The legacy of H.G. Wells is not based on his authorship alone. Wells had the uncanny ability to write about scientific concepts before science itself was even aware of them. For example, Wells wrote about cell phones and tanks. He literally called the atomic bomb, atomic, 30 years before the Manhattan Project began. In his book The World Set Free Wells writes:
Few who adventured into these areas of destruction and survived attempted any repetition of their experiences. There are stories of puffs of luminous, radio-active vapour drifting sometimes scores of miles from the bomb centre and killing and scorching all they overtook.
He not only describes the after math of the explosion as “radio-active vapour”, he also accurately described how harmful and long lasting its effects would be. How could he have possibly predicted the power and longevity of the atomic bomb?
Despite the questions we can ask about Wells and his ability of foresight, Simon John James, Professor at Durham University, argues that we should pay more attention to his social predictions, not his scientific ones.
One of Well’s social predictions is that humanity will eventually end up in a Utopia. In his book The Work, Health, and Happiness of Mankind he takes a kind of Platonic view of society, which is that each member of society will have a role whether you are a peasant, nomad, or a priest. Wells writes; “the clearer the idea, the better organized the will in the personas of our species, the more hopeful and successful the working of the human ant-hill” will be.
In the end of the book he names this Utopia “The United States of the World.” This seems a bit misguided. His idea of a Utopia still has to identify one nation, America, over all the others. The concept is supposed to be one of total unity, not a global unity with one nation still in control. Utopia is a notoriously difficult concept to make practical, but Wells seems convinced that it is coming.
Maybe Wells is right. Maybe sometime in the future humanity will find a way to live together in harmony and “outgrow the idea of the nation state.” If his track record in the world of science carries over to politics in any way, then we may be looking forward to a truly glorious future. But for now we can safely say that Utopia, if at all possible, is too far into the future to see.
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