Century Illustrated Magazine, June 1900
by Nikola Tesla
M represent the mass of man. This mass is impelled in one direction by a force f, which is resisted by another partly frictional and partly negative force R, acting in a direction exactly opposite, and retarding the movement of the mass. Such an antagonistic force is present in every movement and must be taken into consideration. The difference between these two forces is the effective force which imparts a velocity V to the mass M in the direction of the arrow on the line representing the force f. In accordance with the preceding, the human energy will then be given by the product — MV2 = — MV x V, in which M is the total mass of man in the ordinary interpretation of the term „mass,” and V is a certain hypothetical velocity, which, in the present state of science, we are unable exactly to define and determine. To increase the human energy is, therefore, equivalent to increasing this product, and there are, as will readily be seen, only three ways possible to attain this result, which are illustrated in the above diagram. The first way shown in the top figure, is to increase the mass (as indicated by the dotted circle), leaving the two opposing forces the same.
The second way is to reduce the retarding force R to a smaller value r, leaving the mass and the impelling force the same, as diagrammatically shown in the middle figure.
The third way, which is illustrated in the last figure, is to increase the impelling force f to a higher value F, while the mass and the retarding force Rremain unaltered. Evidently fixed limits exist as regards increase of mass and reduction of retarding force, but the impelling force can be increased indefinitely. Each of these three possible solutions presents a different aspect of the main problem of increasing human energy, which is thus divided into three distinct problems, to be successively considered.
THE FIRST PROBLEM: HOW TO INCREASE THE HUMAN MASS—THE BURNING OF ATMOSPHERIC NITROGEN.
Viewed generally, there are obviously two ways of increasing the mass of mankind: first, by aiding and maintaining those forces and conditions which tend to increase it; and, second, by opposing and reducing those which tend to diminish it. The mass will be increased by careful attention to health, by substantial food, by moderation, by regularity of habits, by promotion of marriage, by conscientious attention to children, and, generally stated, by the observance of all the many precepts and laws of religion and hygiene. But in adding new mass to the old, three cases again present themselves. Either the mass added is of the same velocity as the old, or it is of a smaller or of a higher velocity. To gain an idea of the relative importance of these cases, imagine a train composed of, say, one hundred locomotives running on a track, and suppose that, to increase the energy of the moving mass, four more locomotives are added to the train. If these four move at the same velocity at which the train is going, the total energy will be increased four per cent.; if they are moving at only one half of that velocity, the increase will amount to only one per cent.; if they are moving at twice that velocity, the increase of energy will be sixteen per cent. This simple illustration shows that it is of greatest importance to add mass of a higher velocity. Stated more to the point, if, for example, the children be of the same degree of enlightenment as the parents,—that is, mass of the „same velocity,”—the energy will simply increase proportionately to the number added. If they are less intelligent or advanced, or mass of „smaller velocity,” there will be a very slight gain in the energy; but if they are further advanced, or mass of „higher velocity,” then the new generation will add very considerably to the sum total of human energy. any addition of mass of „smaller velocity,” beyond that indispensable amount required by the law expressed in the proverb, „Mens sana in corpore sano,” should be strenuously opposed. For instance, the mere development of muscle, as aimed at in some of our colleges, I consider equivalent to adding mass of „smaller velocity,” and I would not commend it, although my views were different when I was a student myself. Moderate exercise, insuring the right balance between mind and body, and the highest efficiency of performance, is, of course, a prime requirement. The above example shows that the most important result to be attained is the education, or the increase of the „velocity,” of the mass newly added.
Conversely, it scarcely need be stated that everything that is against the teachings of religion and the laws of hygiene is tending to decrease the mass. Whisky, wine, tea coffee, tobacco, and other such stimulants are responsible for the shortening of the lives of many, and ought to be used with moderation. But I do not think that rigorous measures of suppression of habits followed through many generations are commendable. It is wiser to preach moderation than abstinence. We have become accustomed to these stimulants, and if such reforms are to be effected, they must be slow and gradual. Those who are devoting their energies to such ends could make themselves far more useful by turning their efforts in other directions, as, for instance, toward providing pure water.
