The Ultimate Revolution

topic posted Sun, December 18, 2005 - 12:48 PM by  ix
This is a speech I transcribed last year. I thought you all might appreciate it. If anyone wants to transcribe the Q and A session, you'd be doing us all a BIG favor.

Can't figure out how to embed links with labels on tribe.. so I'll just post the links.

Original Audio

Question and Answer Session



The Ultimate Revolution
Aldous Huxley
March 20, 1962
Berkeley Language Center - Speech Archive SA 0269


{garbled}Aldous Huxley, a renowned Essayist and Novelist who during the spring semester is residing at the university in his capacity of a Ford research professor. Mr Huxley has recently returned from a conference at the Institute for the study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara where the discussion focused on the development of new techniques by which to control and direct human behavior. Traditionally it has been possible to suppress individual freedom through the application of physical coercion through the appeal of ideologies through the manipulation of man’s physical and social environment and more recently through the techniques, the cruder techniques of psychological conditioning. The Ultimate Revolution, about which Mr. Huxley will speak today, concerns itself with the development of new behavioral controls, which operate directly on the psycho-physiological organisms of man. That is the capacity to replace external constraint by internal compulsions. As those of us who are familiar with Mr. Huxley’s works will know, this is a subject of which he has been concerned for quite a period of time. Mr. Huxley will make a presentation of approximately half an hour followed by some brief discussions and questions by the two panelists sitting to my left, Mrs. Lillian {garbled} and Mr. John Post. Now Mr. Huxley


Thank You.


Uh, First of all, the, I’d like to say, that the conference at Santa Barbara was not directly concerned with the control of the mind. That was a conference, there have been two of them now, at the University of California Medical center in San Francisco, one this year which I didn’t attend, and one two years ago where there was a considerable discussion on this subject. At Santa Barbara we were talking about technology in general and the effects it’s likely to have on society and the problems related to technological transplanting of technology into underdeveloped countries.

Well now in regard to this problem of the ultimate revolution, this has been very well summed up by the moderator. In the past we can say that all revolutions have essentially aimed at changing the environment in order to change the individual. I mean there’s been the political revolution, the economic revolution, in the time of the reformation, the religious revolution. All these aimed, not directly at the human being, but at his surroundings. So that by modifying the surroundings you did achieve, did one remove the effect of the human being.

Today we are faced, I think, with the approach of what may be called the ultimate revolution, the final revolution, where man can act directly on the mind-body of his fellows. Well needless to say some kind of direct action on human mind-bodies has been going on since the beginning of time. But this has generally been of a violent nature. The Techniques of terrorism have been known from time immemorial and people have employed them with more or less ingenuity sometimes with the utmost cruelty, sometimes with a good deal of skill acquired by a process of trial and error finding out what the best ways of using torture, imprisonment, constraints of various kinds.

But, as, I think it was (sounds like Mettenicht) said many years ago, you can do everything with {garbled} except sit on them. If you are going to control any population for any length of time, you must have some measure of consent, it’s exceedingly difficult to see how pure terrorism can function indefinitely. It can function for a fairly long time, but I think sooner or later you have to bring in an element of persuasion an element of getting people to consent to what is happening to them.

It seems to me that the nature of the ultimate revolution with which we are now faced is precisely this: That we are in process of developing a whole series of techniques which will enable the controlling oligarchy who have always existed and presumably will always exist to get people to love their servitude. This is the, it seems to me, the ultimate in malevolent revolutions shall we say, and this is a problem which has interested me many years and about which I wrote thirty years ago, a fable, Brave New World, which is an account of society making use of all the devices available and some of the devices which I imagined to be possible making use of them in order to, first of all, to standardize the population, to iron out inconvenient human differences, to create, to say, mass produced models of human beings arranged in some sort of scientific caste system. Since then, I have continued to be extremely interested in this problem and I have noticed with increasing dismay a number of the predictions which were purely fantastic when I made them thirty years ago have come true or seem in process of coming true.

A number of techniques about which I talked seem to be here already. And there seems to be a general movement in the direction of this kind of ultimate revolution, a method of control by which a people can be made to enjoy a state of affairs by which any decent standard they ought not to enjoy. This, the enjoyment of servitude, Well this process is, as I say, has gone on for over the years, and I have become more and more interested in what is happening.

And here I would like briefly to compare the parable of Brave New World with another parable which was put forth more recently in George Orwell’s book, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell wrote his book between, I think between 45 and 48 at the time when the Stalinist terror regime was still in Full swing and just after the collapse of the Hitlerian terror regime. And his book which I admire greatly, it’s a book of very great talent and extraordinary ingenuity, shows, so to say, a projection into the future of the immediate past, of what for him was the immediate past, and the immediate present, it was a projection into the future of a society where control was exercised wholly by terrorism and violent attacks upon the mind-body of individuals.

Whereas my own book which was written in 1932 when there was only a mild dictatorship in the form of Mussolini in existence, was not overshadowed by the idea of terrorism, and I was therefore free in a way in which Orwell was not free, to think about these other methods of control, these non-violent methods and my, I’m inclined to think that the scientific dictatorships of the future, and I think there are going to be scientific dictatorships in many parts of the world, will be probably a good deal nearer to the brave new world pattern than to the 1984 pattern, they will a good deal nearer not because of any humanitarian qualms of the scientific dictators but simply because the BNW pattern is probably a good deal more efficient than the other.

