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Technology in dystopian literature

The fear of technology is one of the main utilities used in many dystopian works. If the plot of the dystopia is set in a future time, (which is almost always the case) then the usage of technology in order to control the society of that time is inevitable. As we will see in this paper technology is a very important aspect of dystopias like Brave New World, We, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Do Androids Dream of Electric Shee ! but we can also link it with other works like "he #andmaids "ale, A $loc%wor% &ran'e and (ord of the Flies.

Hu ley probably implemented the fear of technology best in the novel Brave New World. He describes the society that operates in the same way as Henry !ord"s assembly#line. In fact Henry !ord ascended to a status of an idol, and the society of Brave New World count their years beginning with the year in witch !ord introduced his T#model. $eople are produced in an industrial mass production way, first being grown in test tubes and afterwards sub%ected to years of hypnopaedic conditioning. &echani'ation is pri'ed in Brave New World( the more synthetic, the better. Their civili'ation is smooth, sterile, and artificial. )ociety of Brave New World relies on superficiality and pleasures that do not merely e clude thought, but work actively to keep it locked away. Technology is at work here in the form of feelies, movies that allow the audience not only to see and hear the film but to e perience it through tactile sensations. These feelies are a degradation o se ( their goal is to strip the se ual act from any emotional intimacy. )e is not a sacred or an intimate act any more, but has become %ust a leisure activity. *ut this is understandable as se has no biological significance any more, since it is no more a reproductive act. +ike many other things in this novel it has become an act without a purpose. Another way of taking people away from their true being is through soma. )oma is an opiate that immediately makes people feel good and without one single worry( ,A gramme is better than a damn-. .iti'ens of the /ord )tate take technology for granted, as they do not know any other way of acting. The conditioning has made them into obeying puppets that not

only do not want to stand up against this totalitarian system, but in fact do not know how it is done, nor what does that mean. *ut in Hu ley"s dystopia machines are not in control. They are %ust tools used by the /orld .ontrollers to maintain order in the society. *ut the 0uestion is raised why do they do this. /hat kind of satisfaction do they get from keeping people blissful and ignorant1 /ell, as &ustapha &ond (one of the /orld .ontrollers), e plains, they do it to make people happy. )o here we can see what reasons lie behind this social system( the choice between happiness and freedom. In deed, this is a good 0uestion and apparently one does not go with the other, but the way in which this aim of achieving happiness is presented in Brave New World is faulty and no one can claim that getting high on drugs is better than personal choice. It is easier, but certainly is not better for the sake of humanity, as this results in the loss of single aspect that define us as human( morality and emotion.

In 2amyatin"s We the citi'ens of the 3ne )tate live as machines. There is no more individuality, and persons do not have names but are distinguished by numbers (4#567, 3#86, I#776). 9umbers live in glass building and this way they cannot hide their actions from anybody. They are under constant surveillance. This type of technology usage to keep people under surveillance is a bit different than the classic camera surveillance, but it does the trick. The only time when one can pull the shades is when they cash in a coupon to have se . :very ,number- can register to any other to have se with. They get their coupons which they can spend through a certain period of time. This is another e ample of how, with the usage of technology, the state can suppress the se ual freedom and desires of an individual. ,.iti'ens" lives are controlled by a comple schedule which ensures that they are always where the 3ne )tate wants them to be.-; The whole of the society is based upon mathematical punctuality and the )tate tries to mechani'e the minds of the numbers through a predetermined and a comple schedule, turning them into mere

,Dia)ol*s e+ ,achina- Technology in 4ystopian +iterature, <http=>>www.sedhe.net>dystopia>diabolus?e ?machina.php@.

