In one of my favourite and most thought provoking novels, Aldous Huxley used the future (2540 AD) as the setting and developed characters in his science fiction novel to express the fear of losing individual identity in the fast-paced world of that future. Unlike Orwell who offered a pushback to communism, Huxley focused more on technology and the ultimate impact of continuing the fast pace evolving out of the Industrial Revolution. So is that future almost upon us? Here are some of the key elements of Huxley’s Brave New World:
Abolition of natural reproduction – Children are educated via appropriate subconscious messages to mold the child’s self-image appropriate to their caste.- Discouragement of critical thinking – Discouragement of individual action and initiative – An abundance of material goods – (presumably because of advanced technology) conditions of work are not onerous – Citizens are conditioned to promote consumption. People enjoy perfect health and youthfulness until death at age 60. The World State is a benevolent dictatorship headed by ten World Controllers which has established a stable global society where the population is permanently limited. The basis of that stability is the conditioning of citizens to accept their station in life.
As a serial entrepreneur who values individualism driven by hope and accomplishment as essential to the human condition the weight of logic tells me that we are all too close to Huxley’s world and long before 2540. Here are more than enough reasons to be concerned. All of them relate to two dominant trends – rapid change and globalization.
1. The Era of Big Data is here – too much to know and digest
2. Wealth Disparity – economic rewards are accruing to capital – real wages are stagnant or in decline
3. Declining upward mobility – the middle class is in decline trending towards historical norms more limited chances for improvement – Huxley’s caste system?
4. Precarious employment – job stability is simply disappearing — those that don’t take control over their careers will flounder
5. Machine Learning- we are about to handle even more control of our research and knowledge creation to machines. Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing.
6. Cloning – the science exists – the implications are many
7. Stem cell development – we can already grow new organs – test tube babies are there for the taking. The key to perfect health may well lie in stem cell research.
8. World population is out of control – in Huxley’s world, a problem solved by limiting life
9. Control of knowledge – with Big Data and Machine Learning will we only know what we are told and will God simply become the internet? Look it up – it must be so?
10. Surveillance – Snowdon has shown that we are being watched – this will only get worse and soon
11. Corporatism – we don’t live under free market capitalism – large corporations control global markets and reap the profits – we can thank ourselves for embracing branding to facilitate this – Too Big to Fail puts a deadly premium on Big
12. Multi-nationals – these same corporations driven by profit maximization are pursuing interests that eliminate national interests as they build stronger global foundations for controlling markets. All the time individuals are being encouraged to consume at record rates.
I’m fairly sure I know what Huxley would think. How about you?