That if you can get people to consent to the state of affairs in which they’re living. The state of servitude the state of being, having their differences ironed out, and being made amenable to mass production methods on the social level, if you can do this, then you have, you are likely, to have a much more stable and lasting society. Much more easily controllable society than you would if you were relying wholly on clubs and firing squads and concentration camps. So that my own feeling is that the 1984 picture was tinged of course by the immediate past and present in which Orwell was living, but the past and present of those years does not reflect, I feel, the likely trend of what is going to happen, needless to say we shall never get rid of terrorism, it will always find its way to the surface.

But I think that insofar as dictators become more and more scientific, more and more concerned with the technically perfect, perfectly running society, they will be more and more interested in the kind of techniques which I imagined and described from existing realities in BNW. So that, it seems to me then, that this ultimate revolution is not really very far away, that we, already a number of techniques for bringing about this kind of control are here, and it remains to be seen when and where and by whom they will first be applied in any large scale.

And first let me talk about the, a little bit about the, improvement in the techniques of terrorism. I think there have been improvements. Pavlov after all made some extremely profound observations both on animals and on human beings. And he found among other things that conditioning techniques applied to animals or humans in a state either of psychological or physical stress sank in so to say, very deeply into the mind-body of the creature, and were extremely difficult to get rid of. That they seemed to be embedded more deeply than other forms of conditioning.

And this of course, this fact was discovered empirically in the past. People did make use of many of these techniques, but the difference between the old empirical intuitive methods and our own methods is the difference between the, a sort of, hit and miss craftsman’s point of view and the genuinely scientific point of view. I think there is a real difference between ourselves and say the inquisitors of the 16th century. We know much more precisely what we are doing, than they knew and we can extend because of our theoretical knowledge, we can extend what we are doing over a wider area with a greater assurance of being producing something that really works.

In this context I would like to mention the extremely interesting chapters in Dr. William (sounds like Seargent’s) Battle for the Mind where he points out how intuitively some of the great religious teachers/leaders of the past hit on the Pavlovian method, he speaks specifically of Wesley’s method of producing conversions which were essentially based on the technique of heightening psychological stress to the limit by talking about hellfire and so making people extremely vulnerable to suggestion and then suddenly releasing this stress by offering hopes of heaven and this is a very interesting chapter of showing how completely on purely intuitive and empirical grounds a skilled natural psychologist, as Wesley was, could discover these Pavlovian methods.

Well, as I say, we now know the reason why these techniques worked and there’s no doubt at all that we can if we wanted to, carry them much further than was possible in the past. And of course in the history of, recent history of brainwashing, both as applied to prisoners of war and to the lower personnel within the communist party in China, we see that the pavlovian methods have been applied systematically and with evidently with extraordinary efficacy. I think there can be no doubt that by the application of these methods a very large army of totally devoted people has been created. The conditioning has been driven in, so to say, by a kind of psychological iontophoresis into the very depths of the people’s being, and has got so deep that it’s very difficult to ever be rooted out, and these methods, I think, are a real refinement on the older methods of terror because they combine methods of terror with methods of acceptance that the person who is subjected to a form of terroristic stress but for the purpose of inducing a kind of voluntary quotes acceptance of the state the psychological state in which he has been driven and the state of affairs in which he finds himself.

So there is, as I say, there has been a definite improvement in the, even in the techniques of terrorism. But then we come to the consideration of other techniques, non-terroristic techniques, for inducing consent and inducing people to love their servitude. Here, I don’t think I can possibly go into all of them, because I don’t know all of them, but I mean I can mention the more obvious methods, which can now be used and are based on recent scientific findings. First of all there are the methods connected with straight suggestion and hypnosis.

I think we know much more about this subject than was known in the past. People of course, always have known about suggestion, and although they didn’t know the word ‘hypnosis’ they certainly practiced it in various ways. But we have, I think, a much greater knowledge of the subject than in the past, and we can make use of our knowledge in ways, which I think the past was never able to make use of it. For example, one of the things we now know for certain, that there is of course an enormous, I mean this has always been known a very great difference between individuals in regard to their suggestibility. But we now know pretty clearly the sort of statistical structure of a population in regard to its suggestibility. Its very interesting when you look at the findings of different fields, I mean the field of hypnosis, the field of administering placebos, for example, in the field of general suggestion in states of drowsiness or light sleep you will find the same sorts of orders of magnitude continually cropping up.

You’ll find for example that the experienced hypnotist will tell one that the number of people, the percentage of people who can be hypnotized with the utmost facility (snaps), just like that. is about 20%, and about a corresponding number at the other end of the scale are very, very difficult or almost impossible to hypnotize. But in between lies a large mass of people who can with more or less difficulty be hypnotized, that they can gradually be if you work hard enough at it be got into the hypnotic state, and in the same way the same sort of figures crop up again, for example in relation to the administration of placebos.

A big experiment was carried out three of four years ago in the general hospital in Boston on post-operative cases where several hundred men and woman suffering comparable kinds of pain after serious operations were allowed to, were given injections whenever they asked for them whenever the pain got bad, and the injections were 50% of the time were of morphine, and 50% of water. And about twenty percent of those who went through the experiment, about 20% of them got just as much relief from the distilled waters as from the morphea. About 20% got no relief from the distilled water, and in-between were those who got some relief or got relief occasionally.