For every person who perishes from the effects of a stimulant, at least a thousand die from the consequences of drinking impure water. This precious fluid, which daily infuses new life into us, is likewise the chief vehicle through which disease and death enter our bodies. The germs of destruction it conveys are enemies all the more terrible as they perform their fatal work unperceived. They seal our doom while we live and enjoy. The majority of people are so ignorant or careless in drinking water, and the consequences of this are so disastrous, that a philanthropist can scarcely use his efforts better than by endeavoring to enlighten those who are thus injuring themselves. By systematic purification and sterilization of the drinking water the human mass would be very considerably increased. It should be made a rigid rule—which might be enforced by law—to boil or to sterilize otherwise the drinking water in every household and public place. The mere filtering does not afford sufficient security against infection. All ice for internal uses should be artificially prepared from water thoroughly sterilized. The importance of eliminating germs of disease from the city water is generally recognized, but little is being done to improve the existing conditions, as no satisfactory method of sterilizing great quantities of water has yet been brought forward. By improved electrical appliances we are now enabled to produce ozone cheaply and in large amounts, and this ideal disinfectant seems to offer a happy solution of the important question.
Gambling, business rush, and excitement, particularly on the exchanges, are causes of much mass reduction, all the more so because the individuals concerned represent units of higher value. Incapacity of observing the first symptoms of an illness, and careless neglect of the same, are important factors of mortality. In noting carefully every new sign of approaching danger, and making conscientiously every possible effort to avert it, we are not only following wise laws of hygiene in the interest of our well-being and the success of our labors, but we are also complying with a higher moral duty. Everyone should consider his body as a priceless gift from one whom he loves above all, as a marvelous work of art, of indescribable beauty and mastery beyond human conception, and so delicate and frail that a word, a breath, a look, nay, a thought, may injure it. Uncleanliness, which breeds disease and death, is not only a self destructive but highly immoral habit. In keeping our bodies free from infection, healthful, and pure, we are expressing our reverence for the high principle with which they are endowed. He who follows the precepts of hygiene in this spirit is proving himself, so far, truly religious. Laxity of morals is a terrible evil, which poisons both mind and body, and which is responsible for a great reduction of the human mass in some countries. Many of the present customs and tendencies are productive of similar hurtful results. For example, the society life, modern education and pursuits of women, tending to draw them away from their household duties and make men out of them, must needs detract from the elevating ideal they represent, diminish the artistic creative power, and cause sterility and a general weakening of the race. A thousand other evils might be mentioned, but all put together, in their bearing upon the problem under discussion, they could not equal a single one, the want of food, brought on by poverty, destitution, and famine. Millions of individuals die yearly for want of food, thus keeping down the mass. Even in our enlightened communities, and not withstanding the many charitable efforts, this is still, in all probability, the chief evil. I do not mean here absolute want of food, but want of healthful nutriment.
How to provide good and plentiful food is, therefore, a most important question of the day. On the general principles the raising of cattle as a means of providing food is objectionable, because, in the sense interpreted above, it must undoubtedly tend to the addition of mass of a „smaller velocity.” It is certainly preferable to raise vegetables, and I think, therefore, that vegetarianism is a commendable departure from the established barbarous habit. That we can subsist on plant food and perform our work even to advantage is not a theory, but a well-demonstrated fact. Many races living almost exclusively on vegetables are of superior physique and strength. There is no doubt that some plant food, such as oatmeal, is more economical than meat, and superior to it in regard to both mechanical and mental performance. Such food, moreover, taxes our digestive organs decidedly less, and, in making us more contented and sociable, produces an amount of good difficult to estimate. In view of these facts every effort should be made to stop the wanton and cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals. To free ourselves from animal instincts and appetites, which keep us down, we should begin at the very root from which we spring: we should effect a radical reform in the character of the food.
There seems to be no philosophical necessity for food. We can conceive of organized beings living without nourishment, and deriving all the energy they need for the performance of their life functions from the ambient medium. In a crystal we have the clear evidence of the existence of a formative life-principle, and though we cannot understand the life of a crystal, it is none the less a living being. There may be, besides crystals, other such individualized, material systems of beings, perhaps of gaseous constitution, or composed of substance still more tenuous. In view of this possibility,—nay, probability, we cannot apodictically deny the existence of organized beings on a planet merely because the conditions on the same are unsuitable for the existence of life as we conceive it. We cannot even, with positive assurance, assert that some of them might not be present here, in this our world, in the very midst of us, for their constitution and life-manifestation may be such that we are unable to perceive them.
