Brave New World raises the terrifying prospect that advances in the sciences of biology and psychology could be transformed by a totalitarian government into technologies that will change the way that human beings think and act. Once this happens, the novel suggests, the totalitarian government will cease to allow the pursuit of actual science, and the truth that science reveals will be restricted and controlled. Huxley argues that the more human beings harness technology to guarantee human happiness, the more they will end up enslaved by technology, to the neglect of higher human aspirations.
World State technology is undoubtedly effective in creating complacent citizens. During a student tour, the Director of the London Hatchery explains the process of hypnopaedia, when recordings asserting World State morality are played for sleeping children to subconsciously absorb: “‘Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind. And not the child’s mind only. The adult’s mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions!’ The Director almost shouted in his triumph.” Such a process is chilling, because the whispered suggestions actually give shape to a developing child’s thought processes and his or her perception of the world.
Yet, at the same time, such technological control is inherently reductive. That is, the use of conditioning like hypnopaedia falsely suggests that a human being can be reduced to the ethical maxims he or she is force-fed. While such conditioning is undeniably effective for keeping the World State running, the presence of figures like Bernard and Helmholtz—both of whom resist aspects of their conditioning and long for something more than what the World State says is permissible—shows that it’s not foolproof. There is more to humanity that the mind’s ability to “judge and desire and decide,” and World State technology is unable to control that “something more” as effectively as it forms children’s likes and dislikes.
Because technology is limited in this way, the World State must control its advancement. When Mustapha Mond explains to the Savage that even technological and scientific advances are suppressed for social reasons, he says, “Every change is a menace to stability. That’s another reason why we’re so chary of applying new inventions. Every discovery in pure science is potentially subversive; even science must sometimes be treated as a possible enemy.” In other words, technological changes risk undoing the World State’s carefully conditioned stability and making people recognize and resist their enslavement. He goes on to explain that, “We can’t allow science to undo its own good work. That’s why we so carefully limit the scope of its researches—that’s why I almost got to an island. We don’t allow it to deal with any but the most immediate problems of the moment.” Mond doesn’t question the value of science; he used to be an avid researcher himself. Because he knows science’s potential, though, he makes sure its ambitions remain limited, so that the World State’s achievement of stability can stand unchallenged.
In “Our Ford’s” time, Mond muses, “they seemed to have imagined that [science] could be allowed to go on indefinitely, regardless of everything else. […] Mass production demanded the shift [from truth and beauty to comfort and happiness]. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t.” Mond’s reminiscence on 20th-century technological progress is one of the most prophetic notes in the novel. Huxley suggests that his readers should not assume that such progress can last forever, especially when it is allowed to usurp concerns about aspects of the human experience besides shallow happiness, like truth and beauty. The more human beings use technology to secure convenient happiness, the further enslaved they will become by it.
Technology and Control ThemeTracker
Technology and Control Quotes in Brave New World
“And that...is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.”
Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour. I'm so glad I'm a Beta.
“Till at last the child's mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child's mind. And not the child's mind only. The adult's mind too—all his life long. The mind that judges and desires and decides—made up of these suggestions. But all these suggestions are our suggestions... Suggestions from the State.”
Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches.
“A gramme in time saves nine.”
“Put your arms around me...Hug me till you drug me, honey...Kiss me till I'm in a coma. Hug me honey, snuggly...”
"Free, free!" the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the area while, with the other, he punched the indistinguishable faces of his assailants. "Free!" And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side–"Good old Helmholtz!"—also punching—"Men at last!"—and in the interval also throwing the poison out by handfuls through the open window. "Yes, men! men!" and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash-box and showed them its black emptiness. "You're free!"
Howling, the Deltas charged with a redoubled fury.
“The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get... And if anything should go wrong, there's soma.”
“There's always soma to calm your anger, to reconcile you to your enemies, to make you patient and long-suffering. In the past you could only accomplish these things by making a great effort and after years of hard moral training. Now, you swallow two or three half-gramme tablets, and there you are. Anybody can be virtuous now. You can carry at least half your morality about in a bottle. Christianity without tears—that's what soma is.”