—Mr. Aldous Huxley, a renowned essayist and novelist who during the spring semester is residing at the university in his capacity as 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 well 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 [???] and Mr. John Post. Now, Mr. Huxley.
Thank you. First of all, 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 the 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, as I say, not directly at the human being, but at his surroundings. So that by modifying the surroundings you did remove an effect upon 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 the best ways of using torture, imprisonment, constraints of various kinds.
But as—I think it was Metternich—said many years ago: you can do everything with bayonets 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.
Well, 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 actually to love their servitude. This is, it seems to me, the ultimate in malevolent revolutions, shall we say. And this is a problem which has interested me for many years and about which I wrote thirty years ago a fable, Brave New World, which is essentially the account of a society (making use of all the devices at that time 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, so to say, mass-produced models of human beings arranged in kind of a scientific caste system.
And since then I have continued to be extremely interested in this problem, and I have noticed with increasing dismay that 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; that 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, this method of control, by which a people can be made to enjoy a state of affairs which (by any decent standard) they ought not to enjoy—the enjoyment of servitude. Well, this process, 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, 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 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 Nineteen Eighty-Four pattern. They will a good deal nearer not because of any humanitarian qualms of the scientific dictators, but simply because the Brave New World 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 are 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 are likely to have a much more stable and much more lasting society, a 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 Nineteen Eighty-Four 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 represent, I feel, the likely trend of what is going to happen. Needless to say, we shall never get rid of terrorism. This 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 perfectly running society, they will be more and more interested in the kind of techniques which I imagined and described from existing realities in Brave New World. So that, it seems to me, then, that this ultimate revolution is not really very far away; that already, the 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 a little bit about the improvement, even, 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, I think, 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 a, sort of, hit and miss craftsman’s point of view, and the genuinely scientific point of view. I mean, I think there is a real difference between ourselves and, say, the inquisitors of the sixteenth century. We know much more precisely what we are doing than they knew, and we can extend (because of our theoretical knowledge) what we are doing over a wider area with a greater assurance of producing something that really works.
In this context I would like to mention the extremely interesting chapters in Dr. William Sargant’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 upon a 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 chap—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 want to) carry them much further than was possible in the past. And of course, in the 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 evidently with extraordinary efficacy. I mean, 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 for it 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” acceptance of the psychological state in which he has been driven and the state of affairs within which he finds himself. So there, as I say, has been a definite improvement, shall we say, even in the techniques of terrorism.
Well, then we come to the consideration of other techniques, of non-terroristic techniques, for inducing consent and for 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 a few of the more obvious methods which can now be used, and which are based upon 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, have always 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 is 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, I think, know pretty clearly the sort of statistical structure of a population in regard to its suggestibility.
It’s very interesting when you look at the findings of different fields. I mean, in the field of hypnosis, in the field of administering placebos, for example, in the field of general suggestion, in states of drowsiness or of 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 percentage of people who can be hypnotized with the utmost facility, just like that, is about twenty percent, and about a corresponding number at the other end of the scale are very, very difficult or almost impossible to hypnotize. But in between there 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) 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, four years ago in the general hospital in Boston on post-operative cases, where several hundred men and women suffering comparable kinds of pain after serious operations were given injections whenever they asked for them, whenever the pain got bad. And the injections fifty percent of the time were of morphine, and fifty percent of the time of distilled water. And about twenty percent of those who went through the experiment, about twenty percent of them got just as much relief from the distilled water as from the morphine. About twenty percent 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, with regard to what in Brave New World I called hypnopedia, the sleep teaching, I was talking not long ago to a man who manufactures records which people can listen to during the light part of sleep. I mean, these are records for getting rich, for sexual satisfaction, for confidence in salesmanship, and so on. And he said it’s very interesting that these are records sold on a money-back basis, and he says there is regularly between fifteen and twenty percent 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, over twenty percent who write enthusiastically, saying they are much richer, their sexual life is much better, et cetera, et cetera. And these, of course, are the dream clients, and they buy more of these records. And then, in between, are those who complain they’re not get much results, and they have to have letters written to them saying, “Go persist, my dear! Go on 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 very early childhood 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 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 twenty percent 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 twenty percent 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’ve had the most incredible example in recent years of what can be done by efficient methods of suggestion and persuasion in the form of Hitler. Anybody who’s read, for example, Bullock’s life of Hitler comes forth from 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. I mean, for example, he knew intuitively this Pavlovian truth that conditioning installed in a state of stress or fatigue goes much deeper than conditioning installed at other times. This was why all his big speeches were organized at night. He speaks of this quite frankly, of course, in Mein Kampf. He says this was 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 twenty percent of the people who really can be suggested into believing almost anything—as evidently they can be—then we have to take extremely careful steps to prevent the rise of demagogues who will drive them on into extreme positions, and then organize them into very, very dangerous private armies which may overthrow the government.
