Essential Quotes by Theme: Technology as Control

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1505

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

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“...Bokanovsky’s Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!”

Major instruments of social stability.

Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg.

“Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!” The voice was almost tremulous with enthusiasm. “You really know where you are. For the first time in history.” He quoted the planetary motto. “Community, Identity, Stability.” Grand words. “If we could bokanovskify indefinitely the whole problem would be solved.”

Solved by standard Gammas, unvarying Deltas, uniform Epsilons. Millions of identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.

Summary
The Directory of Hatcheries and Conditioning is leading a group of school boys through the hatcheries, explaining to them the wonders of modern technology, where humans are grown. By using the same egg and the process of “budding” (similar to cloning, but using a single egg and sperm to create dozens of individuals), technology can fully develop adequate workers for their respective places in society with little future training. With each person born to know his or her place, there is thus a strong measure of social stability. There is a sense of community, of belonging to a society that is highly controlled and measured, with the individual having the security of knowing his or her place in it. A sense of identity, though much simplified, leads to contentedness with what one is. This all leads to stability in the world at large. No need for greed, no need for rebellion. All the pieces of the puzzle for a perfect society are in place. As the Director later says, “That is the secret of happiness and virtue—liking what you’ve got to do.”

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 2

Roses and electric shocks, the khaki of Deltas and a whiff of asafetida—wedded indissolubly before the child can speak. But wordless conditioning is crude and wholesale; cannot bring home the finer distinctions, cannot inculcate the more complex courses of behavior. For that there must be words, but words without reason. In brief, hypnopaedia.

Summary
As the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning continues the tour of the hatchery, he leads the group into a room where infants dressed in khaki are crawling around the floor. Roses and books are placed on the floor, and the infants begin to move toward them. As they do, sirens and blasts echo through the chamber and an electric shock goes through the floor into the babies. Screaming in terror, the children are beginning to learn, through Pavlov’s classical conditioning, that nature and books are bad. As the Director tells the boys, these things are unproductive. But as country sports are good for the economy, these things are encouraged through the same process. As adults, they will go out into the country to play, but they will not love the country enough to stay. In the next room, the Director points out the effectiveness of something called “hypnopaedia.” He relates a story about a boy who went to sleep with the radio playing and woke up able to recite everything he heard as he slept. This leads to a new method of learning, though it is discovered that mere facts learned this way may be repeated but not applied in any useful way. However, it is discovered that moral conditioning can also be learned this way. Therefore, as part of the conditioning in the hatcheries, infants are fed word messages, stating what is bad and what is good. In this way, they will grow up “thinking the right way about things.”

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 3

“Who are you going out with to-night?” Lenina asked, returning from the vibro-vac like a pearl illuminated from within, pinkly glowing.

“Nobody.”

Lenina raised her eyebrows in astonishment.

“I’ve been feeling rather out of sorts lately,” Fanny explained. “Dr. Wells advised me to have a Pregnancy Substitute.”

“But, my dear, you’re only nineteen. The first Pregnancy Substitute isn’t compulsory till twenty-one.”

“I know, dear. But some people are better if they begin earlier. Dr. Wells told me that brunettes with wide pelvises, like me, ought to have their first Pregnancy Substitute at seventeen. So I’m really two years late, not two years early.” She opened the door of her locker and pointed to the row of boxes and labelled phials on the upper shelf.

“SYRUP OF CORPUS LUTEUM,” Lenina read the names aloud. “OVARIAN, GUARANTEED FRESH: NOT TO BE USED AFTER AUGUST 1ST, A.F. 632. MAMMARY GLAND EXTRACT: TO BE TAKEN THREE TIMES DAILY, BEFORE MEALS, WITH A LITTLE WATER. PLACENTIN: 5CC TO BE INJECTED INTRAVENALLY EVERY THIRD DAY...Ugh!” Lenina shuddered. “How I loathe intravenals, don’t you?”

“Yes. But when they do one good...” Fanny was a particularly sensible girl.

Summary
At the end of the work day, Lenina and Fanny are in the changing rooms, discussing their plans for the evening. When Fanny states that she is not going out with anyone, Lenina becomes concerned, since voluntary isolation is viewed with alarm by the society. Fanny, however, states that the reason is simply that she has felt unwell lately. Her physician is prescribing a “Pregnancy Substitute” that is meant to put her hormonal level in balance, since pregnancy is unknown. The medical substitution for reproduction, as well as contraception and sterilization, has freed sex to be an activity of only pleasure. The interference of the woman’s regular cycle, however, was viewed as a physical difficulty that is to be overcome with medication rather than childbirth. This treatment will put Fanny “out of action” (sexually) for a week, which is a social hardship in a world where promiscuity is encouraged, and monogamy is suspect.

Analysis of Essential Passages
Aldous Huxley presents a world that is controlled by science and technology. In contrast to George Orwell’s 1984, where the public is controlled by the manipulation of information, it is the manipulation of the physical and the psychological in the individual that leads to a totalitarian system. In many ways, Huxley, like Orwell, accurately foresaw future conditions in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Even before conception, the control begins. Genetic manipulation, using external technology, creates a class system based on workers and intelligence. Those who are to be working with hazardous material are created to be immune to the harmful effects, for example. Those who will be leaders are given a separate conditioning, leading to those qualities that will enable them to effectively lead in the totalitarian world. Some are chosen to be sterile, as their genetic information is not desirable enough to be passed on. A few are left as is, so-called “freemartins,” who will enrich the gene pool, though still being heavily controlled. Ovaries are routinely harvested, with the ova being used in "Bokanovsky’s Process," where ova are replicated through budding to ensure a large batch of offspring with identical characteristics. The lack of individual differences in certain classes thus ensures control. “Identity” is found in being like everyone with whom one works.

As humans progress, the psychological conditioning begins. Based on Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning, in which desired behaviors are rewarded and undesirable behaviors are punished, the moral behavior and preferences are implanted in children. Those things that will not benefit their work are held to be “undesirable,” and thus negatively conditioned. In the same way, those behaviors that will encourage consumption of material goods are rewarded to ensure the economic stability of the society. Though there had been some efforts to make education subliminal through “hypnopaedia,” this proved ineffective. Yet it was proved beneficial in the area of moral behavior. Thus moral messages, denoting what is good and what is bad for the individual’s specific work area, are presented through recorded messages as the children sleep. Reason in the area of morality is viewed as disruptive. Morality has nothing to do with reason.

Because reproduction has been removed from the individual, the sexual instinct is controlled through the same moral conditioning. Promiscuity is encouraged, if not enforced. It is deemed suspect if one is in the company of one individual for very long. Multiple partners are encouraged in order to placate and relieve the stress that has built up from the removal of reproduction and marriage from each person’s life. Thus this one area of “freedom” is tightly controlled, both on the physical and psychic level.

Many of these technologies are similar to current practices or studies. The process of cloning, though not identical to “budding,” still presents the opportunity to control reproduction at a level almost that of Huxley’s future. The growth of science and technology, although not currently used as a means to control people in the United States, has been used at lower levels in other cultures, mostly through child restrictions and state schools taking precedence over parental controls. The growing familiarity of such a "brave new world" makes this topic ever fresh as Huxley’s future becomes the present.

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