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A Brave New World Revisited for the 21st Century - John Burchill

Wandering between two worlds, one dead

The other powerless to be born,

With nowhere yet to rest my head

Like these, on earth I wait forlorn.

Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

By: John Burchill

Three things intertwined for me these last months – the Supreme Court closed their reference appeal on the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act; [1] I watched the 90-minute documentary on Coded Bias: Artificial Intelligence, Surveillance and our Civil Rights, as part of a discussion forum at the Institute for Women's Leadership at Rutgers University; and I revisited my copy of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel, a Brave New World.

The reference before the Supreme Court in the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act was not about the substance of the legislation, but whether it was within the federal government’s power to enact in the first place. The substance of the Act, passed by Parliament in 2017, was the prohibition on employers from using genetic information to hire, fire, or promote an employee, or require genetic testing, and health insurers could not require genetic tests, nor use results for purposes such as the prediction of disease or vertical transmission risks, or monitoring, diagnosis or prognosis, to deny coverage. [2]

The documentary Coded Bias examined the potential for programming bias or discrimination of artificial intelligence. The documentary “weaves a history of the small homogeneous group of men who defined artificial intelligence … As humans increasingly outsource decision-making to machines, algorithms already decide who gets hired, who gets health care, and who gets undue police scrutiny … theoretically casting analyses and insights that are free from human prejudice, automated decision making has the unprecedented power to disseminate bias at scale”. [3]

Because artificial intelligence research and development was designed by a small group of homogeneous men, the film cautions, it cannot be decoupled from the social relations that structure our (their) world view. As such these programs may not be neutral or blind to race and ethnicity and can be subject to unintended bias or outright manipulation. One example used in the documentary was Microsoft’s rollout of its chatbot “Tay” on Twitter in 2016 to learn human behaviour by interacting with other Twitter users. Some users began tweeting politically incorrect phrases to Tay, “teaching it” to respond to other Twitter users using racist and sexually-charged messages. After just 16 hours Tay was shut down after its tweets became a stream of sexist, pro-Hitler messages. [4]

As for the novel Brave New World, it was published in 1932 by Aldous Huxley. Although it takes place some 600 years in the future, it is really a satire wrapped around a cautionary tale of the very near future. In fact, considering the social and scientific circles Aldous Huxley moved in, the story foreshadowed the evolution of the Nazi eugenics program culminating in Hitler’s ‘final solution’ of the Jewish problem within a few short years.

To paraphrase Ray Bradbury, a good science fiction story is really a sociological study of the future by the writer of things they believe are going to happen by putting two and two together.

This paper revisits Aldus Huxley’s novel and the Nazi regime, through a lens of today’s concerns with genetic discrimination and artificial intelligence – by putting two and two together.

Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley was born in Surrey, England, in1894. He was the third son of Leonard Huxley, a noted scholar and writer (including a biography of Charles Darwin). His half-brother, Andrew, would later go on to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology / Medicine for his work on nerve impulses. However his older brother, Julian, was a notable evolutionary biologist who promoted the idea of humanism and was the first Director of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). His work included ethology and wildlife conservation, genetics and development, as well as evolution.

For 25 years Julian served as either Vice-President or President of the British Eugenics Society. Other members of the society included Leonard Darwin (son of Charles Darwin), Wheler Galton (nephew of Francis Galton) and Robert Mond, an industrial chemist and director of Brunner, Mond & Co. Julian’s perspective on eugenics is apparent from the following excerpt taken from his book Man Stands Alone:

The upper economic classes are presumably slightly better endowed with ability – at least with ability to succeed in our social system – and yet are not reproducing fast enough to replace themselves, either absolutely or as a percentage of the total population. We may, therefore, try to remedy this state of affairs, by pious exhortation and appeals to patriotism, or by the more tangible methods of family allowances, cheaper education, or income-tax rebates for children. The lowest strata, allegedly less well-endowed genetically, are reproducing relatively too fast. Therefore birth control methods must be taught them; they must not have too easy access to relief or hospital treatment lest the removal of the last check on natural selection should make it too easy for children to be produced or to survive; long unemployment should be a ground for sterilization, or at least relief should be contingent upon no further children being brought into the world; and so on. That is to say, much of our eugenic program will be curative and remedial merely, instead of preventative and constructive. [5]

Julian also wrote a number of books including Evoutionary Humanism and the Science of Life, which he co-authored with the great novelist H.G. (Herbert George) Wells in 1929/30. Readers of science fiction will be familiar with the works of H.G. Wells, particularly The Island of Dr. Moreau, first published in 1896, in which a sadistic doctor who, playing God, had been experimenting on the animal inhabitants of the island, creating bizarre new proto-humans.

