The Eloi, AI, and Ruskin


  • James Hamby


One of the texts I most frequently teach is H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895), and one of my favorite episodes from this book to discuss with my students is when the Time Traveller meets the Eloi. The accomplished man of science wanders into their world, expecting to find advancement and achievement, only to be disappointed by their mental degeneration. I talk with my students about how new technologies are often trade-offs—you get something great, but you typically must give up something in return, and how the Eloi evolved because of their preference for ease and comfort over doing things for themselves. By now it’s a familiar trope in sf—the society that has grown lazy because of its over-reliance on technology, but it is a powerful scene nevertheless. And even though this scenario is now a familiar idea, humanity has not always heeded its warning.