An Animated Aldous Huxley Identifies the Dystopian Threats to Our Freedom (1958)

20 years after Aldous Hux­ley pub­lished Brave New World (1931), he was still the medi­a’s go-to futur­ist. Let me cite two exam­ples:

In 1950, Red­book Mag­a­zine asked four experts (includ­ing Hux­ley) “what the world may look like fifty years hence?,” to which the author respond­ed:

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.

Above, you can watch ani­mat­ed excerpts from Wal­lace’s inter­view with Hux­ley, cour­tesy of Blank on Blank. Find the com­plete orig­i­nal inter­view below, along with a tran­script here

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Aldous Hux­ley Pre­dicts in 1950 What the World Will Look Like in the Year 2000

Hear Aldous Hux­ley Read Brave New World

Hux­ley to Orwell: My Hell­ish Vision of the Future is Bet­ter Than Yours (1949)

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