Brave New World: Part One

Brave New World

Brave New World was written in 1931 – the same year that James Millen and National started producing the SW-3. The SW-3 was a by product of offering a very high quality radio on the heels of the Great Depression. What I find most interesting is the thinking of the time – there were more Utopian novels out – notably by H.G Wells, and that while I have read Brave New World in either middle or high school – at the time I remember finding it horrifying. I completely missed the fact that this was a sarcastic comedy, but yes, dystopian. In fact, I think I missed many of the key facets of this book because I was reading it literally. Of course, in the 70’s, we did not have the internet, and I don’t remember the teacher explaining several important things about this story – or maybe I wasn’t paying attention. Probably the latter – I do remember starting to notice girls, and maybe that was part of why the book was introduced at that age (????)

The Feelies, one of my favorite bands, and named no doubt after a reference to movies in Brave New World

Here are a few paragraphs from Wikipedia:

“The events of the Depression in the UK in 1931, with its mass unemployment and the abandonment of the gold currency standard, persuaded Huxley to assert that stability was the “primal and ultimate need” if civilisation was to survive the present crisis.[15] The Brave New World character Mustapha Mond, Resident World Controller of Western Europe, is named after Sir Alfred Mond. Shortly before writing the novel, Huxley visited Mond’s technologically advanced plant near Billingham, north east England, and it made a great impression on him.[15]

Huxley used the setting and characters in his science fiction novel to express widely held opinions, particularly the fear of losing individual identity in the fast-paced world of the future. An early trip to the United States gave Brave New World much of its character. Not only was Huxley outraged by the culture of youth, commercial cheeriness and sexual promiscuity, and the inward-looking nature of many Americans,[16]he had also found the book My Life and Work by Henry Ford on the boat to America, and he saw the book’s principles applied in everything he encountered after leaving San Francisco.[17]”

I wouldn’t be surprised if the fine people in another band that I love (Blanche) got some of their idea for this song as a sort of modern dystopian view of the first Ford Motor assembly plant in Detroit – which is the backdrop of this video. The fact that it shows what became of that plant combined with the politician is at least an interesting tidbit anyway – even if they had no influence by Huxley and Brave New World.

I like the fact that Huxley was influenced by Henry Ford, Jazz and The League of Nations (to later become the United Nations). I also seriously doubt he was against the growing promiscuity of youth or the inward looking nature of the US, rather he was fascinated by it and moved here. There is simply no way he would have moved to LA and experimented with Mescaline and LSD if he were some patrician Brit. I would argue he was even more of a Beat than many Beats.

I’m also guessing SOMA could be anything that soothes the savage soul – alcohol, drugs, anything that could be used to “self medicate”.

There are more connections in the book that make a lot more sense re-reading this book all these years later – even the San Francisco and New Mexico have a direct connection to me now, but there were two things that hit me yesterday as I started this book:

  1. Yes, we have Invitro Fertilization now, and genetic engineering – and in China they are doing some truly scary things with this
  2. We also have Artificial Intelligence and “Big Data” – things that supposedly will change the world and bring us closer to “The Singularity” – where AI and robotics and automatic proliferation of technology takes on a life of its own

On my BART ride yesterday I played a sort of game with the first chapter of the book. I replaced the fertilization and proliferation of eggs with the cultivation of Data. It fit so well, I will continue to keep that in mind.

The fact that Brave New World has the human element – and shows that the one thing that can prevent such a bleak dystopian future is humanity itself – and man’s imperfections and frailties is key – something I will think about as I read onward.

However, the Data angle really intrigues me – because for about 10 years in my IT career – we have come to revere and worship data – and I can tell you as a Data Worker for 38 years that a BIG percentage of Data that we rely on is terrible – it has very low quality.

I could be the biggest buzz kill as a Data Scientists Convention by walking around asking if these smarty pants if their big Algorithmic Models are based on Data that they really know of its Quality.

Frankenstein – The Movie – released in 1931 – coincidence?

Here is another very interesting orthogonal connection – Frankenstein – while written over a century before the movie – it had the perfect 1930’s high contrast dramatic lighting (high key) that photography and the “Feelies” had in that decade – and no doubt highly influenced by coming out of the Great Depression as people were reflecting and trying to leave a really bad and scary time and move onward into The Light. Hence, the popularity of many Utopian novels at that time.

Huxley’s sarcasm by writing a Dystopian novel when most people wanted stories with happy endings is very interesting – and the parallels with what is going on in the world now (while different and a new “machination”) is illuminating.

I’ve been feeling for several months that the political cesspool in America and the UK is going to lead to a major bubble burst – worse than Bush and the GOP’s “Great Recession” – why don’t we ever learn? Here’s a closing thought:

Don’t worry about a Brave New World or The Singularity – we as humans (collectively) are not smart enough to pull either off. When we elect Morons like Trump – and the GOP gives him a pass – it proves that we are not capable of engineering a “perfect future”. America will never be “Made Great Again” – because it was never Great to start with (meaning “perfect”). It has had fleeting shades of greatness every now and then – but always far from some Utopia. Its more like Idiocracy than Brave New World – and yeah – the positive part is just like Trump – who is his own worst enemy and who will be his own undoing – I do think that bullshit will be totally self defeating, and get consumed in its own bile sac.

A note on everyone having a helicopter, ER Uber, Lyft, Lime and Bird:

Self driving cars? Wait until the accidents – like these scooters are causing. A woman recently was beaten to death when some scum bag used one as a weapon. Bird and Lime scooters litter the streets of SF and are a Data Driven rental business. It’s brilliant on one hand because it’s like having a rental company with no expensive floor space. Tax payers pick up that bill.

Sure – we will build stuff based on AI – but like Young Frankenstein, they will all be “Abby Normal”:

I will also order Brave New World Revisited – it was written in 1958, and is a recounting by Huxley – so it will be interesting to read what he thought after almost 20 years passing. Interestingly enough – it parallels the two radios that I have fallen in love with – the National SW-3 and the Collins Gold Dust Twins. It gives me a way to get inside the mind of people during those “dank” times. In a way, I feel we are about to enter such times again presaged by Trumpism and Brexit. A new kind of stupid.

Thank God for human imperfection!

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