“The Happy Breed” by John Sladek tells of a theoretical future (amusingly, 1989—Dangerous Visions was written in 1967, and many of its entries err on the side of overestimating the proliferation of technology) in which machines will take away all our pain. It’s a world in which machines constantly analyze our bodies and minds and offer tranquilizers to still our troubling thoughts, and painless surgical intervention for every physical ailment. So what’s left for humanity in this future?
Sladek posits that with every machine we come to depend on, we surrender a bit of our freedom. What would happen to us if we no longer had any of life’s ailments to worry about? What would it do to our psyche, our creativity? What if we were theoretically able to conquer death itself? Would we be recognizably human any longer? Would we need God in this future?
…without evil or pain, preference and choice are meaningless; personality blurs; figures merge with their backgrounds, and thinking becomes superfluous and disappears. I believe these are the inevitable results of achieving Utopia, if we make the mistake of assuming the Utopia equals perfect happiness. There is, after all, a pleasure center in everyone’s head. Plant an electrode there, and presumably we could be constantly, perfectly happy on a dime’s worth of electricity a day.
Are we destined to become “The Happy Breed?” What do you think?