Nikola Tesla is often cited as geekdom's favorite inventor—advocate of alternating current, pursuer of wireless electricity and the death ray—but some of his beliefs about the future of science and culture wouldn't be quite so popular today. In addition to his predictions about labor-saving robots and his claims that his death ray would put an end to war, Tesla predicted that eugenics programs would improve the human race of the 21st century.
Matt Novak of Paleofuture points us to an article in the February 9, 1935 issue of Liberty Magazine, titled "A Machine To End War." In it, Tesla plays futurist, offering his predictions on society and technology for the century ahead. Some fans of Tesla might be surprised to learn of his unquestioning belief in the virtues of sterilization and strategic human mating:
The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established. In past ages, the law governing the survival of the fittest roughly weeded out the less desirable strains. Then man's new sense of pity began to interfere with the ruthless workings of nature. As a result, we continue to keep alive and to breed the unfit. The only method compatible with our notions of civilization and the race is to prevent the breeding of the unfit by sterilization and the deliberate guidance of the mating instinct. Several European countries and a number of states of the American Union sterilize the criminal and the insane. This is not sufficient. The trend of opinion among eugenists is that we must make marriage more difficult. Certainly no one who is not a desirable parent should be permitted to produce progeny. A century from now it will no more occur to a normal person to mate with a person eugenically unfit than to marry a habitual criminal.
While Tesla certainly wasn't alone in his eugenics advocacy, Novak notes that his statement here is a bit ironic given that Tesla's own mental illness might have branded him as "undesirable" for producing progeny. But it follows with Tesla's other predictions for future physical fitness. He predicted that a Secretary of Hygiene and Physical Culture would be the most important US cabinet position by 2035, and that stimulants like coffee, tea, and tobacco would fall out of vogue. (Alcohol, on the other hand, would endure as "a veritable elixir of life.")
While much of the article is devoted to marketing Tesla's claims about the pacifying power of the death ray, it provides an interesting insight into Tesla's feeling about religion, technology, and the world of the 21st century.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.