Brave New World (1932) is one of the most bewitching and insidious works of literature ever written.
Tragically, no. Brave New World has come to serve as the false symbol for any regime of universal happiness.
For sure, Huxley was writing a satirical piece of fiction, not scientific prophecy. Hence to treat his masterpiece as ill-conceived futurology rather than a work of great literature might seem to miss the point. Yet the knee-jerk response of „It’s Brave New World!“ to any blueprint for chemically-driven happiness has delayed research into paradise-engineering for all sentient life.
So how does Huxley turn a future where we’re all notionally happy into the archetypal dystopia? If it’s technically feasible, what’s wrong with using biotechnology to get rid of mental pain altogether?
Brave New World is an unsettling, loveless and even sinister place. This is because Huxley endows his „ideal“ society with features calculated to alienate his audience. Typically, reading BNW elicits the very same disturbing feelings in the reader which the society it depicts has notionally vanquished – not a sense of joyful anticipation. In Brave New World Revisited (1958) Huxley himself describes BNW as a „nightmare“.
Thus BNW doesn’t, and isn’t intended by its author to, evoke just how wonderful our lives could be if the human genome were intelligently rewritten. In the era of post-genomic medicine, our DNA is likely to be spliced and edited so we can all enjoy life-long bliss, awesome peak experiences, and a spectrum of outrageously good designer-drugs. Nor does Huxley’s comparatively sympathetic account of the life of the Savage on the Reservation convey just how nasty the old regime of pain, disease and unhappiness can be. If you think it does, then you enjoy an enviably sheltered life and an enviably cosy imagination. For it’s all sugar-coated pseudo-realism.