Aldous Huxley’s Neoliberal Dystopia

Aldous Huxley, author of Doors of Perception and the Brave New World, on March 20 1962, he gave a lecture at the UC Berkley in which he clearly laid out the vision of a planned future society which appears the blueprint of a Neoliberal Dystopia:

In the past, we can say that all revolutions have essentially aimed at changing the environment in order to change the individual. Today, we are faced with the approach of what may be called the ultimate revolution, the final revolution where man can act directly on the mind and body of his fellows. The nature of the ultimate revolution which we are now faced is precisely this; that we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy that always existed and presumably will always exist, to get people to actually love their servitude.

First of all, to standardize the population, to iron out inconvenient human differences. To create mass produced models of human beings, arranged in some kind of a scientific class system. The number of predictions which were purely fantastic when I made them 30 years ago, have come true or are in the process of coming true; not through terror but through making life much more enjoyable than it normally does. Enjoyable to the point where human beings come to love the state of things that by any reasonable human standard they ought not to love. And this, I think, is perfectly possible.

This did not come to pass, and yet as one looks upon the current crop of neoliberal intellectuals one hears the echoes of such planned worlds even now. Depopulation of work by machinic systems, the slow and methodical enslavement of humanity to the devices they cherish as part of their mobile internet of things, the escape into virtual reality fantasies, the twisted dreams of transhuman enchancement and performance, military cyborgs and robots, the singular dream of a collective intelligence in AGI. All these being promoted as the solution to an Oligarch’s wet dreams: sex bots and smart worlds – fully controlled environments catering to every whim. An algorithmic world that thinks for you, acts for you, decides for you. Leave the dreaming to us so you can wile the hours away in you luxury yachts or off-world paradises.

And, yet, while the Oligarchs, Plutocrats, and their minions dream of paradise the 99% excluded from such worlds will live in hell among the deadly and toxic wastelands of a depleted earth. A realm of war, famine, and pestilence fitted out with technocratic surveillance and techno-commercial enslavement. Yes, the bright future turned dark in a space of lifeless zombies hooked into the globalnet of death. Under austerity in the EU and U.S.A. a passive and compliant citizenry will ick out a menial existence even as the elite strip them of all remaining life-support systems. Street level civil-strife and battles among ethno-nationalists and Nazified warmongers along with red-and-black anarchists and communists will erode what remains of civilization in this outer wasteland till all that remains is the death squads of some hypermachinic policing agents to mop up what isn’t already dead.

The key word is control, in all of it manifestations. The National Science Foundation NBIC 2001 report spends an exorbitant amount of time on examining control and human behavior. I quote:

The multiple drivers of human behavior have long been known. Now, through the decoding of complex systems a completely predictable and managed society can be realized…. To use the tremendous computing power we now have to integrate data across those fields to create new models and hence new understanding of the behavior of the individuals. The ultimate goal is acquiring the ability to predict the behavior of an individual, and by extension, of the group … using tools and approaches provided by science and technology – will raise our ability to predict behavior. It will allow us to interdict undesirable behaviors before they cause significant harm to others and to support and encourage behaviors leading to greater social good.

Such abilities of intervention remind us of the movie made on P.K. Dick’s short story Minority Report comes to mind. In a future society, three mutants foresee all crime before it occurs. Plugged into a great machine, these “precogs” allow the Precrime Division to arrest suspects prior to any infliction of public harm. When the head of Precrime, John A. Anderton, is accused of murdering Leopold Kaplan, a man whom he has never met, Anderton is convinced a great conspiracy is afoot. His new assistant, Ed Witwer, must have corrupted the system in an attempt to oust him from the position. On the run and suspicious of even his wife, Anderton searches for the minority report to clear his name, as only two out of the three precogs predicted his guilt. Through a series of betrayals and changing alliances, Anderton discovers that the three predictions are rather a progression of alternate realities. In order to maintain the authority of Precrime, Anderton consciously decides to kill Kaplan, thereby affirming the validity of the second majority report. Anderton is thus exiled with his wife to life on a frontier colony and replaced by Witwer as head of Precrime. The story ends with Anderton’s advice to his successor: “Better keep your eyes open. It might happen to you at any time.”