This, as I say, is 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 demagogue’s voice and image in a quite hallucinatory way. I mean, the television and the 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 the yelling at his utmost. But the modern demagogue can touch literally millions at a time. And, of course, with this 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 have, thank heaven, as yet not been used, but which obviously could be used. There is, for example, the pharmacological method. This was one of the things I talked about in Brave New World. 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 that, if you applied several different substances, you could get almost all these results even now. And the really interesting thing about the new chemical substances, the new mind-changing drugs, is this: that whereas, if you look back into history, it’s 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, is that every naturally occurring stimulant, narcotic, 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 principles 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, underneath the lake dwellings of the early Neolithic which have been dug up in Switzerland we find poppy-heads, which looks as though people were already using this most ancient and powerful and most dangerous of narcotics, even in the days of the rise of agriculture. So that man was apparently a dope addict before he was a farmer—which is a very, very curious comment on human nature!
But the difference, as I say, between the ancient mind-changers, the traditional mind- changers, and these 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 the other ones, the non-permissible ones, such as opium and cocaine (opium and all 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. I mean, you can have an enormous revolution—for example, with LSD-25, or with the newly synthesized drug psilocybin, which is the active principle 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 wonder drugs where the cure is almost worse than the disease. Every year, a new edition of medical textbooks contains a longer and longer chapter on what are called iatrogenic diseases—that is to say, diseases caused by doctors. And this is quite true. That 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 central nervous system which can produce enormous changes in sedation, in euphoria, in energizing the whole mental process, without doing any perceptible harm to the body. And in this sense this represents, it seems to me, the most extraordinary revolution. In the hands of a dictator, these substances of one kind or the other could be used with, first of all, complete harmlessness, and the result would be that you can imagine a euphoric which 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 has even been true with the crude old drugs.
I mean, a houseman years ago remarked—a propos of Milton’s Paradise Lost—he says, “And beer does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man.” And beer is, of course, an extremely crude drug compared with these ones. And you can certainly say that some of the psychic energizers and the new hallucinants can do incomparably more than Milton and all the Theologians combined could possibly do to make the terrifying mystery of our existence seem more tolerable than it does.
So that 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 not through terror, but through making life seem much more enjoyable than it normally does—enjoyable to the point, whereas I have 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.
Well then, very briefly, let me speak about one of the more recent developments in the sphere of neurology: the implantation of electrodes in the brain. This of course has been done on 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 planted in different centers must come away from this experience with the most extraordinary doubts about what on Earth is in store for us if ever this is got a hold of by a dictator.
I saw not long ago some rats in the Magoun’s laboratory at UCLA. There were two sets of them: one with electrodes planted in a pleasure center. And the technique was that they had a bar which they pressed, which turned on a very small current for a short space of time, which had a wire connected with that electrode, and which stimulated this pleasure center—which was evidently absolutely ecstatic. These rats were pressing the bar 18,000 times a day! Apparently, if you kept them from pressing the bar for a day, they would press the bar 36,000 times on the following day until they fell down in complete exhaustion! And they would neither eat, nor be interested in the opposite sex, and would just go on pressing this bar. Then, the most extraordinary rats were those where the electrode was planted halfway between the pleasure and the pain center, and where evidently the result was a kind of mixture of the most wonderful ecstasy and being on the rack at the same time. And you would see the rat sort of looking at its bar and sort of saying, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Finally it would approach, and do it, and then go back with this awful—I mean, if I can humanize and anthropomorphize—I mean, he was feeling something terribly mixed. And he would wait for quite a long time before pressing the bar again. But he would always press it again! I mean, 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: you sink into their brains a little socket with a screw on it, and the electrode then can be screwed deeper and deeper into the brain stem, and you can test at any moment according to the depth (which goes in fractions of a millimeter) of what you’re stimulating. And these creatures are not merely stimulated by wire, they’re fitted with a miniaturized radio receiver weighing 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 can press the button, and this particular area of the brain to which the electrode has been screwed down to will be stimulated. And you will get these fantastic phenomena that a sleepy chicken