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Rule by scientists

Summary:
H G Wells wrote prophetically about a world ruled by the dictates of science. His book, “The Shape of Things to Come” was published in 1933, and he collaborated on a movie version released as “Things to Come” in 1936. In Wells’ futuristic vision, the world undergoes a long and debilitating war, and humanity enters a new dark age. The world’s cities are in ruins, their economies destroyed by hyperinflation. The only technology that survives is a primitive military one. As tribes fight turf wars, a new aircraft lands to proclaim that the last surviving engineers and mechanics who control global transport have taken over the world. They are called “Wings Over the World,” and are rebuilding civilization anew. Their leader declares, “And now for the rule of the Airmen and a new life for

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H G Wells wrote prophetically about a world ruled by the dictates of science. His book, “The Shape of Things to Come” was published in 1933, and he collaborated on a movie version released as “Things to Come” in 1936.

In Wells’ futuristic vision, the world undergoes a long and debilitating war, and humanity enters a new dark age. The world’s cities are in ruins, their economies destroyed by hyperinflation. The only technology that survives is a primitive military one. As tribes fight turf wars, a new aircraft lands to proclaim that the last surviving engineers and mechanics who control global transport have taken over the world. They are called “Wings Over the World,” and are rebuilding civilization anew. Their leader declares, “And now for the rule of the Airmen and a new life for mankind.”

Their dictatorship has total power, using the “gas of peace” to enforce compliance. They promote science, enforce Basic English as a universal language to replace all others, and eradicate all religions, setting the world on the road to a peaceful scientific utopia. Their aim is to “educate” all humanity to a sensible, forward-looking, intellectually-based outlook. They build a technologically advanced civilization that tolerates other human aspirations, such as artistic achievement, with an amused disdain. To Wells this represented utopia.

Others might take a different view, having seen what scientists do when government follows their lead, sheltering controversial decisions behind their immaculate white coats. To many of them basic human desires, such as the need to interact with friends and family, to hug, to have fun together, to travel, and to engage in communal activities, are all things that have to be suspended or suppressed in the interests of what they call safety. Some want permanent changes to the way people live, with face-masks, social distancing and travel restrictions to continue “indefinitely” because they make for a safer world.

“Scientific” advisers in and around the Department of Health would probably have us live in a world without alcohol, sugar, salt, or most of the foods we enjoy. Those in and around the Department of Transport have a similar mindset. Helmets would be compulsory for cyclists, and seat belts would be required on buses and trains. Everything that might involve a degree of risk, no matter how small, or how ready people were to accept it, would be controlled, banned, or made sufficiently unpleasant that people would stop doing it.

Most of us in our daily lives routinely do cost-benefit analysis and make its trade-offs. Yes, driving a car is risky, and people are killed or injured doing it, but the convenience of being able to reach places is reckoned to be worth the small risk to each of us. Yes, sports such as scuba diving, rock-climbing and parachuting have their dangers, but many of us trade the risk for the thrill. Indeed, the risk for some is part of the thrill.

In a world controlled by the scientists we’d all sit quietly and safely in a risk-free environment, waiting for the bell to ring that leads us all out to pasture. In this world, though, we’d rather weigh up the risks and benefits of living the sort of lives we want to live and regard as worth living, and make our own decisions.

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