So yet again, we see the same sort of distribution, and similarly in regard to what in BNW I called Hypnopedia, the sleep teaching, I was talking not long ago to a man who manufactures records which people can listen to in the, during the light part of sleep, I mean these are records for getting rich, for sexual satisfaction (crowd laughs), for confidence in salesmanship and so on, and he said that its very interesting that these are records sold on a money-back basis, and he says there is regularly between 15% and 20% of people who write indignantly saying the records don’t work at all, and he sends the money back at once. There are on the other hand, there are over 20% who write enthusiastically saying they are much richer, their sexual life is much better (laughter) etc, etc. And these of course are the dream clients and they buy more of these records. And in between there are those who don’t get much results and they have to have letters written to them saying “Go persist my dear, go on” (laughter) and you will get there, and they generally do get results in the long run.

Well, as I say, on the basis of this, I think we see quite clearly that the human populations can be categorized according to their suggestibility fairly clearly,. I suspect very strongly that this twenty percent is the same in all these cases, and I suspect also that it would not be at all difficult to recognize and {garbled} out who are those who are extremely suggestible and who are those extremely unsuggestible and who are those who occupy the intermediate space. Quite clearly, if everybody were extremely unsuggestible organized society would be quite impossible, and if everybody were extremely suggestible then a dictatorship would be absolutely inevitable. I mean it’s very fortunate that we have people who are moderately suggestible in the majority and who therefore preserve us from dictatorship but do permit organized society to be formed. But, once given the fact that there are these 20% of highly suggestible people, it becomes quite clear that this is a matter of enormous political importance, for example, any demagogue who is able to get hold of a large number of these 20% of suggestible people and to organize them is really in a position to overthrow any government in any country.

And I mean, I think this after all, we had the most incredible example in recent years by what can be done by efficient methods of suggestion and persuasion in the form of Hitler. Anyone who has read, for example, (Sounds like Bulloch’s) Life of Hitler, comes forth with this horrified admiration for this infernal genius, who really understood human weaknesses I think almost better than anybody and who exploited them with all the resources then available. I mean he knew everything, for example, he knew intuitively this pavlovian truth that condition installed in a state of stress or fatigue goes much deeper than conditioning installed at other times. This of course is why all his big speeches were organized at night. He speaks quite frankly, of course, in Mein Kampf, this is done solely because people are tired at night and therefore much less capable of resisting persuasion than they would be during the day. And in all his techniques he was using, he had discovered intuitively and by trial and error a great many of the weaknesses, which we now know about on a sort of scientific way I think much more clearly than he did.

But the fact remains that this differential of suggestibility this susceptibility to hypnosis I do think is something which has to be considered very carefully in relation to any kind of thought about democratic government . If there are 20% of the people who really can be suggested into believing almost anything, then we have to take extremely careful steps into prevent the rise of demagogues who will drive them on into extreme positions then organize them into very, very dangerous armies, private armies which may overthrow the government.

This is, I say, in this field of pure persuasion, I think we do know much more than we did in the past, and obviously we now have mechanisms for multiplying the demagogues voice and image in a quite hallucinatory way, I mean, the TV and radio, Hitler was making enormous use of the radio, he could speak to millions of people simultaneously. This alone creates an enormous gulf between the modern and the ancient demagogue. The ancient demagogue could only appeal to as many people as his voice could reach by yelling at his utmost, but the modern demagogue could touch literally millions at a time, and of course by the multiplication of his image he can produce this kind of hallucinatory effect which is of enormous hypnotic and suggestive importance.

But then there are the various other methods one can think of which, thank heaven, as yet have not be used, but which obviously could be used. There is for example, the pharmacological method, this is one of the things I talked about in BNW. I invented a hypothetical drug called SOMA, which of course could not exist as it stood there because it was simultaneously a stimulant, a narcotic, and a hallucinogen, which seems unlikely in one substance. But the point is, if you applied several different substances you could get almost all these results even now, and the really interesting things about the new chemical substances, the new mind-changing drugs is this, if you looking back into history its clear that man has always had a hankering after mind changing chemicals, he has always desired to take holidays from himself, but the, and, this is the most extraordinary effect of all that every natural occurring narcotic stimulant, sedative, or hallucinogen, was discovered before the dawn of history, I don’t think there is one single one of these naturally occurring ones which modern science has discovered.

Modern science has of course better ways of extracting the active principals of these drugs and of course has discovered numerous ways of synthesizing new substances of extreme power, but the actual discovery of these naturally occurring things was made by primitive man goodness knows how many centuries ago. There is for example, in the underneath the, lake dwellings of the early Neolithic that have been dug up in Switzerland we have found poppy-heads, which looks as though people were already using this most ancient and powerful and dangerous of narcotics, even before the days of the rise of agriculture. So that man was apparently a dope-bag addict before he was a farmer, which is a very curious comment on human nature.

But, the difference, as I say, between the ancient mind-changers, the traditional mind-changers, and the new substances is that they were extremely harmful and the new ones are not. I mean even the permissible mind-changer alcohol is not entirely harmless, as people may have noticed, and I mean the other ones, the non-permissible ones, such as opium and cocaine, opium and its derivatives, are very harmful indeed. They rapidly produce addiction, and in some cases lead at an extraordinary rate to physical degeneration and death.

