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Goals Of Technology In Brave New World

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Scientific progress and technological innovations have been, along with new ideas of social organization, the principal scope of interest for the vast majority of utopian writers. Whether based on some rational predictions of the future development of science, or belonging to the sphere of pure fantasy, technology in utopian writing has been generally described as a means of achieving the state of universal order and happiness, a way to establish collective prosperity and social equality. However, as the advancement of civilization displayed the possibility of realization of many of the inventions and discoveries foreseen by utopian writers, a number of authors began to recognize the potential threats posed by technological progress. That awareness, which, to a large extent, gave rise to the literary phenomenon of anti-utopia, has been expressed by Nicolas Berdiaeff, whose statement was adopted by Aldous Huxley as a motto of his book:

Les utopies apparaissent comme bien plus rйalisables qu’on ne le croyait autrefois. Et nous nous trouvons actuellement devant une question bien autrement angoissente: Comment йviter leur rйalisation dйfinitive? . . . Les utopies sont rйalisables. La vie marche vers les utopias. Et peut-être un siècle nouveau commence-t-il, un siècle où les intellectuels et la classes cultivйe rêveront aux moyens d’йviter les utopies et de retourner à une sociйtй non utopique, moins ‘parfaite’ et plus libre (Huxley 1932: 5).

It seems characteristic of most anti-utopias that technology, as portrayed therein, has acquired a definitely hostile and dangerous quality, becoming almost synonymous with dehumanization. It has ceased to serve as a tool employed by mankind in a profitable way for the sake of widespread prosperity and happiness, and has become a supreme force able to impose obedience on men. It may be stated that the natural order of things, as presented in utopian writing, has been reversed – “free, creative man is overcome by his own mechanical and chemical skills” (Brander 1970: 199). He is reduced from master to slave, while technology has assumed the position of supremacy. Still, one should be aware of the fact that it is utilized (although whether controlled is a matter of debate) by a small group forming the ruling class, in order to subordinate the rest of the society. Such is, in brief, the primary function of technology in Brave New World – to control and maintain authority over the whole of population. The community of Utopia depicted in Huxley’s book “represents the triumph of all that he most fears and dislikes: for it is a world in which humanity has been dehumanized, a world in which scientific ‘progress’ has been produced, so to speak, to the nth degree” (Brooke 1954: 22). It is a totalitarian and technocratic society designed by genetic engineering, and regulated by neural conditioning with mind-altering drugs, with a manipulative media system, and “with every action of body and mind predetermined, manipulated, controlled” (Brander 1970: 17).

Perhaps the most striking example of how technology is applied to preserve order in the society and regulate its functioning in Huxley’s Utopia is the issue of procreation. The traditional, natural way of producing offspring is abandoned and strictly forbidden, as it is considered by the authorities a threat to the society’s existence. It is, therefore, replaced by a practice of artificial insemination. The Bokanovsky Process, as it is called, is a method whereby a human egg’s normal development is arrested, then buds, producing many identical eggs. Not only does this method create millions of standardized and ‘technically perfect’ citizens for Utopia, but also enables the leaders of the community maintain supreme control over the number of population and the supply of different ‘species’ according to the demands: “The population problem has been resolved. People are manufactured as they are needed, a few Alpha Plus specimens, hundreds of Epsilons” (Brander 1970: 64). For that reason, the Bokanovsky Process is applauded as “one of the major instruments of social stability” (Huxley 1932, 18). Technology proves useful also in preventing pregnancy (which comes as a tangible threat given the fact that sexual activity in Utopia is not only permitted but in fact encouraged) with the use of malthusian drill. Still, technology allows Utopian women to experience all the psychological benefits of childbirth with a procedure of pregnancy substitute.

The process of externally controlled procreation, however, is but the first step of a complex system, which, by the use of scientific innovations, allows the authorities to determine the life of every individual in the community. Utopian predestinators decide the future function and social role of each embryo, essentially assigning class status. In this way, the leaders of Utopia are also able to keep the social classes balanced in the way they felt benefited everyone. This is accomplished by means of ‘conditioning’ – a process of subliminal indoctrination carried out in State Conditioning Centres, which “ensures that every individual shall perform automatically his allotted function within the community” (Brooke 1954: 23). Here, shock therapy and hypnopaedia provide the educational process for a whole generation. In Chapter 2, for instance, babies receive shock therapy every time they try to touch a book or flowers (since neither reading nor the love of nature id profitable for the society). “They’ll grow up with what psychologists used to call ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned. They will be safe from books and botany all their lives.” (Huxley 1932: 29). The use of hypnopaedia, a practice of mind programming during sleep, which involves playing a tape to a group over and over, instead of individualized learning, strengthens the conditioning process, and underscores the devious nature of the state’s educational system. Utopia’s children are only taught the quantity and quality of information that is needed to fulfill their designated role in the society.

George Woodcock points at the superiority of such methods of control over simple physical force: “Men are so conditioned from the time the spermatozoon enters the egg in the Hatchery that there is little likelihood of their breaking into rebellion . . . Thus the controllers are able to govern with a softly firm hand” (Woodcock

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