By Gabe Gauger, Current Staff
Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” a novel notorious for deconstructing the societal conscience of English civilization through intelligent and witty satire, appears as mere fiction. Or at least did.
Huxely describes a civilization in which all are classified by genetic stature, facial expression and even eye color. The same population is even psychologically conditioned to appeal and react to specific philosophies. A bleak dystopia to the modern mind, the ideology relayed is “happiness over individuality.” Yet, this is only the backdrop to a larger satirical approach.
While “Brave New World” is filled with witty and interesting satire, some of Huxley’s satire appears to have become reality, not only in development through scientific achievement, but through philosophical and political debate. This can be seen in two articles published this year by PBS’ “NewsHour” that express concern about microchipping humans and privacy in the age of technology.
These articles reveal how advances in the scientific/economic/political communities could and possibly are diminishing our sense of identity (therefore individuality, privacy, etc.), similar to how Huxley’s novel is set in a world without individuality, all to better suit a utilitarian civilization. While reading the articles, it’s hard not to think of how Huxley’s World State used “COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY” as its motto.
To specify, the article “How Tech Giants Have Shredded Our Privacy and What We Should Do About It” speaks of a lack of ethics among management of personalized data and lists the worst “offenders of privacy.” In “Brave New World,” identity has similarly become irrelevant, followed by the right to privacy. Fiction gives way to factuality.
“Microchipping Humans Wields Great Promise, But Does It Pose Greater Risk?,” meanwhile, transcribes a debate about the utility, promise and convenience of microchipping. The proposal to microchip people is similar to how Huxley’s “World State” sacrifices individuality for the convenience of happiness.
“Stability,” says the Controller in the novel. “No civilization without social stability. No social stability without individual stability.”
”Individual stability” refers to a “stability of happiness,” and the participants in the article debate whether it’s worth losing individuality for the sake of convenience (“happiness”) via newly developed biomedical microchips. Again, fiction gives way to factuality.
However, if such an eventuality where to develop, would we as a civilization really be at a disadvantage? While, yes, individuals would lack individuality, said same individuals would live a simplistically dull, yet happy life. Keep in mind that individuality doesn’t only account for privacy or attributes, but rather ideologies and philosophy. Societal and psychological innovation would halt, therefore eventually neutralizing shared interest.
Today, the brave and new world of Huxley’s novel may not seem so much like fiction.
(Top image: Radiograph of a cat with an identifying microchip, used with permission via Wikimedia Commons.)
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