Whereas these new substances, this is really very extraordinary, that a number of these new mind-changing substances can produce enormous revolutions within the mental side of our being, and yet do almost nothing to the physiological side. You can have an enormous revolution, for example, with LSD-25 or with the newly synthesized drug psilocybin, which is the active principal of the Mexican sacred mushroom. You can have this enormous mental revolution with no more physiological revolution than you would get from drinking two cocktails. And this is a really most extraordinary effect.

And it is of course true that pharmacologists are producing a great many new wonder drugs where the cure is almost worse than the disease. Every year the new edition of medical textbooks contains a longer and longer chapter of what are Iatrogenic diseases, that is to say diseases caused by doctors (laughter} And this is quite true, many of the wonder drugs are extremely dangerous. I mean they can produce extraordinary effects, and in critical conditions they should certainly be used, but they should be used with the utmost caution. But there is evidently a whole class of drugs effecting the CNS which can produce enormous changes in sedation in euphoria in energizing the whole mental process without doing any perceptible harm to the human body, and this presents to me the most extraordinary revolution. In the hands of a dictator these substances in one kind or the other could be used with, first of all, complete harmlessness, and the result would be, you can imagine a euphoric that would make people thoroughly happy even in the most abominable circumstances.

I mean these things are possible. This is the extraordinary thing, I mean after all this is even true with the crude old drugs. I mean, a housemate years ago remarked after reading Milton’s Paradise Lost, He Says “And beer does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man” (laughter). And beer is of course, an extremely crude drug compared to these ones. And you can certainly say that some of the psychic energizers and the new hallucinants could do incomparably more than Milton and all the Theologicians combined could possibly do to make the terrifying mystery of our existence seem more tolerable than it does. And here I think one has an enormous area in which the ultimate revolution could function very well indeed, an area in which a great deal of control could be used by not through terror, but by making life seem much more enjoyable than it normally does. Enjoyable to the point, where as I said before, Human beings come to love a state of things by which any reasonable and decent human standard they ought not to love and this I think is perfectly possible.

But then, very briefly, let me speak about one of the more recent developments in the sphere of neurology, about the implantation of electrodes in the brain. This of course has been done in the large scale in animals and in a few cases its been done in the cases of the hopelessly insane. And anybody who has watched the behavior of rats with electrodes placed in different centers must come away from this experience with the most extraordinary doubts about what on Earth is in store for us if this is got a hold of by a dictator. I saw not long ago some rats in the {garbled} laboratory at UCLA there were two sets of them, one with electrodes planted in the pleasure center, and the technique was they had a bar which they pressed which turned on a very small current for a short space of time which we had a wire connected with that electrode and which stimulated the pleasure center and was evidently absolutely ecstatic was these rats were pressing the bar 18,000 times a day (laughter). Apparently if you kept them from pressing the bar for a day, they’d press it 36,000 times on the following day and would until they fell down in complete exhaustion (laughter) And they would neither eat, nor be interested in the opposite sex but would just go on pressing this bar {pounds on podium}

Then the most extraordinary rats were those were the electrode was planted halfway between the pleasure and the pain center. The result was a kind of mixture of the most wonderful ecstasy and like being on the rack at the same time. And you would see the rats sort of looking at is bar and sort of saying “To be or not to be that is the question”. (Laughter) Finally it would approach {Pounds on podium} and go back with this awful I mean, the (sounds like franken huminizer anthropomorphizer), and he would wait some time before pressing the bar again, yet he would always press it again. This was the extraordinary thing.

I noticed in the most recent issue of Scientific American there’s a very interesting article on electrodes in the brains of chickens, where the technique is very ingenious, where you sink into their brains a little socket with a screw on it and the electrode can then be screwed deeper and deeper into the brainstem and you can test at any moment according to the depth, which goes at fractions of the mm, what you’re stimulating and these creatures are not merely stimulated by wire, they’re fitted with a miniature radio receiver which weighs less than an ounce which is attached to them so that they can be communicated with at a distance, I mean they can run about in the barnyard and you could press a button and this particular area of the brain to which the electrode has been screwed down to would be stimulated. You would get this fantastic phenomena, where a sleeping chicken would jump up and run about, or an active chicken would suddenly sit down and go to sleep, or a hen would sit down and act like she’s hatching out an egg, or a fighting rooster would go into depression.

The whole picture of the absolute control of the drives is terrifying, and in the few cases in which this has been done with very sick human beings, The effects are evidently very remarkable too, I was talking last summer in England to Grey Walter, who is the most eminent exponent of the EEG technique in England, and he was telling me that he’s seen hopeless inmates at asylums with these things in their heads, and these people were suffering from uncontrollable depression, and they had these electrodes inserted into the pleasure center in their brain, however when they felt too bad, they just pressed a button on the battery in their pocket and he said the results were fantastic, the mouth pointing down would suddenly turn up and they’d feel very cheerful and happy. So there again one sees the most extraordinary revolutionary techniques, which are now available to us.

Now, I think what is obviously perfectly clear is that for the present these techniques are not being used except in an experimental way, but I think it is important for us to realize what is happening to make ourselves acquainted with what has already happened, and then use a certain amount of imagination to extrapolate into the future the sort of things that might happen. What might happen if these fantastically powerful techniques were used by unscrupulous people in authority, what on Earth would happen, what sort of society would we get?

