The road to dystopia

George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

But those who do not read dystopian literature will be unaware of possible futures.

It has become passé to quote Orwell's 1984 in any context, especially that it was not intended as a "how to" manual.  For those who have shunned this genre as unworthy from a sense of intellectual superiority, I would first suggest Robert A. Heinlein.

Hanlon's razor dates back to "Doc" in "Logic of Empire."  The character Doc in Heinlein's story described the "devil theory" fallacy, explaining, "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity."

In Starship Troopers, Heinlein advances the concept of only military veterans having the right to vote — a concept that will trigger much angst but probably not much rational debate.  I would translate his idea into the fact that he believed that you have to have skin in the game.  Does something have value if you do not have to do anything to get it?

Let us take a look at Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where citizens are environmentally engineered into an intelligence-based social hierarchy.  Dr. S. Matthew Liao, a professor of philosophy and bioethics at New York University, during a 2016 panel discussion, proposed the potential use of genetic engineering and hormone therapy that could result in birthing smaller, less resource-needy children.  If we make them 15% smaller, they will need 15% fewer resources from the planet and thus save us from extinction.

Now let us look at a favorite from my lost youth, John Christopher, The Death of Grass (No Blade of Grass) in 1956.  A virus that starts in the Far East...wipes out rice.  It then mutates — where have you heard this — and takes on the rest of the grass family — wheat, barley etc.  It is the story of one man trying to reach his brother's potato farm in an isolated valley in the north of England.  There is a very biblical ending for the brothers as this tale devolves into the savagery that can occur so easily in our complex society.

In my limited intellectual way, I found that these novels are about good and evil.  Assessing the situation today with respect to COVID, I must ask, is there a villain?  Recently, little tidbits have dribbled out about altered gene sequencing in viruses.  The term "gain of function" is creeping into the lexicon.  We have learned that gain-of-function research, although banned in the continental U.S., has been carried out in China, funded by the U.S. government.

Why and for what purpose?  Is it villainy or stupidity, with a dash of arrogance?

How does this fit into their business model?  Check their net worth change versus yours.

Who knew, and what is their goal?  They are the philosopher-kings of Plato's Republic, not the republic envisioned in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Life is not a dystopian novel...yet.

Image: Pixabay.

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