important and terrifying had happened, it would then be too
late for them to do anything about it. Even if a wave to primitive obscurantism then
swept the world clear of the heresy of science, science would already be on its way
to the stars.

In tracing this development, however, we have neglected other weighty
considerations. Up to the present the cumulative edifice of science has been erected
by assistance as much from the practical world as from the learned, and scientists
themselves have never formed an hereditary or even a closed caste. In two ways the
progress of science depends upon non-scientific humanity. As experimentation
becomes more complex, the need for the co-operation in it of technical elements from
outside becomes greater and the modern laboratorytends increasinglyto resemble the
factory and to employ in its service increasing numbers of purely routine workers. If
development is to follow, even in the earliest stages, on the lines I have indicated
above, this necessity for economic and technical assistance will be multiplied many
times. More important still, the complexities of scientific – and particularly of
theoretical scientific – thought, calls for an ever greater number of first-class
intelligences, and the modern development of science can hardly be disconnected
from the political and economic changes which make it possible to recruit the
personnel of science from wider and wider circles. For until we can know from the
inspection of an infant or an ovum that it will develop into a genius, or else can from
any infant produce one by a suitable education we shall have to rely on the diffusion
of a general education in order to ensure that all capable minds are utilized.
This recruiting of science is the surest way of preventing a permanent human
di-morphism from arising, because it reinforces what is probably the strongest factor
involved, the emotional conservatism of the scientists themselves. The mere
observation of scientists should be sufficient at the present to show that any fear of
immediate di-morphism is unfounded. In every respect, save their work, they
resemble their non-scientific brothers, and no one would be more shocked than they
at the suggestion that they were raising up a new species and abandoning the bulk of
mankind. For whether they are inventing submarines or depth charges, they feel they
are serving humanity. The consciousness of solidarity – and even more, the
unconscious emotional identification with the group – is a terrific force binding
humanity together, and so long as individual scientists have it, di-morphism would
be impossible.

But the scientists are not masters of the destiny of science; the changes they bring
about may, without their knowing it, force them into positions which they would
never have chosen. Their curiosity and its effects may be stronger than their

These two obstacles to the separation of the scientists, though weighty, are of the
kind that would lose force with time, while those favoring their separation tend to
increase. The technical importance of the scientist is bound to give him the
independent administration of large funds and end the mendicant state in which he
exists at present. Scientific corporations might well become almost independent
states and be enabled to undertake their largest experiments without consulting the
outside world – a world which would be less and less able to judge what the
experiments were about. It is very probable that before the real independence of
science could make itself felt, the organization of the world would have to pass
through its present semi-capitalistic stage to complete proletarian dictatorship,
because it is unlikely that a scientific corporation would, in an ordinary capitalistic
state, be allowed to be so wealthy and powerful. In a Soviet state (not the state of the
present, but one freed from the danger of capitalist attack), the scientific intuitions
would in fact gradually become the government, and a further stage of the Marxian
hierarchyof domination would be reached. Scientists in such a stage would tend very
naturally to identify themselves with the progress of science itself than with that of
a class, a nation or a humanity outside science, while the rest of the population
would, by the diffusion of an education in which the highest values lay in a scientific
rather than in a moral or a political direction, be much less likely to oppose
effectively the development of science. Thus the balance which is now against the
splitting of mankind might well turn, almost imperceptibly, in the opposite direction.
The whole question is one largely of numbers, and would become entirely so as soon
as the quantity and quality of population were controlled by authority. From one
point of view the scientists would emerge as a new species and leave humanity
behind; from another, humanity – the humanity that counts – might seem to change
en bloc, leaving behind in a relatively primitive state those too stupid or too stubborn
to change. The latter view suggests another biological analogy: there may not be
room for both types in the same world and the old mechanism of extinction will
come into play. The better organized beings will be obliged in self-defense to reduce
the numbers of the others, until they are no longer seriously inconvenienced by them.
If, as we may well suppose, the colonization of space will have taken place or be
taking place while these changes are occurring, it may offer a very convenient
solution. Mankind – the old mankind – would be left in undisputed possession of the
earth, to be regarded by the inhabitants of the celestial spheres with a curious
reverence. The world might, in fact, be transformed into a human zoo, a zoo so
intelligently managed that its inhabitants are not aware that they are there merely for
the purposes of observation and experiment.

That prospect should please both sides: it should satisfy the scientists in their
aspirations towards further knowledge and further experience, and the humanists in
their looking for the good life on earth. But somehow it fails by the very virtue of its
being a possible and probable solutions on the lines of our own knowledge. We do
not really expect or want the probable; all, even the least religious, retain in their
minds when they think of the future, an idea of the deus ex machina, of some
transcendental, superhuman event which will, without their help, bring the universe
to perfection or destruction. We want the future to be mysterious and full of
supernatural power; and yet these very aspirations, so totally removed from the
physical world, have built this material civilization and will go on building it into the
future so long as there remains any relation between aspiration and action. But can
we count on this? Or, rather, have we not here the criterion which will decide the
direction of human development? We are on the point of being able to see the effects
of our actions and their probable consequences in the future; we hold the future still
timidly, but perceive it for the first time, as a function of our own action. Having seen
it, are we to turn away from something that offends the very nature of our earliest
desires, or is the recognition of our new powers sufficient to change those desires into
the service of the future which they will have to bring about?