Julian himself dabbled in science fiction, writing one story – The Tissue Culture King – in 1927. The story was a cautionary tale about a British scientist who produces cell cultures in the service of a tribal king, with horrible consequences. [6]

One of the people mentioned in the story of the Tissue Culture King is Alexis Carrel, a French surgeon, biologist and eugenicist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912. At the time Carrel had been famous for an experiment started in 1912 where he placed tissue cultured from an embryonic chicken heart in a flask and maintained the living culture for over 20 years with regular supplies of nutrient. Carrel also worked with Charles Lindbergh in the mid-1930s to create the "perfusion pump", which allowed living organs to exist outside of the body during surgery. The two subsequently co-authored a book called The Culture of Organs in 1938. As noted in one book review of the day:

The success of the method, as contrasted with earlier organ perfusion procedures [to which Carrel had largely contributed], depends essentially on the mechanism of the perfusion pump, which causes a pulsating movement of fluid through surviving organs at controlled pressures while these organs are kept under completely aseptic conditions. The development of media adequate to furnish nutrient material and oxygen under conditions simulating normal also has been of greatest importance. [7]

Carrel also wrote a best-selling book titled L'Homme, cet inconnu (Man, The Unknown) in 1935 which advocated, in part, that mankind could better itself by following the guidance of an elite group of intellectuals, including decendants of industrial magnates, and by implementing a regime of enforced eugenics. Specifically Carrel advocated the use of gas chambers to rid humanity of "inferior stock", a notion that predated the Nazi’s use of this technique. In the 1936 German introduction of his book, Carrel added the following praise of the Nazi regime:

The German government has taken energetic measures against the propagation of the defective, the mentally diseased, and the criminal. The ideal solution would be the suppression of each of these individuals as soon as he has proven himself to be dangerous.

The conditioning of petty criminals with the whip, or some more scientific procedure, followed by a short stay in hospital, would probably suffice to insure order. Those who have murdered, robbed while armed with automatic pistol or machine gun, kidnapped children, despoiled the poor of their savings, misled the public in important matters, should be humanely and economically disposed of in small euthanasic institutions supplied with proper gasses. A similar treatment could be advantageously applied to the insane, guilty of criminal acts. [8]

Due to his close proximity with Jacques Doriot, who led the pro-Nazi, fascist Parti Populaire Français (PPF) during the 1930’s and his role in implementing eugenics policies during Vichy France, Carrel was accused of collaborationism and suspended by the Minister of Health after the liberation of Paris, however he died in 1944 before his trial.

Aldus Huxley’s grandfather was T.H. (Thomas Henry) Huxley, one of the most prominent English scientists of the 19th century, a man known as "Darwin's Bulldog" for his advocacy of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. He was also a professor of Natural History at the Royal School of Mines; President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science and, later, President of the Royal Society. He wrote several books including Man’s Place in Nature, Evolution and Ethics and Science and Morals (1893-94).

Francis Galton was another prominent member of both the British Association for the Advancement of Science as well as the Royal Society at the same time as T.H. Huxley. Besides being Charles Darwin’s cousin, Galton made significant contributions to many fields of science including psychology, criminology and biology. However it was Galton’s interest in hereditary that is of most importance here, starting with his pioneering book – Hereditary Genius – in 1869. It continued with his book English Men of Science: Their Nature and Nurture in 1874 (which examined the the nature versus nurture question), and the massive Inquiries in Human Faculty and its Development published in 1883. It was in this book that Dalton coined the term “eugenics”:

