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Tag: Society

Was Aldous Huxley trying to tell us something and if so what?

Carter Liou

4/24/18

STS 112 – WA

 

In Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, the context of the story is set in a dystopian-like future labeled the “World State.”  Naturally, this fictional society differs in many ways from our own, and Huxley distinctly describes the points where our world and the World State diverge.  While these differences, such as how babies are genetically engineered through artificial wombs, or how infants in different castes are classically conditioned in different ways, may seem quite obvious to the reader, what is not as evident are the ways in which the New World society mirrors ours.  Through the idea that this future New World shares the similarities with our current society, Huxley is ultimately warning us of the harmful effects that expansion and development of a capitalist ideology can impose on society.

 

While in modern society we are forced to sacrifice certain aspects of our lives to conform to certain norms, in Brave New World, the sacrifices that are made are far more extreme.  In Huxley’s dystopia, the ruling body, under Mustapha Mond, pursues a society driven by absolute consumerism by ultimately sacrificing certain human values, that in today’s society, might be seen as essential.   The first value that Mond believes must be sacrificed are personal relationships that produce emotions or feelings of passion. For this reason we see that the citizens of the New World do not have parents, lovers or children.  Ironically, in the real world family is essential and often acts as a primary support system, in the World State that job is given to Soma, a recreational drug, that alleviates any pain the user is experiencing. While in our current world this concept seem unimaginable, in the eyes of Mond, the restriction of personal relationships lead to an economic stability in society.  

 

Another sacrifice is that of equality.  It’s true that today we are not all born equal, but in the western world it is believed that even if one is born into poverty, that with hard work and dedication, one can climb the socio-economic pyramid.  In Brave New World this idea of the American Dream is nonexistent.  People are born into a certain caste (Alpha, Beta, Gamma Delta, and Epsilon) and will remain is such caste for their entire life.  This is ensured through the treatment of the embryos, fetuses and infants in different castes. For example the Gamma Delta, and Epsilon embryos are shocked into form 90 identical embryos, but the Alpha and Beta embryos are not.  During the fetal stage, the lower castes are given alcohol and deprived of oxygen to ensure lower intelligence, and during infancy.  The lower classes are also dissuaded from the pursuit of knowledge.  For example, the Delta class is classically conditioned to fears flowers and books through a series of repeated shocks whereas hypnopaedia is instilled in the Alpha and Beta castes.  This may seem diabolic, but Mond explains that inequality is crucial for the stability of their heavily consumerist society. In this way the castes know their role in the larger mechanism that is productivity of goods and services.

 

The debate between capitalism and communism was prominent during the twentieth century, when Huxley wrote this story.  Is it then safe to say that Huxley is intrinsically communist? Not exactly. For a decent portion of the novel, we the readers, identify Bernard Marx as the protagonist of the novel.  The fact that Bernard exemplifies an outcast who envies his friend makes him inherently human, unlike all his brainwashed counterparts. While Berard defies the system by bringing John to the World States, he does so not to expose the defects of society, but rather for his own personal gain.  It should be noted that his last name is clearly hinting at Karl Marx, one of the leading figures in communism, and although he opposes the corruptness of the World State, he does not do so for the right reasons. Is this sense Huxley’s view can be seen as one that stresses moderation over extremity.

A Dreadful New World

Chase Holding

4/24/18

Professor Fleming

STS W1

A Dreadful New World

 

 

In Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, he describes a society that strives to make everyone and everything equal. While many stories about a Utopia discuss stricter government policies and a lack of freedom, this story goes as far as genetically modifying humans. Another interesting part to this society is that every time someone feels strong emotions or is uncomfortable with something, they take a pill that makes them mentally trip, and in turn relax. As expected one of the main characters John, quickly realized that this life is superficial and inhumane. A society like this strays away from human nature and attempts to recreate emotions that are only possible to feel in ones natural element. One may relate this society to our world and question: Are the changing mindsets in our 21st century society altering the human nature that keeps our society functioning? Continue reading

Robots, Are They Good For Our Society?

Chase Holding

4/13/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

Robots In The 21st Century Work Place

 

As technology in the twenty-first century has become increasingly advanced, topics such as Artificial Intelligence and the use of robots have become main focuses of study. Many people fear that robots and artificial intelligence will soon begin to take over our society. While the technology to make intelligent robots exists, should humans use them in society? Continue reading

Science: the second culture not to be underestimated

While anyone you ask on the street is highly unlikely to know the second law of thermodynamics off the top of their head, there is certainly a greater chance that they will have read a work of Shakespeare. Why is it that in general, people are less knowledgable in the sciences compared to the humanities? This is the question that CP Snow addresses in his lecture on the “Two Cultures”, where he outlines the divide between the “literary intellectuals” and the scientists.

