Make War a Mere Contest of Machines Without Men and Without Loss of Life

Nikola Tesla? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote investigator: The famous inventor Nikola Tesla envisioned a future in which human lives would be spared during warfare because advanced technology would allow the construction of fighting automatons. This would transform “battle into a mere spectacle” of machines in combat. Tesla hoped that the end of bloodshed would lead to an enduring peace. I am looking for a citation. Would you please help?

Quote investigator: In 1900 Nikola Tesla published an article in “The Century Magazine”. He described his construction of a model boat that could be steered and controlled via wireless signals. He called the device a “telautomaton”, and he suggested that full scale vessels could carry explosives. He also imagined more advanced telautomatons able to act independently of human control. Yet, Tesla’s paradoxical goal was the end of warfare. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

So long as men meet in battle, there will be bloodshed. Bloodshed will ever keep up barbarous passion. To break this fierce spirit, a radical departure must be made, an entirely new principle must be introduced, something that never existed before in warfare—a principle which will forcibly, unavoidably, turn the battle into a mere spectacle, a play, a contest without loss of blood. To bring on this result men must be dispensed with: machine must fight machine. But how accomplish that which seems impossible?

The answer is simple enough: produce a machine capable of acting as though it were part of a human being—no mere mechanical contrivance, comprising levers, screws, wheels, clutches, and nothing more, but a machine embodying a higher principle, which will enable it to perform its duties as though it had intelligence, experience reason, judgment, a mind!

Below are additional excerpts and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Make War a Mere Contest of Machines Without Men and Without Loss of Life

Notes:

  1. 1900 June, The Century Magazine, Volume 60, Number 2, The Problem of Increasing Human Energy With Special Reference To the Harnessing of the Sun’s Energy by Nikola Tesla, Start Page 175, Quote Page 184, Column 1, The Century Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

You May Live To See Man-Made Horrors Beyond Your Comprehension

Nikola Tesla? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Nikola Tesla was a brilliant inventor and showman with a science fictional mystique. The following ominous quotation is attributed to him:

You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.

Would you please help to find a solid citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a 1947 “Esquire” magazine profile of Nikola Tesla titled “Ahead of His Time” by Dick Holdsworth. The quotation was spoken by the inventor during a demonstration held in New York: 1

At the first Electrical Exhibition held in the old Madison Square Garden in 1898 the inventor astonished spectators as he controlled by radio remote control an iron rowboat, which floated in a large tank of water in the center of the arena.

Tesla successfully operated a propeller attached to an electric motor, and he guided the small boat through intricate movements with a rudder. The observer’s reactions to the remarkable display were influenced by a mysterious event that occurred in February 1898. An explosion ripped through the warship USS Maine while it was docked in Havana Harbor and it quickly sank. Unsurprisingly, an unnamed military man observing Tesla’s demonstration envisioned the watercraft as a potential weapon, Emphasis added by QI: 2

“Why, with your radio boat—loaded with dynamite—we would have any enemy navy in the world at the bottom in no time,” exclaimed an admiral who saw the demonstration.

“With this principle,” replied Nikola Tesla more prophetically than he knew, “you may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.”

Tesla’s words were reportedly spoken forty-nine years before the “Esquire” article appeared in 1947, and Tesla himself died four years before publication in 1943. Thus, the credibility of this ascriptional evidence is reduced. Perhaps future researchers will be able to build on this lead.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You May Live To See Man-Made Horrors Beyond Your Comprehension

Notes:

  1. 1947 October, Esquire, Volume 28, Number 4, Ahead of His Time by Dick Holdsworth, Start Page 124, Quote Page 125, Column 1, Esquire Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)
  2. 1947 October, Esquire, Volume 28, Number 4, Ahead of His Time by Dick Holdsworth, Start Page 124, Quote Page 125, Column 1, Esquire Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)