I stumbled upon this interview. It’s from 1958 and like the man himself, it’s so prescient it’s scary.
This series has spruced it up with animation, but the message is crystal clear: Technodictators can and will use the power of the ethically neutral technology to further their own goals. And I underline the mention of technology being neutral. I’ve seen comments on Black Mirror that it’s technophobic, that it’s just a message of “Technology=bad.” It’s not. The writers see that tech can and will enslave our minds when wielded by nefarious people.
“If you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled” – Aldous Huxley
Now, Huxley talks about socialism, because even he couldn’t see that he was under the influence of propaganda. But his words are true even now. Even he couldn’t possibly predict the rise of technology, the dopamine-hit of social media notifications, the narcissism, the power a site like Facebook has to sway elections, the ISIS propaganda spread through Twitter.
We live in this time, and it’s still very hard to comprehend. Only with the 20/20 hindsight afforded by history will we be able to make heads or tails of this thing.
And, again, I think even he couldn’t possibly believe that, what he calls a Technodictator, would be an immortal legal entity, a corporation run by an ever-changing circle of people that only want to maximize profit and keep monopolies in place. He could imagine an even worse Hitler, he could imagine socialist propaganda being fed into people’s mind every minute of every day through every device and towards every orifice, but even he couldn’t imagine a Technodictator that wields the power of a megacorporation. He couldn’t imagine a Hitler with a commercial swastika logo slapped on products that people wanted to buy, and with a swappable CEO figurehead that can be replaced when it suits the shareholders, who doesn’t even need to conquer people with troops but can make them come willingly, and who doesn’t age or die. Ever.
And the most powerful part of this interview: The part where people will be happy under slavery. They will have everything they want, entertainment to gorge on (Netflix), food to fill themselves up (Fast-food chains), instant delivery of goods (Amazon), opulence with high-tech gadgets (shiny phones and self-driving cars and e-clothes) and will only look up to fabricated celebrities who are overpaid, miserable and drugged up but will still have millions of people lusting after them.
Brave New World, a book easily placed in the cyberpunk aisle with today’s standards of dystopian themes and a designer drug and an oppressive regime, is as relevant now as it was 70 years ago.