CP Snow is right to suggest that the people in different schools of thought have a difficult time understanding each other, although it may be more than simply two different opinions. However, the important message of CP Snow’s lecture which is most relevant today is the lack of understanding of the field of science. This problem is very evident in our world today, and contributes to many social and political issues in our country.

When CP Snow compares knowing the second law of thermodynamics to having read a work of Shakespeare, he points out the societal expectation that exists to understand literary works, but not the laws of science. In all practicality, it may not be necessary to have read Shakespeare or to know what the second law of thermodynamics is in order to be a well rounded intellectual who can be an informed individual and contribute effectively to society. But his point is well made that people sometimes seem to regard the study of literature as more important than the study of science, for some unknown reason, as knowledge of science seems to be much more necessary to address current issues as well as appreciate the way the world works.

Science is becoming an increasingly important subject for the public to understand in our rapidly changing world. Today, Snow’s argument holds true in a sense that could not have yet been fully realized when he delivered his speech in 1959. The problem of global warming has just recently been recognized as a highly important issue in our world today, and in order to understand this problem, it is critical to have a solid understanding of science. It is unbelievable that so many current politicians and authority figures have such a minimal understanding of science. There is a lack of progress in scientific and especially environmental areas, because the policies that aid our environment are so often prevented from being implemented. This is due in part to the literary bias, or perhaps lack of understanding of science, by many politicians. And the reason why these people are able to occupy such influential and powerful positions is because of a lack of understanding of science of the voters and the general public.

Indeed, I always wondered why my high school required more English credits than it did science for graduation requirements. The problems emerging today warrant a necessary change for our education system in order to make science more valued. It is time for the societal literary precedent to give way to a more rounded education that emphasizes the science needed to understand current issues. It is necessary for everyone to become more educated in scientific fields in order to make these critical changes in our government and our world.

Do Outsiders Exist?

Chase Holding

3/13/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

Do Outsiders Exist?

 

The idea of our society having two cultures –scientists and literary intellectuals—was originally thought of in the mid 1950’s. C.P. Snow can be credited with this idea, believing that if you don’t fall in either category you should be considered an outsider. Viewing this argument from the 21st century, one might wonder why these two fields were considered dominant. Should people who reside in cultures other than science and humanities be considered outsiders? The fact is that each person that lives in our society contributes to the overall culture in his or her own way. The sooner we can accept this; the better off our society will be with regards to diversification.

Snow’s book The Two Cultures is famous for discussing the divide that exists between his two said cultures. He believes that in the work place as well society as a whole, his two groups rarely converse with each other. Based on various studies, Snow wasn’t entirely wrong at the time about this idea. Over the last sixty years, there has been a strong shift in the respect people have for other fields of study. In our Science, Technology and Society class, we compared how three fields of study view each other in terms of their work as well as their personality. Our present day class was much more considerate when describing each other’s fields than classes from decades ago. Many stereotypes about various fields of study still exist in 2018, however there is no question that we are on the right path to a more accepting and respectful society.

Snow’s belief that only two cultures make up our world is a single-minded approach to viewing society. Our current world is filled with billions of cultures that make society the way it is. While there are various definitions of culture in the dictionary, to me culture is created and altered by the actions of each and every person that lives on this planet. The discoveries, the failures, and everything else humans do and have done make our culture unique. While people such as celebrities and entrepreneurs might have more influence on our culture than the average person, there is no such thing as an outsider in our world. Snow’s objective in creating his opposing cultures was to generalize a variety of groups into two branches. This is an impossible task as not even a respected physicist is bright enough to define our world’s culture.

So to answer the question: No, an outsider in our society does not exist with regards to defining culture. Not only was Snow incorrect about the idea of people being insignificant, but also he was also wrong in generalizing our society into two cultures. Diversity has and will always play a significant role in our society and workplace. Imagining a world solely focused on science and humanities is a daunting idea. Instead we must respect the ideas and actions of each and every member of our world. The meaning of culture will continue to change in the future, if we cannot accept diversity and unity in our society as positive values, we are no better than C.P. Snow.

 

The male precedent in science is yet to be overcome

Growing up, I had never felt like anything was preventing me from becoming a scientist. I felt as though women had equal opportunity to become scientists, and that they could do so just as easily as men. I still certainly had a great respect and appreciation for women scientists in history, as evidenced by the fact that I chose Marie Curie on dress up as a famous person day in fourth grade. Yet I certainly did not grasp the full extent of the struggles early women scientists like Marie Curie faced, and the fact that these struggles are far from over for women in science. Although there has been a rapid improvement in equality for women scientists in recent years, the male precedent that has been set in science is certainly not yet overcome.

