Welcome to the Human Hatchery Lab - Ch. 1 of "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
Creating Human Beings in a Lab
The book opens up at, basically, a dystopian laboratory for creating human beings and conditioning them to their decided fate in life, the "Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre". Also from the start we see that there is a "World State," whose motto is "community, identity, stability." 1 Likewise, we learn that as far as time goes, this is the "year of stability, A.F. 632," but it's not exactly clear what all that means yet. The director for the center is showing a group of students around the facilities.
An interesting statement the director makes seems to give some hint as to the overall outlook of this society. He says, "For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fretsawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society." My interpretation of this statement is something to the effect that in this society truth is not something objective or universal, not something one should live their life by as people do with philosophies and religions, but rather people are supposed to be "happy" by embracing the momentary and relative aspects of their lives in a very mundane sense.
Anyway, the director begins the tour by showing the students the earliest stages of their life creation, the young fertilized embryos. 2 They take female eggs (inspected of course for defects) and then lower them into a bath of sperm, fertilizing many of them at a time. We also learn here able to social classes that exist in this dystopia, beginning from their conception. There are five classes, with Alphas being the highest and Epsilons being the lowest. "... the Alphas and Betas remained until definitely bottled; while the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons were brought out again, after only thirty-six hours, to undergo Bokanovsky's Process." This Bokanovsky Process is where they arrest the development of the embryo causing it to split continually and create dozens and dozens of identical embryos from it, "...making ninety-six human beings where only one grew before. Progress." 3
Why would this be something desirable to do? "'Bokanovsky's Process is one of the major instruments of social stability!' Major instruments of social stability. Standard men and women; in uniform batches. The whole of a small factory staffed with the products of a single bokanovskified egg. 'Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines!'" 4 "The principle of mass production at last applied to biology." 5 Then, entering into another room, "the Bottling Room," they saw the artificial wombs being created by lining bottles with pig's peritoneum filled with saline solution. The embryos were inserted into the created womb and then labeled. 6
Then they traveled into the "Social Predestination Room" where all the necessary quotas are met for types and classes of embryos before going into the "Embryo Store." The Embryo Store was a massive room where the bottles are kept in darkness and warmth, only some red light being allowed. 7 In the dimness they have 267 days to work with them. The embryos travel on conveyer belts, and along the way they receive injections of "surrogate blood" with the necessary hormones and chemicals. 8 Another one of the process along the way of the conveyer was the test for sex. The males and females were marked, but then a third category is created called "freemartins."
To reduce the number reproducing females only 30% of females embryos are developed as normal, while the rest are stimulated with testosterone until they become infertile for the rest of their lives. "For of course," said Mr. Foster, "in the vast majority of cases, fertility is merely a nuisance. One fertile ovary in twelve hundred-that would really be quite sufficient for our purposes. But we want to have a good choice. And of course one must always have an enormous margin of safety. So we allow as many as thirty per cent of the female embryos to develop normally. The others get a dose of male sex-hormone every twenty-four metres for the rest of the course. Result: they're decanted as freemartins structurally quite normal (except," he had to admit, "that they do have the slightest tendency to grow beards), but sterile. Guaranteed sterile. Which brings us at last," continued Mr. Foster, "out of the realm of mere slavish imitation of nature into the much more interesting world of human invention."
Along with controlling reproduction, the next part of the process is to do work to predestine who these people are going to become, their social status and occupation included. "We also predestine and condition. We decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers or future..." 9 For the lower classes they give them less oxygen to retard their mental processes. "'The lower the caste ... the shorter the oxygen.'" 10 For the low caste workers they were also speculating on ways to shorter their maturation process so they could join the workforce much earlier.
Next on the conveyer was a series of tunnels with cool and hot areas, the cool areas hit with X-rays to make those embryos adverse to the cold weather later in life. 11 And here we receive another philosophical line related to this dystopia as the director says, "'that is the secret of happiness and virtue - liking what you've got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their unescapable social destiny.'" Likewise those who would be destined for the tropical regions were also infected with diseases from those regions so they would immediately be ready for them. 12
"The first of a batch of two hundred and fifty embryonic rocket-plane engineers was just passing the eleven hundred metre mark on Rack 3. A special mechanism kept their containers in constant rota-tion. "To improve their sense of balance," Mr. Foster explained. "Do-ing repairs on the outside of a rocket in mid-air is a ticklish job. We slacken off the circulation when they're right way up, so that they're half starved, and double the flow of surrogate when they're upside down. They learn to associate topsy-turvydom with well-being; in fact, they're only truly happy when they're standing on their heads." 13
And so ends chapter one and the beginning of the tour into the human hatchery labs.
1 - Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. (Harper Collins Publishers. New York, 2004) Pg. 15
2 - 16
3 - 17
4 - 18
5 - 19
6 - 20
7 - 21
8 - 22
9 - 23
10 - 24
11 - 25
12 - 26
13 - 27