Man's Machine-Made Millennium

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pages 569–576

Cosmopolitan Magazine

Vol. XLV


No. 6

Man's Machine-Made Millennium

By Hudson Maxim

Illustrated by William R. Leigh

Editor's Note. — It is a wonderful picture that Hudson Maxim has conceived in his scientific mind and thrown on the screen in this article. Daringly peering into the future, he makes one gasp as he predicts the machine-made millennium.'

The discovery of a radio-motor, says Mr. Maxim, will make power so cheap that none will work save for recreation; crystallization of fertilizer out of the atmosphere will make the earth so prolific that farming will he a pastime; disinfectant solutions forced through the body will exterminate all germs, and disease will be eliminated; life insurance companies will become simply accident insurance companies, and man's life will run its allotted span; criminals will no longer he imprisoned, but will he segregated in a great reservation where they will live out their lives, the right to propagate their kind denied them, thus eventually cleansing the world of its criminal element; the mastery of the air will liberate mankind from the limitations of navigable rivers and railroad tracts; gold will be so common that it will be used for rifle bullets; diamonds as big as the Kohinoor will be made for a dollar, and the city of the future will not be a collection of buildings, but one vast arcaded building with its subdivisions carefully allotted for the needs of its inhabitants.

Could we fly out through space, and with a speed sufficiently great, we should overtake the rays of reflected light that left our earth thousands and millions of years ago; and had we infinite eyes we could, as we went, look back and behold the history of our earth unravel, see the return of man to the ape-like thing, see him and all animate forms finally converge upon the moneron plunged in the azoic sea.

What a wonder-world would the panorama be, could we similarly take wing into the future and follow man up the ascending scale until he shall have reached the zenith of physical, intellectual, and ethical life, whence he will look back upon us, his progenitors, with the same curious regard that moves us as we look down the line of our ascent upon the little lemur, parent of the ape-progenitor of man! Following down the descending scale, we should see the cooling sun grow dim and the parching earth drink up the seas, and see man become a cave-dweller again, mining for moisture, more precious then than gold.


No man is able to foretell the future except from his knowledge of the present, and what he foresees must result from present tendencies. There can be no effect without a cause, and there can be no cause which is not in itself an effect of a preceding cause. Every effect is in turn a cause for other effects exactly equal to itself. There can be no more effects in nature, therefore, than are exactly equal to producing causes.

Every atom in existence follows a course mathematically exact—a course determined for it by the combined forces exerted upon it of all the other atoms in existence and as exact as the orbit of a star. We know, therefore, that the sum of all the forces of all nature at the present moment is exactly the sum of the combined forces exerted between atoms. Hence we know that all events of history, and all phenomena, and all evolutions of organic and inorganic, animate and inanimate nature, during all time, have been exactly those that have resulted from the sum of the combined forces of all the atoms in existence acting upon one another.

There is no haphazard in nature. There is no such thing as luck or chance. Our lives are part and parcel of the great cosmic procession, and even our free will is predestined to will as it does, for we can no more will without a cause for willing than a sun can be deflected from its orbit without cause for that deflection.

Standing here upon the threshold of all that is yet to be, had we infinite knowledge of causes now operating, and of their trend, we should have infinite foresight too; but our knowledge is so small and our powers are so finite that we can at best but speculate and generalize.


Yet there is much that we can predict with some degree of assurance. It is safe to predict that man's advancement from now on will be vastly more rapid than it has ever been before, and possibly the millennium of intellectual achievement may not be so far ahead as has been the habit of our conjecture.

The present is an age of mechanical and chemical engineering and invention, an age of science, an age of material achievement; and it will be followed by a sociological age, an era of achievement in ethics and philosophy and the development of higher physical health—an age of intellectual and moral perfecting.

Even at the present time, from a humane point of view, we are standing miles higher than the ancients stood. In olden times there was no recognition of such a thing as inalienable human rights; and when one people were able to rob or enslave another people with profit, it was looked upon as weakness and bad business not to rob and enslave them.

