The Google Generation: Reduced to Passivity and Egoism?

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsBut we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, [Aldous] Huxley [author of Brave New World] and [George] Orwell [author of 1984] did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumble puppy… In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. (italics for emphasis).

From Amusing Ourselves to Death (2005) by Neil Postman (1931-2003), a cultural critic and media theorist who as a humanist, believed that new technology does not necessarily help us become better human beings. In his speech to the German Society for Computer Science (1990), Postman lamented, “Everything from telegraphy and photography in the nineteenth century, to the silicon chip in the twentieth, has amplified the din of information, until matters have reached such proportions today that for the average person, information no longer has any relation to the solution of problems.”

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