Mark Twain writes about the use of technology as a direct way of shaping a civilization in his book A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, he writes about a society that is already formed and is completely shaped by technologies of control. When in our world Huxley is attempting to use his book as a technology to inform people of the dangers that he believes the government and the powerful upper class can impose upon us using technologies similar to the ones he describes in his fictional work. By contrasting the extremeness of both of these books, an analysis of what is really going on in our world can be seen. Twain’s book revolves around a civilization where almost everyone is born completely ignorant and open to shaping as they grow up, whereas Huxley writes of people who are born completely shaped into the roles they will play throughout the rest of their lives. The meaning of technology should also be analyzed to gain a fuller understanding of what is happening in these worlds and our own.
Technology can be view as a means of preforming a task differently, which corresponds to some benefit. At the beginning of this course we discussed the meaning of the word technology. Technology can be broken down into its Greek roots techné, technique, and logos, word or discourse. “ology” is often used to describe the study or use of a discipline. Therefore it is possible to look at technology as study or use of technique to produce a result. Techniques can be thought of as arising from the evolution of how something is done over time. It is possible to believe that most technologies are the result of humans shaping processes and objects into something new and possibly beneficial. In a few books and essays that were read during this class, along with a few select others, the process of technological evolution is altered slightly. Technology is used as a means of shaping people into objects that can be manipulated and exploited. It is also used as a means of control over others.
In A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court Hank Morgan uses technologies of the nineteenth century in the sixth. He is able to gain remarkable amounts of power quickly with his use of these technologies and his knowledge of the world and its events. Once he has gained power he quickly establishes plans for sixth century Europe. “...I had the beginnings of all sorts of industries under way--nuclei of future vast factories, the iron and steel missionaries of my future civilization. I was training a crowd of ignorant folk into experts--experts in every sort of handiwork and scientific calling” (Twain 101). He plans to take these ignorant people of the sixth century and shape them into beings that will work for him and continue his take over of the country. They will run his factors and a few will even fight beside him till the end.
Lyotard in his essay “Can Thought go on without a Body” he analyzes what an action or object must possess in order to be considered a technology. “Any material system is technological if it filters information useful to its survival, if it memorizes and processes that information useful to its survival, if it memorizes and processes that information and makes inferences based on the regulating effect of behavior, that is, if it intervenes on and impacts its environment so as to assure its perpetuation at least” (Lyotard 12). What Hank is doing can be viewed as a means of perpetuating himself in this society. He wishes to produce a lasting impact on the sixth century.
I will in the next draft of this paper go into detail of how Hank keeps the people satisfied.
Huxley’s fiction world is a dystopian society where people have lost their individuality. People are preprogrammed from “birth” to do a certain task and be happy doing it. Everyone in the civilized area of the world is not born; they are grown. They are genetically modified from fertilization to become a specific unit of society. The lower classes are not even individual units of society; they are multiplied, Bokanovskified, to upwards of seventy identical units. Bokanovskification is a technology that has been developed that has allowed a society to grow in a radically different way.
Bokanovskification may seem like a creative imagination at work, when in reality advances in cloning have produced similar results. Until 1997 cloning seemed like a idea out of a science fiction novel; all of that changed when Dolly the sheep was cloned. Just sixty years after Huxley writes about cloning massive numbers of humans, the first mammalian creature is successfully cloned. The advances in cloning have grown exponentially in the past ten years. Since 1997 a Rhesus monkey, cat and a horse, along with many others, have been cloned. In 2004 a group of scientists at the Seoul National University in South Korea reported in Science that they were able to successfully grow 30 cloned human embryos. This is not the only report of being able to clone humans. Also in 2004, Dr. Boisselier sent a letter to all UN Ambassadors proclaiming that he cloned thirteen children (www.clonaid.com). In 1932 Huxley writes,
One egg, one embryo, one adult--normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress (Huxley 17).
Only seventy-two years later we are able to clone about thirty identical embryos and thirteen twins. This is a very staggering and somewhat troubling advancement science has made. It is troubling because if in a little over seventy years since Brave New World was written, the human race has developed the technology to replicate its race in a laboratory. If science continues to advance at its current rate, it may not be far off before cloning and genetically engineering our offspring is a common practice.
After the physical growing of people is complete people under go through hypnopædia. Hypnopædia is a form a brain washing. Similar to the schools that Hank creates in the sixth century and it is possible to compare aspects of hypnopædia to our television, radio and other media.
I will conclude this rough draft here before it gets to long. From here I will explore hypnopædia in more depth and relate it to Connecticut Yankee and the real world. I also will explore how people are keep satisfied in Brave New World and our world and how this relates to being able to more effectively control society
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited.
Happer Perennial Modern Classics, 2004.
Twain, Mark. A Connecticut Yankee At King Arthur’s Court. Penguin Classics
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “Can Thought go on without a Body?”.