When Julius Cæsar fell upon the German camp, while negotiations for peace were pending, and surprised and slew two hundred and fifty thousand men, women, and children in a few hours, it was thought a very masterful stroke of Roman policy, for the Romans saw no use in those Germans.

One of the greatest blessings of modern civilization is that it widens the range of human usefulness. It would now be considered an extravagance and a waste of human life to fall upon a neighboring people and cut them down to the last person.

There is a growing recognition of the fact that this world we live in is only a larger country. Patriotism is outgrowing national boundary lines. There is a growing spirit of international brotherhood, a growing knowledge of the truth that all mankind feeds at a common board and sits by a common fireside and that selfish sea-gull ethics do not pay.

The warmth of the fire is better enjoyed when shared than when monopolized at the cost of crowding others into the cold. The half of a sweet morsel shared is better than the whole unshared. Mutuality in the enjoyment of possessions is what gives them most value.


Carnegie is but placing libraries in his larger house. J. P. Morgan, in his gifts of valuable paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is but hanging them upon the walls of the great house he shares with others. Rockefeller is expending millions to better his environment and to purchase the goodwill of the tenantry of the great house in which he and his children must live. Philanthropists expend large sums every year on the great human habitation, thereby making it more comfortable for themselves.

A great French philosopher once truly said: "All law, all philosophy, all wisdom, depend upon the practice of these principles. Moderate thyself. Instruct thyself. Live for thy fellow creatures that they may live for thee." He is the best business man who abides by this teaching.

There is a no more common error of belief than the one that altruism is a mere matter of sentiment, for it has a practical business side, a side befitting cold, calculating policy. Perfect selfishness and perfect altruism lead to a common goal, where life is found to be an equation—the individual on one side, other people on the other side.

If two persons were to proceed with equal wisdom, one actuated by purely selfish motives and by policy, the other by purely altruistic motives with no idea of policy, the one would serve others by his own self-service, and the other would serve himself by his service to others. The unselfish man would find it necessary to conserve himself in the interest of others, and the selfish man would find that he must conserve others equally in the interest of himself.

If, for argument's sake, we were to assume a condition of mechanical and scientific perfection, where every want except human companionship and sympathy could be supplied by pressing a button, there is no place in the world that would not be a prison-house if these requisites to happiness were lacking.

The first step to be taken toward the coming millennium is to fit the great human procession for millennial possibilities. There can be no millennium, no way of making complete living common, until there shall have been weeded out of the great human garden the obnoxious plants that now grow rank in the hothouse of unbridled passions, fertilized by drugs and watered with alcohol.

"The wrong are weak: the right are strong:
This mean the two terms, right and wrong.
And truth sought out to any length
Finds all wrong weakness; all right, strength."

Thus it is that, before we pass into any human paradise, we must go by the somber prison-house, the reformatory, and the hospital.


Just as we now elect what immigrants shall come into our country to reside and mingle their blood with ours, so we have the right to choose—and shall soon know enough to exercise that right—what blood we shall let continue to flow into the great human stream. The reform will come not by punishing the offender, but by his isolation. The criminal will then be classed with the leper, and men will no more think of punishing for theft or than we now think of punishing for insanity or smallpox. But the public will be protected much more efficiently then than it is now. It is the ignorance of barbarism that leads us to imprison men for crimes they cannot help committing, releasing them after a stated period with the impulse toward crime unchecked. This is as unwise as it would be to imprison a leper when the first flush of his disease appeared, then to release him to mingle with the human throng and contaminate others, and again to imprison him for that contamination, releasing him again after punishment, to continue the contagion.

