Money worries: Why fear dominates your finances

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Genetic Engineering

<span style=”display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;” class=”rm-shortcode” data-rm-shortcode-id=”UQGGI11539607384″><iframe lazy-loadable=”true” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/wvCYLhu6JoM?rel=0?enablejsapi=1″ width=”100%” height=”auto” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;”></iframe></span><p>While the human assembly line described in the first part of the story is still a far-off fantasy, the basic concepts that make it work are already here. Today, people make choices to influence the genetic makeup of their children regularly.</p><p>Pre-natal screening has created the ability for many parents to decide if they wish to carry a disabled fetus to term or not. In Iceland, this has resulted in the <a href=”https://www.cbsnews.com/news/down-syndrome-iceland/” target=”_blank”>near eradication</a> of new cases of Down Syndrome in the country. Almost 100% of detected cases lead to an abortion shortly after. </p><p>Similarly, testing for a child’s sex before birth is a well-known procedure that leads to a wide gender gap in many countries. Less well known is the process of <a href=”https://www.docshop.com/education/fertility/treatments/sperm-sorting” target=”_blank”>sperm sorting</a>, which allows for a couple to choose the gender of their child as part of the process of in-vitro fertilization. </p><p>The above examples suggest we’re open to soft eugenics already. Imagine what would happen if people could determine their child’s<a href=”https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/07/16/designer-babies-horizon-ethics-council-gives-green-light-genetically/” target=”_blank”> potential IQ</a> before birth, or how rebellious they will be as a teenager. It would be difficult to suggest that the development of such technology would not be hailed as progress by those who could afford to use it. Huxley’s visions of a genetically perfected upper caste might be available soon. </p><p>As <a href=”https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/10/us/11retro-baby-genetics.html” target=”_blank”>this article</a> suggests, some choice in baby design is already here and more will be available soon. </p>

Endless distractions

<span style=”display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;” class=”rm-shortcode” data-rm-shortcode-id=”NXRBV01539607384″><iframe lazy-loadable=”true” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/JgkvTRz_Alo?rel=0?enablejsapi=1″ width=”100%” height=”auto” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;”></iframe></span><p>The characters of <em>Brave New World</em> enjoy endless distractions between their hours at work. Various complex games have been invented, movies now engage all five senses, and there are even televisions at the feet of death beds. Nobody ever has to worry about being bored for long. The idea of enjoying solitude is taboo, and most people go out to parties every night.</p><p>In our modern society, most people genuinely can’t go thirty minutes without wanting to <a href=”https://nypost.com/2017/11/08/americans-check-their-phones-80-times-a-day-study/” target=”_blank”>check their phones</a>. We have, just as Huxley predicted, made it possible to abolish boredom and time for spare thoughts no matter where you are. This is already having measurable effects on our <a href=”https://bigthink.com/thrive-global/should-we-blame-our-devices-for-the-rise-in-teens-with-adhd” target=”_self”>mental health</a> and our <a href=”https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/smartphone-addiction-causes-changes-in-the-teen-brain” target=”_self”>brain structure. </a> </p><p>Huxley wasn’t warning us against watching television or going to the movies occasionally;<a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alasBxZsb40″ target=”_blank”> he says in this interview with Mike Wallace</a> that TV can be harmless, but rather against the constant barrage of distraction becoming more important in our lives than facing the problems that affect us. Given how stressful people find the idea of <a href=”https://bigthink.com/bt-core/is-smartphone-addiction-dangerous” target=”_blank”>a tech-free day</a> and how we take our pop culture so seriously that it was <a href=”https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/10/4/17930308/star-wars-russia-trolls-bots-alt-right-gamergate-fandamentalism” target=”_blank”>targeted for use by Russian bots</a>, he might have been onto something. </p>

Drugs: A gram is better than a damn! 