The production of artificial food as a means for causing an increase of the human mass naturally suggests itself, but a direct attempt of this kind to provide nourishment does not appear to me rational, at least not for the present. Whether we could thrive on such food is very doubtful. We are the result of ages of continuous adaptation, and we cannot radically change without unforeseen and, in all probability, disastrous consequences. So uncertain an experiment should not be tried. By far the best way, it seems to me, to meet the ravages of the evil, would be to find ways of increasing the productivity of the soil. With this object the preservation of forests is of an importance which cannot be overestimated, and in this connection, also, the utilization of water-power for purposes of electrical transmission, dispensing in many ways with the necessity of burning wood, and tending thereby to forest preservation, is to be strongly advocated. But there are limits in the improvement to be effected in this and similar ways.
To increase materially the productivity of the soil, it must be more effectively fertilized by artificial means. The question of food-production resolves itself, then, into the question how best to fertilize the soil. What it is that made the soil is still a mystery. To explain its origin is probably equivalent to explaining the origin of life itself. The rocks, disintegrated by moisture and heat and wind and weather, were in themselves not capable of maintaining life. Some unexplained condition arose, and some new principle came into effect, and the first layer capable of sustaining low organisms, like mosses was formed. These, by their life and death, added more of the life sustaining quality to the soil, and higher organisms could then subsist, and so on and on, until at last highly developed plant and animal life could flourish. But though the theories are, even now, not in agreement as to how fertilization is effected, it is a fact, only too well ascertained, that the soil cannot indefinitely sustain life, and some way must be found to supply it with the substances which have been abstracted from it by the plants. The chief and most valuable among these substances are compounds of nitrogen, and the cheap production of these is, therefore, the key for the solution of the all-important food problem. Our atmosphere contains an inexhaustible amount of nitrogen, and could we but oxidize it and produce these compounds, an incalculable benefit for mankind would follow.
Long ago this idea took a powerful hold on the imagination of scientific men, but an efficient means for accomplishing this result could not be devised. The problem was rendered extremely difficult by the extraordinary inertness of the nitrogen, which refuses to combine even with oxygen. But here electricity comes to our aid: the dormant affinities of the element are awakened by an electric current of the proper quality. As a lump of coal which has been in contact with oxygen for centuries without burning will combine with it when once ignited, so nitrogen, excited by electricity, will burn. I did not succeed, however, in producing electrical discharges exciting very effectively the atmospheric nitrogen until a comparatively recent date, although I showed, in May, 1891, in a scientific lecture, a novel form of discharge or electrical flame named „St. Elmo’s hotfire,” which, besides being capable of generating ozone in abundance, also possessed, as I pointed out on that occasion, distinctly the quality of exciting chemical affinities. This discharge or flame was then only three or four inches long, its chemical action was likewise very feeble, and consequently the process of oxidation of nitrogen was wasteful. How to intensify this action was the question. Evidently electric currents of a peculiar kind had to be produced in order to render the process of nitrogen combustion more efficient.
The first advance was made in ascertaining that the chemical activity of the discharge was very considerably increased by using currents of extremely high frequency or rate of vibration. This was an important improvement, but practical considerations soon set a definite limit to the progress in this direction. Next, the effects of the electrical pressure of the current impulses, of their wave-form and other characteristic features, were investigated. Then the influence of the atmospheric pressure and temperature and of the presence of water and other bodies was studied, and thus the best conditions for causing the most intense chemical action of the discharge and securing the highest efficiency of the process were gradually ascertained. Naturally, the improvements were not quick in coming; still, little by little, I advanced. The flame grew larger and larger, and its oxidizing action grew more intense. From an insignificant brush-discharge a few inches long it developed into a marvelous electrical phenomenon, a roaring blaze, devouring the nitrogen of the atmosphere and measuring sixty or seventy feet across. Thus slowly, almost imperceptibly, possibility became accomplishment. All is not yet done, by any means, but to what a degree my efforts have been rewarded an idea may be gained from an inspection of Fig. 1 (p. 176), which, with its title, is self explanatory. The flame-like discharge visible is produced by the intanse electrical oscillations which pass through the coil shown, and violently agitate the electrified molecules of the air. By this means a strong affinity is created between the two normally indifferent constituents of the atmosphere, and they combine readily, even if no further provision is made for intensifying the chemical action of the discharge. In the manufacture of nitrogen compounds by this method, of course, every possible means bearing upon the intensity of this action and the efficiency of the process will be taken advantage of, and, besides, special arrangements will be provided for the fixation of the compounds formed, as they are generally unstable, the nitrogen becoming again inert after a little lapse of time. Steam is a simple and effective means for fixing permanently the compounds. The result illustrated makes it practicable to oxidize the atmospheric nitrogen in unlimited quantities, merely by the use of cheap mechanical power and simple electrical apparatus. In this manner many compounds of nitrogen may be manufactured all over the world, at a small cost, and in any desired amount, and by means of these compounds the soil can be fertilized and its productiveness indefinitely increased. An abundance of cheap and healthful food, not artificial, but such as we are accustomed to, may thus be obtained. This new and inexhaustible source of food-supply will be of incalculable benefit to mankind, for it will enormously contribute to the increase of the human mass, and thus add immensely to human energy. Soon, I hope, the world will see the beginning of an industry which, in time to come, will, I believe, be in importance next to that if iron.