will suddenly get up and rush about, or an active chicken will suddenly sit down and go to sleep, or a hen will suddenly start sitting as though it were hatching out an egg, or a rooster will start fighting or will suddenly go into a state of extreme 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 electroencephalogram 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 something resembling, evidently, the pleasure center of the rat. Anyhow, when they felt too bad, they just pressed a button on the battery in their pocket, and he said the result was fantastic. The mouth was pointing down, would suddenly turn up, and they would evidently feel—I don’t know for how long at a time—very cheerful and happy. So here, 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 much used except in a purely experimental way. But I think it is extraordinarily important for us to realize what is happening, to make ourselves acquainted with what has already happened, and then to use a certain amount of imagination to extrapolate into the future the sort of things that might happen. I mean, 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 this is peculiarly important, because as one sees when looking back over history, we have allowed in the past all those advances in technology—which have profoundly changed our social and individual life—we have allowed them to take us by surprise. I mean, it seems to me that, during the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, when the new machines were making possible the factory system, it was not beyond the wit of man to look at what was happening, and to project into the future, and maybe to forestall the really dreadful consequences which plagued England and most of western Europe and most of this country for about sixty or seventy years. The horrible abuses of the factory system. And if a certain amount of forethought had been devoted to the problem at that time, 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 means by which the worst applications of the new techniques would not take place, then I think western humanity might have been spared about three generations of utter misery which was imposed on the poor at that time.
And similarly with various technological advances now. I mean, it’s quite clear we have to start thinking very, very hard about the problems of automation. And again, I think we have to think still more profoundly about the problems which may arise in relation to these new techniques which may contribute to this ultimate revolution. Our business is to, first of all, as I say, to be aware of what is happening, then to use our imaginations 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 shall be used for the benefit of human beings and not for their ultimate degradation.
We do have a few more minutes to—
I’m very sorry. I’ve talked much too long.
No, it’s quite alright. Let’s have a brief discussion, and those of you who are interested in staying and listening, I’m sure that it will be well worthwhile. [???] would like to [???]
Well, I’m afraid my question shows a certain optimism which may not be justified. In a way, your quote from your houseman that “malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man” indicates that my remark must make sure that I’m looking into [???] thought to see the world as the world is not. At any rate, I’m a bit worried about your picture, or the picture you paint, that the future may contain a number of monolithic scientific dictatorships, and that there may be a groundswell in this direction; a groundswell caused by the human tendency to seek pleasure—which should 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 to a great extent upon 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 said the chances are very great of dictatorships of this kind occurring, could you qualify a bit more what the chances are?
Well, I don’t think the chances are very great. I think they are there, and I would think that one of the reasons why 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, goodness knows what is going to happen. I mean, for example, I was in India last autumn. And, of course, this is unutterably depressing, the enormous poverty. And the depression grew a great deal with the announcement just when we were there that the United Nations had come to the conclusion that its earlier estimates of the increase of Indian population were very much too low. The estimates had been in the neighborhood of 1.7 percent per annum, which is about the same as the United States, which had to be corrected up to 2.2 or 2.3, which I think doubles the population in about 22 years. And, of course, there are large parts of the world where the increase is fully three percent, and in certain parts of the world even four percent. I mean, three percent doubles the population in 24 years, and four percent (I forget) in about 16, I think.
But it seems to me that the danger in regard to dictatorship arises as the population presses more heavily on resources. And as the rising tide of expectation—which certainly exists in these underdeveloped countries—is frustrated, as it undoubtedly is 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 the prospect of some kind of dictatorship—either military or communistic; I think in most cases more likely military—seems to me very great within 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 seem to me very great at the moment. I think there is a considerable likelihood of this thing happening.
The implication seems to be that we ought to be apprehensive of these techniques falling into the hands of dictatorships, demigods, et cetera. But I could easily envisage a situation where western democracies could use these methods, such as electroids attached to the brain of [???] in order to avoid accidental war. This could be a very moral [???]. Or that you give soma to the discontented minority of the population, who are suffering from [???] et cetera. Would you care to comment about the use of these techniques by democratic [???]?
