A piece of mine on the subject of Brave New World has just been published over on The Gospel Coalition website.
One striking detail of Huxley’s portrayal is that, while the World State is founded on mass production, the process of automation is suppressed, with humans doing jobs that could easily be given to machines or algorithms (Huxley doesn’t explore the possibility of quasi-intelligent machines). From a contemporary vantage point it may require a significant suspension of disbelief to imagine such an economy might be tamed to serve a larger social end, even a dystopian one. Huxley may have feared a Fordist ideology concocted and imposed by “World Controllers” within a command economy—not an unrealistic fear in the age of rising Communism and Fascism; we now seem to have much more reason to fear our subjection to the autonomous and insatiable logic of a runaway capitalist system beyond human design or control.
The World State is an intensively planned society, one that can be directly presented in propositions and is integrated by a unified human vision. Much of Brave New World consists of expositional dialogue, within which the human ideology undergirding the World State is explicitly articulated. However, the social developments that most powerfully shape our world no longer seem to be planned and definitely don’t present themselves to us directly. Rather, they’re more typically technological and societal dynamics we set in motion, whose long-term destination is unclear and whose incremental effects on us, though vast in the aggregate and in retrospect, are only perceived obliquely in the moment and the particular—when they’re perceived at all. Though we may be unwittingly conditioned, the conditioner is more likely a technology such as the Internet than a human intelligence.
Read the whole thing here.