THE SECOND PROBLEM: HOW TO REDUCE THE FORCE RETARDING THE HUMAN MASS—THE ART OF TELAUTOMATICS.
As before stated, the force which retards the onward movement of man is partly frictional and partly negative. To illustrate this distinction I may name, for example, ignorance, stupidity, and imbecility as some of the purely frictional forces, or resistances devoid of any directive tendency. On the other hand, visionariness, insanity, self-destructive tendency, religious fanaticism, and the like, are all forces of a negative character, acting in definite directions. To reduce or entirely overcome these dissimilar retarding forces, radically different methods must be employed. One knows, for instance, what a fanatic may do, and one can take preventive measures, can enlighten, convince, and, possibly direct him, turn his vice into virtue; but one does not know, and never can know, what a brute or an imbecile may do, and one must deal with him as with a mass, inert, without mind, let loose by the mad elements. A negative force always implies some quality, not infrequently a high one, though badly directed, which it is possible to turn to good advantage; but a directionless, frictional force involves unavoidable loss. Evidently, then, the first and general answer to the above question is: turn all negative force in the right direction and reduce all frictional force.
There can be no doubt that, of all the frictional resistances, the one that most retards human movement is ignorance. Not without reason said that man of wisdom, Buddha: „Ignorance is the greatest evil in the world.” The friction which results from ignorance, and which is greatly increased owing to the numerous languages and nationalities, can be reduced only by the spread of knowledge and the unification of the heterogeneous elements of humanity. No effort could be better spent. But however ignorance may have retarded the onward movement of man in times past, it is certain that, nowadays, negative forces have become of greater importance. Among these there is one of far greater moment than any other. It is called organized warfare. When we consider the millions of individuals, often the ablest in mind and body, the flower of humanity, who are compelled to a life of inactivity and unproductiveness, the immense sums of money daily required for the maintenance of armies and war apparatus, representing ever so much of human energy, all the effort uselessly spent in the production of arms and implements of destruction, the loss of life and the fostering of a barbarous spirit, we are appalled at the inestimable loss to mankind which the existence of these deplorable conditions must involve. What can we do to combat best this great evil?
Law and order absolutely require the maintenance of organized force. No community can exist and prosper without rigid discipline. Every country must be able to defend itself, should the necessity arise. The conditions of to-day are not the result of yesterday, and a radical change cannot be effected to-morrow. If the nations would at once disarm, it is more than likely that a state of things worse than war itself would follow. Universal peace is a beautiful dream, but not at once realizable. We have seen recently that even the nobel effort of the man invested with the greatest worldly power has been virtually without effect. And no wonder, for the establishment of universal peace is, for the time being, a physical impossibility. War is a negative force, and cannot be turned in a positive direction without passing through, the intermediate phases. It is a problem of making a wheel, rotating one way, turn in the opposite direction without slowing it down, stopping it, and speeding it up again the other way.
It has been argued that the perfection of guns of great destructive power will stop warfare. So I myself thought for a long time, but now I believe this to be a profound mistake. Such developments will greatly modify, but not arrest it. On the contrary, I think that every new arm that is invented, every new departure that is made in this direction, merely invites new talent and skill, engages new effort, offers new incentive, and so only gives a fresh impetus to further development. Think of the discovery of gun-powder. Can we conceive of any more radical departure than was effected by this innovation? Let us imagine ourselves living in that period: would we not have thought then that warfare was at an end, when the armor of the knight became an object of ridicule, when bodily strength and skill, meaning so much before, became of comparatively little value? Yet gunpowder did not stop warfare: quite the opposite—it acted as a most powerful incentive. Nor do I believe that warfare can ever be arrested by any scientific or ideal development, so long as similar conditions to those prevailing now exist, because war has itself become a science, and because war involves some of the most sacred sentiments of which man is capable. In fact, it is doubtful whether men who would not be ready to fight for a high principle would be good for anything at all. It is not the mind which makes man, nor is it the body; it is mind and body. Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.
