This section of Brave New World Revisited, a long essay by Aldous Huxley reflecting on his own novel many years after its publication, can be found on Project Gutenberg Canada; if you enjoy it, I recommend you purchase Brave New World & Brave New World Revisited, which includes the original novel (1932) and Huxley’s essay (1958), along with a wonderful foreword by Christopher Hitchens (2003), published by Harper Collins here.
As a computer programmer and software entrepreneur, I like to make order from chaos. But, as Huxley argues quite well in this section entitled “Over-Organization” in his essay, a little too much order may be at odds with a very human freedom.
Though written over sixty years ago, and though reflecting on a future technocratic world state originally envisaged in the author’s mind nearly a century ago, this excerpt feels unbelievably modern when read from a 2020s vantage point. And yet, Huxley was writing during the heyday of mid-20th-century industrialization, but right before the beginning of the information age and the rise of pervasive computing. As a result, he couldn’t foresee the new forms of “over-organization” we’d face after the digitization of everything.
In Huxley’s fiction, he predicted that the systematization of daily life would eventually arise from a combination of state power and genetic technology. But in his non-fiction analysis of modern times, he recognized that it would most rapidly arise from corporate power and a general advancement of industrial technology. This we have witnessed in the decades since his passing.
We who work in software and who see a certain beauty in large systems and the organizational models they enable should, perhaps, take a moment to reflect on humanity’s deepest fact: that each human being is unique, and we are only truly happy when there is individual freedom of thought and action.
The rest of this post is Huxley in his own words. Please enjoy Huxley’s thoughts on “over-organization” below.