parts of a machine. This is done according to the Table of Hours. The protagonist of the novel, 4#567 is an engineer supervising the building of The Integral, a spaceship which is supposed to carry the ideology of the 3ne )tate to other planets. Here technology is not only used to maintain control over one"s own citi'ens, but also to con0uer other people, planets even. The plan is to bring ,mathematically faultless happiness- to other people. 4#567 accepts the mechanical view of reality, because of his mathematical way of thinking. He en%oys mathematics because it is so comprehensible and pure. His way of thinking is best described by an an iety attack he gets when he learns that there are such things as irrational numbers. To believe that something irrational could be allowed to e ist in such a perfectly rational system as mathematics is upsetting to 4#567, who has been trained to operate and think like a machine in a perfectly rational way, and yet there is something in him, like the irrational numbers in mathematics, that cannot be rationally e plained. The s0uare root of negative one actually describes the imperfection he sees in himself. That is the one imperfection in his almost perfect mind that haunts him, that keeps him from being purely logical, which is the ultimate ideal for him. *ut, because of this imperfection 4#567 will, in fact, grow a soul because of which he is writing his diary and afterwards falls in love with I#776. The *enefactor, the ruler of the )tate, defends the way in which the 3ne )tate operates, saying that their goal is actually altruistic as they promote happiness and eliminate every disturbing emotion. Allegedly emotions only bring people into trouble, as they have the potential to cause pain and therefore are evil. This is why humans must be stripped from imagination. This is done by the 3peration and in the process of the imagination removal the ,numbers- are cleared from their irrational thoughts in the name of greater happiness. The result is a society where any kind of emotion is discouraged and machine#like efficiency and punctuality is the goal. *ut of course, ,numbers- are still humans, and their irrationality comes to the surface with the breach of the primitive people through the /all. .haos takes over, at least for a while in which people have se without their shades on or without coupons. *ut this e plosion of passion is short as the Buardian of the 3ne )tate soon bring back order and punish the people responsible for the uprising. After this the 3peration continues

and the process of imagination removal in order to impose a machine#like psyche upon the ,numbers- through which they will be happy. 4#567 also undergoes through the procedure, after which he wonders how could have he written all the things he wrote in his diary. It seems preposterous to him that he could have had thoughts like that. He no longer has to deal with irrational numbers, because he reached the machine#like ideal.

1984 brings us not so much sophisticated and wide#spread use of technology as Brave New World for instance, but nonetheless it is a very important aspect of the novel. Technology is the $arty"s tool to keep people of 3ceania under constant control. 3ne cannot do anything without $arty"s knowledge which is clearly demonstrated in the novel. The most obvious usage of technology in this &rwell.s dystopia is the telescreen. It is a kind of a screen that is built into the wall that is capable of both sending and receiving information, so it is a perfect surveillance machine. :very $arty member must have a telescreen in his home, they are found on every street in central +ondon where the $arty members live. It is a perfect tool for keeping people under control and as we see in the novel one cannot escape it nor do anything that the telescreen will not register. The telescreen is an important e tension of the Thought $olice as their work would not have been possible without it and for that reason it is the essential element in the totalitarian system of the $arty. /ithout the telescreen their rule would not have been possible. Another important instrument in 1984 is the constant revision of the past. /hile this is in fact by human hand and not by a machine, technology does come greatly in hand here, which can be seen from the following 0uotation= ,/inston dialled Cback numbers" on the telescreen and called for the appropriate issues of CThe Times", which slid out of the pneumatic tube after only a few minutes" delay. The messages he had received referred to articles or news items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, as the official phrase had it, to rectify.- A /inston"s %ob is to rectify the inappropriate past issues of the Times which have become inconvenient for the $arty. In doing this he uses the speakwrite, a machine that helps him in revision of the old documents. )uch a high level of control over the truth and

3rwell, Beorge. 1984 (e#book), p. D8.

facts would never have been possible without some very sophisticated device which makes the revision 0uite an easy process. It is also important to mention the memory holes in which original documents were slid in order to destroy them, thus leaving no trace of the original evidence that something in fact did happen. Although it is arguable whether the documents were in fact destroyed or %ust preserved somewhere as 3"*rien shows /inston the picture that he destroyed. 3r at least he thought he did. These 0uick to do, but very thorough processes help the $arty in maintaining the complete control over the past. Another machine is used in 1984 which helps the $arty in keeping in citi'ens under control, the novel#writing machines. These machines are used in the !iction 4epartment and their purpose is to write newspapers, films, novels, plays in order to give the citi'ens of 3ceania some sort of an entertainment and more importantly distraction from the everyday life and the fact that they live in an oppressed society. *ut like in Brave New World, technology in 1984 is used only to help and support the rulers of the society. &achines are used by the $arty leaders and this means that the human is behind all of it after all. +ike 3"*rien e plains during torturing /inston, the $arty"s one motive is power and that is why they must maintain control over all of the citi'ens of 3ceania. He himself admits that this level of control was not possible in the past because of lack of technology, but now with the power to control every aspect, every single motion that a person makes the $arty can have the absolute and complete power. The goal of that technology in 1984 is to take away the human freedom and the possibility to act freely. Technology is that great instrument that suffocated and e tinguishes every possibility and hope for a different tomorrow.