Another argument, which carries considerable force, is frequently made, namely, that war must soon become impossible be cause the means of defense are outstripping the means of attack. This is only in accordance with a fundamental law which may be expressed by the statement that it is easier to destroy than to build. This law defines human capacities and human conditions. Were these such that it would be easier build than to destroy, man would go on unresisted, creating and accumulating without limit. Such conditions are not of this earth. A being which could do this would not be a man: it might be a god. Defense will always have the advantage over attack, but this alone, it seems to me, can never stop war. By the use of new principles of defense we can render harbors impregnable against attack, but we cannot by such means prevent two warships meeting in battle on the high sea. And then, if we follow this idea to its ultimate development, we are led to the conclusion that it would be better for mankind if attack and defense were just oppositely related; for if every country, even the smallest, could surround itself with a wall absolutely impenetrable, and could defy the rest of the world, a state of things would surely be brought on which would be extremely unfavorable to human progress. It is by abolishing all the barriers which separate nations and countries that civilization is best furthered.
Again, it is contended by some that the advent of the flying-machine must bring on universal peace. This, too, I believe to be an entirely erroneous view. The flying-machine is certainly coming, and very soon, but the conditions will remain the same as before. In fact, I see no reason why a ruling power, like Great Britain, might not govern the air as well as the sea. Without wishing to put myself on record as a prophet, I do not hesitate to say that the next years will see the establishment of an „air-power,” and its center may be not far from New York. But, for all that, men will fight on merrily.
The ideal development of the war principle would ultimately lead to the transformation of the whole energy of war into purely potential, explosive energy, like that of an electrical condenser. In this form the war-energy could be maintained without effort; it would need to be much smaller in amount, while incomparably more effective.
As regards the security of a country against foreign invasion, it is interesting to note that it depends only on the relative, and not the absolute, number of the individuals or magnitude of the forces, and that, if every country should reduce the war-force in the same ratio, the security would remain unaltered. An international agreement with the object of reducing to a minimum the war-force which, in view of the present still imperfect education of the masses, is absolutely indispensable, would, therefore, seem to be the first rational step to take toward diminishing the force retarding human movement.
Fortunately, the existing conditions cannot continue indefinitely, for a new element is beginning to assert itself. A change for the better is eminent, and I shall now endeavor to show what, according to my ideas, will be the first advance toward the establishment of peaceful relations between nations, and by what means it will eventually be accomplished.
Let us go back to the early beginning, when the law of the stronger was the only law. The light of reason was not yet kindled, and the weak was entirely at the mercy of the strong. The weak individual then began to learn how to defend himself. He made use of a club, stone, spear, sling, or bow and arrow, and in the course of time, instead of physical strength, intelligence became the chief deciding factor in the battle. The wild character was gradually softened by the awakening of noble sentiments, and so, imperceptibly, after ages of continued progress, we have come from the brutal fight of the unreasoning animal to what we call the „civilized warfare” of to-day, in which the combatants shake hands, talk in a friendly way, and smoke cigars in the entr’actes, ready to engage again in deadly conflict at a signal. Let pessimists say what they like, here is an absolute evidence of great and gratifying advance.
But now, what is the next phase in this evolution? Not peace as yet, by any means. The next change which should naturally follow from modern developments should be the continuous diminution of the number of individuals engaged in battle. The apparatus will be one of specifically great power, but only a few individuals will be required to operate it. This evolution will bring more and more into prominence a machine or mechanism with the fewest individuals as an element of warfare, and the absolutely unavoidable consequence of this will be the abandonment of large, clumsy, slowly moving, and unmanageable units. Greatest possible speed and maximum rate of energy-delivery by the war apparatus will be the main object. The loss of life will become smaller and smaller, and finally, the number of the individuals continuously diminishing, merely machines will meet in a contest without blood-shed, the nations being simply interested, ambitious spectators. When this happy condition is realized, peace will be assured. But, no matter to what degree of perfection rapid-fire guns, high-power cannon, explosive projectiles, torpedo-boats, or other implements of war may be brought, no matter how destructive they may be made, that condition can never be reached through any such development. All such implements require men for their operation; men are indispensable parts of the machinery. Their object is to kill and to destroy. Their power resides in their capacity for doing evil. 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 per form its duties as though it had intelligence, experience, judgment, a mind! This conclusion is the result of my thoughts and observations which have extended through virtually my whole life, and I shall now briefly describe how I came to accomplish that which at first seemed an unrealizable dream.
