Are We Living Huxley’s Brave New World?

When looking at the classic dystopian pieces of literature that have been crafted over the past century, few pieces stand out as well as the Orwellian classic 1984.  This piece was one of the first to take into consideration the proliferation of communications technology gone wrong and being hijacked by a government gone mad.  But when looking at the political landscape so many who fear an Orwellian world may be even more horrified to come to the realization that Aldous Huxley’s equally grim depiction of humanity’s future may be coming true already.  Are we living in a Brave New World today?

Though it was written in 1931 and published in 1932, Brave New World could have just as easily been a prediction of the future.  In Huxley’s book, the entire world operates under one government not unlike the proposed new world order suggested by George Bush Senior and other high up politicians ever since.  But while most fear an Orwellion surveillance state springing from this union of all nations on Earth, in Huxley’s book it is the decision of the masses to an extent to keep civilization as an incredibly simple system.

In Huxley’s vision of the future we see that humans are divided up into different castes – very similar to the cast system developing today in western culture.  Rather than having a core social culture, subcultures are giving rise to the polarization of different outlooks on life – and doing so often with the illusion of free choice.  And the rise of the Internet not only creates incubating chambers very similar to those suggested in Brave New World, but rather than making changes on a purely biological scale, these are reinforced long after through specialized networks of information that close entire populations off to different aspects of world culture while opening up whole new vasts swaths of knowledge in others.

And there’s the philosophy summarized by the phrase “It’s better to end than mend.”  Our society has done the same but with fewer words.  For us, “planned obsolescence” will suffice.  The philosophy here is that more profit can be made if something breaks or is technologically inferior after a short time.  After purchasing the most advanced computer on the market or the most stylish car, in only a matter of months – and sometimes weeks, it will be out of date.

And then there is the final and perhaps most important similarity.  In the book society is highly distracted, focusing on matters outsiders might consider trivial rather than attempting to take an honest look at the society they are in and the system itself.  Indeed it seems several generations have passed without a critical look at society in some time.  And of course there is also Soma, the drug designed to regulate peoples’ behavior.  When Huxley wrote Brave New World the idea of using medication to regulate behavior and personality was virtually unheard of.  Today it is commonplace.  So are we heading into this Brave New World?  Some would say we’ve already arrived.