Better Living Through Technology

All the dystopian novels I read as a teenager have come true,

All the dystopian novels I read as a teenager have come true, or are in the process of doing so.

Books aren’t banned yet, as they were in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. But if you look at mass reading habits, especially in the generations rising, the trend line is clear. By the end of this century Bradbury’s nightmare could be real, and, as in the novel, almost no one will notice or care.

The recent presidential campaign showed us that, as in George Orwell’s 1984, today inconvenient facts of history can simply be put down the memory hole. During that campaign, young John Kerry’s report to Congress on U.S. atrocities in Vietnam was labeled a slander by his opponents and treated as an item of controversy by the mainstream media. The cold, hard, documented facts about mass murders, torture, and carpet bombing - the collateral damage of a war against an entire people - seem to have disappeared down Orwell’s hole. Even the institutions that reported those atrocities in the late 1960s and early 1970s (such as CBS and The New York Times) can’t quite seem to recall.

But on the whole, 21st-century America most closely resembles Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World - a society ruled by mindless pleasure and convenience. We can swallow pills to deliver socially acceptable moods or to erase painful memories. We haven’t quite detached sex from reproduction. (In Huxley’s world, babies were made-to-order in factories.) But our rage for reproductive technologies, and our worship at the altar of "choice," is leading us briskly down that road.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2005
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