A long time ago, when I was a boy, I was afflicted with a singular trouble, which seems to have been due to an extraordinary excitability of the retina. It was the appearance of images which, by their persistence, marred the vision of real objects and interfered with thought. When a word was said to me, the image of the object which it designated would appear vividly before my eyes, and many times it was impossible for me to tell whether the object I saw was real or not. This caused me great discomfort and anxiety, and I tried hard to free myself of the spell. But for a long time I tried in vain, and it was not, as I clearly recollect, until I was about twelve years old that I succeeded for the first time, by an effort of the will, in banishing an image which presented itself. My happiness will never be as complete as it was then, but, unfortunately (as I thought at that time), the old trouble returned, and with it my anxiety. Here it was that the observations to which I refer began. I noted, namely, that whenever the image of an object appeared before my eyes I had seen something that reminded me of it. In the first instances I thought this to be purely accidental, but soon I convinced myself that it was not so. A visual impression, consciously or unconsciously received, invariably preceded the appearance of the image. Gradually the desire arose in me to find out, every time, what caused the images to appear, and the satisfaction of this desire soon became a necessity. The next observation I made was that, just as these images followed as a result of something I had seen, so also the thoughts which I conceived were suggested in like manner. Again, I experienced the same desire to locate the image which caused the thought, and this search for the original visual impression soon grew to be a second nature. My mind became automatic, as it were, and in the course of years of continued, almost unconscious performance, I acquired the ability of locating every time and, as a rule, instantly the visual impression which started the thought. Nor is this all. It was not long before I was aware that also all my movements were prompted in the same way, and so, searching, observing, and verifying continuously, year by year, I have, by every thought and every act of mine, demonstrated, and do so daily, to my absolute satisfaction, that I am an automaton endowed with power of movement, which merely responds to external stimuli beating upon my sense organs, and thinks and acts and moves accordingly. I remember only one or two cases in all my life in which I was unable to locate the first impression which prompted a movement or a thought,or even a dream.
FIG. 2. THE FIRST PRACTICAL TELAUTOMATON. A machine having all the bodily or translatory movements and the operations of the interior mechanism controlled from a distance without wires. The crewless boat shown in the photograph contains its own motive power, propelling and steering machinery, and numerous other accessories, all of which are controlled by transmitting from a distance, without wires, electrical oscillations to a circuit carried by the boat and adjusted to respond only to these oscillations.
With these experiences it was only natural that, long ago, I conceived the idea of constructing an automaton which would mechanically represent me, and which would respond, as I do myself, but, of course, in a much more primitive manner, to external influences. Such an automaton evidently had to have motive power, organs for locomotion, directive organs, and one or more sensitive organs so adapted as to be excited by external stimuli. This machine would, I reasoned, perform its movements in the manner of a living being, for it would have all the chief mechanical characteristics or elements of the same. There was still the capacity for growth, propagation, and, above all, the mind which would be wanting to make the model complete. But growth was not necessary in this case, since a machine could be manufactured full grown, so to speak. As to the capacity for propagation, it could likewise be left out of consideration, for in the mechanical model it merely signified a process of manufacture. Whether the automation be of flesh and bone, or of wood and steel, it mattered little, provided it could perform all the duties required of it like an intelligent being. To do so, it had to have an element corresponding to the mind, which would effect the control of all its movements and operations, and cause it to act, in any unforeseen case that might present itself, with knowledge, reason, judgment, and experience. But this element I could easily embody in it by conveying to it my own intelligence, my own understanding. So this invention was evolved, and so a new art came into existence, for which the name „telautomatics” has been suggested, which means the art of controlling the movements and operations of distant automatons. This principle evidently was applicable to any kind of machine that moves on land or in the water or in the air. In applying it practically for the first time, I selected a boat (see Fig. 2). A storage battery placed within it furnished the motive power. The propeller, driven by a motor, represented the locomotive organs. The rudder, controlled by another motor likewise driven by the battery, took the place of the directive organs. As to the sensitive organ, obviously the first thought was to utilize a device responsive to rays of light, like a selenium cell, to represent the human eye. But upon closer inquiry I found that, owing to experimental and other difficulties, no thoroughly satisfactory control of the automaton could be effected by light, radiant heat, hertzian radiations, or by rays in general, that is, disturbances which pass in straight lines through