And I think it is peculiarly important because as one sees when looking back over history we have allowed in the past all those advances in technology which has profoundly changed our social and individual life to take us by surprise, I mean it seems to me that it was during the late 18 century early 19th century when the new machines were making possible the factory situation. It was not beyond the wit of man to see what was happening and project into the future and maybe forestall the really dreadful consequences which plagued England and most of western Europe and this country for sixty or seventy years, and the horrible abuses of the factory system and if a certain amount of forethought had been devoted to the problem at that time and if people had first of all found out what was happening and then used their imagination to see what might happen, and then had gone on to work out the means by which the worst applications of the techniques would not take place, well then I think western humanity might have been spared about three generations of utter misery which had been imposed on the poor at that time.

And the same way with various technological advances now, I mean we need to think about the problems with automation and more profoundly the problems, which may arise with these new techniques, which may contribute to this ultimate revolution. Our business is to be aware of what is happening, and then to use our imagination to see what might happen, how this might be abused, and then if possible to see that the enormous powers which we now possess thanks to these scientific and technological advances to be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their degradation.

Thank You

Transcribed by Prolixity @ The Sharashka 2/8/04
posted by:
offline ix
SF Bay Area
  • ix
    offline 7

    Re: The Ultimate Revolution

    Sun, December 18, 2005 - 1:24 PM
    Apologies for the broken links. seems to like to truncate things a bit. Anyone know how to enable HTML code here?



    Q and A

  • ix
    offline 7

    Re: The Ultimate Revolution

    Sun, December 18, 2005 - 5:06 PM
    I transcribed the Q&A session really quickly today. Forgive the punctuation errors.

    Aldous Huxley: The Ultimate Revolution, March 20, 1962

    Berkeley Language Center - Speech Archive SA 0269

    Question and Answer Session

    Moderator: We do have a few moments..

    Huxley: I'm very sorry, I talked much too long..

    Moderator: No, It's quite all right.. For some brief discussion and those of you who are interested in staying and listening I assure you that it will be well worth while.

    John, Mr. Post, would you like to ask your question?

    John Post: Well I'm afraid my question shows a certain optimism which may not be justified. In a way your quote from Hausman that malt does than Milton can to justify God's ways to man indicates that my remarks may show that I'm looking into the {garbled} prophecy of the world that the world is not. At any rate, I'm a bit worried about your, the picture that you paint that the future may contain a number of monolithic scientific dictatorships that there may be a groundswell in this direction; a groundswell caused by the human tendency to seek pleasure where it can be found. But I'm struck by the fact that movements of that sort are always far more complex than any of our attempts at characterizing them. And I think that perhaps in this complexity lies a ray of hope that the future may not contain such monolithic scientific dictatorships and that the developments which we can expect in light of the various technological achievements you mentioned may not lead in the direction of scientific dictatorships in the way you indicate. That this may depend on a great extent on the nature or the characteristics of the nations in which these results are first introduced. In other words my question really is: When you project into the future and you say the chances are very great of dictatorships of this kind occurring, could you qualify a bit more what the chances are?


    Well, I say, I don't think the chances are very great; I think they are there. And I would think that one of the reasons that we may get more dictatorships than we like lies in quite a different field. I mean, with large parts of the world increasing at Three percent per annum in population, uh, Goodness knows what is going to happen. For example, I was in India last autumn {garbled} utterly depressing, the enormous poverty. And the depression grew a great deal with the announcement just when we there that the United Nations had come to the conclusion that it's earlier estimates of the increase of the Indian population were very much too low. The estimates had been in the neighborhood of 1.7% per annum which was about the same as the United States which had to be corrected upward to 2.2 or 2.3 which is I think doubles the population in about 32 years. And of course in large parts of the world where the increase is fully 3% and in certain parts of the world even 4%. I mean 3% doubles the population in 24 years and 4% I forget, in about 16, I think. But it seems to me that the danger in regards to dictatorship arises with the, as the population presses more heavily upon resources. And as the rising tide of expectation which certainly exists in these under-developed countries is frustrated as it is undoubtedly going to be because it is almost impossible to make any development which will catch up with much less go faster than the population increase. So we may get a great deal of social unrest. And of course, Social unrest leads first to chaos and then to dictatorship. I mean, I think there, the prospect of some kind of dictatorship, either military or communistic, I think in most cases more likely military, seems to me very great in the next fifteen to twenty years. And whether some of these dictatorships may make use of these modern methods remains to be seen but I think that unhappily the prospects for dictatorships in large areas of the world seems to be very great at the moment. I think there is a considerable likelihood of this thing happening.

    Lillian: The implication seems to be that we ought to be apprehensive of these techniques falling into the hands of dictatorships, demagogues, etc. But I could easily envision a situation where western democracies could use these methods such as electrodes attached to the brain of SAC Airforce, er, of the SAC in order to avoid accidental war. This could be plugged in very moral terms. Or that you give SOMA to the discontented minority of the population who are suffering from anonymy, etc. Would you care to comment about the use of these techniques by Democracy, by democratic states.

    Huxley: We'll you’re a lot more pessimistic than I am {Crowd Laughs}; but maybe your pessimism is justified. This is the.. the awful fact remains that when techniques are discovered sooner or later they tend to be applied. And, in these techniques, which, where the object of application is the human being, you're obviously against the most dangerous situation. And what would be the temptation for those in power, after all, we pray regularly not to be led into temptation and this is a very profound and important prayer. Experience sadly shows, that if we are tempted long enough and strongly enough, we almost invariably succumb and the whole process of setting up a decent society is essentially setting up a society in which temptations to abuse power shall be reduced to a minimum. But, these new techniques, I think, do constitute a series of very powerful temptations, which to those in authority may finally turn out to be irresistible. I hope not, but what you say is something we have to think about. This might be applied with justification, as you say, in the highest patriotic and moral terms, even in democratic societies. I trust not, but one never knows, particularly under conditions of extreme military stress.

