Technology In The Service Of Governmental Control In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
After Ford, in Huxley’s envisioned society, the government takes entire charge of life in exchange for safety and security. The tools the government uses include soma, sex, cloning, conditioning, reinforcement, monitoring, and exile of non-conformists. Although there is much interest in many of these methods in our real world today, we are not there quite yet. The main reason may be, rather frighteningly, that we have not yet perfected these technologies yet.
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A government-sponsored “holiday from reality”: Soma
The Brave New World runs on soma. This sounds like a current advertising message about Dunkin Donuts, but it is certainly true of the imagined world of Aldous Huxley. Many people today go their whole lives without using caffeine, but in the A.F. world, everyone uses soma with government encouragement and enforcement. I
In our real world, many, if not most people do, eventually, have some experience with a mind-altering substancedrug during their lifetime, if only at weddings or holiday celebrations. All these items, from wine to LSD to ecstasy, our era’s mood alterers, have horrible side effects. For most people, therefore, they are self-limiting.
Current psychoactive substances have too many negative effects to be universally used
Too much beer makes you fall asleep. Too many uppers make you crash from exhaustion. Anything that affects the brain also makes you feel uncomfortable afterwards. They leave you with a , but there is a self-limiting effect of all of our contemporary psychotropics and mood-alterers. They give horrible hangovers, or the munchies, or they lead to disgusting, dangerous or self-destructivemaladaptive behavior, like weaving all over the road, or vomiting, or falling down, or saying really stupid things.
Those effects make regular misuse unpleasantcomfortable unless you the individual becomes emotionally or chemically dependent on a various mind-altering substances. Of course, many people do, unfortunately, indeed become dependent, because most of the mind-altering agents we have today are also chemically addictive. Even more dangerously, they can allow you to avoid facing and solving problems, like loneliness, or disappointment, or anger. They act as a crutch, a crutch that can rapidly become. indispensable.
Dependency on a mind alteringmind-altering substance, even a legal one, can lead to particularly horrible results. All of us know of a young adult who has lost interest in school or friends, or anything or anybody, unless they can help obtain the next ‘high’. All of us have heard about families where a parent is not present because they are always at a bar, or passed out unconscious, or transformed changed into a monster when under the influence.
Unfortunately, most of us have heard of a young person involved in a car accident because of driving while intoxicated. The tabloid news is full of people who have become addicted to prescription drugs, or find themselves bouncing in and out of methadone programs. We know that many date rapes and unwanted pregnancies result from misuse of all sorts of drugs and alcohol. Much of the crime that makes our cities dangerous can be traced to drug users and dealers.
THowever, these unpleasant results side effects make it unlikely that even legalization will result in universal usage of marijuana, cocaine, peyote, mescal, heroin, and synthesized drugs, no matter the pressure from government or suppliers. Not until and unless we have a drug as free of side effects and negative behavioral results as soma promises, are we likely to be at risk of becoming a nation of drug-heads.
Soma: government stability is assured
Huxley is clear on the point that such a fabulously convenient substance did not just materialize.. He says that it took years of subsidized research to discover it.”Two thousand pharmacologists and bio-chemists were subsidized in A.P. 178…Six years later it was being produced commercially.” (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. 41)
The attraction of soma is that it is so free of downside effects. It relieves stress, and worries, and gives energy and enthusiasm for work (for the government of course). It peps you up for recreation, and dulls discomfort. It gives pleasant visions, even a taste of eternity. In really large doses, it is a perfect sleeping pill., “The perfect drug…Euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant.” (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. ibid) It has no apparent side effects unless over-used to a point where even an A.F. physician objects. I, such as in Linda’s case, when she demands it in constantly increasing ridiculous doses.
Then it kills.. Soma takes the place of all the alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs of the earlier age It replaces all the alcohol, tobacco, and Valiums of the earlier age. A citizen can, “Take a holiday from reality whenever you like, and come back without so much as a headache or a mythology.” (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. 42)It even helps to replace religion. In a cynical dismissal of both religion and opiates, the Controller describes the soma-induced high as having, “All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects.” (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. ibid)
To ensure its use for the purposes of control,hen, the government makes sure that everyone uses it by means of constant reinforcing messages. Soma is a part of everyone’s pay package, so it is integrated into daily life, whether at work, in recreation, or in the religion substitute of the Community Sing.
such as, “What you need is a gramme of soma…One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments…And do remember that a gramme is better than a damn.” (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, pp. 42-43)
The result of all this is long-term stability, and ease of governingthat, “Stability was practically assured.” (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. 42)
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Soma, therefore, relieves stress and worries and gives energy and enthusiasm for work (for the government of course). In small doses, it elevates mood, in larger doses, it gives pleasant visions, and in still larger doses, it offers sleep. It has no apparent side effects unless over-used to a point where even an A.F. physician objects, such as in Linda’s case when she demands it. Then it kills.
In spite of its advantages, soma is nonetheless a deadener. It hides the true nature reality of the world from its users. Sometimes, this seems to help: Lenina manages to listen to a boring discussion with an attentive expression on her face because she is high as a kite!
