Nikola Tesla: ‘You Will Live To See Man-Made Horrors Beyond Your Comprehension’ Quote

On March 9 2023, a Reddit user shared a quote about “man-made horrors beyond your comprehension” to the subreddit r/Damnthatsinteresting:

In the post’s title, its submitter claimed that Tesla made the remark “shortly before his death in 1943.” In addition to the title’s claims, text stamped on metal in an attached photograph read:

Fact Check

Claim: Nikola Tesla once said: “You will live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.”

Description: A claim circulated on Reddit suggesting that inventor Nikola Tesla made a prophetic comment about ‘man-made horrors’ shortly before his death in 1943.

Rating: Unknown

Rating Explanation: Although the quote is attributed to Tesla, the earliest documentation of such a statement wasn’t produced until 1947, four years after his death, and the full context of the quote places it in 1898, not 1943. Therefore, the attribution is dubious and somewhat misleading.

You will live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.

– Tesla –

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor born in 1856; he died in 1943. Like Frida Kahlo (on love), Tim Allen (on politics), and Dave Ramsey (on finance), Tesla was often credited with eerily prescient commentary on human advancement — not all of which was correctly attributed.

One common misattribution to Tesla involved “3 6 9 theory.” In February 2023, we examined a similar quote attributed to Tesla, quoting an expert on Tesla’s work on the subject of metaphysical attributions to Tesla:

Ellis Oswalt, an actor and dramatist from New York, whose book Tesla’s Words: A Stunning Utopia of the Future was awarded the Tesla Spirit Medal by the Tesla Science Foundation, told AAP FactCheck the post “doesn’t look like a genuine Tesla quote … and having read all of his existing interviews and lectures, I don’t think this is a legitimate quote”.

“Tesla had a grandiose spiritual side for sure, but he was a lot more rational than a lot of his contemporary new-age fans can understand. In his autobiography, at the age of 63, he wrote a section rebuking the belief in ghosts, divination, and the supernatural belief in ‘spirits’,” Mr Oswalt said in an email.

The particular quote and attribution shared to Reddit in March 2023 was not its first appearance on that platform. We located no fewer than five iterations of it across subreddits including r/funny, r/conspiracy, r/quotes, and r/AskReddit — including a post to r/Frisson with the same image from September 2016:

Frequently, popular quotes without a clear attribution lack evidence that they existed at all prior to their virality, and the existence of an variation from 2016 indicated the phrasing and credit to Tesla were, at the very least, not brand new. The most upvoted comment on the thread from 2016 asserted that the quote was imprecisely rendered:

The actual quote is:

“You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.”

Another commenter linked to a then-recent entry published in August 2016. It provided a source, as well as the specific phrasing that Tesla used in a broader context — an exchange between Tesla and a “military man” who was present and “envisioned [a remote controlled] watercraft as a potential weapon”:

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a 1947 “Esquire” magazine profile of Nikola Tesla titled “Ahead of His Time” by Dick Holdsworth. The quotation was spoken by the inventor during a demonstration held in New York:

At the first Electrical Exhibition held in the old Madison Square Garden in 1898 the inventor astonished spectators as he controlled by radio remote control an iron rowboat, which floated in a large tank of water in the center of the arena.


“Why, with your radio boat—loaded with dynamite—we would have any enemy navy in the world at the bottom in no time,” exclaimed an admiral who saw the demonstration.

“With this principle,” replied Nikola Tesla more prophetically than he knew, “you may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.”

Quote Investigator described the attribution as shaky, indicating “there [was] some support for the assertion that Nikola Tesla spoke the quotation … [but] current documentation [was] weak”), and clarified that Tesla’s purported remarks occurred in 1898, not 1943:

Tesla’s words were reportedly spoken forty-nine years before the “Esquire” article appeared in 1947, and Tesla himself died four years before publication in 1943. Thus, the credibility of this ascriptional evidence is reduced. Perhaps future researchers will be able to build on this lead.

A long-circulating quote about “man-made horrors beyond your comprehension” was attributed to Nikola Tesla on Reddit’s r/Damnthatsinteresting in March 2023, with an image that had been previously shared to the site in 2016. Quote Investigator explained that the purported commentary was printed by Esquire in 1947, four years after Tesla’s 1943 death. Notably, the earliest source placed the attribution in 1898 (not 1943), and no version of it appeared on Tesla’s Wikiquote entry (or its “Talk” section).