That is, with questions bearing on what is termed in Greek, eugenes namely, good in stock, hereditarily endowed with noble qualities. This, and the allied words, eugeneia, etc., are equally applicable to men, brutes, and plants. We greatly want a brief word to express the science of improving stock, which is by no means confined to questions of judicious mating, but which, especially in the case of man, takes cognizance of all influences that tend in however remote a degree to give to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable than they otherwise would have had. The word eugenics would sufficiently express the idea; it is at least a neater word and a more generalized one than viriculture which I once ventured to use. [9]

From these underpinnings Galton placed the British society into groups. These groupings (as seen below) indicated the proportion of society falling into each group and their perceived genetic worth. Galton suggested that negative eugenics (i.e. an attempt to prevent people from reproducing) should be applied only to those in the lowest social group (or those of little genetic worth), while positive eugenics or incentives to reproduce applied to the higher classes. As noted by Galton in his memoirs:

Man is gifted with pity and other kindly feelings; he has also the power of preventing many kinds of suffering. I conceive it to fall well within his province to replace Natural Selection by other processes that are more merciful and not less effective.

This is precisely the aim of Eugenics. Its first object is to check the birth-rate of the Unfit, instead of allowing them to come into being, though doomed in large numbers to perish prematurely. The second object is the improvement of the race by furthering the productivity of the Fit by early marriages and healthful rearing of their children. Natural Selection rests upon excessive production and wholesale destruction; Eugenics on bringing no more individuals into the world than can be properly cared for, and those only of the best stock. [10]

Such sentiments were adopted by the legislatures in both the United States and Canada, which passed laws authorizing the sterilization of the ‘socially inadequate’ The laws captured anyone from the feeble-minded, insane, criminalistic, epileptic, diseased, deaf, blind, deformed, homeless, paupers, tramps, orphans and the like.

The first such law was passed in Indiana in 1907. Fifteen states had passed similar legislation by 1917 and thirty-one by 1937. In Canada, only Alberta and British Columbia enacted sterilization legislation. However by the time legislation was repealed in the 1970’s more than 70,000 American and Canadian citizens were sterilized, a disproportionate number being youths, minorities and women. [11]

Perhaps the most famous case involving the eugenic sexual sterilization laws was the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell (1927), upholding the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck under the laws for Virginia on the grounds of feeble-mindedness, incorrigible behaviour and promiscuity (basically an unwed teenage mother). Speaking for an 8:1 majority, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated:

It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 [1905]. Three generations of imbeciles are enough. [12]

In 1933 Nazi Germany passed the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, which allowed the compulsory sterilization of any citizen who in the opinion of a “Genetic Health Court” suffered from a list of alleged genetic disorders. The law was based, in part, on the laws and programs already in place in the Untied States. This is highlighted by Nazi propaganda posters of the day stating Wir stehen nicht allein (“We do not stand alone”), depicting the flags of nations that had already enacted similar legislation.

By 1937 the Nazi government had sterilized 225,000 people and almost 400,000 by the end of World War II along with the murder of millions more “defectives” (i.e. Jews, Pols, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc). This cleansing of the unfit was again foretold by Nazi propaganda posters of the day that called for the mandatory euthanasia of defectives due to their cost on the system. However the road to death in some cases was not all the pleasant as the Nazis performed extensive experimentation on some to test their genetic theories

For example, Joseph Mengle carried out horrific experiments on twins in Auschwitz where one twin was used as a control. Such experiments included injecting chemicals into the eyes in an attempt to fabricate blue eyes; conducting spinal taps with no anesthesia; injecting diseases such as typhus and tuberculosis to measure the effects (if one twin died, the other was killed and their organs were examined to compare the effects of the disease); organ removal, castration and amputations. He regarded his subjects as material on which to conduct his experiments, not as human beings. [13]

Several articles by Galton and one entire section of Inquiries in Human Faculty and its Development is dedicated to the study of twins. [14] From these Galton concluded that the evidence of twins favoured nature rather than nurture – something that future eugenicists like Mengle found to be a facinating research subject. Interestingly, at page 164 Galton reports on the “most dramatic tale in the Psychologie Morbide of Dr. J. Moreau (de Tours), Médecin de l’Hospice de Bicêtre, Paris, 1859, in which he speaks ‘of two twin brothers who had been confined, on account of monomania, at Bicêtre’”:

Physically the two young men are so nearly alike that the one is easily mistaken for the other. Morally, their resemblance is no less complete, and is most remarkable in its details. Thus, their dominant ideas are absolutely the same. They both consider themselves subject to imaginary persecutions; the same enemies have sworn their destruction, and employ the same means to effect it. Both have hallucinations of hearing. They are both of them melancholy and morose; they never address a word to anybody, and will hardly answer the questions that others address to them.