space. One of the reasons was that any obstacle coming between the operator and the distant automaton would place it beyond his control. Another reason was that the sensitive device representing the eye would have to be in a definite position with respect to the distant controlling apparatus, and this necessity would impose great limitations in the control. Still another and very important reason was that, in using rays, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to give to the automaton individual features or characteristics distinguishing it from other machines of this kind. Evidently the automaton should respond only to an individual call, as a person responds to a name. Such considerations led me to conclude that the sensitive device of the machine should correspond to the ear rather than the eye of a human being, for in this case its actions could be controlled irrespective of intervening obstacles, regardless of its position relative to the distant controlling apparatus, and, last, but not least, it would remain deaf and unresponsive, like a faithful servant, to all calls but that of its master. These requirements made it imperative to use, in the control of the automaton, instead of light or other rays, waves or disturbances which propagate in all directions through space, like sound, or which follow a path of least resistance, however curved. I attained the result aimed at by means of an electric circuit placed within the boat, and adjusted, or „tuned,” exactly to electrical vibrations of the proper kind transmitted to it from a distant „electrical oscillator.” This circuit, in responding, however feebly, to the transmitted vibrations, affected magnets and other contrivances, through the medium of which were controlled the movements of the propeller and rudder, and also the operations of numerous other appliances.
By the simple means described the knowledge, experience, judgment—the mind, so to speak—of the distant operator were embodied in that machine, which was thus enabled to move and to perform all its operations with reason and intelligence. It behaved just like a blindfolded person obeying directions received through the ear.
The automatons so far constructed had „borrowed minds,” so to speak, as each merely formed part of the distant operator who conveyed to it his intelligent orders; but this art is only in the beginning. I purpose to show that, however impossible it may now seem, an automaton may be contrived which will have its „own mind,” and by this I mean that it will be able, independent of any operator, left entirely to itself, to perform, in response to external influences affecting its sensitive organs, a great variety of acts and operations as if it had intelligence. It will be able to follow a course laid out or to obey orders given far in advance; it will be capable of distinguishing between what it ought and what it ought not to do, and of making experiences or, otherwise stated, of recording impressions which will definitely affect its subsequent actions. In fact, I have already conceived such a plan.
Although I evolved this invention many years ago and explained it to my visitors very frequently in my laboratory demonstrations, it was not until much later, long after I had perfected it, that it became known, when, naturally enough, it gave rise to much discussion and to sensational reports. But the true significance of this new art was not grasped by the majority, nor was the great force of the underlying principle recognized. As nearly as I could judge from the numerous comments which appeared, the results I had obtained were considered as entirely impossible. Even the few who were disposed to admit the practicability of the invention saw in it merely an automobile torpedo, which was to be used for the purpose of blowing up battleships, with doubtful success. The general impression was that I contemplated simply the steering of such a vessel by means of Hertzian or other rays. There are torpedoes steered electrically by wires, and there are means of communicating without wires, and the above was, of course an obvious inference. Had I accomplished nothing more than this, I should have made a small advance indeed. But the art I have evolved does not contemplate merely the change of direction of a moving vessel; it affords means of absolutely controlling, in every respect, all the innumerable translatory movements, as well as the operations of all the internal organs, no matter how many, of an individualized automaton. Criticisms to the effect that the control of the automaton could be interfered with were made by people who do not even dream of the wonderful results which can be accomplished by use of electrical vibrations. The world moves slowly, and new truths are difficult to see. Certainly, by the use of this principle, an arm for attack as well as defense may be provided, of a destructiveness all the greater as the principle is applicable to submarine and aerial vessels. There is virtually no restriction as to the amount of explosive it can carry, or as to the distance at which it can strike, and failure is almost impossible. But the force of this new principle does not wholly reside in its destructiveness. Its advent introduces into warfare an element which never existed before—a fighting-machine without men as a means of attack and defense. The continuous development in this direction must ultimately make war a mere contest of machines without men and without loss of life—a condition which would have been impossible without this new departure, and which, in my opinion, must be reached as preliminary to permanent peace. The future will either bear out or disprove these views. My ideas on this subject have been put forth with deep conviction, but in a humble spirit.