Well, you’re a lot more pessimistic than I am. But maybe your pessimism is justified. I mean, the awful fact remains that when techniques have been discovered, sooner or later they tend to be applied. And in these techniques, where the object of application is the human being, you’re obviously up against the most dangerous situation. What will be the temptation for those in power? I mean, after all, we pray regularly not to be led into temptation, and this is a very profound and important prayer. I mean, 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 I think what you say is something which we have to think about. That this might be applied with justification, as you say, in the highest patriotic an moral terms. Even in democratic societies I trust not. But one never knows, particularly under conditions of extreme military stress.
It would appear so that the type of dictatorship which you have outlined here for us today, and in more detail in the Brave New World, would tend to be self-perpetuating unless there is a rise, such a sharp social crisis, as to [???] up the pattern of authority and greatly the hold which is being passed down from one generation to the other 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; other type of crisis involved in wide-spread famine, et cetera—would tend to disrupt this pattern of dictatorship. So therefore, would you say that it’s necessary to have a high degree of social stability (in terms of economic conditions, in terms of world peace) before a dictatorship of this sort you have described for us would be able to really imprint itself upon a population.
This, I think, is very important. I mean, I think it’s obvious that such a dictatorship, if we’re going to survive, would have to guarantee the adequate food supplies. 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 break itself down because one side of the paranoid state of mind will lead it into conflict, which will of course finally destroy it. This is a very important point.
And then, of course, another point which was made by Sir Charles Darwin in his book The Next Million Years—which I think was one which, in different terms, I envisaged in Brave New World. I mean, 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 to try to tame ourselves; that an oligarchy tries to tame ourselves. But the oligarchy still remains wild. I mean, however much it succeeded in taming, domesticating the rest of the race, it must remain wild. And this was the part of the dramatic part of the fable of Brave New World—is that the people in the upper hierarchy, who were not ruthlessly conditioned, could break down. And Charles Darwin insists that 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’s a good deal to be said for this point of view in regard to the permanence of any dictatorship.
Yes, I have a question. I’m worried about a relationship that seems to exist between cost, consent, and control. If a government wants 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 isn’t there. Could you make a few remarks about the economic feasibility of introducing biological controls of the sort you’ve talked about?
I don’t know. I mean, I would’ve thought in some ways it would be cheaper than maintaining very large security forces and concentration camps and so on. I mean, just as in asylums, chemical control is a very deal simpler and cheaper than physical control. I mean, the bad old days of straitjackets and manacles and so on require quite a lot of people to handle the insane, whereas the tranquilizers seem to require much fewer. I mean, you can get equal results with simpler and certainly pleasanter means. I have no idea of the actual cost situation, but it seems to me that it might actually be cheaper. I don’t know.
Well, I see that some of you are leaving for your four o’clock classes. It would be 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. Would you do so?
Those of you who are obliged to leave now, please proceed.
I apologize having gone on so long.
Oh no, [???]
Well, it’s getting a little warm, isn’t it? I seems to be a completely windowless hall.
Is there any means of ventilation in this hall? I see one there…
[???] new drugs—
No, they were mainly discussion—I mean, there was a lot about the problem of bringing technology to the underdeveloped countries. They had a lot of people from the United Nations there. A very able man, who is a Vietnamese called Gu Van Thai—charming man—he spoke English with a strong French accent because he’s learned his economics in Paris. And he was very interesting. 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 the difficulties that when you do introduce, say, one area of highly evolved technique into one of these backward countries, you create an enormous gap between people who run this thing and profit by it, and the mass of the population. I mean, a gap which is just as serious as the gap between the have-nots in underdeveloped nations as a whole and those who are the haves in the developed. And what he was saying was that we must have an adaptational technique which shall be suitable for these people, and then try to bring in what you have already. But he said very little work has been done in this field. There were a number—I mean, there were several very able people. Richard Caulder [?] of the University of Edinburgh was there, and Arthur [???] director of the special services in the United Nations. And we had some supremely good talks.
Well, I have one question here which is—well, this is essentially the question which Mr. Huxley addressed himself to in his last one when he said: how will control over the techniques that have been transmitted from one group to another [???] controller’s techniques be transmitted from one generation of elite to another. Would you wish to comment further on this question? I know you did just speak to it just before.
Well, I don’t think so. I mean, I do think there will clearly be a difficulty. There is always a difficulty in transferring power. After all, hence the written constitutions, such as the United States, or a hereditary monarchy in which you’ve got a de facto power being the jury 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, again, the oligarchy is itself not subjected to the extremes of conditioning, because it must retain a certain freedom in order to be able to make adequate decisions. Maybe the struggle for power would always remain a great problem, as it has been throughout history, except where you had written constitutions or acceptable monarchies.