    Man: It would appear, sir, that the type of dictatorship which you' have outlined for us here today and in more detail than Brave New World, would tend to be self-perpetuating unless there arise such a sharp social crisis as it disrupts the pattern of authority and breaks the hold which is being passed on from one generation to another in these terms. But it would appear that the type of social crisis involved in large-scale warfare, whether it be nuclear warfare or otherwise or the type of crisis involved in a widespread famine, etc. would tend to disrupt this pattern of dictatorship; therefore, would you say that it is necessary to have a high degree of social stability in terms of economic conditions in terms of world peace before a dictatorship of the sort you have described for us would be able to really be able to imprint itself upon a population.

    Huxley: This, I think, is really important. I mean, I think it's obvious that such a dictatorship if it were going to survive would have to guarantee the adequate food supplies. I mean, I think, and whether it could in fact, do this, while the kind of international tensions. Whether we can expect a long-lasting dictatorship within the context of nationalism, I don’t know. I don't think so. I think we can expect dictatorships to arise, but not long-lasting ones. I mean, I think that even the best organized dictatorship within the context of nationalism is likely, as you say, to lead to.. to break itself down because one side of the paranoid state of mind will lead it to conflict, which will, of course, destroy it, finally destroy it. I mean, this is a very important point. And then of course, another point, made by Sir Charles Darwin, in his book The Next Million Years which I think was one which is in different terms than I envisaged in Brave New World. He points out that the human species is still a wild species. It has never been domesticated. A domesticated species is one which has been tamed by another species. Well, until we get an invasion from Mars we shall not be tamed by another species. All we can do is try to tame ourselves as an oligarchy try to tame ourselves. But the oligarchy still remains wild. I mean however much it succeeded in taming, domesticated the rest of the human race, it must remain wild and this was the part of the fable the dramatic part of the fable of Brave New world, that the people in the Upper part of the Hierarchy who were not ruthlessly conditioned could break down And this Charles Darwin insists because Man is wild he can never expect to domesticate himself because the people on top will always be undomesticated and will sooner or later always run wild. I think there is a good deal to be said to this point of view in regard to the permanence of any form of dictatorship.

    Man: Yes, I have a question. I'm worried about the relationship that seems to exist between Cost, consent, and control. If a government wishes to control its people, of course its job will be easier if they are more willing to consent and the job will be correspondingly more costly if the corresponding consent is not there. Could you make a few remarks about the economic feasibility of introducing biological controls of the sort you've talked about.

    Huxley: I do not know. Wouldn't it, I thought it would be, in some ways cheaper than maintaining very large security forces in concentration camps and so on. I mean, just as in asylums, chemical control is a great deal simpler and cheaper than physical control. The bad old days of strait-jackets and manacles and so on, required a lot of people to handle the insane; whereas the tranquilizers seem to require much fewer. You can get equal results with simpler and simply pleasanter means. I have no idea about the actual cost situation, but it seems to me it might actually be cheaper. I don't know.

    Moderator: Well I see some of you are leaving for your 4:00 classes. I will give you the opportunity to leave now. If Mr. Huxley would be willing, we might be able to entertain some questions from the floor for a few moments. Will those of you who are obliged to leave now please.. {crowd noise}

    Huxley: I apologize for going on so long.

    Moderator: Ah, no that's fine, I'm sure most of them be discussing these questions {garbled} I hope you're not finding it uncomfortably warm in here, I am

    Huxley: Well it's getting a little warm, isn't it. It seems to be a completely windowless hall, isn't it?

    Moderator: It's part of the conditioning process, I'm sure.

    Huxley: is there any means of growing vegetation in this hall, I see one over there..

    Moderator: I think there is some ventilation. Ventilation never seems to be able to meet the demand. Was it a comfortable environment{garbled} discussing these new drugs.

    Huxley: No they were mainly discussing, there was a lot about the problem of bringing technology to under-developed countries. They had a lot of people from the United Nations, a very able man, who was a Vietnamese, called Vu Van Thai, a charming man who spoke English with a strong French accent, learned his economics in Paris and he was very interesting, I mean, he said, "I'm speaking to you like a rat with electrodes in my brain because I speak from the inside, I'm not one of the experimenters on the outside." And he was very interesting about it, about the difficulty when you do introduce into one area a highly evolved technique into these backward countries you create an enormous gap between the people who run this thing and profit by it and the rest of the population. I mean a gap which is just as serious as the gap between the have-nots in under-developed nations as a whole and the Haves in the developed, and what he was saying was that you must have an adaptation technique which shall be suitable for these people and not try to bring in what you have already because he says the work hasn't been done in this field. And there were a number of very able people: {mentions names} We had some extremely good talks.

    Moderator: But I have one question here, well this is essentially the question which Mr. Huxley addressed himself to in the last segment: How will control over the techniques have been transmitted from one group to another. Apparently how will the control of these techniques be transmitted from one Elite to the next generation of the Elite? Would you wish to comment further on this question.

