The Brave New World Of Aldous Huxley–100 Years Later

Ed Raymond

Aldous Huxley wrote his “future” novel in 1932 at the beginning of the Great Depression.
He set it in 2500 A.D. or in 632 A.F., which stands for “after (Henry) Ford.” A mixture of socialism and Ford’s style of capitalism is the dominant political scheme. Children are raised in hatchery bottles and decanted so they can be programmed by oxygen or lack thereof to fill various roles in this benevolent dictatorship. The Alpha class receives the most oxygen, so they have the intellectual power to rule. The Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are the under-classes who do the scut work in this brave new world.
  All classes are brainwashed while asleep so they will collaborate. They are generally happy because the difficulty of their tasks is established by the amount of oxygen they are allotted. Soma is the universal drug if you feel out of sorts. If you plan on living through 2032, you should read “Brave New World” and take notes. You are probably going to live it. On F. Scott Fitzgerald’s headstone is inscribed the final line of his famous book “The Great Gatsby”: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Sorry, folks, that past is over. For 20-somethings of the poor and middle classes, I think there will be a huge pile-up in a very foggy future.

The Brave New World Facing Our 20-Somethings In 2032

   The Pew Research Center brought more reality to high school and college students this week: (1) In the past 30 years, we have slipped from first to tenth among nations in the percentage of people holding college degrees, India and China becoming our major competitors for good jobs, (2) With the job market eroding, U.S. college graduates have enormous personal educational debt, forcing some to still live with their parents and further postpone marriage and such routine matters as buying homes and cars, (3) Only 54 percent of our 18-24 young adults are currently employed, the lowest rate since the government started collecting such data in 1948, (4) The gap between employment of young adults and working-age adults is 15 percent, the greatest in recorded history, (5) Young adults have experienced a six percent drop in weekly earnings over the past four years, (6) In the first two years of the economic recovery, the net worth of the top seven percent of households gained an estimated 28 percent (+$800,000) while the bottom 93 percent dropped four percent of net worth (-$6,000).
  The reason for the rich seven percent gaining $5.6 trillion and the rest of us, the 93 percent, losing $669 billion? Les Leopold of Alternet gives us the reason: “Government officials and congressional staffers can’t wait to leave public service for lucrative jobs on Wall Street. Their collective mindset is that the world can’t function properly unless the richest of the rich get richer. Any and all policies should therefore protect our biggest banks, rather than hinder them. And, of course, both political parties are in pursuit of Wall Street cash. Little wonder the so-called ‘recovery’ transferred wealth to them.” And who “owns” Wall Street? The top 20 percent, of course, owns 91.6 percent of all stocks. The bottom 80 percent owns only 8.4 percent. The chances of the little guy making a buck in stocks are now controlled by super-computers that buy and sell billions of stocks each day.

Don’t Fall For The Crap About The Economy Is Getting Better

  We keep hearing from divergent sources such as the Treasury Department, Warren Buffett, a few economists, President Obama, and the tooth fairy that the economy is getting better. Well, it’s terrific for the One Percent. Their private game of Monopoly has reached the point where they own all the railroads, the utilities, and streets and avenues from Baltic to Park Place and Boardwalk. Hedge fund managers are making $3 million an hour and Silicon Valley billionaires are complaining that their maids, cooks, gardeners, therapists, and pilots can no longer afford to live close to them in their gated mansions so they have to provide travel and housing allowances. The 99 Percent should not fall for this crap that the economy is getting better. If it’s getting better, why are you making $545 a year less than you were four years ago?
   In the May 6 issue of USA Today, Paul Davidson and John Waggoner attempt to reveal some truth about vulture, crony, corporate, unregulated, Wall Street casino capitalism: “Stock markets and corporate profits are breaking records.... But instead of celebrating, many working Americans are borrowing a line from the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire: ‘Show me the money.’ Hourly wages ticked up four cents in April to an average $23.87, rising at about the same tepid 2 percent annual pace since the recovery began in 2009.... Adjusting for inflation, an average worker paid $49,650 at the end of 2009 is making about $545 less now—and that’s before taxes and deductions.... Living standards are not rising.” John Lonski, chief economist for Moody’s Investors, cautions workers: “Don’t hold your breath for employers to become more generous.”

We Have A Slim Chance Of Getting Out Of This Mess—And Slim Is Out Of Town

  Economic progress depends upon innovation, entrepreneurship, research and development, and sensible regulations. We can’t do these essential acts without a good K-16 education system in a secure society. Between the beginning of 2009 and the end of 2011, we lost 220,762 K-12 teachers, 56,125 police, 30,200 emergency responders, and 6,831 air-traffic controllers while tax money was hidden in dozens of tax havens around the world. Please Google “tax havens” for a revelation. It will tell you how to get 33,000 international companies in one building for tax purposes in the Cayman Islands. “Big government” charges? Just pure bullshit. We have the lowest ratio of government employment to population in recorded history. We also have the lowest tax rates since the 1950s.
   The election of a few Tea Party senators and representatives such as Ted “ McCarthy” Cruz and Rand “Trash” Paul has added a pit-bull viciousness to our political discourse. Every government regulation is against Ayn Rand “liberty.” Would the John Galts of the world feel different if they had to pay $80,000 a year to educate their autistic child? To Tea Party backers: please continue to drive without buckling up—and please enjoy the wind in your hair straddling the cycle seat. It really helps the gene pool.

