Did Albert Einstein Really Say That?


By T.V. Antony Raj




With the advent of the internet, we are now able to interact freely with people living anywhere around the world, but, the ability to speak face-to-face with ease has declined and, in fact, is dysfunctional.  Now, with mobiles, people have replaced lively phone calls by texting mnemonic-like nonsensical internet slang words with little substance. This indeed is an alarming trend.

I came across the following two humorous images on Facebook that illustrate the fact that in the 1980s and before there was a free and cordial interaction between people, but now, they are ignoring one another by texting the whole day long oblivious to their surroundings.


Einstein's fake quote - 2 (Source


Einstein's fake quote


The caption for these images assert that Albert Einstein said:

I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.

The above quote also appears often on social media in the following form:

It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.

Often I find predictions such as these passed around on the internet unabashedly that are often misleading, out of context, or sometimes completely fabricated.

People love to put words into the mouth of William Shakespeare, Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, and many others. They presume that by attributing fabricated quotes to these famous people, their fabricated sayings will automatically become infallible. Our patriotic Indians, the proud Tamilians in particular, use late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former president of India as their scapegoat to dole out fabricated quotes.

Some who come across such quotes on the social media copy them and post them without verifying whether they were in fact said by such personalities.

In this instance, someone credited Albert Einstein with these concocted quotes without any compunction whatsoever and others have copied them blindly. Even brainyquote.com is guilty of propagating this fake quote.

Brian C. Rosenberg, the 16th president of Macalester College, the institution that proudly boasts Kofi Annan amongst its alumni, inadvertently uses this fabricated quote whenever he talks about the scourge of the social media.

The Quote Investigator points out that there is no absolute evidence to prove that Albert Einstein ever said this.

The quote(s) in question was in fact derived from the 1995 movie “Powder“.  Near the end of the film, there is a dialogue between Powder played by Sean Patrick Flanery and a character named Donald Ripley, a physics teacher, played by Jeff Goldblum.

Donald Ripley: It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.

Powder: Albert Einstein.

Donald Ripley: When I look at you, I have hope that maybe one day our humanity will surpass our technology.

So here we have it. Movies are a compelling source for apocryphal quotations.

It is true that Albert Einstein’s concern about the fate of the world and its people in the face of nuclear weapons was genuine. In 1946, he cautioned about the dangers of the new nuclear age. He, in fact, made a famous statement that was thematically analogous with the words expressed in the movie.

On May 25, 1946, The New York Times reported that Einstein “issued a personal appeal yesterday by telegram to several hundred prominent Americans”. Here is an excerpt:

Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.



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