    Huxley: Well, I don't think so, I mean, I do think there would very clearly be a difficulty, I mean there is always a difficulty in transferring power. I mean, after all; hence, the constitutions, written constitutions such as the constitution of the United States or a hereditary monarchy which, in which, you got a de-facto power being de jour in the possibility of passing power on without much hitch from one generation to another. It may be that in a thoroughly well-controlled dictatorship the problem of power at the top, the struggle for power would not take place, but even there simply because the oligarchy itself is not subjected to the extremes of conditioning because it must retain a certain freedom in order to be able to make adequate decisions that may be the struggle for power will always remain a great problem as it has been throughout history, except where you had written constitutions or acceptable monarchies.

    Man: Dr. Huxley would in your view of [garbled] that precisely the American Society and Western Democracy is particularly susceptible to this type of Brave New World for the following reason: That society is conditioned to adhere to a great degree of social conformity that any creative stress, this idea of conformity is further pushed and consequently makes it much easier to develop these techniques and it seems politically the extremities, there's a growing feeling that we have to do away with extremities. And we have to keep on going a separate path and this would seem to me, to make this much easier for a type of dictatorship, as you said, to slowly use the mass-media that we're developing to mold the population. Plus the factor, that in some of the other types of societies you have less inhibition about the brutal struggle for power within the top of the hierarchy; whereas, here, there would be some type of inhibition due to the legal process which would keep men from violently attacking their leaders.

    Huxley: Well, this business about conformity, I don't know, it seems extremely difficult, certainly for me, to judge whether there is a higher degree of conformity here and now then there has been in other places and the past. I would have thought the tendency towards conformity was to some extent off-set by the enormous differentiation of function in a modern society. I mean that, nothing can be less homogeneous in function than a complex modern society, I mean people are doing extraordinarily different things and although there may be a pressure to conformity in the suburbs, so to speak, there does seem considerable pressure to non-conformity or to differentiation in the functional life of people.. I have no idea to what extent one off-sets the other. And whether the conforming drive is stronger than the drive towards differentiation. I just don't know what the answer to this is; I read about the high degree of conformity and of course one does see that certainly compared to the nineteenth century this society does seem to be more conformist. If one reads the history of the utopian colonies which were set up during the nineteenth century, this is really extravagant, it is inconceivable to think of anything like the Oneida community or Brooke Farm being set up today. I mean this would be so outrageous it would be impossible to imagine. And yet, in these Victorian days, there was this freedom to make experiments, social experiments, of the wildest character. Again, exactly what this means and exactly what the significance is for us and for the future, I don't really know. I just feel so incapable of really understanding the inutterably odd facts of real life. I think one very often just has to accept them. There they are and what do they mean? I don't know. Perhaps this is one of the charms of history: One really never knows what it means.

    Man: {garbled} You have always been interested in religious ideas. {garbled} mysticism {garbled} to use artificial means to control human beings. Would you care to comment about that.

    Huxley: Well this, this is finely related to the whole mind-body problem. We still don't know very much about the relation of mind and body. We know clearly they are related to one another very closely, but exactly how electro-chemical events in the central nervous system turn into the g-minor quartet of Mozart we really haven't the faintest idea. I don't think we have any more idea than {garbled} or Aristotle. All we can say is it happens. And we do know a good deal more about the nature of the electro-chemical events but again, what the bridge is, and whether it is enough to say like the neutral monists, the two aspects the mental and the physical are merely the same thing seen from different sides. Again, I don't know. Even then, how can something look so profoundly different.. something I don't understand. And in relation to the mystical experience, clearly this is correlated with electro-chemical states within the central nervous system. I would be all for studying these states. I think it is exceedingly important we should know about it. I can imagine a whole branch of science which would be called Neuro-Theology or Myco-Mysticism (crowd laughs). This sounds funny, but nevertheless, we have to be able to speak in the same kind of language about the two aspects of any of these experiences, the neurological and the subjective. And I suppose on the philosophical level we have to make the decision which William James posed for us. It seems perfectly obvious that mind is a function of the nervous system, but is it a productive function or a transmissive function? It does as {garbled} says at the beginning of the nineteenth century: Does the brain secrete thought as the liver secretes bile? Or is it some type of veil as James himself thought, through which a pre-existent mental element finds access into the human being. [Garbled]'s view was it was a kind of reducing valve which permitted only those aspects of universal consciousness which were useful to our survival as animals on the surface of the planet and the social creatures within our society to come through. As James says, both points of view are quite difficult from a philosophic point of view to justify, but the transmissive view is no more difficult than the productive view. My own view is that on the whole, that he and (Bergstrom?) were nearer the truth than the (Cantonese?), but I don't know.

    Man: Dr. Huxley would you care to comment on Sir Julian Huxley's views on artificial insemination?

    Huxley: Well, I don't know that I know his views exactly (Crowd laughs and applauds)

    Man: I think he thinks that so long as a Doctor, we can genetically improve the human race by adopting amongst the population the practice of artificial insemination using the sperm of intelligent individuals, and I don't know how these individuals are to be chosen and I was just wondering if you were familiar with..

