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Here’s the audio of Thursday’s appearance on the Bill Meyers “Freedom is Popular” radio show, talking Hellcats and Impalas:

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  1. All of the technology in Brave New World is controlled by the state. If it was optional, then I think it should all be embraced as an option by libertarians.
    If we didn’t like certain tech, we’d have to compete in the marketplace, and offer better options of our own invention.

    I must admit, I wonder how supposed freedom lovers would react if the things from the novel had actually been invented and were available to people.

    If given a choice, I wonder how many women would free themselves from the burdens of their biology? Why wouldn’t they prefer not to have to carry their own children?

    Would this be offensive to men? If so, why?

    I think there’s a tendency to impose artificial scarcity on others when we don’t like the technology. There’s this misguided idea that by limiting our options, we’ll produce more moral and capable people.

    This is an error, I believe. And is tied up with the state religion, I would argue. Only observation of reality can tell us whether a thing is good for us or not. That is the only legitimate means to determine what is right in the typical case.

    And even then, prohibition of a damaging or degrading technology must not be forced on anyone against their will, even if it truly is a benefit to suppress technology in some cases. People must be allowed to make mistakes and do the wrong thing if they so choose.

    A few technological inventions from Brave New World:

    1
    “And now,” Mr. Foster went on, “I’d like to show you some very interesting conditioning for the Alpha Plus intellectuals. We have a big batch of them on Rack 5. First Gallery level,” he called to two boys who had started to go down to the ground floor.
    “They’re round about Meter 9000,” he explained. “You can’t really do any useful intellectual conditioning till the foetuses have lost their tails.”

    2
    From the Social Predestination Room the escalators went rumbling down into the basement, and there, in the crimson darkness, stewing warm on their cushion of peritoneum and gorged with blood-surrogate and hormones, the foetuses grew and grew or, poisoned, languished into a stunted Epsilonhood.

    With a faint hum and rattle the moving racks crawled imperceptibly through the weeks and the recapitulated aeons to where, in the Decanting Room, the newly-unbottled babes uttered their first yell of horror and amazement.

    3
    A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.

    The enormous room on the ground floor faced towards the north. Cold for all the summer beyond the panes, for all the tropical heat of the room itself, a harsh thin light glared through the windows, hungrily seeking some draped lay figure, some pallid shape of academic goose-flesh, but finding only the glass and nickel and bleakly shining porcelain of a laboratory.

    Wintriness responded to wintriness. The overalls of the workers were white, their hands gloved with a pale corpse-coloured rubber. The light was frozen, dead, a ghost. Only from the yellow barrels of the microscopes did it borrow a certain rich and living substance, lying along the polished tubes like butter, streak after luscious streak in long recession down the work tables.

    “And this,” said the Director opening the door, “is the Fertilizing Room.” Bent over their instruments, three hundred Fertilizers were plunged, as the Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning entered the room, in the scarcely breathing silence, the absent-minded, soliloquizing hum or whistle, of absorbed concentration.

    A troop of newly arrived students, very young, pink and callow, followed nervously, rather abjectly, at the Director’s heels. Each of them carried a notebook, in which, whenever the great man spoke, he desperately scribbled. Straight from the horse’s mouth. It was a rare privilege.

    The D. H. C. for Central London always made a point of personally conducting his new students round the various departments. “Just to give you a general idea,” he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently–though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible.

    For particulars, as every one knows, make for virture and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fretsawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.

    “To-morrow,” he would add, smiling at them with a slightly menacing geniality, “you’ll be settling down to serious work. You won’t have time for generalities. Meanwhile …” Meanwhile, it was a privilege.

    Straight from the horse’s mouth into the notebook. The boys scribbled like mad. Tall and rather thin but upright, the Director advanced into the room. He had a long chin and big rather prominent teeth, just covered, when he was not talking, by his full, floridly curved lips. Old, young? Thirty? Fifty? Fifty-five? It was hard to say. And anyhow the question didn’t arise; in this year of stability, A. F. 632, it didn’t occur to you to ask it.

    “I shall begin at the beginning,” said the D.H.C. and the more zealous students recorded his intention in their notebooks: Begin at the beginning. “These,” he waved his hand, “are the incubators.” And opening an insulated door he showed them racks upon racks of numbered test-tubes. “The week’s supply of ova. Kept,” he explained, “at blood heat; whereas the male gametes,” and here he opened another door, “they have to be kept at thirty-five instead of thirty-seven. Full blood heat sterilizes.”