<span style=”display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;” class=”rm-shortcode” data-rm-shortcode-id=”I3HOZJ1539607384″><iframe lazy-loadable=”true” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/pow414Jg5do?rel=0?enablejsapi=1″ width=”100%” height=”auto” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;”></iframe></span><p><em></em><em>Brave New World</em>’s favorite pill, Soma, is quite the drug. In small doses it causes euphoria. In moderate doses, it causes enjoyable hallucinations, and in large doses, it is a tranquilizer. It is probably a pharmacological impossibility, but his concept of a society that pops pills to eradicate any vestige of negative feelings and escape the doldrums of the day is very real.</p><p>While it seems odd to say that we are moving towards <em>Brave New World</em> in this era when official policy is opposed to drug use, Huxley would suggest we consider it a blessing, since a dictatorship that encouraged drug use to zonk out their population would be a powerful, if light handed one. </p><p>While today we have a war on drugs, it is not on all drugs. Anti-depressants, a powerful tool for the treatment of mental illness, are so popular that <a href=”https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/one-6-americans-take-antidepressants-other-psychiatric-drugs-n695141″ target=”_blank”>one in eight</a> Americans are on them right now. This doesn’t include the large number of Americans on tranquilizers, anti-anxiety medications, or those who self-medicate with alcohol or increasingly legal marijuana. </p><p>These drugs aren’t quite Soma, but they bear a striking resemblance in function and use.</p>

Mass consumerism 

<span style=”display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;” class=”rm-shortcode” data-rm-shortcode-id=”2RIZVM1539607384″><iframe lazy-loadable=”true” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/AU1XNz2oMPI?rel=0?enablejsapi=1″ width=”100%” height=”auto” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;”></iframe></span><p>In the book, the stability of the world state is partly based on total employment. A character informs us that automation has been purposely stalled to assure everybody can work since free time would give them enough extra time to think about their condition. Mass employment relies on mass consumption, however, and numerous systems are in place to assure everybody keeps using new products even when they don’t need anything.</p><p>Consumerism is a significant element in all major economies today. While it makes sense that a company would have an incentive to keep us buying things to remain profitable, Huxley’s point is that consumerism can also be used to keep us pointlessly chasing after items that we think we need to be happy as a distraction from exploring other pursuits. </p><p>While Huxley thought a dictatorship would have to condition people to want to buy new things and throw out last year’s products to buy similar but newer ones, the lines and fights at Black Friday sales suggest otherwise. Or the lines for every new release of the iPhone. </p><p>And just in case you thought it was only corporations getting in on the pressure, don’t forget George Bush wanted you to<a href=”http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1872229_1872230_1872236,00.html” target=”_blank”> fight terror by shopping.</a></p>

Happiness as the only
acceptable state of mind

<span style=”display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;” class=”rm-shortcode” data-rm-shortcode-id=”LRULAS1539607384″><iframe lazy-loadable=”true” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/I3OkPiUqyA4?rel=0?enablejsapi=1″ width=”100%” height=”auto” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;”></iframe></span><p>In our modern lives, a similar view on happiness as exists in the novel is developing. In his book <em><a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22926716-the-happiness-industry” target=”_blank”>The Happiness Industry</a></em><a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22926716-the-happiness-industry”>, </a>William Davies argues that modern capitalism has come across the concept of making happiness the only acceptable mental state and run with it to make more money. Our new found slew of Corporate Happiness Officers and self-help gurus are all designed to keep us happy, consuming, and unwilling to question the larger system in place, he argues.</p><p> This notion is summarized in his book in one, jargon-laden, sentence: </p><p style=”margin-left: 20px;”><em>The relentless fascination with quantities of subjective feeling can only possibility divert critical attention away from broader political and economic problems. </em></p><p>While claims that we are redefining unhappiness as unacceptable might seem overblown, the standard manual of mental illness now says grieving for deceased loved ones more than a few days is <a href=”http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/apa2014/shedding-light-grief-major-depression-and-bereavement-exclusion” target=”_blank” style=””>problematic</a>. Perhaps Mr. Davies is onto something.<br></p>