However, Huxley warns us that, describes how, for Lenina and her partner Henry, soma can shut out the reality of the world.“soma had raised a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds” (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. 60).
For example, while under the influence of soma, Lenina and Henry do not notice that the sky is blotted out by huge electric message signs. They don’t notice that the dance hall (the government) is ordering them to leave with both musical and verbal commands.In a soma-induced haze, such details as the blotting out of the stars by electric message signs, and the ever-present commands of the government, are simply invisible. With everyone walking around in a contented daze, Tthe government can rob the populace of independenceautonomy as easilysurely as one can pick the pocket of a drunk passed out in the gutterblissed out dope head.
The soma does makes them happy, after a fashion. It also makes them dangerously unobservant of what is going on, or at least, it makes it difficult to maintain a sense of outrage about the government’s choices and actions. An awareness of what might be wrong and the energy to object are both necessary for a population to create change.
This ‘perfect drug’drug’, which shuts down the sense of outrage,, along with totalunfettered access to sex, keeps the citizens cooperativedocile and unlikely to revolt. In combination with the predictability offered by the cloning process and other techniques, the government makes its own job much simplereasier.
Prohibition is no bargain, either!
Should we be looking enviously at this imagined state of affairs where a powerful substance is freely available? It is certainly true that the current systems we have in place to deal with mind-altering drugs have been notably unsuccessful. The people who seem to benefit in an obvious way are dealers, folks who manage prisons, rehab/detoxification programs, halfway houses, and all the other institutions that pick up the pieces of shattered lives, and of course, lawyers. All these people They all have an enormous, self-interested motivation to maintain the system as it is now.
Users certainly do not benefit! Users are at risk at every point in the current consumption process. When users buy illegal substances on the street tThey receive products of uncertain quality. These can, which can literally kill them. Their transactions to purchase substances often take place at high risk to their physical safety. Dealers kill each other, and customers who don’t pay or somehow offend the dealer. Finally, if a user is they are detected by law enforcement, there goes their chance to finish school or college, have a career, or succeed in life. There are vast numbers of people behind bars because of possession of an illegal substancethey risk their current liberty and their future success due to a criminal record.
In the case of plant-based substances, Pproducers, the farmers (often in poor countries) who grow poppies and marijuana, don’t benefit greatly from our current systems. They are at risk of loss of their crops, at the least, when enforcement agencies choose to destroy them. They are often small operations, and if so, they have no power to protect themselves.
Does legalization of drugs work?
Portugal is the only major country where marijuana (the substance most similar to soma in its effects and relative harmlessnessinnocuousness) is truly legal. They seem happy with their 5-year experience of legality and medicalization of drug misuse and abuse. They have seen a slight, and encouraging, decline in the use of mind-altering substances by youth.. (Szalavitz, 2009)
What makes their situation different from the Brave New World’s is, of course, the absence of soma. Many of the drugs that Portugal is dealing with cause horrible side effects, as noted above, and their use is really a form of victimhood. The government has been able to spend more money on treatment and less on law enforcement. However,, but it is still trying to help people get over and heal from the use of powerful and dangerous substances, not promote their use. We really have no model in the real world that mimics the Brave New World’s.
‘Dear little bottle of mine’: Cloning makes governing simpler
The other major tool that the Brave New World’s government uses for control is cloning. or, as the Controller puts it, “.ectogenesis, neo-Pavlovian conditioning and hypnopædia …”. (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. 38) The way that the A.F. government performs cloning involves a great deal of tinkering with the fertilized eggs and the newly divided embryo., using centrifuging and X-rays, with genetic material during the fertilization and early cell division process All this activity is probably affecting the genetic material, (although back in 1932at the time, DNA was not described yet).
Cloning in the Brave New World It also involves a lot of poisoning, feeding, oxygen deprivation, postural changes, and temperature extremes, and such while the embryo is developing later on. These interventions result in a whole range of human ‘types’ such as the Epsilon, who mature early and do heavy, mindless work, or the Alphas, who run the world (Huxley, Brave New World, 1965, p. 10).
How realistic is this? Cloning of plants has been going on for some time now in the real world. A few animal species have been cloned, as well, largely on an experimental basis. Human cloning on any sizable scale seems to be in the distant future. However, it is fascinating to consider whether this would be a is at all desirable direction for the human race.
What do we know about cloning in the 21st century? Cloning today requires surgical withdrawal of eggs from a live female (as it does in Huxley’s world as well). It involves manipulation of these eggs to get them out of the body, and then fertilized. This activity may subtly damage the embryo and, which may contribute to developmental problems later in life. However, the critical feature is that Itit results in creates an embryo that has the same characteristics as the ‘parent’, both good and bad.
Cloning offers a tremendous temptation to tinker
The whole process is a major temptation to select for desired genetic characteristics, or to alter them. Centrifuging the sperm can make a difference, for example. Testing individual fertilized eggs for undesirable traits (for example, Down’s Syndrome, or Tay-Sachs)genetics can allow for discarding of all but the apparently healthy fertilized eggs..