One can only wonder if these boys were on the Island of Dr. Moreau as later envisioned by H.G. Wells or at a death camp run by Dr. Mengle?

In 1864 T.H. Huxley also launched the X-Club – a group of close friends that included a social philosopher, physicist, chemist, zoologist and palaeontologist, a mathematician and John Lubbock – the cousin of Charles Darwin – a banker, politician, naturalist, biologist and archaeologist. Guests included Charles Darwin himself and Hermann von Helmholtz (a famous German physician and physicist who made significant contributions to modern science), who entertained by the group from time to time with speeches and lectures. [15]

It is apparent from this brief biographical sketch that Aldous Huxley was surrounded by or exposed to a small group of homogeneous men, who had an array of ideas and influences – most of whom appear as composite characters in his book – such as Darwin Bonaparte; HelmholtzWatson; [16] Mustapha Mond; John “the Savage”, and “Thomas” (aka Tomakin) the Director of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre.

While other characters and influences will be highlighted throughout this paper, however the biggest influence appears to have been the great industrialist and car manufacturer – Henry Ford – who is treated in a god-like capacity.

Brave New World

The story takes place in 632 A.F. (“After Ford”), sometime between 2540 and 2545 A.D. of the Georgian Calendar – 632 years after Henry Ford built the first Model T in 1908 or developed the moving automotive assembly line in 1913.

The book opens with a tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where children are created in test tubes and nourished using a Carrel style “centrifugal pump that kept the [blood surrogate] liquid moving over the placenta and [driving] it through the synthetic lung and waste product filter”. [17]

As they grow the embryos are moved from test tubes to bottles as they move along an assembly line where they receive their “nutrients” and are subjected to a number of procedures or ‘pre-conditioning’ before they are decanted (born). These procedures include selective sterilization, bombardment by X-rays, “heat conditioning”, oxygen starvation, poisoning with alcohol, magnesium or epsum salts, infection with typhoid and sleeping sickness, or subjection to lead, caustic soda, tar or chlorine. The purpose we are told was to:

[P]redestine and condition. [To] decant our babies as socialized human beings, as Alphas or Epsilons, as future sewage workers or future [leaders] … [because] an Epsilon embryo must have an Epsilon environment as well as an Epsilon heredity … ‘The lower the caste,’ said Mr. Foster, ‘the shorter the oxygen’ … ‘in Epsilons,’ said Mr. Foster very justly, ‘we don't need human intelligence.’ ‘Didn't need and didn't get it.’” [18]

Like Galton’s social hierarchy, there are five different castes in Brave New World, each sorted and graded by “heredity, date of fertilization [and] membership of Bokanovsky Group, [all recorded] on eighty-eight meters of card index”,[19] like cattle or prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp.

Interestingly, in his autobiography, My Life and Work, Henry Ford indicated that his inspiration for assembly-line production was based on the workings of a Chicago slaughterhouse. “I believe that this was the first moving line ever installed … the idea came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers used in dressing beef”. [20]

The process was more fully expanded upon by Dr. Charles Patterson in Henry Ford: From Slaughterhouse to Death Camp:

This process, which hoists animals onto chains and hurries them along from station to station until they came out at the end of the line as cuts of meat, introduced something new into our modern industrial civilization--the neutralization of killing and a new level of detachment. ‘For the first time machines were used to speed along the process of mass slaughter,’ writes Rifkin, ‘leaving men as mere accomplices, forced to conform to the pace and requirements set by the assembly line itself.’