Yes, this gentleman?
Dr. Huxley, could you adhere to the view of [???] precisely the American society [???] particularly susceptible in this type of crazy world—for the following reason: that [???] degree of social conformity, that any creative stress, this idea of conformity is further pushed, and consequently it makes it much easier to develop these techniques. And then it seems [???] the extremities, there’s a growing feeling that we have to do away with the extremities, that we have to keep on going the simple path. And this would seem to me to make this much easier for a type of dictatorship which you said to slowly use the mass medium [???] population. Plus the factor that concern from the other societies—you would have less inhibition about the good old struggle for power within the top hierarchy. Whereas here there would be some type of inhibition in the so-called legal process that has developed which would keep man from violently attacking the leaders.
Well, this business about conformity—I just don’t know. It seems extremely difficult (certainly for me) to judge whether there is a higher degree of conformity here and now than there has been in other places and in the past. I mean, I would’ve thought the tendency towards conformity was to some extent offset by the enormous differentiation of function in modern society. Nothing could 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 of [???], there does seem a considerable pressure to nonconformity, or to differentiation, in the functional life of people. I mean, I’ve no idea to what extent one offsets the other, and whether the conforming drive is stronger than the drive towards differentiation. I just don’t know what the answer is.
I read about the high degree of conformity, and of course one does see that, certainly, as compared with the nineteenth century, this society does seem to be more conformist. I mean, if one reads the history of the utopian colonies which were set up during the nineteenth century, this is really extravagant. It’s inconceivable to think of anything like the Oneida Community or Brook Farm, even, being set up today. This would be so outrageous that it would be impossible to imagine. And yet, in these Victorian days there was this freedom to make social experiments of the wildest character.
Again, exactly what this means and exactly what significance is for us and for the future—I don’t really know. I mean, I just feel so incapable of really understanding the unutterably odd facts of real life. I think one very often just have to accept them. There they are. And what really they mean—I don’t know. Perhaps this is one of the charms of history: that one never really knows what it means.
There’s a gentleman, right here.
Sir, [???] religious ideas [???]
Well, this is finally related to the whole mind-body problem. We still don’t know very much about the relation of mind and body. We know clearly that they’re related to one another very closely, but exactly how electrochemical 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 Aquinas or Aristotle. All we can say is it happens. And we do know a good deal more about the nature of the electrical and the chemical events. But again, what the bridge is and whether it’s 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 the same thing look so profoundly different? Something I don’t understand.
And in relation to the mystical experience—clearly, this is correlated with electrochemical states within the central nervous system, and I would be all for studying these states. I think it’s exceedingly important we should know about it. I can imagine a whole branch of science which would be called neuro-theology or myco-mysticism. I mean, 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 then we, I suppose, on the philosophical level, have to make the decision which Henry or William James posed for us. I mean, it’s perfectly obvious that a mind is a function of the nervous system, but is it a productive function or is it a transmissive function? As Cabanis said at the beginning of the nineteenth century, “Does the brain secrete thought as the liver secretes bile?” Or is it some kind of valve, as James himself, I think, thought, and certainly as Bergson thought, through which a preexistent mental element finds access into the human being? Bergson’s view was that, of course, 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 as social creatures within a society to come through.
Well, I don’t know. As James says: both points of view are quite difficult from a philosophical point of view to justify. But the transmissive view is no more difficult than the productive view. And perhaps he’s right. I think my own view is that, on the whole, that he and Bergson were nearer the truth than Cabanis. But I don’t know.
This gentleman in the white shirt, there.
Dr. Huxley, would you care to comment on Sir Julian Huxley’s views on artificial insemination donation?
Well, I don’t know that I know his views exactly!
If you care to clarify that for us.
