Re: JD Bernal

From: Neal Blaikie (
Date: Wed Feb 28 2001 - 15:20:01 MST

Thanks, Jeff, for bringing up Bernal. This book has long been one of my
favorites, and I agree that this guy was way ahead of his time. I had heard of
this book from a number of different sources over the years, and after
searching for three or four years, was able to locate a copy of a reprint
edition from the '60s (don't have the book in front of me). I'm glad to see
that someone has made it available on the web. A truly bizarre mind,
especially for the time. I was surprised to find out that Stapledon was one of
the few (and maybe only) early SF writers to have been influenced by Bernal,
since this little tome is so chock full of incredible ideas.

Oddly enough, I first saw a reference to this book while reading another book
called Late for the Sky : The Mentality of the Space Age by David Lavery, an
anti-space-age polemic written by a communications professor somewhere (again,
don't have the book in front of me). He actually uses Bernal's book as a
negative illustration, but it had the opposite effect on me. Lavery's book is
worth hunting down for the bibliography alone, but I don't suspect many people
on this list will agree with his thesis (I certainly don't). It's worth
reading, though, for a look into the mind of someone who pretty much opposes
the type of technological development that is taken for granted here, but does
it in a well-researched, reasonable way. He's definitely not a crank, just
someone who draws vastly different conclusions.

I'm pretty sure I know what the surprise is you're referring to in regards to
Bernal, so I won't mention it either. In that regard, he was definitely a
product of his times.

Neal Blaikie

Jeff Davis wrote:

> I stumbled upon the work of a rather remarkable fellow. One JD Bernal.
> Out of the Dyson sphere business I discovered that Dyson had gotten his
> inspiration from Olaf Stapeldon, and on looking further I learned that
> Stapledon had gotten his from Bernal.
> You'll find Bernal's work,
> The World, the Flesh & the Devil
> An Enquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul
> at:
> What I find most interesting is that he wrote this in 1929, despite which
> he seems to have anticipated much of modern science and future science
> including: Matrishka brains/Dyson spheres, nanotech (he was an x-ray
> crystallographer and beat Feynman to the importance of 'small' by thirty
> years), and human-directed evolution (transhumanism).
> He also deals very astutely with the inescapable challenge of
> uncertainty/indeterminacy re attempting to predict the future.
> Good read. Very extropian. With one exception,...which I'll leave you to
> discover on your own--a small surprise.
> This guy's too extropian for you all not to have heard of him before. I'm
> way behind the curve, right?

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