Social Media Claim

Einstein quote that technology will create idiots is false

A Facebook post from July 10, 2019 attributes Albert Einstein with the quote: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from July 10, 2019 by the Burleigh Heads Catholic Parish which featured an image of the German theoretical physicist and 1921 Nobel Prize winner, Albert Einstein with a quote attributed to him reading: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots”.

Above the quote, six images appear under the headline: “The day that Albert Einstein feared has arrived”. The images show people focused on their mobile phones during activities described as “coffee with friends, a day in beach (sic), cheering your team, out on a date, enjoying the sites, having dinner”.

The Burleigh Heads Catholic Parish is part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane and is based on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

The post had been shared over 320 times and attracted more than 65 reactions.

A search for Albert Einstein's quote in the book, The Utlimate Quotable Einstein, found no evidence the Nobel Prize winner said it.

The Analysis

AAP FactCheck searched for the quote in “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” by Alice Calaprice and found no evidence that Einstein said it. The “Ultimate Quotable Einstein” is a collection of Einstein’s quotations, compiled by Alice Calaprice, a renowned Einstein expert and a former senior editor at the Princeton University Press. The book contains roughly 1600 quotes attributed to the theoretical physicist.

The collection recorded the Nobel Prize winner saying the word “technology” five times about the rise of technology, including in a letter to German inventor, Rudolf Goldschmidt in 1928 when he wrote: “A little technology here and there can interest thinkers everywhere. And so I boldly think ahead: The two of us will lay an egg”

In another letter to psychiatrist Otto Juliusburger in 1946, the physicist conveyed his concerns about technology, writing: “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. Nostra culpa!”

Emily de Araújo, assistant editor of the Einstein Papers Project, advised AAP FactCheck Einstein “did not write or say: ‘I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots’”.

The Einstein Papers Project consists of a group of international scholars who collect, transcribe, annotate, and publish ‘The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein’, a publication which presents the “first complete picture of a massive written legacy that ranges from Einstein's first work on the special and general theories of relativity and the origins of quantum theory, to his active involvement with international collaboration and cooperation, human rights, education, and disarmament”.

AAP FactCheck found a similar quote to the one attributed to Einstein in the 1995 film, “Powder”. In a scene, Donald Ripley, played by Jeff Goldblum said, “It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity” to which Powder, played by Sean Patrick Flanery, replied “Albert Einstein”.

The Verdict

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the attribution of the quote: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots” to Albert Einstein to be false.

  • False - The Facebook post is false.

First published August 12, 2019 15:55 AEST