Fahrenheit 451 gives us a different perspective on the usage of technology. *radbury didn"t create some new world order as it was shown in some other dystopias, but merely stated where the over usage of technology could lead our society. There is no party or no leaders of the state that use the technology in order to maintain their rule over the society, but, as *radbury describes, the people got themselves into the situation that is described in the novel. $eople have become too dependent on new technologies that they no longer know to live without it, or would

be able to survive without it, thus creating a society of ignorant people who care for nothing but leisure. *ut in order to keeps this kind of a society running it is important to keep everybody ignorant. Enowledge is the main enemy of this state. That is why firemen in Fahrenheit have a reversed role than in our society( they do not fight fire, but in fact start it. Their main task is to burn books. *ooks carry knowledge and therefore must be destroyed. *radbury"s main intention with Fahrenheit was to critici'e the television. ,His intended purpose was to speak against another recent emergence of the early ;856s= the household television.-7 He felt that television was removing interest in reading literature because of its rapidness and passiveness in receiving information. He feared that people would become used to fast and short information so that they would completely start ignoring long books and narratives. In the novel, this is shown through the character of &ontag"s wife, &ildred. )he spends most of her day in the parlour, surrounded by a three giant TF#screens and watching some series which she thinks she plays also a part of. )he even calls the characters of the series her family. *ut it is not %ust television that has penetrated &ildred"s mind( she also goes to sleep every night with some sort of earphones in her ears listening to music. )he cannot even sleep on her own, but has to do it with the help of technology. *radbury foreshadowed this trend 0uite e traordinary, as today there are a lot of people who say that they become an ious when left alone and have to keep the TF on or listen to music at all times. I wouldn"t say that we are heading the same path as *radbury described in his novel, but some things are certainly true and are scary in way. Another use of technology in Fahrenheit 451 is the &echanical Hound. This is the typical usage of a machine in dystopian novels in order to keep the society obeying and functioning the way it is supposed to, looking through the eyes of the current rulers. &echanical Hounds task is to terrify and destroy ob%ects, i.e. people who disobeyed the laws. It does not differ at all from the forms of law#enforcement in other dystopias like 1984, We, Brave New World/ *ut there is one important aspect that *radbury gives in his novel, hope. &ontag escapes the &echanical Hound and

,Technological .ommentary in Fahrenheit 451-, <http=>>gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu>web# papers>web#papers#7>technological#commentary#in#fahrenheit#D5;>@

shows us that an active and critical human mind is by all means superior to any machine and any technology, no matter how far advanced.

4ick in his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Shee ! tries to present the idea that technology as a passive means of help to humankind, a slave basically, is a somewhat far#fetched idea. 3n the other hand, he also suggests that human progress cannot be stopped and no matter what, the development of technology will continue. This view on technology is actually a downward spiral for the humankind, because if humanity is unsure and looks at the tools that he himself has created than he will live in fear of it forever. Humans cannot think of themselves as less important or less good than a machine for they will live in the shadow of the machine. The only way to solve this problem between man and machine is the human acceptance of technologies as 4ick has shown in his novel. The main problem of Do Androids Dream of Electric Shee ! is that androids resemble humans too much. This causes the problematic classification of androids as non#life. It is hard to %ustify ,retiring- androids if they are hardly distinguishable from humans. The 0uestion is then what makes life sacred and what does it take to define androids, i.e. technology as a type of life. The novel says that humans are empathetic beings have the role#taking ability and this is what makes them human. The Foigt# Eampff tests looks for these features in deciding whether one is human or machine. *ut, the problem arises with the humans that have non#human 0ualities. $hil Hesch is an e ample of these, as he differs from the typical human e ampled in the novel. He believes that technological creations have no value and therefore can be eliminated without a second thought. This is what makes 4eckard to 0uestion his humanity. He believes that Hesch has no empathy. Iltimately, 4eckard learns that humans must feel empathy towards the androids as well if they want to preserve their sense of humanity. That is why he accepts the mechanical toad in the end as if it were real. 4ick describes a society which has the goal of living on &ars. Those left on :arth are considered wealthy if they own an animal. At home they have the machine for dialling up moods, the empathy machine. They can dial up a mood to watch television or a mood for depression. This is an e tremely efficient way of alienating

oneself from the society. *ut it is hard to resent or give an ob%ection to any of these human conditions in a time of a post#nuclear war. 3f course that everybody %ust wants to run away from the reality. Technology in Do Androids Dream of Electric Shee ! is not used in order to impose or keep a certain totalitarian system, as it was used in some other novels. The main problem in this novel is the 0uestion of level of human superiority over its own products. If we make androids too similar to us then will they be able to call themselves living, or one more important thing, will we be able to call them living1 /ill the humankind at last take the roll of god and say that it created a new form of life1

