Friday, March 09, 2012

Amusing ourselves to death, redux: Huxley's letter to Orwell

Aldous Huxley wrote a letter to George Orwell in 1949, soon after Orwell's seminal and prophetic work 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' was published. Again, the discussion is about what will cause our downfall: an ever-intrusive, controlling government, or our tendency to engage with entertaining things 24*7, willfully ignoring all that is essential in this world, and eventually becoming living, breathing time-pass, exploitable organisms for the governments of this blue planet.This is so, so true in this age of internet.

Wrightwood. Cal.
21 October, 1949

Dear Mr. Orwell,

...May I speak instead of the thing with which the book deals — the ultimate revolution? The first hints of a philosophy of the ultimate revolution — the revolution which lies beyond politics and economics, and which aims at total subversion of the individual's psychology and physiology — are to be found in the Marquis de Sade, who regarded himself as the continuator, the consummator, of Robespierre and Babeuf. The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion by going beyond sex and denying it. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power, and these ways will resemble those which I described in Brave New World. I have had occasion recently to look into the history of animal magnetism and hypnotism, and have been greatly struck by the way in which, for a hundred and fifty years, the world has refused to take serious cognizance of the discoveries of Mesmer, Braid, Esdaile, and the rest.

Partly because of the prevailing materialism and partly because of prevailing respectability, nineteenth-century philosophers and men of science were not willing to investigate the odder facts of psychology for practical men, such as politicians, soldiers and policemen, to apply in the field of government. Thanks to the voluntary ignorance of our fathers, the advent of the ultimate revolution was delayed for five or six generations. Another lucky accident was Freud's inability to hypnotize successfully and his consequent disparagement of hypnotism. This delayed the general application of hypnotism to psychiatry for at least forty years. But now psycho-analysis is being combined with hypnosis; and hypnosis has been made easy and indefinitely extensible through the use of barbiturates, which induce a hypnoid and suggestible state in even the most recalcitrant subjects.

Within the next generation I believe that the world's rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. In other words, I feel that the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblance to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency. Meanwhile, of course, there may be a large scale biological and atomic war — in which case we shall have nightmares of other and scarcely imaginable kinds.

Thank you once again for the book.

Yours sincerely,

Aldous Huxley

Via Lettersofnote

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Why most tech blogs are useless: Many followers, Zero experience (and why Techmeme is dead)

Rob May, a well-known tech company founder(Backupify) says he tells his employees not to read tech blogs as most tech bloggers are '23-year-olds who haven’t built a real company yet, despite a lot of hype and followers'. Moreover, there is just too much noise and distraction in tech blogging. I think you should give up reading Techmeme altogether (more on this sometime later) - there is simply no insight to be found in that vast echo-chamber of a wasteland, just a lot of me-too bloggers testing who can write the best pro-Apple story. Techmeme is dead.

From a list of insights from May, here are the ones I like:
2. The Web has made us all alike. 
7. Build a product first, then a platform.
8. Tools make more money than apps.
9. Seed funding is still tough to get for many companies.

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Poster: Suffering from Capitalism?

Via Undernews