The remedy will be the establishment of a great institution for the reception and isolation of all human derelicts. It will be a national institution. It will not be like any prison we now know, for it will be wardened by kindness. A large tract of fertile country will be set apart. It will be an enormous garden, and the tenantry of that great park will have their little farms and cottages. There will be cities with beautiful residences, schools, colleges, clubs, libraries, and art-galleries—in short, every convenience and luxury common to the civilized life of that time. There will be but one restriction—the lives of all who enter there, although lived and ended in comfort and even luxury, shall not be perpetuated in others. There will be no son and no daughter to inherit the property of the thrifty manufacturer, house-owner, or landholder, for all property will belong to the commonwealth, and on the death of a tenant the property occupied by him will revert to the commonwealth to be assigned to some new offender sent in from the outer world.

Man is a warring animal. The first sun of civilization's dawn broke through a war cloud, and what light it has since shed upon mankind has been through rifts in clouds of war. The history of nations is the history of wars; but while armies of men have met and hewn each other down, there have been enemies in the ranks of the combatants on every side far more deadly than he of the two-edged sword.


In every war pestilence has slain dozens to every one that has fallen in battle. There are no rifts in the clouds of war waged with the deadly germs of disease. It is a constant and ever-present bloody battle. The beautiful daughter, health and happiness smiling in her face, kisses a playmate on whose lips are the bacilli of tuberculosis, and she falls a victim to the White Plague; or it is diphtheria, or scarlet fever, or typhoid, or any of the legionaries of ghost-boned pestilence.

We have no weapon with which we can attack that enemy. We must stand by, impotent spectators, while our loved ones are actually devoured by the microscopic wolves of disease. We have a few antitoxins which help a little, some new methods of treatment, and the surgeon's knife. But what we need is a tower of refuge with a veritable pool of Bethesda, where the victim of disease may enter and pass out purified and clean.

What is needed is the discovery of some electro-chemical process by which the germs of disease may be killed in the living tissues, lymph, and blood without injury to the cells of the living body. Such a desideratum is one of the reasonable probabilities of the near future, wherein the victim of any germ disease whatsoever can be made clean and whole in a day. He who shall discover or invent this thing will be the greatest benefactor of the human race that history has ever had or can ever know. For there is no room for another so great.

Chemists, electricians, and physicians should give this problem serious attention. Ihave the following suggestion to make, which may possibly help some:

It has been known for a long time that if a diaphragm be introduced into an electrolyte, and an electric current of sufficiently high voltage be employed, the contents of one electrode chamber will be forced through the diaphragm into the other electrode chamber until a certain difference of pressure will have been established between the solutions in the two compartments. This is called electro-osmosis, or cataphoresis. Tanners employ electro-osmosis in the tanning of hides to force a tanning solution into the skins, thereby saving much time and expense.

My suggestion is to interpose the human body as a part of the diaphragm in electro-osmosis, or cataphoresis, and thus to force remedial agents or germ-destroying chemicals into and through the human tissues, lymph, and blood. If the human body were to compose a portion of such a partition, might not a solution of chlorin, for instance, be employed in one of the compartments, and a current of electricity of such character be used as would force the chlorin into and through the human tissues, lymph, and blood, destroying the germs of disease without such concentration as would injuriously affect the tissues and fluids of the body?

It is well known that chlorin is one of the most powerful germicides known to science, a far less concentrated solution of it being required as a germicide than of most other germ-destroying agents, such, for example, as carbolic acid and corrosive sublimate, or permanganate of potash. If the bandages of a fresh wound be immediately wet and kept wet with a weak chlorin solution rendered slightly saline with common salt, the wound will nearly always heal by first intention, and there will be no soreness. This evidences that a chlorin solution sufficiently strong to kill infectious germs may be employed without injuriously affecting the tissues of the body.

The animal organism is a complex one. It is a sort of electric generator. The blood is alkaline, while the lymph or juice of the flesh is acid, and they are separated by an impervious membrane, so that a person may have a disease of the blood without having a disease of the lymphatics, and may have a disease of the lymphatics, such as tuberculosis of the lymphatics, known as scrofula, without producing tuberculosis of the blood. Hence, in order to be sure of destroying every disease germ in lymph and blood, bone and muscle, it would be necessary to penetrate them all, and simultaneously, with a germ-destroying agent, and such would be the aim of germicidal electro-osmosis.


