Published seventeen years apart, both these dystopian novels, 1984 and Brave new world have raised havoc in people's minds. Literary personalities are questioning their own existence. Granted, the second part is an exaggeration; the books have gotten people thinking.
In 1932, Aldous Huxley published his science-dystopian fiction book titled Brave New World. The story starts off in a futuristic society, which is termed the World State. From a young age, individuality and emotions are conditioned to deviate from children's minds, and there are no long-lasting relationships. Children are created outside of the womb using technologically forward tools. These children are then cloned to increase the population. The embryos are created to infuse different hormones and chemicals, which separates them into diverse classes. They are sorted into different castes of altered hierarchies, namely Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon. Embryos that have the Alpha chromosomes are considered leaders, whereas the Epilsons are bred to be blue-collar laborers. Without giving too much away, the protagonist of the story, an alpha male, sets on a quest for his boss. Throughout the story, how this modern world affects the protagonist is portrayed. The story primarily depicts a horrendous version of the future.
George Orwell published a book titled 1984, or Nineteen Eighty-Four, in the year 1949. The aim of the book was to create awareness and serve as a warning in contradiction to Totalitarianism. The central theme of the New York Times bestseller is Totalitarianism, which is a form of government that rejects any notion of individual freedom. The story revolves around the protagonist, who is born in Oceania, where the government is all-controlling. The population has been brainwashed to be ridiculously obedient to the leader, Big Brother. A few slogans of the Party are, "War is peace", "Ignorance is strength". The Party keeps its control through constant surveillance and the 'Thought Police'. Here too, the population is divided by caste. Based on their position in the Party, the masses may be in the privileged Inner Party, the hard-working and diligent Outer Party, or the uneducated proles. Again, in an attempt to avoid spoilers, the story talks about a man who started questioning the methods of the government (as a part of his job) and how he deals with the same.
This phenomenal dystopian novel has left people shocked. It was released in the hopes of warning the public, and after Orwell's brood of Nazism and Stalinism for years together. Orwell was described to have created a "thorough version of hell". His name has become identified as that of the readers' deepest fears.
Both these books look at eutopia from different perspectives. Orwell, in 1984, talked about a 'negative dystopia', where people were kept in line through negative reinforcements. In Huxley's writing, however, people are kept controlled by inflicting pleasure. In 1894, the residents were well aware of the fact that they are being watched. They are also constantly being reminded about how imperative it is for them to follow the system, and if not, its collapse would be guaranteed. Both books have a totalitarian state and don't hide the usage of propaganda. A totalitarian state refers to a form of government that asserts control through coercion and repression of its citizens; it is a dictatorship of sorts.
There is a common element of control through caste in both books, and both have a dissection of three castes (upper, middle, and lower). Another notable difference is the presence of the government. In 1894, the presence of the government watching them was made extremely clear via posters, telescreens, people, etc. In Brave New World, although the citizens are constantly under watch, it is not made so evident. Interestingly, in 1984, language was used as propaganda, and in both novels, a particular department spreads propaganda.
In Orwell's creation, children are under the care of their parents. They are raised as individuals with personalities and have their own identities. However, in Huxley's book, children are raised in masses and by the system, with no parents in the picture. This, in turn, leads to incredibly minute differences in individual identity.
The role of technology plays a more significant part in BNW than in 1984. In the latter, technology is used only to monitor the citizens, while in BNW, all of society is built on technology.
The highlight of both books is to maintain their totalitarian states, and they do so by ensuring their citizens are loyal to the authorities and the distinction based on class. Furthermore, the primary difference is how the authorities enforce their rule, one through pleasure and the other through pain. Both these extraordinary books talk about the future of Totalitarianism. And both books do indeed make their readers ruminate over the concept for a substantial amount of time.
In a natural context, Totalitarianism is a genuine concern for us. The rise of another totalitarian state may be closer to us than we think. It took a World War to stop the Nazis who used technology dated to the 20th century. What if, instead, the Nazis had used the technology and weaponry invented today? It would have done nothing short of solidifying their power. The 'world in chains' scenario is where the government uses innovative technology to lock a significant part of the population into everlasting misery. Although Totalitarianism is a relatively primitive topic of study, researchers working in the field of existential risk, of late, have been talking about how Artificial Intelligence would be its most likely cause. Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher, came up with the Singleton Hypothesis. The hypothesis talks about how a global government could come into play and take over using AI technology or other technological advances that may be more powerful. He stresses "a single decision-making agency at the highest level". The powers it holds may include the following:
- The ability to prevent any threats to its own existence and supremacy, making it impossible to overthrow.
- The ability to exert effective and efficient control over most of the features under its domain, which may include taxation and territorial allocation.
According to Tucker Davey (Writer at the Future of Life Institute in Massachusetts), in the event of global Totalitarianism, we would experience no freedom, no privacy, no hope of escaping, and no agency to control our lives in the least. The paranoia and psychological agony have been so severe in past situations, not knowing if or when you will be killed for saying the wrong things. And if this takes over to our modern world, there is no question of 'if' or 'when'; everything one says will be recorded, reported, and analyzed. This means there is absolutely no room for error.
We are having "smart devices" at our home that constantly listen to what we talk. We are having social media reel videos that appears to be an endless well of pleasure inflicting content. We are having food with a dopamine triggering agent called msg just for the sake of inflicting pleasure. Anyone who is going against the state is being silenced.
Orwell and Huxley wrote about the things that are more relevant than ever. Totalitarianism is an elephant in the room right now and it must be acknowledged!