In 1932, Aldous Huxley wrote a book about the future. It is a future where everyone is happy, everyone belongs to everyone else, children are decanted (not born) and society is split into a 5-part caste system where a person’s thinking capacity is limited depending on what job they are destined to perform.
82 years later, I sat down to read the book as part of my 100 Book Challenge.
Brave New World is an absolute brilliant piece of work. It was surprisingly relevant still today and made me think on many different levels about the way we live and the choices we make. It took me on a journey beginning in awe of the utopian society, to questioning it, to loathing it. Unlike the previous book in the challenge it had a clearly defined beginning, middle and end. And it took me just a few days to read.
So how close was Huxley in predicting the future? Did he get it right?
Yes, you can now fly half-way around the world in just a few hours (although not in a rocket). Yes, having multiple partners in one’s lifetime is now accepted, and sometimes even expected (just not all at the same time). Yes, hard-copy books are becoming obsolete over the modern multimedia options (but we are yet to experience the ‘feelies’). And yes, babies can start their lives off in a bottle (even though, at this stage, we still require them to grow inside a human being).
But as I read further into Brave New World, it became clear to me that this wasn’t a book about predictions.
It was a warning.
82 years ago, Huxley saw things changing; he wanted to warn the world, that if we continue down this path, terrible things could happen.
Things that look pretty good on the surface, but take away everything that makes life worth living.
We are at risk of becoming a passive society, where we are told what to wear, what to say, what to do. We are at risk of losing our own identities. By pursuing nothing but happiness (or contentedness) we are at risk of losing every other emotion: love, sadness, jealousy, anger, passion, desire.
So, the more relevant question isn’t about whether his prediction was right. The more relevant question is:
Did he want to get it right?