What if cloning does not ‘work’? What is the morality of cloning?
There are ethical and health questions at every point along the process. (Stafford & Mannor, 2010) (Best, 2010) Is discarding a fertilized egg murder? Furthermore, For example, what how would we deal does one do with the ‘failures’ that are not discarded and develop into viable babies? These might be considered the , the equivalent of the Epsilons, Deltas, and Gammas in the Brave New World?.
We have a huge amount of trouble today in integrating even mildly disabled people into our society humanelynot managed to find a humane way to fully integrate those who are even slightly developmentally disabled, or physically disabled, into our current society.. We can just barely manage their lifetime care, as it is. What would we do with a vast additional number! We are very uncomfortable today assigning menial labor to those with mental deficits. We would have to change completely our approach to work, education, and virtually everything!
Cloning may have unintended, unforeseen consequences
We don’t know everything about the genome, even of the simplest organisms. We don’t know the function of every part of the DNA molecule. When we select for one desired characteristic, we may be also be unknowingly selecting for an undesirable effect as well. Cloning in plants and animals preserves and reproducesspreads traits that could well be can be detrimental. , since it is a deliberate reduction in diversity and variation in a species.
Cloning is in conflict with the protection of genetic diversity
Since cloning is a deliberate reduction in diversity and variation in a species, it can leave Cloning, as noted above, leaves a population vulnerable to any newny environmental challenge. If the to which the ‘parent’ had no resistance or capacity to exploit a new condition, neither will its identical offspring. This can be quite dangerous when, for example, a disease mutates into something not experienced before.
As an example, right now, all of us eat bananas which are basically clones of one species. They are dangerously at risk for disease. A variety of breeds would help bananas to survivefight disease organisms better. This is because in any natural, varied population, some would have natural resistance, and would fight the disease successfully..
Similarly, a cloned human population would lose some of the protection that diversity offers. A cloned population, for example, of bananas, needs completely controlled environmental conditions to protect it from challenges that could wipe the every individual out. Huxley’s world provided that protection to the human population, for example through weather control and medicine.
Cloning cannot completely overcome environmental effects
Cloning cannot eliminate the effect of even tiny differences in environment during growth and development. Consider Bernard Marx, and his life-long handicaps as a result of some mistake in-vitro with a few drops of alcohol. Consider that Lenina and Fanny are differently “pneumatic” The Brave New World solves this by hatching a whole group of twins at the same time, and managing their upbringing totally. For our real world, however, we have no such controlled environment, and we would really not know what to expect, even with a genetically identical offspring. If the goal is to achieve predictability, this is a risky experiment,
Cloning is a temptation to play God
Ethicists and philosophers fear that cloning will include a temptation to tinker around with the genotype. Cloning could allow parents to tailor-make a child, with blond hair and blue eyes, and high intelligence and a perfect metabolism, which could mean that any child not so designed would be a second-class citizen. Alternatively, there could even be fads in appearance, or other trivial characteristics. Humans have a very sorry record of altering the appearance of dogs through selective breeding for appearance, without thoughtfully considering whether the bulldog’s squashed face might interfere with its breathing, or a collie’s narrow face might squash its brain!
It all sounds like eugenics, and it is!
Huxley actually seems to have thought that a bit of restraint on breeding was a sensible thing. He took note of the problems associated with over-population. He also noticed that medicine allowed the survival, to reproductive age, of individuals who would have died young in earlier eras. He noted that Wwhen genetic problems are allowed to be reproduced in the population, the result could be interpreted as a loss of evolutionary fitness (Huxley, Brave New World Revisited, 1965, p. 12). This is a really politically incorrect idea to even bring up, and Huxley would not have gotten away with making such a point these days.
There is a good reason for us to be cautious about anything that looks or sounds or smells like eugenics. We can just barely decide how to take care of our own health in our own lifetimes. How can we competently decide such things as whether to eliminate any and all embryos that shows signs of being prone to a disease, or condition that we don’t understand or cannot deal with readily?
In the Brave New World, cloning is only one elementpart of a cradle to grave system of control. We are very far from having the technology to do it effectively, although individuals and nations may try to exploit it.
Between soma, cloning, conditioning, sleep teachinghypnopaedia, sex, and constant reinforcement, and removal of troublemakers by exile, among other techniques, the A.F. world exercises total management of the population. Stability, not innovation or achievement, are the goals. This is so fundamentally at odds with human aspirations that it is difficult to imagine it remaining in place for long. However, the threat of this kind of government is worth remembering as we keep abreast of technology.
Best, B. (2010). The Implications of Cloning. Web.
Huxley, A. (1965). Brave New World (Harper Colophon ed.). New York, NY, USA: Harper and Row, Publishers.
Huxley, A. (1965). Brave New World Revisited (Harper Colophon ed.). New York, NY, USA: Harper.
Pilling, R. (2009). Bananas are clones. Web.
Stafford, K., & Mannor, M. (2010). Cloning. Web.
Szalavitz, M. (2009). Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work? Web.