In A $loc%wor% &ran'e the technological level of the society is not sophisticated as in some other novels, but it shows a trend of the government to apply any technological advances in order to keep their citi'ens under control. Here we are introduced with the +udovico techni0ue, which is basically brainwashing. The techni0ue uses visual and chemical aids in order to elicit pain and nausea in the sub%ect when he or she even thinks of committing a criminal act. The sub%ect is actually conditioned to a state where he can longer think what he desires to, a process done in so many of the other books. And all of this is done %ust for the government to keep control over their citi'ens. *ut the main difference here is that the usage of this technology is at its beginning. Ale is the first one to be tested on. )o the totalitarianism in A $loc%wor% &ran'e isn"t in fact a problem at the time the action of the novel occurs, but it is to show that some aspects of it we could easily let into our lives. At first glance many would think that Ale deserves such a punishment as he has been a real bad criminal. *ut if we allow the criminals to be treated that way, then no one can tell for sure where the end that will be. Any form of superiority over another human being cannot be allowed because that is %ust against the human nature and the natural order of things. /e must yearn for e cellence and faith that all men deserve to be treated as e0ual and that freedom of choice is what defines us as human.

"he #andmaid.s "ale and (ord of the Flies give a different view on technological influence within a society. They lack it. /hile in "he #andmaid.s "ale all of the technology is strictly forbidden by the ruling class, the (ord of the Flies lacks it completely. "he #andmaid.s "ale shows a distinction between the men and women. /omen are strictly forbidden to read, television and radio are controlled and anything that is not approved by the government is forbidden. *y controlling all of the aspects of social life the women are treated subhuman. /omen have been e0ualled with fertility (that is why Bilead was formed in the first place, to keep making babies) and it is important in a society like this that they are kept ignorant and thus they are restricted from any form of technology that could teach them something. They must remain and be treated %ust as if they were wombs and nothing else. 3n the other hand, (ord of the Flies lacks the technological aspect in total. The novel shows a group of young boys lost in the wild and becoming savage. This is a completely different approach to technology in human life. Here it says that it is the technological features of our e istence that made us civili'ed and when taken away from all of these and put into the wild, the human becomes un#human. He becomes a savage who is capable of doing the most horrifying things in order to please his needs. $robably the most important and sane character in the whole novel, $iggy, is in fact most related to technological progress of all of them. His glasses are of the upmost value on the island and there we can see that even in an uncivili'ed society as this one the struggle for technology continues. Humankind will always fight for it and will always try to develop it, no matter what the cost is.

The novels discussed 0uite differ from one another, but all of them share a common pattern in trying to find an answer to a 0uestion whether technology is a friend or foe to the humankind. Technological progress undoubtedly opens new hori'ons to the human race, as we are given the opportunity to achieve things that were unthinkable in the past. The latest discoveries in physics say that we might even travel through time, although it is not confirmed yet. *ut all of these discoveries, all of this technology tends to keep us empty. /hat does it mean to be human anymore1 :verybody %ust runs for the money in order to buy new i$ods and similar techni0ue, but what for1 /hy has it become such a fashion that one must have all the latest technology and be always available on the /orld /ide /eb, otherwise one does not e ist1 *ecause it is easier. Berman philosopher Heidegger talked about this 0uite a lot. Humankind has been detached from their true being. The main characteristic of a human is that he is mortal. *ut this raises an iety in people and they are 0uite uneasy when they start to think about it. That is where technology steps in as the perfect tool for distraction. And not %ust for a shorter period of time, but in some cases the distraction is lifelong. The loss of identity occurs without us even noticing it. /e cannot stop the further development of technology and it would be foolish and pointless to even try, but we must be aware of who we are and what we are capable of doing. /e must first acknowledge our humanity and be aware that human dignity is the most and valuable thing in this lifetime. 3nce that is lost nothing else even matters. /hen we become fully aware of our e istence and aware of our true being then technology will not impose any kind of a threat and shed fear and we will not have to worry about the world of dystopia as these writers have imagined it.