As the twentieth century would demonstrate, it was but one step from the industrialized killing of American slaughterhouses to Nazi Germany's assembly-line mass murder. As noted earlier, it was the German Jew Theodor Adorno who declared that Auschwitz began at the slaughterhouse with people thinking, ‘They're just animals.’ In J. M. Coetzee's novel, The Lives of Animals, the protagonist Elizabeth Costello tells her audience: "Chicago showed us the way; it was from the Chicago stockyards that the Nazis learned how to process bodies.’ [21]

The symbolism does not end there, for selective breeding had been used for many years in cattle industry – a topic not unfamiliar to Francis Galton who wrote on several occasions about the selective breeding or ‘pedigree’ of horses. [22]

In fact, in 1929 George Fournad specifically compared the selective breeding of cows and horses with Henry Ford’s manufacturing of cars in his article on Eugenics and Eugenic Marriages:

They [the upper class] use better judgment and sense in the breeding of their cows and horses, or in the care of their lapdogs or their pet cats than in the elimination of the idiots, morons, and a hundred and one other types of undesirable, if not dangerous, specimens of humanity … There is, however, a purely economic point of view which I would like to mention. How long could Mr. Henry Ford remain in business or what would an efficiency expert think of Mr. Ford’s business abilities, if for every well-made Ford automobile, he permitted the unfinishing, the spoiling, or even the imperfect manufacturing of half a dozen Ford cars? But quite unfortunately, that is just exactly what the average family has been doing year after year, from time immemorial … These are the ones who fill the children’s graves, crowd our prisons, our insane asylums, and our houses for correction. [23]

The five castes or societal hierarchy that appear in Brave New World are based on the Greek alphabet and, like the British school system of the day, denote the quality or grade of the genetic makeup of each one from best to worst (or least desirable):

ALPHA – smart, intelligent, handsome – future directors (wear grey)

BETA – store workers, mechanics/fertilizer room (wear ‘mulberry’)

GAMMA – mechanics, inspectors, guards, officers (wear green)

DELTA – bred for rote work (wear khaki)

EPSILON – simpletons – elevator operators, sewage workers and miners (wear black).

The Alpha’s are depicted like the Aryans of Nazi Germany, not only by name (i.e. Helmholtz, Mond, Bernard, Marx, [24] Engel, etc), but also by physique:

Helmholtz Watson … was a powerfully built man, deep-chested, broad-shouldered, massive, and yet quick in his movements, springy and agile. The round strong pillar of his neck supported a beautifully shaped head. His hair was dark and curly, his features strongly marked. In a forcible emphatic way, he was handsome and looked, as his secretary was never tired of repeating, every centimetre an Alpha Plus. [25]

The lower classes, such as the Gammas, Deltas and especially the Epsilons are described in more animalistic terms, evoking images of H.G. Wells’ creations in the Island of Dr. Moreau:

The liftman was a small simian creature, dressed in the black tunic of an Epsilon-Minus Semi-Moron (page 50).

Like aphids and ants, the leaf-green Gamma girls, the black Semi-Morons swarmed round the entrances, or stood in queues to take their places in the monorail tram-cars (page 54).

The hangars were staffed by a single Bokanovsky Group, and the men were twins, identically small, black and hideous (page 55).

[E]ighty-three almost noseless black brachycephalic Deltas … fifty-six aquiline and ginger Gammas. One hundred and seven heat-conditioned Epsilon Senegalese … Thirty-three Delta females, long-headed, sandy, with narrow pelvises … two sets of Gamma-Plus dwarfs … Forty-seven snubs by forty-seven hooks; forty-seven receding by forty-seven prognathous chins … thirty-four short-legged, left-handed male Delta-Minuses … [and] sixty-three blue-eyed, flaxen and freckled Epsilon Semi-Morons (page 139).

And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly colour (page 22).

Two shrimp-brown children emerged from a neighbouring shrubbery, stared at them for a moment with large, astonished eyes, then returned to their amusements among the leaves (page 29).

In fact, besides experimenting with X-rays, heat conditioning, oxygen starvation and poisoning, attempts were made to speed up the development or ‘maturation’ of young Epsilons like cattle with growth hormones:

[T]hough the Epsilon mind was mature at ten, the Epsilon body was not fit to work till eighteen. Long years of superfluous and wasted immaturity. If the physical development could be speeded up till it was as quick, say, as a cow's, what an enormous saving to the Community!

