From The City Journal:
Herbert George Wells was already a renowned writer of fiction when in 1901 he published the nonfiction work Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought. The book’s scientific prescriptions to cure social diseases turned the novelist into a seer, both in England and in America, where Anticipations had already been serialized in the North American Review. More than any other intellectual of the time, Wells spoke to two enormous nineteenth-century shifts: the growth of giant industries, which undercut the old assumptions about the sovereignty of the individual; and Darwinism’s concussive reassignment of humanity from the spiritual to the natural world, which begged for prophets of a naturalized humanity.
Numerous fin de siècle writers had looked backward at a century of material and mechanical progress, both to praise its achievements and to condemn its running sore, the seemingly permanent misery of the urban working class. But Wells looked ahead, asserting that the future as well as the past had a pattern. He argued inductively about the nature of what was likely to come, based on the way the telephone, telegraph, and railroad had shrunk the world, and he populated his predictions with a dramatic cast of collective characters. Some he loathed: the idle, parasitic rich; the “vicious helpless pauper masses,” the “People of the Abyss”; and the yapping politicians and yellow journalists whom he considered instruments of patriotism and war.