In our society today, science is still largely dominated by males. The number of male professionals in many fields of science is still much greater than the number of females. Although the number of women in life sciences, such as biology, is approaching 50%, women are largely outnumbered in most other fields of science. But why is this the case? In our country, at least, women are offered equal education to men. They should technically have equal opportunity to become scientists. Yet, the cultural standard that has been established that science is undeniably male is far from demolished. Because of this precedent, women tend to gravitate away from these male dominated fields, sometimes without even realizing it.

Another obstacle is the lack of female role models for prospective young female scientist to look up to. This is do to the lack of female professionals in the field, and the underrepresentation of females in the history of science. Upon any google search of famous scientists, a long list of predominantly white males appears. Why are women so underrepresented in the publicized history of science? It is true that women have historically not had equal opportunity and education to become scientists. Yet, there are certainly many, especially in the past 50 or so years, who have made extraordinary contributions to science. With the exception of Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, I had never heard of most of the women scientists mentioned in our lecture on Monday, and certainly not known of their influential contributions. It is not that these women have less remarkable achievements than their male counterparts, but they seem to have been simply overlooked, or even excluded, from the history of science that is commonly known and taught.

Without even realizing it, our society continues to portray science as a predominantly male domain. This portrayal only continues to further the problem, because instead of highlighting the important role women have played in science, it diminishes it. We need to be more recognizant of the influential contributions women have had in science up to this point, and therefore encourage increased involvement of women in science in the future. Female scientists should be rightly acknowledged and praised for their work, creating inspiration to bring the participation of women to rival that of men in the field of science.

Nature versus Nurture (or how society reacted)

Carter Liou

2/26/18

Nature vs Nurture.  

The debate over nature versus nurture is a prevalent theme in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  In the novel the reader is exposed to the atrocities that are committed by Victor Frankenstein’s creature. The question then is: Was it in the nature of the monster to be malicious or rather was it the environment that caused it to commit the heinous acts that it did?  In actuality, both the monster’s nature and the way society reacted to its existence can be held responsible for the murders that arise in the novel.

While Victor’s creation takes the form of a grotesque-like creature, the reader discovers, that despite its deformed appearance, the being possesses kindness, intellect and above all a curiosity concerning the society that surrounds it.  Sadly, these desirable qualities of the creature begin to fade as it is pushed further into isolation first by Victor and then by the people it encounters.  In some sense, the concept of nature and nurture are directly related when it comes to Frankenstein’s monster.  Its horrid appearance – its nature or natural state of being – has extensive influence over the way that both Victor and society treat the creature.  This can be seen in the fifth chapter when Victor flees from his house upon running into the monster, in the fifth-teeth chapter when the monster is driven away by Felix, and in the sixteenth chapter when it saves a drowning girl but is later shot at when a man believes that it is the accomplice.  All three of these instances fuel the monster’s hatred for mankind and ultimately lead him to kill his first victim, Victor’s brother.  In this way, although it is the mistreatment and isolation the creature experiences, that drives it to kill, it is its physical appearance that initially drives such mistreatment and isolation.  

Despite its monsteresque appearance, the reader soon understands, that at heart the creature is not a monster and that its actions reflect the suffering that it has been forced to undergo.  The concept of monsters is obviously a major theme in the novel as the storyline follows the life and actions of Frankenstein’s creature.  The question then remains:  If the creature is not the monster in the story, who is?  A strong argument can be made for its creator, Victor Frankenstein.  Although Victor is not 8 feet tall, or constructed from stolen body parts, he can be seen as the monster due to his passion in the pursuit of dangerous knowledge.  The creation of Frankenstein’s creature can be seen as surpassing the natural human limits of science, and is what ultimately sparks his alienation from his friends and family.  Furthermore, Victor’s hatred and endless obsession with destroying his own creation furthers his unnatural and monsteresque personality given that parents are programmed to protect and care for their children.  All in all, the novel shows the reader how monsters can come in all shapes and forms and fortifies the idea of the consequences of judging a book solely off of its cover.

How to Make a Monster: 101

          It is inhumanly tall, with a mutilated and malformed physique, devoid of emotion or sympathy, it is a murderous fiend; this is the description the society in Mary Shelley’s novel gives to Frankenstein’s monster. Nowhere in their summary of the creature would society mention the creatures love, compassion, or heroic acts. They judged him based on his intimidating appearance, and when he did begin to murder, they blamed him for his actions, assuming that he was innately violent and cruel. Victor Frankenstein and others did not acknowledge the fact that their actions, their judgments, exclusivity, and hatred contributed to the monster committing crimes. The premature judgment of the monster is an allegory for the real world; criminals are judged based off of their actions alone, with little thought given as to why they were driven to their wrongdoing. Creatures are rarely born monsters, but rather, they are created when they are not given adequate parental guidance, are excluded from society, and experience excessive feelings of animosity.

