20 years after Aldous Huxley published Brave New World (1931), he was still the media’s go-to futurist. Let me cite two examples:
During the next fifty years mankind will face three great problems: the problem of avoiding war; the problem of feeding and clothing a population of two and a quarter billions which, by 2000 A.D., will have grown to upward of three billions, and the problem of supplying these billions without ruining the planet’s irreplaceable resources.
Then, in 1958, a young reporter named Mike Wallace had Huxley play prophet on a 30-minute TV show. Overpopulation gets discussed again. But then Huxley returns to some familiar dystopian themes, identifying some emerging threats to our freedoms.
- Overorganization: “Well another force which I think is very strongly operative in this country is the force of what may be called of overorganization. Er…As technology becomes more and more complicated, it becomes necessary to have more and more elaborate organizations, more hierarchical organizations, and incidentally the advance of technology is being accompanied by an advance in the science of organization.
It’s now possible to make organizations on a larger scale than it was ever possible before, and so that you have more and more people living their lives out as subordinates in these hierarchical systems controlled by bureaucracy, either the bureaucracies of big businesses or the bureaucracies of big government.”
- Abuse of new technologies: “There are certainly devices which can be used [to limit freedoms.] I mean, let us er…take after all, a piece of very recent and very painful history is the propaganda used by Hitler, which was incredibly effective.
I mean, what were Hitler’s methods? Hitler used terror on the one kind, brute force on the one hand, but he also used a very efficient form of propaganda, which er…he was using every modern device at that time. He didn’t have TV., but he had the radio which he used to the fullest extent, and was able to impose his will on an immense mass of people. I mean, the Germans were a highly educated people.
- Drugs: I mean, in this book that you mentioned, this book of mine, “Brave New World,” er…I postulated it a substance called ‘soma,’ which was a very versatile drug. It would make people feel happy in small doses, it would make them see visions in medium doses, and it would send them to sleep in large doses….
If you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled, and this they will do partly by drugs as I foresaw in “Brave New World,” partly by these new techniques of propaganda. They will do it by bypassing the sort of rational side of man and appealing to his subconscious and his deeper emotions, and his physiology even, and so, making him actually love his slavery.