The World Is A Big, Hazardous Place

   If we flew to the nearest star at 500 miles per hour, it would take a passenger five million years. Futurist Kevin Drum in the May/June issue of Mother Jones writes that the future for our young middle class will be as difficult. He writes that computers the size of softballs will be as smart as humans by 2040. Computer power is measured in calculations per second, or a “flop.” A petaflop is equal to one quadrillion floating point operations per second. Estimates of the processing power of the human brain are usually around 10 petaflops per second. We currently have superfast computers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that surpass the human brain estimates at 16.3 petaflops per second. That IBM computer currently runs about $250 million, fills a large room, and uses eight megawatts of power to run. But we have to remember that computing power usually doubles every 18 months. A neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is attempting to create an accurate model of the human brain. Henry Markham says he will finish by 2020.
  Drum writes that by 2040, robots will do just about everything a human can do and will do “it” 24 hours a day. We have computer programs today that can do the work of hundreds of lawyers in analyzing cases. That process really cuts down on the number of bottom feeders. Google is now experimenting with driverless cars and has 300,000 miles on them without an accident. They use four radars, a 64-beam laser range finder, a camera, a GPS, and detailed maps. Google has developed a driverless car that delivers newspapers on an established route. What if Google’s system is developed to the point by 2040 where airport shuttles, delivery trucks, buses, taxis, and long-haul semi trucks can be driverless? There go 2.5 million jobs.
   Even doctors have to worry about jobs. Remember IBM’s Watson computer that beat two of the world’s best Jeopardy champions? Remember IBM’s Deep Blue that defeated Garry Kasparov, the world’s top chess player? Watson is currently being programmed with millions of pages of medical information so it can do a better job of diagnosing illnesses than Dr. Gregory House did on television. It’s only been 70 years since the first computer. Now we are deluged by iPhones and in-dash navigation. The program Google Translate can now translate dozens of languages. What is next?

Will We Have A “Brave New World” Of Consumerism, Sports, Sex, And Drugs?

   Economist Paul Krugman says that belief of future progress based on skills and education may not be an answer for our 20-somethings. He predicts that robots may increase income inequality and unemployment. He writes that workers’ national income a decade ago was about 70 percent of the economic pie. That is no longer true. Now the investment crowd, the One Percent, have garnered well over half of the pie. In a computer-driven economy with increasing automation, unemployment will continue to increase.
   There’s not much doubt that robots will continue to take over jobs such as cleaning floors, diagnosing ailments, and doing finger and toenails. Robots may still have trouble handling bedpans, digging ditches, and writing columns. But now the Post Office has machines that can read almost any kind of scribbling on an envelope. I called a national newspaper to change an address today and I told a computer the change. The voice was almost like Marilyn Monroe’s. She/it even listed some options.
   When Walter Reuther was president of the United Auto Workers Union years ago, a General Motors executive showed him a new automated engine plant that created engines using robots almost exclusively. Only six humans were employed to repair and maintain the robots. When the exec started to brag about the efficiency of the plant, Reuther looked at him and asked, “How many robots are going to buy your Chevys and Cadillacs?” That is our current problem.  The middle class has not had a salary increase in 30 years. And it might not get any better. The Pentagon, because of the number of limbs lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, has developed a fully functional robotic arm that can be controlled by the human mind. It can perform almost all routine tasks.

Soma, The “Feelies,”
And “Orgy Porgys”

   Greek and Spanish unemployed are beginning to riot in the streets about lack of jobs and income inequality. China is beginning to have major riots over underemployment, the rapid rise of billionaires, pollution making some cities barely livable, and the displacement of residents so factories can be built. The birthplace of the death by a thousand cuts, Chinese politicians may be about to make the 999th. Land is so scarce all bodies have to be cremated. In Huxley’s Brave New World, cremated remains are mixed with cement and asphalt to make roads. I don’t know what China does with human remains.
   Most Brave New World citizens are diminished in intellectual capacity by being denied oxygen. They are kept happy by movies and enjoying the “feelies” of emotions shown on the screen, including sex. Female are supplied with contraceptives to ensure there are no pregnancies. Sexual orgies are OK because they occupy the mind. If feelies and orgies are not enough to satisfy, then soma is taken to dull the mind.
   Drum writes, “Capital needs to be shared more widely if we want to maintain a middle-class society.... An increasing share of corporate equity will need to be divvied up among the entire population as workers are slowly but surely stripped of their human capital. Perhaps everyone will be guaranteed ownership of a few robots.”