Pilkington, at Mombasa, had produced individuals who were sexually mature at four and full-grown at six and a half. A scientific triumph. But socially useless. Six-year-old men and women were too stupid to do even Epsilon work. And the process was an all-or-nothing one; either you failed to modify at all, or else you modified the whole way. They were still trying to find the ideal compromise between adults of twenty and adults of six. So far without success. [26]

No doubt such experiments often failed and the embryo, child or ‘creation’ died. As the Director and Mr. Foster note during their tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, sometimes the hard X-rays killed an egg, as did dousing with alcohol. While starving an Epsilon embryo of oxygen creates a below-par moron, “seventy percent of normal oxygen [gets you] dwarfs [but] at less than seventy, eyeless monsters”. [27]

However, when treated as non-humans, anything can be justified like the experiments conducted by the doctors in Nazi Germany. Even then death is a suitable substitute for a non-productive being as we see in the death of Linda, John’s mother and former Beta:

‘[The soma] will finish her off in a month or two,’ the doctor confided to Bernard. ‘One day the respiratory centre will be paralyzed. No more breathing. Finished. And a good thing too’.

John raised objections. ‘But aren't you shortening her life by giving her so much?’

‘In one sense, yes,’ Dr. Shaw admitted … ‘you can't allow people to go popping off into eternity if they've got any serious work to do. But as she hasn't got any serious work …’[28]

Furthermore everyone in Brave New World is taught to accept death and is indoctrinated beginning at the age of eighteen months by “spend[ing] two mornings a week in a Hospital for the Dying. All the best toys are kept there, and they get chocolate cream on death days. They learn to take dying as a matter of course.” [29]

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the gas chambers hinted at by Carrel and the Nazi propaganda posters and crematoriums, the body of Linda and all other dead are disposed of at the Slough Crematorium where they are made socially useful again through recovery of phosphorus from their corpses.

The Nazi’s also had their own hierarchy of races – Nordic races; Western Europeans; Southern Europeans; Slavs; Asians; and Blacks – which informed their treatment of these various peoples. As the Jews, who were deemed to be sub-human and not of the human race, it made the medical experiments and eventual disposal morally justifiable. [30]

Henry Ford

There are numerous references to Ford throughout the story from “Ford”; Our Ford”; “Ford Day Celebrations”; “Fordey”; “his Fordship”; “Ford’s in his flivver”; to the setting in 632 A.F. (“After Ford”). Furthermore the weekly Solidarity Service days held at the “Fordson” Community Singery invoke images of fascist leaders such as Adolph Hitler or Benito Mussolini whipping the masses into a frenzy at political rallies:

‘Ford,’ sang out an immense bass voice from all the golden trumpets. ‘Ford, Ford, Ford …’. Lifting his hand, the President gave a signal;

As verse succeeded verse the voices thrilled with an ever intenser excitement. The sense of the Coming's imminence was like an electric tension in the air. The President switched off the music and, with the final note of the final stanza, there was absolute silence–the silence of stretched expectancy, quivering and creeping with a galvanic life. The President reached out his hand; and suddenly a Voice, a deep strong Voice, more musical than any merely human voice, richer, warmer, more vibrant with love and yearning and compassion, a wonderful, mysterious, supernatural Voice spoke from above their heads. Very slowly, ‘Oh, Ford, Ford, Ford,’ it said diminishingly and on a descending scale. A sensation of warmth radiated thrillingly out from the solar plexus to every extremity of the bodies of those who listened; tears came into their eyes; their hearts, their bowels seemed to move within them, as though with an independent life. ‘Ford!’ they were melting, ‘Ford!’ dissolved, dissolved. [31]

At the time Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World, Henry Ford had sold more than 15 million Model T cars – or half the world's output – and he graced the cover of Time Magazine on July 1925. The article, like the frenziness of the Solidarity Service days, opens with an excited tribute to Ford:

‘No other man ever achieved so much publicity and talked so little for publication.’ This is a broad, unverifiable statement—but who will doubt it?