    Rams wrapped in theremogene beget no lambs. Still leaning against the incubators he gave them, while the pencils scurried illegibly across the pages, a brief description of the modern fertilizing process; spoke first, of course, of its surgical introduction–”the operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months’ salary”; continued with some account of the technique for preserving the excised ovary alive and actively developing; passed on to a consideration of optimum temperature, salinity, viscosity; referred to the liquor in which the detached and ripened eggs were kept; and, leading his charges to the work tables, actually showed them how this liquor was drawn off from the test-tubes; how it was let out drop by drop onto the specially warmed slides of the microscopes; how the eggs which it contained were inspected for abnormalities, counted and transferred to a porous receptacle; how (and he now took them to watch the operation) this receptacle was immersed in a warm bouillon containing free-swimming spermatozoa–at a minimum concentration of one hundred thousand per cubic centimetre, he insisted; and how, after ten minutes, the container was lifted out of the liquor and its contents re-examined; how, if any of the eggs remained unfertilized, it was again immersed, and, if necessary, yet again; how the fertilized ova went back to the incubators; where the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky’s Process.

    “Bokanovsky’s Process,” repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks. One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress. “Essentially,” the D.H.C. concluded, “bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development.

    We check the normal growth and, paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding.” Responds by budding. The pencils were busy. He pointed. On a very slowly moving band a rack-full of test-tubes was entering a large metal box, another, rack-full was emerging. Machinery faintly purred. It took eight minutes for the tubes to go through, he told them.

    Eight minutes of hard X-rays being about as much as an egg can stand. A few died; of the rest, the least susceptible divided into two; most put out four buds; some eight; all were returned to the incubators, where the buds began to develop; then, after two days, were suddenly chilled, chilled and checked. Two, four, eight, the buds in their turn budded; and having budded were dosed almost to death with alcohol; consequently burgeoned again and having budded–bud out of bud out of bud–were thereafter–further arrest being generally fatal–left to develop in peace. By which time the original egg was in a fair way to becoming anything from eight to ninety-six embryos– a prodigious improvement, you will agree, on nature. Identical twins–but not in piddling twos and threes as in the old viviparous days, when an egg would sometimes accidentally divide; actually by dozens, by scores at a time.

    4
    The Director and his students stood for a short time watching a game of Centrifugal Bumble-puppy. Twenty children were grouped in a circle round a chrome steel tower. A ball thrown up so as to land on the platform at the top of the tower rolled down into the interior, fell on a rapidly revolving disk, was hurled through one or other of the numerous apertures pierced in the cylindrical casing, and had to be caught.

    5
    “Going to the Feelies this evening, Henry?” enquired the Assistant Predestinator. “I hear the new one at the Alhambra is first-rate. There’s a love scene on a bearskin rug; they say it’s marvelous. Every hair of the bear reproduced. The most amazing tactual effects…”
    “Take hold of these knobs on the arms of your chair,” whispered Lenina. “Otherwise, you won’t get any of the feely effects.”

    The Savage started. That sensation on his lips! He lifted a hand to his lips; the titillation ceased; let his hand fall back on the metal knob; it began again…

    6
    While the child was asleep, a broadcast programme from London suddenly started to come through; and the next morning, to the astonishment of his crash and crash (the more daring of the boys ventured to grin at one another), Little Reuben woke up repeating word for word a long lecture by that curious old writer (“one of the very few whose works have been permitted to come down to us”), George Bernard Shaw, who was speaking, according to a well-authenticated tradition, about his own genius.

    To Little Reuben’s wink and snigger, this lecture was, of course, perfectly incomprehensible and, imagining that their child had suddenly gone mad, they sent for a doctor. He, fortunately, understood English, recognized the discourse as that which Shaw had broadcasted the previous evening, realized the significance of what had happened, and sent a letter to the medical press about it.

    “The principle of sleep-teaching, or hypnopædia, had been discovered.” The D.H.C. made an impressive pause. The principle had been discovered; but many, many years were to elapse before that principle was usefully applied.

    7
    The scent-organ was playing a delightfully refreshing Herbal Capriccio – rippling arpeggios of thyme and lavender, of rosemary, basil, myrtle, tarragon; a series of daring modulations through the spice keys into ambergris; and a slow return through sandalwood, camphor, cedar, and newmown hay (with occasional suble touches of discord – a whiff of kidney pudding, the faintest suspicion of pig’s dung) back to the simple aromatics with which the piece began. They final blast of thyme died away; there was a round of applause.

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