FACT CHECK: Did Einstein Say That Technology Would Create A ‘Generation Of Idiots’?
The Facebook page Gatrell’s Cowboy-Up shared an image claiming that physicist Albert Einstein once said, “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
The Daily Caller found no evidence of Einstein ever saying or writing this.
Einstein is highly quotable, with an entire book devoted to quips and musings from the man who developed the theory of relativity and won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921.
However, this quote does not appear in “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein,” a preeminent text on sayings from Einstein. Other attributions of this quote to Einstein do not provide a source or even the year in which he supposedly made the remark. It is often used to condemn increased reliance on technology, including smart phones and social media.
The Caller could not find any such statement in the archives of Einstein’s writings online.
The quote may be a rewording of an expression incorrectly attributed to Einstein in the 1995 movie “Powder” in which one character said, “It’s become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” Another character responded, “Albert Einstein,” implying the musing originated with the physicist.
This second quote cannot be traced back to Einstein either, though it is possible that instances of misattribution since 1995 could be due to the film.
In one 1946 letter, Einstein did write, “I believe that the abominable deterioration of ethical standards stems primarily from the mechanization and depersonalization of our lives – a disastrous byproduct of science and technology.”
Biographer Walter Isaacson says that Einstein’s work has had a meaningful impact on many of the technologies available today. “His fingerprints are all over today’s technologies,” Isaacson has written. “Photoelectric cells and lasers, nuclear power and fibre optics, space travel, and even semiconductors all trace back to his theories.”