          In Mary Shelley’s novel, and in the real world, beings struggle when they are not given adequate care, guidance, and love, leading to criminality. When Victor Frankenstein abandoned his creation, the result was disastrous; his monster was left alone, not knowing what to do, or how to live. Miraculously, he managed to survive, and become knowledgeable on his own. However, he still felt angry and injured by how Frankenstein, his father, had abandoned him, and so the monster ended up seeking revenge by killing all those that Victor held dear. Lack of care, let alone abandonment, has been proven to negatively affect children. Neglected children often have psychological disorders, depression, and struggle to have lasting relationships and friendships. Furthermore, these children are more likely to be prosecuted for juvenile delinquency (SPCC, 2014). If one is not loved and cared for, they would likely not love and care others, as no one set that example. Without guidance in social interactions, education, and life in general, it is impossible to thrive and fit into society, which can lead to resentment and anger. This is shown both with Frankenstein’s monster, and with neglected children; they are not loved, and as a result, they are angered and confused, leading them to commit crimes, which further distances them from society.

            When one is excluded and abused by society, naturally, they will want to rebel against it, which can have violent results. This case is clearly shown in Shelley’s novel. When Frankenstein’s monster, with the utmost politeness, tries to join the family living in the cottage, a man beats him viciously with a stick. Then, after rescuing a drowning girl, he is “rewarded” with her father shooting him. No matter how kind and helpful the creature was, society rejected him. Hopeless, he accepted that humanity would never do anything but despise him, so he began to hate humanity, and eventually became a murderer. The creature’s situation and reactions are also reflected in the real world. Mass murderers often feel victimized and removed from society, and as though the only way they can do anything meaningful and fulfilling is through slaughtering human beings (Stanford, 1994). Though disturbing and extreme, this reaction to being excluded is to be expected. Without positive societal relations, an individual will have no reason to care for the society, on the contrary, they will likely want revenge on its members for leaving them in such a miserable situation.

          Moods and feelings are infectious, and when one is exposed to a negative atmosphere for a majority of there lives, the outcome can calamitous, both for the individual and society. There is, in fact, a psychological term called the “emotional contagion,” a process by which moods and emotions are transferred from one person to another. This phenomenon is manifested in the case of Frankenstein’s monster. While he is initially benevolent, as he experiences more and more negative feelings, namely hatred and disgust, these feeling begin to rub off on him. This idea can also be clearly seen in marriages where, if one spouse is unhappy it will likely be that the other is unhappy as well. Additionally, people in prisons, who reside in environments filled with hatred and depression, are likely to be feeling those emotions themselves as a result of the “emotional contagion”(Lewandowski, 2018). If one were to experience exclusively negativity and unpleasant emotions, they would likely become desperate and angry, which could result in them acting on these feelings in the form of murder.

          Parental guidance and societal relations play an incredibly large role in the formation of creatures, good and bad. Humans and Frankenstein’s monster are not solitary creatures; they require love, compassion, and inclusion. If not given these things by their societies, they will be angry and resentful, and potentially, they will try to harm the societies that hurt them. So, while murderers are responsible for their actions, one must also consider what made the felon do what they did, and how that can be resolved. This does not mean locking them in prison, leaving them to rot alone and angry. It means reconciling with them, empathizing with them, and trying to understand them. I am not saying that we should let mass murderers run free in the streets. But, perhaps, we should consider their story, help them rehabilitate, and try to integrate them into society, something which they may have never been part of. There are dangers, and this issue is clearly not black and white, and nor is it easy. However, it is, without a doubt, of exceptional importance to try to communicate with and aid those who we may rather not associate with. For that is how to deconstruct a monster.

 

Literature Cited

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, 1797-1851. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus : the 1818 Text. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

 

SPCC, et al. (2014, July 17). Effects of Bad Parenting on Your Child. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://americanspcc.org/effects-bad-parenting-child/

 

Stanford University News Report. (1994, May 31). Graduate student examines America’s fascination with serial killers. Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://web.stanford.edu/dept/news/pr/94/940531Arc4242.html

 

Lewandowski, G. W., Jr. (2018). Is a Bad Mood Contagious? Retrieved February 28, 2018, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-a-bad-mood-contagious/

 

We Are Not Useless

     The renowned scholar Karl Marx once declared, “The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” However, this unsettling claim is not entirely accurate. Indeed, the rapid development of technology has changed how we progress as a society, yet the utility of human thought is constant. There exists great fear regarding the labor force being fully automated and the human mind losing its vigor due to the growing reliance on technology. These concerns, nonetheless, disregard the advantages that human thought possesses over mechanical input. Technology will not render humans useless, as Marx suggests; rather, people will continue to modify their modes of work and thought while retaining the valuable innovation that machines simply cannot achieve.

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