The conquest of the air, which we are already beginning to realize, is one of the great achievements that will make for the millennium. Whatever facilitates travel and transportation makes the remote near, the foreigner a countryman, and the alien a neighbor and a friend.

The great Fulton taught us how to defy the hurricane and to reduce the ocean to a ferry. Franklin discovered the Archimedean lever in the electric switch and turned on a power that is lifting the world. Morse made electricity our Mercury, annihilating time and space in the transmission of intelligence, and Alexander Graham Bell has brought the world's ear to our desk and makes it listen. Now, with the advent of the flying-machine, we shall soon be able to leave the earth-road and go coursing on the unobstructed sky-way. We shall soon have our automobiles of the air, and shall then be able to tour the Siberian sky, the Arctic waste, and chase the mirage over arid Saharas as commonly as we now tour an adjacent state.


There is one stupendous problem which man must soon solve, for upon its solution hangs the very possibility of continued human civilization and progress. We must have a supply of heat and power inexhaustible in quantity and cheap of production. This problem solved, human ascent becomes easy.

Had we an engine which would utilize the energy latent in coal with an economy equal to that with which the sea-gull utilizes the carbon it consumes in its food, we should be able to develop ten times the energy that we now do from the fuel we consume to turn the wheels of industry and trade. But, even were we able to invent such an engine, it would not long suffice to supply our needs, for the great coal-beds could last but a few centuries. At the present rate of coal-consumption all those great stores of carbon that the sun stored up for us in the carboniferous period will be exhausted in a few generations.

Not only this, but we are also burning up our air, as Lord Kelvin has shown us. Every ton of coal consumed renders unfit for breathing twelve tons of air. So that, even if we had coal enough to last us indefinitely, we should not have enough oxygen in the air to burn it up, but should fill the air with carbonic acid gas to suffocation.

Possibly we shall invent some motor which will utilize efficiently the heat of the solar rays. It is estimated that the total amount of energy received by the earth from the sun is equal to that which would be developed by a continuous Niagara seventy-five thousand miles wide—wide enough to encircle the earth three times. But this enormous energy, great as it is, is received upon such a vast area that the great difficulty lies in its concentration. Water-power is an indirect utilization of the heat of the solar rays, but were every stream and fall harnessed to maximum duty, the energy developed would not long be sufficient for man's needs.

The discovery of radiant matter has opened a new vista to our view and possibilities so stupendous that we hardly dare, with our present knowledge, to deem them probable. We have discovered that the internal molecular energy of matter is perfectly inconceivable in amount, and if we ever succeed in harnessing it to human use we shall be able to light, heat, and run the world from the dynamo.

Every molecule of matter is made up of a vast number of small particles known as corpuscles, and these corpuscles are constantly moving about at a velocity of a hundred thousand miles a second—more than half the speed of light. This means that in one pound of ponderable substance there is sufficient energy to hurl a one-pound projectile at a velocity of a hundred thousand miles a second.


Every human want has its expression in terms of heat and power, and when heat and power are made cheap enough the earth will be a playground, and every land and every sea will pulse and vibrate under the human finger and the guidance of the human brain. When that day comes all our fields can be fertilized from the air by the formation of nitro compounds directly from atmospheric nitrogen by the electric current, and agriculture will become a pastime. There will be electrically heated hothouses covering thousands of acres, and the country farm, even in the northern clime, will have its summer and its winter crops. Methods will be discovered of stimulating the growth of plants by electrical warmth and light. In gardens so tended there will be currants as large as damsons, damsons the size of apples, apples as large as melons, strawberries as large as oranges, with the texture and flavor of old Kent. In short, fruits of all kinds will be raised, with flavors to suit the most fastidious taste.

Wireless telephony will then embrace the world, and it will be as easy to hold converse with the antipodes as it is to-day for New York to speak with Brooklyn.