The establishment of permanent peaceful relations between nations would most effectively reduce the force retarding the human mass, and would be the best solution of this great human problem. But will the dream of universal peace ever be realized? Let us hope that it will. When all darkness shall be dissipated by the light of science, when all nations shall be merged into one, and patriotism shall be identical with religion, when there shall be one language, one country, one end, then the dream will have become reality.
THE THIRD PROBLEM: HOW TO INCREASE THE FORCE ACCELERATING THE HUMAN MASS—THE HARNESSING OF THE SUN’S ENERGY.
Of the three possible solutions of the main problem of increasing human energy, this is by far the most important to consider, not only because of its intrinsic significance, but also because of its intimate bearing on all the many elements and conditions which determine the movement of humanity. In order to proceed systematically, it would be necessary for me to dwell on all those considerations which have guided me from the outset in my efforts to arrive at a solution, and which have led me, step by step, to the results I shall now describe. As a preliminary study of the problem an analytical investigation, such as I have made, of the chief forces which determine the onward movement, would be of advantage, particularly in conveying an idea of that hypothetical „velocity” which, as explained in the beginning, is a measure of human energy; but to deal with this specifically here, as I would desire, would lead me far beyond the scope of the present subject. Suffice it to state that the resultant of all these forces is always in the direction of reason, which therefore, determines, at any time, the direction of human movement. This is to say that every effort which is scientifically applied, rational, useful, or practical, must be in the direction in which the mass is moving. The practical, rational man, the observer, the man of business, he who reasons, calculates, or determines in advance, carefully applies his effort so that when coming into effect it will be in the direction of the movement, making it thus most efficient, and in this knowledge and ability lies the secret of his success. Every new fact discovered, every new experience or new element added to our knowledge and entering into the domain of reason, affects the same and, therefore, changes the direction of movement, which, however, must always take place along the resultant of all those efforts which, at that time, we designate as reasonable, that is, self-preserving, useful, profitable, or practical. These efforts concern our daily life, our necessities and comforts, our work and business, and it is these which drive man onward.
But looking at all this busy world about us, on all this complex mass as it daily throbs and moves, what is it but an immense clock-work driven by a spring? In the morning, when we rise, we cannot fail to note that all the objects about us are manufactured by machinery: the water we use is lifted by steam-power; the trains bring our breakfast from distant localities; the elevators in our dwelling and our office building, the cars that carry us there, are all driven by power; in all our daily errands, and in our very life-pursuit, we depend upon it; all the objects we see tell us of it; and when we return to our machine-made dwelling at night, lest we should forget it, all the material comforts of our home, our cheering stove and lamp, remind us of how much we depend on power. And when there is an accidental stoppage of the machinery, when the city is snowbound, or the life sustaining movement otherwise temporarily arrested, we are affrighted to realize how impossible it would be for us to live the life we live without motive power. Motive power means work. To increase the force accelerating human movement means, therefore, to perform more work.
So we find that the three possible solutions of the great problem of increasing human energy are answered by the three words: food, peace, work. Many a year I have thought and pondered, lost myself in speculations and theories, considering man as a mass moved by a force, viewing his inexplicable movement in the light of a mechanical one, and applying the simple principles of mechanics to the analysis of the same until I arrived at these solutions, only to realize that they were taught to me in my early childhood. These three words sound the key-notes of the Christian religion. Their scientific meaning and purpose now clear to me: food to increase the mass, peace to diminish the retarding force, and work to increase the force accelerating human movement. These are the only three solutions which are possible of that great problem, and all of them have one object, one end, namely, to increase human energy. When we recognize this, we cannot help wondering how profoundly wise and scientific and how immensely practical the Christian religion is, and in what a marked contrast it stands in this respect to other religions. It is unmistakably the result of practical experiment and scientific observation which have extended through the ages, while other religions seem to be the outcome of merely abstract reasoning. Work, untiring effort, useful and accumulative, with periods of rest and recuperation aiming at higher efficiency, is its chief and ever-recurring command. Thus we are inspired both by Christianity and Science to do our utmost toward increasing the performance of mankind. This most important of human problems I shall now specifically consider.