So the big question for my TECHNOLOGY class this week is whether the book (and the idea) of THE BRAVE NEW WORLD is likely right about the chief danger facing us in our increasingly biotechnological future.
Ben Storey, a student of Leon Kass, told us last week at Berry College that Leon thinks so, while I have a different opinion.
You may have noticed that I also have a different opinion than many conservatives about Tocquevillian SOFT DESPOTISM as a highly plausible prediction about the future of our techno-democracy.
SOFT DESPOTISM and THE BRAVE NEW WORLD aren’t so different as descriptions, except the latter employs biotechnology or genetic engineering (and a drug) as indispensable ingredients for the achievement of highly intrusive regulation of basically subhuman contentment.
A Tocquevilian might say that “democratic restlessness” is evidence that our souls have needs that can be denied or distorted but not destroyed. But natural restlessness or alienation, we seen in the BNW, can be engineered out of existence, except as a possibility for the few bred to rule. Residual moments of alienated confusion among the many can be drugged out of existence.
There is a tendency today to think of biotechnology as a way of achieving contentment or serenity now, mainly through mood control. But the far stronger tendency is to think of it as a way of achieving real success in pushing nature back with the indefinite pereptuation of particular persons in mind. We in our caffeinated society think of alienation as useful in fending off all those forces out to take ME out.
But someone might say, as we did last week, that we can see a particularly disgusting version of THE BRAVE NEW (LIBERTARIAN) WORLD in Tyler Cowen’s new book, where most people just keep getting dumber and are placated by various on-screen entertainments and legal marijuana.
So what do you think about the likelihood of the coming of A BRAVE NEW WORLD?