    Huxley: Well, this is the whole problem with eugenics. If one knew how to apply eugenic principals, unquestionably, one could improve the average quality of the human race. There is some evidence, as Bert pointed out a long time ago, and {garbled} pointed out more recently, there is some evidence that there is a slight decline of average IQ and this certainly could be remedied. And as you say, the problem is to choose whom. I could perfectly imagine that if the Cold War goes on for a long time that side which first starts artificial insemination for the production of people with greater talent in the physical sciences would win. I read a paper the other day by a biologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which was an amusing paper, but it had quite serious and interesting aspects to it, on the sort of hypothetical cold war action on the part of the dictatorial powers who were able to make use of eugenics in ways which would not, author's name I cannot remember, ways which were not necessarily tyrannical because of the, after all, the woman would be able to marry whoever she would like but provided she had her children by selected fathers outside the relationship. So the actual personal relationship between Husband and Wife would not be modified seriously. This was a fantasy, but again, it looked like a fantasy which could quite likely come true. As the geneticists are all agreed, could lead to considerable results. Of Course, for Eugenics to take place in a reputable way, you would have to control not only the male genetic factors, but also the female's, which is much more difficult, but not impossible, I imagine.

    Man: The population explosion is a grave danger to mankind, yet the right to bear children is a right of free-will. The only apparent way to stem this explosion is by some large-scale kind of conditioning or external coercion. Yet this is also a grave danger. Is there any way out of this dilemma?

    (crowd laughs)

    Huxley: Well, the way out of this dilemma has surely been pointed out in most countries of the west where people have voluntarily limited the size of their families. This has happened without any coercion unless you call the desire to have a good economic life and to bring up your children well a coercion. This has in fact occurred. In this country, after having reached a low during the depression, the birthrate happens to have gone up. The point is, the control of the size of families is now completely voluntary. Which makes it profoundly different from the people in the under-developed societies who are still going on producing ten children because the habit consists that in order to have 3 children survive you have to produce ten. But now if you produce 10 children, 7 survive because of elementary health precautions that have been brought in. Hence, of course, the enormous and sudden increase.. the death rate which used to be in the upper 30s as was the birth rate, has now fallen in these countries to 15 and 12 and even 10. So naturally there is an enormous increase. But, it is certainly going to take some time to get people to change their habits. Psychological inertia is much more powerful than physical inertia. It is much easier to push a 10 tonne truck than a human being.

    Post: You've spoken of the ends to which drugs should not be devoted; such as increasing conformity, making men more content with what is factually an intolerable situation, increasing the power of the elite and so on. To what ends do you think these drugs should be devoted, granted that we have them?

    Huxley: Well I think therapeutically some of them are very valuable. I think already, for example, some of the so-called psychic energizers have done a great deal in the mental field. I understand from doctor Nathan Kline, in very many of these cases you can use these psychic energizers instead of the electroshock therapy. People say that electroshock therapy doesn't do any harm, but I cannot believe that partial electrocution is good for anybody. {Laughter} And it seems to be a very good thing that if you can get people on a maintenance dose and get them out of these awful catatonic and depressed conditions which you seem to be able to do. After all there are many people, it seems to me, outside institutions who have tendencies in the same direction which I think a genuine psychic energizer might be, which could be used without harm to people, could be of immense value. There was even it was stated a few years ago, I remember, that the Russians had a five year plan to increase mental efficiency by chemical means. I don't know whether this has gone on and what they've discovered but I think it's probably on the cards that you could increase the span of attention, the amount of time you could concentrate on things, the power of observation and so on, by chemical, as well as educational, mean. There are probably a number of quite good things you could do. Then again, in the case of these very strange substances like Psilocybin and Lysergic acid, I think there is a great deal to be said for doing what William James talked about. Getting people to realize that their ordinary, common-sense of the world is not the only view. That the universe they inhabit is not the only possible universe and there are other very strange universes which some people spontaneously inhabits. A man like William Blake, obviously inhabits an extremely different universe than that which most people inhabit. And I think it's very wholesome that people to be permitted to realize this fact to perceive that the world of the mind is immensely large and there are these very strange and extraordinary areas in them. There are plenty of cases in the literature where these kind of experiences produce a type of conversion. The work which is being done at Harvard now, by Leary, a prison, the local prisons in Boston, very interesting, a sort of series of extraordinary conversion experiences ..hardened criminals have emerged from this. Here again, we don't know enough about the subject yet, but there may be possibilities of great importance here. Removing obstacles. The justification was stated by {Bergstrom?} years ago when he was defending William James of his use of nitrous oxide, a group of philosophers thought this was in [garbled] that an eminent philosopher should result to chemical means. Which enabled James to remark that only under Nitrous Oxide could he understand what Hegel meant. {Laughter} Bergson said that it must be realized that the experiences Mr. James describes are not caused by the gas, the gas is merely the occasion, the gas removes certain obstacles which might have been removed equally well by psychological or psychophysical means, the so-called spiritual exercises of the various religions, but it can also be removed by these chemical means, if you can do so without doing harm to yourself, so much the better. And incidentally, it's one of the great tragedies, I think, in Psychological research, that James in about 1905 made an experiment with Peyote, and as he had a rather weak stomach, all that he got was violent vomiting. He said "I'm afraid I must take the visions for granted; I got only the nausea.". It's an awful pity if he'd had a stronger stomach, we'd have this research beginning 50 years ago, but his weak stomach prevented this and we had to wait for much later to get this thing really going.

    Moderator: Before we close this program this {garbled} Graduate Student Association asked me to announce that there will be a meeting of the Graduate Student Association next Tuesday at noon. Now I want to express our appreciation to Mr. Huxley on behalf of all of those who were here lest our augmented knowledge restrict our understanding. Thank you very much

    Huxley: Thank You, Thank You


    Transcribed by Prolixity @ the Sharashka 12-18-05.

Recent topics in "The Doors of Huxley"