Obviously this need not be. Humans could wake up and realize that it is by design that they war among themselves in the streets while the rich and powerful sit atop their empires of pleasure, laughing at the fools and their ideological games of hate: funded by the very Oligarchs to obliterate and depopulate the earth. Why do humans fall into the same traps over and over and over? Are we truly programmable? Passivated to allow the vast Cathedral of the Managerial State to control us so easily with these passive-aggressive messages and propaganda views of a Manichean universe of pure hate and evil. Like children in a sandbox we build our King on the Hill dime book mythologies replete with cartoonish philosophies to guide us in killing, maiming, and terrorizing each other rather than the Oligarchs and their minions. Why?

All our protest movements change nothing, they only bring out the worst in us and allow the very powers that be to triumph over us as they unleash the power of the State to beat us back into submission. The very act of protest itself becomes a tool in the hands not of the weak, but of the strong who rule us and seek and goad us to fight among ourselves. Like dupes in a sad Reality TV series we play our hands against each other to the nth degree: conniving, lying, cajoling, playing one off the other, till all morality turns a-moral and our normative stance becomes absolutely inhuman to the core. All the while the dictators who have set up this gaming strategy after decades of military and civilian trial and test sit back and await the body count to begin. They have no need of us, no emotional investment in our wants and needs. They seek only to obsolesce us, replace us with their machines in the coming decades. We are but the detritus of an obsolete civilization in ruins, and they know this even as they seek means to control and pacify us, tame us and domesticate us like cattle. We become nothing but the malleable meat of a dying planet in the economic grid of their profit system. They will continue to strip us of every remaining surplus bit of profit till we are no longer useful, then we all know what comes next.

I’ve asked myself for decades why we accept such merciless realms. Why we ick out such meager existences, scrape by in a world where we must work two or more jobs just to help our families survive. And, now, even that is on the plate to be scrapped in the coming decades. Will people wake up then when it is too late. Will they rebel against the stupidity and control of their lives? I used to be hopeful, not anymore. I’ve seen thousands of trees stripped to allow book after book published telling us that if we allow this to go on that this is what will happen… no one has yet to change it. It has not gotten better, only worse. Why? Why is humanity so fearful of its masters? Why do we allow a system that treats us as so much fodder in their grist mill to be excluded and depopulated at their command and control? Why do we continue to accept our lot? I have no answer, only more questions. Like many I keep thinking an event will spark the collective will of the poor, excluded, and confused out of their apathy and allow them to take the bull by the horns and rid themselves of this dark system of enslavement. Somewhere deep in my own pessimism I still hope even in despair that this is so.

I often think that what makes us human is not the power of thought, which it seems even machines are beginning to duplicate. No. It is the indefinable gestures of affect. I remember years ago on Red Skelton’s show as he’d end each segment he would enact a mime of his famous hobo character, the clown of the outcast and excluded one. Dressed in tattered clothing, an old round hat upon his head, a stubbly beard and the silent echoes of a tormented creature on the edge of existence. In one of these performances I remember him acting as if he were in a field of flowers and a young girl was crying for whatever reason. He tried everything under the sun to dissuade her from tears, until in frustration he reached out to the one lone blooming yellow flower sitting in the midst of the field and plucked it. Handing it to the young girl in a gesture of both humility and love and caring. One human bridging that silence between us all seeking in the gesture of care a fellow feeling beyond hopelessness. Of course in the mime one had to envision this young girl (who was a mere fantasy to the audience, and invisible!) looking up into the eyes of this forlorn creature, this destitute hobo who lived on the road amid rusty rails. Her eyes suddenly lighting up, a curl of a smile awakening on her lips as she accepted the strange man’s flower. In that moment the perfection of mime, that art of the impossible gesture revealed the secret of human love. Our ability to care beyond the pale of our own narcissistic dreams for another…

Maybe this is all we have left: a philosophy of gesture, of act, of caring… of reaching across that void between voids to the enemy letting them know death and destruction are not the answer, that we must learn to live together on this dire planet of pain else end it all. There will probably always be conflict of some kind on this planet, it being filled with predators and predation and organic life that feeds off plant and animal alike. Say that ours is the killing planet, and we are all locked in a deterministic universe of pain and suffering. Knowing this shall we like Buddha or Christ seek transformation and unearthly exit, or shall we like the political messiahs seek peace, or just seek some form of equitable balance among the predatory forces of our physical and mental worlds, sustain a realm in which no one has the natural right to lord it over any other? Can we create a society that seeks neither to reduce or flatten humanity into some clone-like system of university managed by elite experts, but instead one that honors the truth of both our inner and external, intrinsic and extrinsic intellects and affective passions and build a truly human world for humans? Neither fully idealistic nor materialist but some as yet undreamed of realist realm where people open their eyes and see things not as they should be but as they are… and, then deals with it day by day.

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