The concentration of
power

<span style=”display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;” class=”rm-shortcode” data-rm-shortcode-id=”4TIPEQ1539607384″><iframe lazy-loadable=”true” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/z_fcX6zIu44?rel=0?enablejsapi=1″ width=”100%” height=”auto” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;”></iframe></span><p>Huxley expressed concern in his follow-up book <em>Brave New World Revisited </em>that the increasing complexity of technology and global problems had led to a concentration of power both in business and government. This concentration, he argued, not only made people more comfortable with the idea of being subjugated but also made dictatorship easier to enact.</p><p>Today, we have a higher concentration of wealth and power than ever before. In the United States, the top 1% are <a href=”https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/19/income-inequality-continues-to-grow-in-the-united-states.html” target=”_blank”>richer than ever</a>, six corporations control <a href=”https://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6?IR=T” target=”_blank”>90% of the media,</a> and the power of undemocratic institutions such as corporations or byzantine bureaucracies are greater than ever before. Many Americans choose not to vote and have the same influence on their government that they would if they had no right to vote. </p><p>This can lead to situations little different than that of <em>1984</em> but without the hard-totalitarian edge that came with it. In <em>1984</em> there was only one television station, and there was no attempt to hide the fact that the government controlled it. In the United States today dozens of seemingly different networks are controlled by a few conglomerates and often promote the same worldview and opinions as a result. </p><p>Huxley himself warned against this very situation when he talked about how we were approaching his dystopia back in 1958:</p><blockquote style=”margin-left: 20px;”>Well, at the present the television, I think, is being used quite harmlessly; it’s being used, I think, I would feel, it’s being used too much to distract everybody all the time. But, I mean, imagine which must be the situation in all communist countries where the television, where it exists, is always saying the same things the whole time; it’s always driving along. It’s not creating a wide front of distraction it’s creating a one-pointed, drumming in of a single idea, all the time. It’s obviously an immensely powerful instrument.<br></blockquote><p>Despite being able to find this out or turn the channel, millions of people willingly continue to watch what might be called <a href=”https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/02/business/media/sinclair-news-anchors-script.html” target=”_blank”>propaganda from friendly faces</a>. Indeed, they love it. This soft totalitarianism is often hard to detect or state an objection to, which Slavoj Zizek argues is the point.</p>

How do we avoid this dystopia? Or is the Brave
New World already inevitable?

<span style=”display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;” class=”rm-shortcode” data-rm-shortcode-id=”TRQYX31539607384″><iframe lazy-loadable=”true” src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/5dNbWGaaxWM?rel=0?enablejsapi=1″ width=”100%” height=”auto” frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no” style=”position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;”></iframe></span><p>Huxley thought we could save ourselves, though we had to act quickly. While his concerns around overpopulation and eugenics have been shown to be bunk by the march of history, his other ideas still have merit.</p><p>In his follow up book <em><a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5481.Brave_New_World_Revisited?from_search=true” target=”_blank”>Brave New World Revisited</a>, </em>he argues for the decentralization of power as a means to restore the value of democratic government to the typical person who might otherwise realize their vote is meaningless and lose faith in democracy as a result. He suggests that we can better educate people for freedom by drawing their attention to the methods of demagogues and sleazy advertisers. He encouraged those seeking freedom to move to the countryside or to establish stronger neighborhood ties in the cities to resist the pressure to only engage with others as an economic unit and not as a full human being. </p><p>He was also warm to the ideas of syndicalism and <a href=”https://bigthink.com/cooperatives-the-next-dominant-business-model” target=”_blank”>worker cooperatives</a>, which seek to restructure workplaces to feature workers democratically managing them. He saw this as both a way to decentralize the economy and improve democratic participation. </p><p>Aldous Huxley’s <em>Brave New World </em>was a prediction of a nightmare he thought we would be safe from for at least a few hundred years when he wrote it in 1931. By 1958 he realized he had been very optimistic. While we aren’t entirely doomed to the pleasant slavery he envisioned quite yet, the march of progress continues to bring us the tools which make it ever simpler to enact. If we will make the choices needed to avoid it or if we will willingly cry out to be saved from our freedom remains to be answered. </p>

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Money worries: Why fear dominates your finances

Vicki Robin: The financial independence path really is freeing up your life from debt and from the obsessive desire, obsessive materialism. I was leading a session on our relationship with money. I just was curious about where people were with this at this point. This was in 2016.

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