Dystopian fiction is gaining popularity due to its deeply reflective nature and futuristic perspectives on the social order. “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley is a dystopian fiction novel written and published in the early 1930s. It presents a society living in the so-called World State, where a strict intelligence-based hierarchy is maintained through the implementation of the newest technologies. The purpose of restructuring societal norms is to dehumanize the population and achieve a state of happiness for everyone. Those few who retained their individualism are unhappy, but the system has a way of dealing with psychological problems and keeping the citizens peaceful: a readily available drug soma. As one of the Controllers, Mustapha Mond, explains, humankind engineered a flawless society where everyone is designed to play a role perfectly suited to their abilities and desires. According to Huxley (2010), “people are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. (p. 279). This paper aims to discuss the relationship between technology and humanity in Huxley’s “Brave New World,” reflecting on the experiences and impacts present in the book and the contemporary world.
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A Comparison of Specific Elements in the Novel and the Modern World
“Brave New World” touches upon subjects that reveal that Huxley’s world mirrors our experiences today in numerous aspects. The use of reproductive technology is one of the main similarities between modern life and the World State. For example, in Huxley’s (2010) book, specific in-vitro fertilization called “Bokanovsky’s Process” and advanced genetic alteration of humans are utilized to create numerous clones and maintain the perfect societal order (p. 11). In the modern world, in-vitro fertilization is possible and common, and technologies allow for modifying DNA. However, so far, neither of the processes has been performed for the purpose of human cloning. A mammal, the famous Dolly the sheep, was cloned successfully, but the application of the procedure to humans involves massive ethical concerns and is unlikely to be performed soon.
Another similarity is the production of a substance aiming to make a person feel happy and relaxed. As one of Huxley’s (2010) characters, Henry Ford, mentioned, to stop being glum, one needs “a gram of soma,” a commercially produced, readily available to anyone drug (p. 70). In the contemporary world, a corresponding element would be ecstasy or similar drugs that affect the human brain and the perception of reality. They are known to affect the brain and cause a sense of euphoria, peace, and relaxation. The official policy opposes drug use aiming to keep a healthier and less crime-ridden society. However, despite the war on drugs, other powerful medicines such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and tranquilizers are used to treat mental illnesses. Along with increasingly legal marijuana and alcohol consumption, this element bears a striking resemblance to Huxley’s world.
Consumption and technologies enable it to play an essential role in the World State’s society. Huxley (2010) emphasizes that for the novel’s characters, “ending is better than mending” (p. 66). Buying a new item is easier than fixing it; besides, such a state of social consciousness encourages consumerism and the continuous buying of goods, which is consistent with capitalism and production principles. Moreover, the superiors of the World State refuse the technology that does not promote consumption. Nowadays, overconsumption is a problem that contributes to a reduction in the planet’s carrying capacity, endangering the environment and people’s health. Many people are driven by the need to replace their devices frequently, similar to Huxley’s idea.
Other means of technological impact include sleep control and psychological manipulation. Both techniques amplify the process of dehumanization, as children are made to listen to repeated phrases that program them to accept their role in society. Besides, psychological manipulation is used for wiring every human being’s brain to love their idol Henry Ford, a wonder drug soma, and sex. A corresponding element in modern society would be media, since TV, the Internet, and social networks can substantially impact human consciousness and behavior. Moreover, contemporary technologies give people opportunities to escape and block emotional connections and experiences.
The Impacts of Technologies on Humanity in the Modern Society
Huxley’s World State is highly advanced and progressive, but it is hideous and apocalyptic, with its oppressive control, utilitarianism, psychological manipulation, consumerism, and indulgence. In the modern world, scientific advancements have both positive and negative impacts on what it means to be human. On the one hand, reproductive technology, genetic modification, and medical innovation can improve many people’s quality of life.o On the other hand, ethical concerns are often involved in applied science. For instance, in neurotechnology experiments, there is a risk of altering an individual’s sense of perception. Besides, modern devices not only enable people to pursue knowledge and keep in touch in the distance but also to engage in mindless activities that suppress reflective thought and development, destroying free will. Overconsumption is another negative effect on society that can make people egocentric and irresponsible. However, it is worth noting that humankind is now realizing the dangers and is coming to an idea of continuous development and conscious consumption. If ethics is considered, humanity can benefit from technology and avert its negative implications.
In conclusion, Huxley’s dystopia written almost a hundred years ago is even more relevant today as it expresses criticism about current technological trends and societal norms. “Brave New World” touches upon the themes of reproductive technology, genetic alteration, drug consumption, consumerism, sleep control, and psychological manipulation, all of which are reflected in the modern world as well. By presenting a society utterly transformed by scientific advancements, Huxley warns people about the threats they pose to the notion of humanity.
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Huxley, A. (2010). Brave new world. RosettaBooks.