Albert Einstein? Victor Salva? Sean Patrick Flanery? Jeff Goldblum? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: There’s a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which I like a lot, but I’m not sure if it’s really his:
It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
Can you please tell me if it was said or written by him?
Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein made this statement. It does not appear in the comprehensive collection of quotations “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1
The earliest evidence of a closely matching quotation known to QI was in a 1995 movie called “Powder” which was written and directed by Victor Salva and starred Sean Patrick Flanery as the main character whose strong paranormal powers drove the plot. Flanery played Jeremy Reed who had an albino-like appearance and was given the nickname Powder. Near the end of the film there was a dialog between Reed and a character named Donald Ripley, a physics teacher played by Jeff Goldblum. The quotation was delivered by Ripley and then Reed immediately ascribed it to Einstein: 2
Donald Ripley: It’s become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.
Jeremy Reed: Albert Einstein.
Donald Ripley: I look at you, and I, I think that someday our humanity might actually surpass our technology.
The statement in this dialog is not identical to the one given by the questioner. For example, Ripley’s remark used the words “clear” and “surpassed” while the questioner’s instance used the words “obvious” and “exceeded”. But semantically they are quite close.
This article concludes after the presentation of one more citation.
- 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper) ↩
- YouTube video, Video excerpt from Powder (1995), [Powder: Production Company: Caravan Pictures], YouTube Title: “Powder (11/11)”, [Quote spoken at 5:13 of 10:00 minutes], Uploaded by Magazine30 on September 13, 2009. (Accessed youtube.com on October 24, 2012) link ↩