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Huxley and Orwell

Last week, during our Summer Institute at University of Manitoba, we had a few meandering discussions of how technology is influencing humanity. Discussions of “it’s all changing” are common. The greater challenge is to engage in “what are we becoming”. At one stage, I made the point that two writers framed the concerns facing society: Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. Orwell emphasized the threat we face from “big brother” – an organized government/political structure that determines and limits our rights (and in the process, our humanity). Huxley, on the other hand, suggested that the real enemy is not the government, but rather humanity. We are our greatest threat. Our desire for pleasure, and the paths through complacency and passivity this desire leads us, is what we should be most concerned about.
With that conversation in mind, I was rather pleased when I came across amusing ourselves to death – a comparison between the world views of Huxley and Orwell (via Frances Bell).


  1. George
    What a delightful thing to stumble on at the end of a day of inanity! Something thought provoking, thank you! Before I clicked on the link I was thinking, “But what if they were both right…!”

    You’ve probably seen Catherine Lombardozzi’s post and the lastest from Net Gen Nonsense but they collided in my feeds with your post and I think there is something there.

    The trouble is it is very difficult to spot historic trends other than through the rear view mirror by which point it is too late and all too easy to apply prejudice to anecdotes when predicting the future.
    Best wishes

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  2. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Hugh,

    I have seen the netgen post, but not Catherine’s. I’ll have a look. While it is true that trends are difficult to spot while living through them, periods of extreme change suggest that we must at least get better than we are. The link to the article – Huxley – gets at this: inconsequential reduce our ability to notice the consequential.


    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 10:37 am | Permalink