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Brave New World (1932) is one of the most bewitching and insidious works of literature ever written. For sure, Huxley was writing a satirical piece of fiction, not scientific prophecy. Brave New World has come to serve as the false symbol for any regime of universal happiness.
Typically, reading BNW elicits the very same disturbing feelings in the reader which the society it depicts has notionally vanquished - not a sense of joyful anticipation.The liberatory potential of the Net as a global drug-delivery and information network has only just begun.Of course, Huxley can't personally be blamed for prolonging the pain of the old Darwinian order of natural selection.Worse, it is suggested that the price of universal happiness will be the sacrifice of the most hallowed shibboleths of our culture: "motherhood", "home", "family", "freedom", even "love". Third-millennium neuropharmacology, by contrast, will deliver a vastly richer product-range of designer-drugs to order.The exchange yields an insipid happiness that's unworthy of the name. In BNW, happiness derives from consuming mass-produced goods, sports such as Obstacle Golf and Centrifugal Bumble-puppy, promiscuous sex, "the feelies", and most famously of all, a supposedly perfect pleasure-drug, soma. For a start, soma is a very one-dimensional euphoriant.Likewise, biotechnology could have been exploited in BNW to encode life-long fulfilment, information-sensitive gradients of bliss, and super-intellects for everyone - instead of manufacturing a rigid hierarchy of genetically-preordained castes.Huxley, however, has an altogether different agenda in mind.He is seeking to warn us against scientific utopianism. Although we tend to see other people, not least the notional brave new worlders, as the hapless victims of propaganda and disinformation, we may find it is we ourselves who have been the manipulated dupes.For Huxley does an effective hatchet-job on the very sort of "unnatural" hedonic engineering that most of us so urgently need.In Brave New World Revisited (1958) Huxley himself describes BNW as a "nightmare".Thus BNW doesn't, and isn't intended by its author to, evoke just how wonderful our lives could be if the human genome were intelligently rewritten.