‘No other living man in private life can lay claim to so widely known a name.’ This is another broad statement—but what artist in any art, what business man in any business, what scientist in any science can rival him?

‘No other American except the President of the U. S. can command such instant attention for any public statement.’ This is a third generalization—but what politician does not envy him that?

And all because his name has been printed in ‘tin’ on the running-boards of 12,200,000 flivvers. [32]

However was it just his business acumen and assembly line techniques that made Ford such a target for Huxley’s satire or was there something else? Something that Huxley would have been exposed to in his social and scientific circles that caused him to write this cautionary tale with more than one meaning?

To be sure Ford was good friends with Alexis Carrel who we saw advocated the use of gas chambers to rid humanity of ‘inferior stock’. [33] However it is his anti-Semitic crusade of the 1920’s that is of greater interest, including the fact that Baldur von Schirach, the leader of Hitler’s Nazi Youth movement testified at his Nuremberg war crimes trial in 1946 that he became an anti-Semite after reading Ford’s book on the International Jew:

[It] was Henry Ford's book, The International Jew; I read it and became anti-Semitic. In those days this book made such a deep impression on my friends and myself because we saw in Henry Ford the representative of success, also the exponent of a progressive social policy. In the poverty-stricken and wretched Germany of the time, youth looked toward America, and apart from the great benefactor, Herbert Hoover, it was Henry Ford who to us represented America. [34]

Ford’s campaign against the Jews was well known. It began on May 22, 1920, when his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, began publishing a series of articles based on the text of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ford also published four anti-Semitic brochures, each one based on the articles that had appeared in the Independent, and a book-length compilation of the articles entitled The International Jew.

The International Jew was translated into most of the European languages, including German in 1921. It was widely disseminated and had a great influence over many readers because it was published by one of the most famous and successful men in the world. More specifically, Adolph Hitler praised Ford in Mein Kampf, the only American to be singled out. The reference had to do with the struggle in America against Jewish bankers and unionists:

It is Jews who govern the stock exchange forces of the American Union. Every year makes them more and more the controlling masters of the producers in a nation of one hundred and twenty millions; only a single great man, Ford, to their fury, still maintains full independence. [35]

However this was neither the first nor the last reference that Hitler made about his idol “Heinrich Ford”. For example, in the March 8, 1923, issue of the Chicago Tribune Hitler, upon hearing that Ford might run for the upcoming Presidential elections, wished he “could send some of my shock troops to Chicago and other American cities to help in the elections … we look to Henirich Ford as the leader of the growing Fascist movement in America. We have just had his anti-Jewish articles translated and published. The book is being circulated in millions throughout Germany”.[36]

In 1931, the Detriot News reported that Hitler had Ford's portrait on the wall in his office, and when asked about it, Hitler stated, "I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.”

Several years later, in July 1938, just four months after Germany annexed Austria, Hitler awarded Ford with the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a Nazi decoration for distinguished foreigners (Italian Dictator Benito Mussolini was awarded the first one in September 1937).


By putting two and two together Huxley was telling us of a future much, much closer than anyone believed. Similarly Coded Bias, produced almost 100 years later, points to a current dystopian reality where artificial intelligence initially created by a small homogeneous group of men, outsources decision-making to machine algorithms to help us decide who gets hired, who gets health care, and who gets undue police scrutiny – who will be graded from best to worst (or least desirable).

While there is work to do, the passage of the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act is a move in the right direction to ensure that employers and insurance providers do not use genetic information to hire, fire, or promote an employee, or require genetic testing for purposes such as the prediction of disease or vertical transmission risks, or monitoring, diagnosis or prognosis, to deny coverage.


