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Transgressive technologies: Does a posthuman dystopia await us? (Part Four)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted November 19, 2007

What is often missing from many future scenarios of transgressive technology is the question of politics. If things go on as they are today, there can be expected a general strengthening of left-liberalism and "political correctness" in society, and a further marginalization of traditionalist opposition. Thus, such commonly-voiced ideas as the creation from cloning of a race of super-scientists, super-soldiers or dimwitted servile workers (as for example, the Epsilon Semi-Morons in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World) are not especially likely scenarios. On the other hand, left-liberalism may be tempted to extend what some critics have characterized as its "sub rosa social totalitarianism" into the pharmacological and genetic spheres. Already there has been some mention that "it would be nice" if genetic engineering could be "used to eliminate racism and sexism." Given the ferocity of many left-liberals towards supposedly ever-present racism, sexism and homophobia today, it could be seen as rather likely that they would not renounce the deployment of electronic, pharmacological and genetic means on behalf of “the most progressive” vision.

Electronically, this would probably consist of VR scenarios of mostly violence, graphic sex, and horror, serving the same role as the Violent Passion Surrogate (VPS) in Brave New World. In Huxley’s novel, this is a chemical process, but in the otherwise uninspired U.S. television mini-series (1980) based on the novel, it was shown as a kind of Virtual Reality “theatre.” Of course, Huxley’s “feelies” – the more common form of entertainment in Brave New World -- are an obvious parallel to VR, and our own society’s drive to create media impressions that are “realer than real.”

Pharmacologically, the main control mechanism would probably be the "feel-good" drug.

Genetically, there would probably be an attempt by "politically-correct" psychologists and neuropsychologists serving the regime to identify the sources of "authoritarianism," "hierarchical-mindedness," and so-called "superstition" (i.e., religion) in the human brain, in the desire to somehow eradicate it from birth. The current mapping or so-called sequencing of the human genome, which could be seen as attempting to discover precisely which genes control what kind of physical and intellectual traits, could possibly put a very dangerous instrument in the hands of these kinds of would-be genetic controllers. Certainly the psychological regime, the monitoring of the upbringing of children in the family, would be very tightly attended to, far beyond what would be thought acceptable today. And it may indeed be noted that the drive towards the provision of “universal daycare” outside the family home, is one of the hallmarks of the most “advanced” societies today. There may indeed be a tendency afoot to try to almost entirely remove the parental influence in the raising of children.

One dystopic idea that has been raised in science fiction is that everyone (apart from a small group of controllers) would be saddled with "disabling devices" (both physical and mental) -- to create the effect "that everyone is equal to everyone else." There is a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron” (1961) which is one of the sharpest explorations of this theme.

Another concept, which would almost certainly be supported by some radical feminists, would be to flood female fetuses or infants with testosterone, as well as to supply them with steroids, so that the innate differences between male and female physical strength would be made to disappear. In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, the flooding of female fetuses with controlled dosages of testosterone results “only” in the sterility of the females, without outward physical changes, thus making them "ideal" as sexual playthings, the so-called "freemartins." However, the controllers are careful to subject only a third of female fetuses to this treatment. It does appear, however, that it will be a very long time before an artificial womb can be created that could carry a child to term from the moment of conception.

The human prospect may indeed look dire in the face of these deep-level technological manipulations, and their attendant ideologies. Given these transgressive technologies, the return of a more balanced society would appear to be realistically possible for only a few more decades. Beyond that timeframe, we really cannot know what may await humanity. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.






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