Aldous Huxley—the brilliant intellectual, psychedelic researcher, social visionary, and author of many books, including Brave New World—would have been 121 today.
Huxley’s inexhaustible passion for exploring, understanding, and improving the world around him has served as a paragon of socially engaged intellectualism for over a century.
In his dystopian, science-fiction novel, Brave New World, Huxley predicted the fate of mankind, warning, among other things, that entertainment would become a kind of adult pacifier, resulting in complacency, apathy, and ignorance among the general public.
Arguably, his prediction was extraordinarily accurate. To celebrate his birthday, here’s a rare 1958 interview in which Huxley explains why the dystopia he described in Brave New World was becoming the reality much sooner than he imagined.
In the interview, he makes other predictions regarding the dangers of overpopulation, the unsettling potential of image-based advertising to manipulate people, and the precarious nature of the global economic system. This is really a gem of an interview to watch now or Pocket for later.
When pressed by the interviewer to explain why he fears that technology will be misused in destructive and insidious ways, Huxley delivers a poignant insight on power:
“Well, I think one of the reasons is that these are all instruments for obtaining power, and obviously the passion for power is one of the most moving passions that exists in man. And, after all, all democracies are based on the proposition that power is very dangerous, and that it’s extremely important not to let any one man or any one small group to have too much power for too long a time. After all, what are the British and American constitutions, except devices for limiting power? And all of these new devices [television, radio, etc.] are extremely efficient instruments for the imposition of power by small groups over larger masses.”
Huxley saw the world as heading for a place where comfort was valued above all else—where there was no place for genuine exploration, uncertainty, adventure, and art. In honor of his birthday, let yourself become a bit more the sort of person who embraces all aspects of the human experience, who appreciates the virtues of comfort as well as discomfort, and who never ceases to be curious about this wide, wild world and beyond.
“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
For another Huxley-related gem, check out this spectacular comic comparing the dystopias imagined by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.