The Difficulty Is To Persuade the Human Race To Acquiesce in Its Own Survival

Bertrand Russell? George Orwell? Arthur Koestler? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Humanity faces many existential dangers: hydrogen bombs, bioweapons, asteroid impacts, nanoplagues, and artificial intelligence. Yet, most of these dangers were created by humankind, and all can be ameliorated by wise decisions. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said something like:

The question is how to persuade humanity to consent in its own survival.

Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: The first atomic bombs were detonated in 1945. Scientists involved in the creation of these astonishingly powerful weapons began to publish “The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists” that same year. Bertrand Russell wrote a piece titled “The Atomic Bomb and the Prevention of War” for the periodical in October 1946 which discussed the momentous challenges emerging from the new scientific and technological advances. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

If any of the things that we value are to survive, the problem must be solved. How it can be solved is clear; the difficulty is to persuade the human race to acquiesce in its own survival. I cannot believe that this task is impossible.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Difficulty Is To Persuade the Human Race To Acquiesce in Its Own Survival


  1. 1946 October 1, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Volume 2, Numbers 7 and 8, The Atomic Bomb and the Prevention of War by Bertrand Russell, Start Page 19, Quote Page 21, Column 3, Published by The Atomic Scientists of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. (Google Books full view) link

So What? I Paint Fakes, Too

Pablo Picasso? Leonard Lyons? Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler? Arthur Koestler? Marshall McLuhan? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The most fascinating anecdote about authenticity that I have ever heard features Pablo Picasso repudiating a painting that he apparently created. Are you familiar with this tale? Would you please explore its provenance?

Quote Investigator: The earliest occurrence of this anecdote located by QI appeared in the popular syndicated column of Leonard Lyons in 1957. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

One of Picasso’s friends asked him to look at a picture he’d bought: “Is this a genuine Picasso?” The painter examined it and said, “No, it’s a fake.” The friend was crestfallen, then said: “Oh, well, I have this other one — a genuine Picasso.” The artist looked at the second picture and said: “That’s a fake, too” . . .”But that’s impossible,” said the friend, bewildered. “I saw you paint it myself”. . .“So what?” Picasso shrugged. “I paint fakes, too.”

Lyons did not identify the confused individual in this article, but ten years later in 1967 Lyons revisited the topic and pointed to Picasso’s art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler as the owner of the disavowed painting.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading So What? I Paint Fakes, Too


  1. 1957 February 22, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Picasso Can ‘Paint Fakes, Too’ by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 27, Column 1 and 2, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Newspapers_com)

Looked at the Right Way It Becomes Still More Complicated

Poul Anderson? Arthur Koestler? Anonymous?

poul08Dear Quote Investigator: The following statement has been called Anderson’s Law and Koestler’s motto:

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.

The words have been attributed to the prominent science fiction author Poul Anderson and the influential literary figure Arthur Koestler. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: In April 1957 Poul Anderson published a novelette titled “Call Me Joe” in the magazine “Astounding Science Fiction”. The story concerned a paraplegic who was given the task of psionically controlling an artificially constructed creature who was located on the planet Jupiter with its challenging environment. The tale has been reprinted frequently and appeared in prestigious collections of the “Hall of Fame” and “Masterpieces” variety. Curiously, the plot and situation displayed several parallels with the enormously popular movie “Avatar”. 1

One character named Jan Cornelius complained that he was visiting the satellite research station near Jupiter on a simple mission that should only take a few weeks, but he was required to spend 13 months waiting for a return spaceship to Earth. A scientist on the station named Arne Viken replied as follows. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

“Are you sure it’s that simple?” asked Viken gently. His face swiveled around, and there was something in his eyes that silenced Cornelius. “After all my time here, I’ve yet to see any problem, however complicated, which when you looked at it the right way didn’t become still more complicated.”

The popular modern version of this quotation differed slightly. The original employed the contractions “I’ve” and “don’t”. Also, it used the phrase “the right way” instead of “in the right way”. Arthur Koestler did include an instance of the saying in one of his books in 1967, but he did not claim credit; instead, he ascribed the words to Poul Anderson.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Looked at the Right Way It Becomes Still More Complicated


  1. Website: io9, Article Title: Did James Cameron Rip Off Poul Anderson’s Novella?, Article Author: Lauren Davis, Date: October 26, 2009, Website description: “io9 is a daily publication that covers science, culture, and the world of tomorrow”. (Accessed io9.comon June 15, 2015) link
  2. April 1957, Astounding Science Fiction, Edited by John W. Campbell Jr., Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson, Start Page 8, Quote Page 12, Published by Street & Smith Publications, New York. (Verified on paper; great thanks to Dennis Lien)