Yes. I think what he’s saying is [???] Dr. Herman Miller [???] University during the [???] I think that we can genetically improve the human race by adopting amongst the population our practice of artificial insemination, using the sperm of intelligent individuals—and I don’t know how he determines how these individuals are to be chosen—but I was just wondering if you were familiar with—
Well, I mean, this is of course the whole problem of eugenics. If one knew how to apply eugenic principles, I think unquestionably one could improve the average quality of the human race. And there is some evidence—as Burt [?] pointed out a long time ago, and as Medawar has pointed out more recently, that there is some evidence that there is a slight decline of average IQ, and that this certainly could be remedied. But of course, as you say, the problem is to choose who. I mean, I can perfectly imagine that if the Cold War goes on for a very long time, that side which first starts artificial insemination for the production of people with a greater talent in the physical sciences will win. And I read a paper the other day by—I forget who—a biologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara. It was an amusing paper, but it had quite interesting and serious 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 necessarily—the author, whose name I cannot now remember—in ways which were not necessarily very tyrannical. Because, after all, the woman would be allowed to marry whomever she liked, provided she had children by selected fathers outside the relationship. So the actual personal relationships between husband and wife would not be modified seriously. This, as I say, was a fantasy. But again, it looked like a fantasy which could quite likely come true, and could, as the geneticists are all agreed, could certainly lead to considerable results. Of course, for eugenics to take place in a rapid way, you would have to be able to control not merely the male genetic factors, but the female, which is of course much more difficult, but not impossible, I imagine.
I have one written question here I’d like to read out to you: 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?
Well, the way out of the dilemma, surely, has been pointed out in most countries of the West, where people voluntarily have limited the size of their families. I mean, 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. I mean, this has in fact occurred. And in this country, after having reached a low during the Depression, the birthrate happens to have gone up. But the point is that the control of the size of families is now completely voluntary here—more or less completely voluntary—which makes it profoundly different from the people in the underdeveloped societies who are still going on producing ten children, because the habit persists that in order for three children to survive you have to produce ten. But now if you produce ten children, seven survive because of elementary public health precautions which have been built in. Hence, of course, the enormous and sudden increase. The death rate (which used to be in the upper thirties, as was the birth rate) has now fallen in many of these countries to fifteen and twelve and even ten. So naturally there’s an enormous increase. But it’s certainly going to take some time to get people to change their habits. Psychological inertia is much more powerful than physical inertia: it’s much easier to push a ten-ton truck than a human being.
Mr. Post has one further question.
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, securing the power of a small elite, so on. To what ends do you think these drugs should be devoted, granted that we have them?
Well, I mean, 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 Dr. Nathan Kline, for example, that in very many cases you can use some of these psychic energizers instead of the electroshock therapy. And people say that electroshock therapy doesn't do any harm, but I cannot believe that partial electrocution is good for anybody. And it seems to me a very good thing that if you can get people on a maintenance dose to get them out of these awful catatonic and depressed conditions, which you seem to be able to do. And therefore there are many people, it seems to me, outside institutions who have tendencies in the same direction, which I think a genuine psychic energizer could be used without harm to people would be of immense value.
There was even—it was stated a few years ago, I remember, that the Russians had a five-year plan for increasing mental efficiency via chemical means. I don't know whether this has gone on and what they've discovered. But I would think it's probably on the curves 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 by educational means. I think that there are a number of probably quite good things you could do.
And then, again, in the case of these very strange substances like psilocybin and lysergic acid, I think there's a great deal to be said for doing what William James talked about: of getting people to realize that their ordinary commonsense view of the world is not the only view; that the universe they inhabit is not the only possible universe, and that there are other very strange universes which some people spontaneously inhabit. I mean, a man like William Blake obviously inhabits an extremely different universe from that which most people inhabit. And I think it's probably very wholesome for people to be permitted to realize this fact; to perceive that the world of the mind is immensely large, and that there are these very strange and extraordinary areas in them. And there are plenty of cases in the literature where these kind of experiences have produced a kind of conversion. The work which is being done at Harvard now by Leary, local prisons in Boston, very interesting. A sort of series of extraordinary conversion experiences, where hardened criminals have emerged from this.
And here again, there may be—I mean, we don't know enough about the subject yet. But there may be possibilities of very great importance here of removing obstacles. The justification was stated by Bergson years ago when he was defending William James against his use of nitrous oxide. A number of fellow philosophers thought this was [???] that a preeminent philosopher should resort to these chemical means. James remarked that only nitrous oxide could he understand what Hegel meant. Bergson said that it must be realized that the experiences which Mr. James described are not caused by the gas, the gas is merely the occasion. The gases remove certain obstacles which might've been removed equally well by psychological and psychophysical means, so-called spiritual exercises of the various religions. But it can also be removed by these chemical means. And 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—I think 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.” And it's an awful pity. If he'd had a stronger stomach, we should have this research beginning fifty years ago. But his weak stomach prevented this, and we've had to wait until much later to get this thing really going.
Why don't we close the program. Mr. Delaney from the 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 for [???] understanding. Thank you very much!