The lonely farmhouse will be no more, but the people will group themselves in little cities with metropolitan recreations and amusements. Every little village will have its theater, but the actors will live and play in New York, London, or Paris. The country stage will be a screen, and "Hamlet," played in London, will be transmitted by teleview, telephone, and telharmonium and reproduced upon the stage screen at Chautauqua. The Patti of that time will need to make no farewell tours, for every country stage will tour the world. Last night, a London play; to-night, a Parisian success; and to-morrow evening, a howling New York farce, to be followed by three days of grand opera sent in from St. Petersburg.

On the great ocean liners passengers may at will enjoy drama, tragedy, or grand opera from New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Tokio, or Peking; and the cost of such a voyage will not be greater than the expense of a present day's outing.

Recent experiments have renewed the hope of the old alchemists that we may yet transmute the baser metals into gold. If we succeed, then gold will find new and extensive uses. Gold, slightly alloyed, would make ideal rifle balls, for it could be made to possess exactly the requisite hardness, while its density would give projectiles a tremendous carrying and penetrating power. Such a bullet would be recommended by the peace men, for who would not prefer a gold bullet to a lead one healed in his flesh?

The inventor of the first machine gun provided it with one barrel for shooting round bullets, and one barrel for shooting square bullets, the round bullets being for Christians and the square bullets for Turks. It is hard to make bullets of any description kind, but the round gold bullet would be the most merciful.

The warfare of the future will be like a chess tournament. Every move will be under the eyes of the world, for concealment and secret maneuvers will be impossible. Newspapers will have their aerial scouts hovering over camp and fleet and field, and every move of ocean craft or land squadron will be reproduced on maps in every stock-exchange and newspaper office throughout the world, and each move will be the study, plan, and conjecture of thousands of observers.

In 1896, at Faraday House, in London, I conducted some experiments with electric furnaces and succeeded in making microscopic diamonds by electro-deposition. I have since then been hoping to take up the work again. I am confident that either by the process I then discovered, or by some other, diamonds will soon be made cheaply and plentifully and large in size.

Artificial diamonds are needed much more in the arts than they are as gems. I predict that diamonds will soon be made so cheaply that they will be no more expensive than many other electro-chemical products. Diamonds as large as peas will then be sold at twenty-five cents each with a profit, and diamonds as large as the Kohinoor will not cost more than a dollar.


The stranger visiting New York is awestruck by the sky-piercing office-buildings; but could that stranger go to sleep as Rip Van Winkle did and return after a few centuries he would find the larger part of the present city razed to earth and rebuilt, and from the old foundations would rise up monumental structures compared with which our mightiest buildings of to-day would be as a hunter's cabin of logs and boughs.

Instead of individual buildings, disunited and independent in architecture, that great city of the future will be as one enormous edifice. The present streets upon the surface of the ground will become the basement, and the business thoroughfares will be upon an enormous platform a story high; and stupendous banks of streets, arcades and corridors, parks and playgrounds will rise one above another, tier on tier, to eye-tiring heights, supported by vast columns several blocks in diameter at the base, traversed by great streets and thoroughfares and rising to a height of two thousand feet or more. Each tower will be so built as amply to house several hundred thousand persons, and there will be homes in sky-hung parks and gardens up in the clear, cool, pure air, and from their commercial work down near the earth business men will take express elevators to their homes in a veritable "airy, fairy dreamland of nightingales," where the clouds hover and smile in the evening sun long after the ink of night has engulfed the lower floors.

Viewed from a distance, the great city will have the aspect of a frail structure of webs and ribbons of steel through which the sun and air will find a freer access to the earth than they now find between the present city walls.

At night, when the millions of lights emblazon the sky and throw their united fire far into the outer dark, the city will resemble an enormous torch about which fast-fleeting flying-machines will flit and plunge like giant moths about a giant flame.

The night sky of the suburban dweller of that millennial time will be made meteoric with luminescent cloud-racing craft whose radiance will dim the stars and shame the envious moon.