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>Honestly, if a brain implant was proven to be as safe as vaccination, and could get me to be happy while working 3 jobs in a mine and eating bugs. I probably would sign up.

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a setting based on a very similar concept, it'll probably be an old hat to most here on HN but I strongly encourage everyone to read it if they haven't already (along with The Doors of Perception). Huxley makes a lot of very good objections to why this "technology to make people happy with their social status" is actually a deeply dystopian notion.

Like the Savage, I don't want to live in perfectly happy world where government writ forces me to live my life on rails set for me before my birth, a world where people can only colour within the lines drawn out by the elite and are completely incapable of even conceiving a world outside the one they're born into because they're medically engineered to love their social station and be perfectly happy in the caste they were born into. In the Savage's words: "I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin". I'd rather be authentically unhappy than artificially happy because someone else told me I have to be or I'm defective.

Obviously in the case of depression and other mental illnesses it's different, you're aiming to treat a disease rather than make people slavishly compliant with a socio-political establishment. I don't object at all to the former, but I very much object to the latter if there's no way out for people who'd rather not be manipulated into social submission.




I always thought Huxley's book completely failed as a critique. The savage in the story is quite literally that, a take on the noble savage myth. We're supposed to buy that he's more free because he's just like, authentic man, similar to Orwell's obsession with chocolate and fountain pens in 1984.

The dumb worker peons always seemed silly because any sufficiently advanced control society would at the very least lift people up to be more useful, his characters are comical references to socialists (Lenina etc), it's so trite.

It's also full of conservative moral panic, for example the sexual freedom and alternative experiences through synthetic drugs never get a serious treatment as potentially positive. Why not celebrate the fact that you can create children synthetically and women are freed from reproductive obligations? The book never goes beyond "oh no the family is dead, orgy porgy!"

The book's plagued by the same provincial pastoralism you find in almost any British upper-class writer, be it Orwell, Tolkien, Huxley or C.S. Lewis.


> I always thought Huxley's book completely failed as a critique

Dystopian fiction is a intended as a warning sign of a particular dangerous potebtiay failure mode of existing/developing societal elements, not an analytical critique weighing alternate potential outcomes of the same elements.

So, yeah, it fails at being what it very much is not intended as; no surprise there.

> It's also full of conservative moral panic, for example the sexual freedom and alternative experiences through synthetic drugs never get a serious treatment as potentially positive.

Its illustrating a failure mode, noy trying to map the entire potential result space. Exploring how the same components could succeed is...very much not the point.

> Why not celebrate the fact that you can create children synthetically and women are freed from reproductive obligations?

Because the point isn't “How this could work out well”. That's not the goal.


The sexual freedom and drugs are the only positives in BNW that make it a utopia. Everything else in there is dystopian. Why is “freeing” women from reproductive obligations a good thing?


>We're supposed to buy that he's more free because he's just like, authentic man, similar to Orwell's obsession with chocolate and fountain pens in 1984.

We're supposed to buy that he's more free because he's not been hypnotically conditioned from birth (ie without his consent) to love his role in society and his place in its rigid caste hierarchy. The "civilised" people in Brave New World aren't less free because simply because they're civilised as the trope usually goes, they're less free because their social superiors have deliberately prevented them from ever learning notions of freedom to begin with - to them consumption is the highest form of existence because it's all they've ever known. Yes it leans fairly heavily on the "noble savage" trope but I don't think he's as one-dimensional as you make him out to be.

>The dumb worker peons always seemed silly because any sufficiently advanced control society would at the very least lift people up to be more useful

Why would they bother lifting people up in the context of Brave New World? The leadership's whole thing is that the ratios of the various castes are strictly controlled and most of humanity are intentionally engineered to be simpletons who love their roles and little else. The book even addresses this idea of lifting everyone up to be more useful directly, it mentions an island where everyone was in the "alpha" caste and says it was a disaster as far as Brave New World's leadership was concerned. Their argument was pretty much "why make everyone intelligent ubermensch even though we can when we still need people to empty the bins and sweep the streets - jobs these people would be profoundly unhappy doing?".

>It's also full of conservative moral panic, for example the sexual freedom and alternative experiences through synthetic drugs never get a serious treatment as potentially positive.

Huxley wasn't a prohibitionist, in fact he wrote about his experiences taking mescaline at length and was seen as an important author by the psychedelic counterculture of the '1960s. He did think that psychedelic use ought to be limited in contrast to the likes of say Timothy Leary who wanted to see them used in a more widespread fashion but I don't think Brave New World is particularly based on a moral panic. You can criticise hedonism and what Huxley would have considered cheap and ultimately hollow attempts at happiness without necessarily being a moraliser in my opinion.

I'll give you the "Lenina" thing though, I always thought that was a bit cheap.

>Why not celebrate the fact that you can create children synthetically and women are freed from reproductive obligations? The book never goes beyond "oh no the family is dead, orgy porgy!"

I have to disagree here, the point of the book isn't that these technologies are bad per se. The argument is that these technologies could potentially be used to create a dystopia that's very touchy-feely on the surface and supposedly concerned with making everyone happy but in reality creates an inauthentic happiness, a happiness where humanity is stripped of its very essence and turned into little more than livestock for the consumerist meat grinder.

In Brave New World the leadership take the view that it's fine for authorities to manipulate and coerce people as long as they're subjectively happy about it, criticising this isn't particularly moralistic in my opinion. Brave New World isn't some sexual hangup-free utopia either - its leaders actively discourage people forming exclusive relationships because they see it as a threat to their highly controlled social order. It's the logical conclusion of what countries like the USSR were doing in the '30s, weakening family ties so that children would inform on their parents and so on. Huxley is presenting the destruction of the family as a tool of political control, not lecturing us on Christian virtues.

>The book's plagued by the same provincial pastoralism you find in almost any British upper-class writer, be it Orwell, Tolkien, Huxley or C.S. Lewis.

In my opinion Brave New World is critiquing the idea people should have the decision to be unhappy taken away from them, which is quite a paternalistic idea. At any rate I think you're making a bit of a sweeping statement there, dismissing literature because you don't like the culture it came from isn't a very strong argument in my opinion. It's a bit like someone dismissing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner simply because they happen to be an atheist and the Christian allusions aren't to their taste.




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