Chesterton on Butler

A pitch-perfection impersonation of Chesterton: I am awed.


[An SSC reader working at an Oxford library stumbled across a previously undiscovered manuscript of G.K. Chesterton’s, expressing his thoughts on AI, x-risk, and superintelligence. She was kind enough to send me a copy, which I have faithfully transcribed]

The most outlandish thing about the modern scientific adventure stories is that they believe themselves outlandish. Mr. H. G. Wells is considered shocking for writing of inventors who travel thousands of years into the future, but the meanest church building in England has done the same. When Jules Verne set out to ‘journey to the center of the earth’ and ‘from the earth to the moon’, he seemed but a pale reflection of Dante, who took both voyages in succession before piercing the Empyrean itself. Ezekiel saw wheels of spinning flame and reported them quite soberly; our modern writers collapse in rapture before the wheels of a motorcar.

Yet if the authors disappoint, it is the reviewers who dumbfound. For no sooner does a writer fancy himself a Poe or a Dunsany for dreaming of a better sewing machine, but there comes a critic to call him overly fanciful, to accuse him of venturing outside science into madness. It is not enough to lower one’s sights from Paradise to a motorcar; one must avoid making the motorcar too bright or fast, lest it retain a hint of Paradise.


Read the whole thing: