15 June 2007

Brave New World at 75

As physics has developed, it has deprived us step by step of what we thought we knew concerning the intimate nature of the physical world. Color and sound, light and shade, form and texture, belong no longer to that external nature that the Ionians sought as the bride of their devotion. All these things have been transferred from the beloved to the lover, and the beloved has become a skeleton of rattling bones, cold and dreadful, but perhaps a mere phantasm. The poor physicists, appalled at the desert that their formulae have revealed, call upon God to give them comfort, but God must share the ghostliness of his creation.
— Bertrand Russell, in The Scientific Outlook (1931), writing about Huxley's Brave New World 75 years ago, cited in Caitrin nicol's "Brave New World at 75"in [link] New Atlantis: a Journal of Technology and Society, Spring 2007.

Unlike the other great dystopias, Huxley's World State, though totalitarian in its orthodoxy, is ostensibly ordered on the wants of the goverened rather than the governors. Threats are rarely used or needed. Rule by bread and circuses has proved more potent than force — and more pernicious, precisely because every means of control is a perversion of what people really want. The only people with any capacity for dissatisfaction are a handful of Alphas, who are as unable to articulate their objection as Russell is. It is difficult to reject the sinister when by slight distortion it masquerades as the sublime. Why feeling should be able to distinguish these things while reason cannot is an interesting question, one which could be left forever unsettled by tinkering, through biotechnology or psychological control, with what Huxley (in a later foreword to the book) called "the natural forms and expressions of life itself."
— Caitrin Nicol, ibid.

All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.
— Aristotle, from Quote of the Day

03 June 2007

On becoming kipple

He wondered, then, if the others who had remained on Earth experienced the void this way. Or was it peculiar to his peculiar biological identity, a freak generated by his inept sensory apparatus? Interesting question, Isidore thought. But whom could he compare notes with? He lived alone in this deteriorating, blind building of a thousand uninhabited apartments, which like all its counterparts fell, day by day, into greater entropic ruin. Eventually everything within the building would merge, would be faceless and identical, mere pudding-like kipple piled to the ceiling of each apartment. And, after that, the uncared-for building itself would settle into shapelessness, buried under the ubiquity of the dust. By then, natually, he himself would be dead, another interesting event to anticipate as he stood here in the stricken living room alone with the lungless, all penetrating, masterful world-silence.
— Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 447-8, LOA edition.