Brave New World
Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations of misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.
-- Mustapha Mond, Brave New World
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley describes a future dystopia with inhabitants physically, psychologically, genetically engineered and conditioned to create a stable society devoid of pain and suffering with perpetual happiness at the cost individual humanity. It's got it all, babies mass produced in labs, inhabitants conditioned to love and execute the purpose of their predefined destinies, globally agreed upon caste system, all controlling "World State" government, recreational hallucinogen without any side effects and more! Full immersion if I didn't have to lookup every fifth word in a dictionary.
Technology has been harnessed to control and shape society in this future governed by the World State. Its done away with the constructs of god, marriage, family and procreation, babies and now manufactured in distilleries around the globe.
The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.
Fertilized eggs are segregated into their respective castes, one of the only remnants of the past. The 'upper' castes are allowed to grow and develop naturally whereas the 'lower' castes are subject to 'bokanovskification', the process of splitting one egg to produce multiple identical clones. An 'improvement upon nature' as proudly remarked.
Keeping with it's capitalistic roots babies are made to order.
- Chemical factory workers: Expose to toxic chemicals to improve toleration.
- Rocket-plane engineers: Keep in constant rotation to improve balance.
Post decanting, babies are conditioned and brainwashed physically and psychologically both while awake and asleep. Pavlovian conditioning to hate the countryside and love consumption in the morning and hypnopaedia to instill moral behaviors at night.
Hypnopaedia instills the fine distinctions and prejudices for which electric shocks and alarms are too crude. Hypnopaedia, the Director concludes, is “the greatest moralizing and socializing force of all time.”
And more (which I'll skip for brevity) packed into the first three chapters out of eighteen! But you get the gist. This masterful world building is what drew me in.
Huxley's dystopia stands in stark contrast to Orwell's. As the social critic Neil Postman noted:
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
A masterful book by a masterful author.