October 14, 2016
Rule by technocracy—that is the subject of this article. In such a future, there would be no politicians. They would have been made extinct…
Huxley’s 1932 novel about a World State and its version of Utopia is still one of the most important and relevant novels of our time.
It is the companion piece to Orwell’s 1984. The overt brutal force has been removed from the equation in Brave New World. Instead: all births are synthetic, hatched in artificial womb factories, with accompanying genetic manipulation; no more nuclear families; no more monogamy; education is achieved through hypnotic sleep-learning; a caste system is engineered so the lower, less intelligent classes are happy with their lot, and the upper-level “alphas” occupy the top positions; the castes have little interest in associating with each other.
Technocracy has triumphed.
The theme of life, the basic theme, is Pleasure. Pleasures of the senses. Not of the mind, not of constructive action, certainly not of imagination. Pleasure keeps the citizens of the World State occupied…and if that fails, the ultimate backup is a drug called Soma, which relieves anxiety and depression and stimulates “happiness.”
There are many people living among us today who would opt for that life in a heartbeat. They would see no downside. “Well, of course. Sign me up. I’ve been trying to find that pleasure all along. I’ll take it.”
The 1932 technocrats of Brave New World found a key. Why should they waste time trying to inflict pain on the population as a control mechanism? Why should they risk rebellion and revolution? Go “positive.” Give people pleasure. Absolutely.
All older forms of government fade away. They were just crude experiments in the foothills of the one and only revolution: technology deployed to pacify the world.
By the way, in Brave New World, no one reads books. They’re unnecessary. They make no sense. The “better life” is already a living fact. What possible benefit could a book deliver?
Every time I read Brave New World I see complacent animals grazing in pastures. That’s the picture. Human animals at peace in the fields. Nothing to care about. Nothing to think about. Just bend and chew. Don’t worry, be happy.
As Patrick Wood mentions in his fine and highly recommended book, Technocracy Rising, Huxley began writing Brave New World as a parody of other utopian novels of his time, but he became fascinated with his own ideas along the way, and set his mind to the task of fleshing out a technological end-game civilization.
Brave New World reveals a landscape in which people would be unable to turn around and throw off what has been done to them. They would not consider it. They would have no basis for comparison. They would have no cultural memory. They are living in a universal super-welfare state. Their needs are satisfied—especially the central need: pleasure. It isn’t gained or worked for. It’s given. It’s a fact as basic as rain and sun. It’s there. It’s the shortest distance between the present moment and the next moment.
Isn’t this the fairy tale told about rich and famous celebrities? They can wake up in the morning thinking about what pleasure is immediately there for the taking. They have the means. They have the time. They have the opportunity. In Brave New World, everyone is that kind of creature. By necessity. There is no real choice. Their most base desires are their only desires. Their horizon is shortened.