[1] Reference re Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, 2020 SCC 17. Decided July 10, 2020, appeal closed March 5, 2021. Docket No. 38478. [2] Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, S.C. 2017, c. G 2.5. Also see the government’s related 2016 backgrounder on Bill S-201. [3] See https://crosscut.com/event/coded-bias-artificial-intelligence-surveillance-and-our-civil-rights. Also see Coded Bias press kit at https://www.codedbias.com/s/CODED_BIAS_Press_Kit.pdf. [4] See CBC News “Microsoft's millennial chatbot tweets racist, misogynistic comments”, March 24, 2016. Online: www.cbc.ca/news/trending/microsoft-tay-corrupted-1.3506209. [5] J. Huxley, ‘Eugenics and Societyin Man Stands Alone, 1941. New York: Harper & Bros. [6] J. Huxley, ‘The Tissue Culture King’, Amazing Stories, August 1927, 451–68. [7] Book Review, Canadian Medical Association Journal, October 1938, p. 416. [8] A. Carrel, L'Homme, cet inconnu (Man, The Unknown), 1935. New York: Harper & Bros. All quotes and information on Alexis Carrel obtained on-line from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_Carrel. [9] F. Galton, Inquiries in Human Faculty and its Development. Originally published in 1883 by Macmillan. Quote is from the Second Edition, 1907 by J. M. Dent & Co. (Everyman), page 17. [10] F. Galton. Memories of my Life, Chapter 21, entitled “Race Improvement”. Originally published in 1908 by Methuen & Co, 36 Essex Street W.C., London. Page 323. [11] For an expansive overview of the sexual sterilization laws in Canada and their effects, see Muir v. Alberta (1996), 132 D.L.R. (4th) 695 and the related sources cited by the court. [12] Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927) [13] Information on Joseph Mengle and his experiments is plentiful. See for example L. Lagnado. Children of the Flames: Dr. Josef Mengele and the Untold Story of the Twins of Auschwitz. Penguin Books (1992); L. Lifton. The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide. Basic Books Inc. (1988); V. Spitz. Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans. Sentient Publications (2005). [14] Ibid, pages 155-173. Also see ‘The history of twins, as a criterion of the relative powers of nature and nurture’ in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute 5 (1876), pages 391-406. [15] All information on T.H. Huxley obtained on-line from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Henry_Huxley and its related source material. [16] Watson would be the composite of Hermann von Helmholtz and Thomas John Watson, the chairman and CEO of International Business Machines (IBM) from 1914 to 1956. Watson’s success was based largely on selling punched card tabulating machines. Beginning in 1933 IBM and its subsidiaries helped create tabulating machines for the identification and cataloging programs used by Nazi Germany. See “IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation” published in 2001 by Edwin Black. [17] A. Huxley. Brave New World. Originally published in 1932. All quotations taken from Vintage Canada edition (2007), Toronto. Page 9. [18] Page 10-11. [19] Page 7. [20] H. Ford. My Life and Work. Originally published in 1922. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Page & Company. Page 81. [21] C. Patterson. ‘Henry Ford: From Slaughterhouse to Death Camp’, Chapter 3 in Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. New York: Latern Books, 2002. Internal citations omitted. [22] See for example ‘Pedigree stock records’ in Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 69 (1899), pages 424-9; ‘Pedigrees, based on fraternal unities’, Nature 67 (1903), pages 586-7; [23] D. George Fournad. ‘Eugenics and Eugenic Marriages’ in Journal of Educational Sociology, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Nov. 1929), pg. 178. [24] Although we associate Karl ‘Marx’ with Communism (i.e. Russia), he was actually born in the Lower Reinland, grew up and studied in Germany. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Marx. [25] Page 57. [26] Page 11-12. [27] Pages 4 & 11. [28] Page 134. [29] Page 142. [30] D.J. Goldhagen. Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996. Also see J. Cornwell. Hitler’s Scientists: Science, War and the Devil’s Pact. New York: Penquin Books Ltd, 2003. [31] Page 67-69. [32] Time Magazine, July 27, 1925. [33] The relationship between Carrel and Ford is detailed in James Newton’s book Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindbergh, 1st Harvest/HBJ Ed edition (June 1989). [34] Baldur von Schirach, testimony, Nuremberg War Crimes Trial transcripts, May 23, 1946, on-line at http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/05-23-46.htm. [35] A. Hitler, Mein Kampf (Vol. 2). Originally published in 1926. Trans. Ralph Manheim (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1971), p. 639. See on-line version at http://www.hitler.org/writings/Mein_Kampf/. [36] R. Fendrick. ‘Heinrich’ Ford Idol of Bavaria Fascisti Chief. The Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1923; page 2.

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