Unlike the many other great literary inspirations of the science fiction writers of the of the twentieth century, this book is not a work of science fiction.
As its name suggests, The Scientific Outlook, is an attempt to predict the next developments in science as seen from the perspective of the early 1930's.
The contents of this book were so outrageous and shocking in their time that they were best appreciated by those people who saw it as their business to show our destiny taking an unexpected turn, painting a picture of a time to come when things contrast radically with our current circumstances.
There are instances where such predictive storytelling is intended as a warning, attempting to offer an insight into how seemingly innocuous trends and apparently insignificant contemporary changes portend unforeseen (but not unforeseeable) catastrophic longer term outcomes.
Science fiction writing has a major category called 'technological extrapolation' in which the above occurs, and within that genre there is a subcategory called 'dystopia' which uses such crystal gazing to present a kind of 'negative utopia' where 'it all ends in tears'.
The two most famous twentieth century dystopias, two 'worlds turned upside down', are Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, and '1984' by George Orwell.
Both of these great works have very strong connections to this book, the former being substantially derived from it.
Aldous Huxley was Russell's student and published Brave New World a year after The Scientific Outlook.
Orwell was strongly influenced in '1984' by Burnham's 1940 classic 'The Managerial Revolution' which has strong parallels with 'The Scientific Outlook' (although Russell claims no direct influence on Burnham, he points out the similarity of Burnham's material, which was published nearly a decade after Russell's book).
Even if the similarity to the predictions in `The Managerial Revolution' was a freakish coincidence, the connection to Brave New world is unquestionable and the shared dystopian derivations are `of a piece' with 1984 to the extent where, if you want to `go back to the source' in an easily readable form (Russell's writing is razor sharp and witty, with all the historical context you could wish for in a popular science book) you could not ask for a better starting point in terms of understanding the technological roots of those two great novels.
An enjoyable and insightful read, essential for anyone trying to get to grips with the recent history and philosophy of science, especially in the highly controversial field of medical ethics, where it is possible to see eugenics from a standpoint which preceded its post-war ethical and political denunciation.