When thinking of progress, most people think of advances in the scientific fields, believing that most discoveries and technologies are beneficial to society. Are these advances as beneficial as most people think? In the novel Brave New World, the author Aldous Huxley, warns readers that scientific advances can be a threat to society. This is particularly evident in the fields of biology, technology and psychology. According to Huxley, “The theme of Brave New World is not the advancement of science as such; it is the advancement of science as it affects human individuals”(Huxley CLC 79 290).
One scientific advance of which Huxley warns readers of is that in biology. In the setting of Brave New World, henceforth referred to as the reservation, the mass production of humans is accomplished with the Bokanovsky process. In this process, human beings are genetically engineered in laboratories. “… a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full sized adult”(Huxley Brave New World 4). One of the threats of this genetic breeding is that no family structures exist on the reservation. Instead, humans are raised in conditioning centres. R.T. Oerton points out that “Present knowledge indicates, for instance, that a child cannot be deprived of parents or parent figures, as were the children in Brave New World, without suffering lasting pathological damage to his personality.”(Oerton CLC 7 308). Another threat that the Bokanovsky process poses to society is that life is not highly valued. “Murder kills only the individual and, after all what is an individual? With a sweeping gesture he [Mr. Foster, director of hatcheries and conditioning] indicated the rows of microscopes, the test-tubes, the incubators. We can make a new one with the greatest ease-as many as we like”(Huxley Brave New World 133). Human life holds no value because it can be easily replaced through the Bokanovsky process. Furthermore, Bokanovsky’s method of mass production prevents individuality, as on the reservation, all people are cloned. Starting from the time of decanting, each embryo is genetically cloned to fall into one of the various social classes. Within each social class, all members are cloned to be intellectually and physically equivalent. Biological technology helps to achieve this equality by genetically shaping the minds of society. In Brave New World , one’s intelligence depends on the amount of alcohol injected into their embryo. For example, one of the lower classes in society, Epsilons, have quite a high amount of alcohol injected in the decanting process. Mental faculty, therefore, is predestined from the moment of cloning. By creating a world where humans are mass produced, Brave New World demonstrates that advances in biology can be dangerous if used without regard for the well being of the human race.
According to Huxley, advances in technology can also be a threat to society. In Brave New World, everything is completely mechanized, eliminating the need for creativity and imagination. Huxley warns us against mechanization, arguing “the machine dehumanizes men by demanding mechanical efficiency of them”(Hillegas 114). Man’s creativity is replaced with mundane tasks, because machines are able to do much of the work . The occupations available for people on the reservation consist of repetitive mechanical operations. In Brave New World, leisure activities are dominated by technology. The primary source of entertainment is the “feelies,” a type of movie theatre in which all the senses are artificially created. Instead of feeling the emotions portrayed on screen, the audience absorbs stimulated sensations. These stimulations prevent them from free thought, which threatens society by denying people from experiencing their own creativity and imagination. Furthermore, technology affects entertainment by being incorporated into all games of play. Games consist of advanced technological apparatus, and low organization, creating very superficial entertainment. According to Huxley, this frustrates one of humanity’s vital needs to be creative. “Men no longer amuse themselves creatively but sit passively amused by mechanical devices”(Hillegas 115). Among technological advances, one danger Huxley warns of is the advance in pharmacology. In Brave New World, an artificial form of happiness is present in a drug called soma. Soma propels the user into a hallucinatory dream world, providing relief from negativity, allowing constant happiness People are rewarded for work by receiving rations of soma. The soma ration varies according to the social classes, with the lowest classes receiving the least, and the highest classes receiving the greatest. Society is conditioned to believe that “One cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments”(Huxley Brave New World 53). This reasoning deceives the user into believing that soma is a cure-all remedy. Since soma has no side effects, it can be a threat to society because people may be drugged into a hallucinatory dream world twenty-four hours a day. It could be used as a drug not to escape the pressures of life, but to escape life itself. Similar to biology, technology can be a danger to society if used without regard for the welfare of mankind.
Finally, the most dangerous of all scientific advancements Huxley warns of, is the progress in psychology. In Brave New World, every person is conditioned. The first conditioning technique used is subliminal training. This type of psychology is utilized to program ideas into individual’s minds by a method called hypnopaedia. Hypnopaedia consists of repetitious messages that play over a loudspeaker during sleep. These repetitions are composed of socially accepted morals and values. “All conditioning aims at making people like their unescapable social destiny.”(Huxley Brave New World 13). This limits individuals from exploring life and developing their idea of happiness when “happiness” is already predetermined in their minds. According to Huxley, his “…chief strategy was to show that the conditioned happiness of Brave New World cuts men off from deep experience, keeps them from being human.”(Hillegas 118). Direct stimulation is used as another conditioning technique. On the reservation, society is conditioned against love, nature, literature, and other forms of expression that are naturally desired by man. To condition babies against nature and literature, they are mildly shocked while encountering books and flowers placed before them. Therefore, this direct stimulation causes them to have an instinctive hatred of flowers and books. According to reservation controllers, “A love of nature keeps no factories busy”(Huxley Brave New World 19). Morals and values, which normally through the growing up process can be discovered on their own, are brainwashed into society’s minds. This direct stimulation is harmful to society as it prevents people from deciding upon their own morals and values. Another form of conditioning in Brave New World deals with death. From the early age of eighteen months, children are exposed to death while playing with toys and eating candy. Thus resulting in an eternal association between happiness and death. Death conditioning can be dangerous to society as children become unable to distinguish between good and evil. In addition, sexual conditioning is present in Brave New World. From a very young age, sexual play is normal and encouraged in everyone. Together, hundreds of children play sexual games in the nude. Also, more than one sexual partner is encouraged, resulting in the absence of committed relationships. This absence of committed relationship creates a world without deep feelings of human affection. Society is conditioned to believe “Everyone belongs to everyone else”(Huxley Brave New World 35). Unfortunately, these psychological advancements cause the reservation to be a world without individual thought. Each person is conditioned into a life, which is believed to be most advantageous for them. Thomas D. Clareson points out that “The Brave New World is mindless… it’s citizens are ‘nice tame animals’…”(Huxley, DISC). The conditioning methods in Brave New World take away all freedom of choice and decision in society.
The society depicted in Brave New World is to many, a frightening one. Though, it may be more of a reality than is presently thought. Society must ensure that science is changing to suit human needs, rather than changing the human race to suit science. With the increasing progress in biology, technology and psychology, this may be an impossible feat to overcome. The world may one day be without individuality, emotions or free thought. In Brave New World, the scientific advances show to be a threat to society, where “One could of course, exist. . .” though, “… One could not-in the fullest sense of the word-live in it.”(Wright 87).