Neo-Luddite Dystopia (S/F)

Neo-Luddism, or new Luddism, is a moral philosophy which opposes technological advancement and the existence of “new” technology (where “new” is defined as having been developed within the lifetime of the believer or community of believers). Generally, “luddite” is used as a derogatory term indicating that a person is technophobic, but derives from the name of the English Luddites who were active between 1811 and 1816. Neo-Luddites are characterized by abandoning technology, harming people or organizations that produce technology, advocating for simple living practices, and sabotaging technology. Neo-Luddites advocate for the use of the precautionary principle in all new technological developments.

The modern Neo-Luddist movement is associated with anti-intellectualist movements, such as the anti-science and anti-globalization movements, as well as anarcho-primitivism. However, it is also commonly associated with emerging scientific philosophies such as radical environmentalism and deep ecology.

De-extinction and genetic engineering, as well as other technologies pioneered by InGen and its competitors, can be seen as producing what would in Neo-Luddite philosophy be considered a dystopia. While no true Neo-Luddites have been brought to the forefront to comment on these developments, some individuals involved with InGen’s history have made statements that resonate with Neo-Luddite philosophy. The precautionary principle has been strongly advocated for by Drs. Alan Grant, Ian Malcolm, and Ellie Sattler. While John Hammond has referred to their approach as “Luddite,” the three of them have not actually expressed explicitly Neo-Luddite views. This article also serves to provide examples of InGen technology which present developments that would be of concern to Neo-Luddism.

Neo-Luddite Concerns and Examples
Dehumanization and alienation of people

The rapid development of technology and use of said technology to run a highly advanced theme park can be seen as a catalyst for the dehumanization of people, particularly customers visiting said theme park. With over 20,000 people present in Jurassic World each day, viewing each individual guest as a person with interests, history, and goals would be impossible. As a result, upper management in the park would see the guests represented as data points and thermal readouts on a screen in the Control Room.

InGen’s John Hammond (President and CEO from 1975 to 1997) had discouraged the idea of reducing guests to a source of profit. He openly opposed the idea proposed by legal consultant Donald Gennaro that Jurassic Park charge guests $1,000 to $10,000 per day simply because people would pay it; he insisted that the Park be available to all. While this philanthropic idealism was also demonstrated by Masrani Global Corporation‘s Simon Masrani (CEO from 1992 to 2015), the reality of maintaining such a technologically advanced and biologically complex theme park and resort meant that the cost to tourists was very high. Many people could not afford to visit the island at all; paleoveterinary student Zia Rodriguez claimed that it would have cost her “life savings” to travel to Isla Nublar. Social stratification is blatantly visible in Jurassic World, with more lavish accommodations and access to better services available for significantly increased cost. This meant that, despite Hammond’s desires and Masrani’s attempted philanthropy, Jurassic World’s full extent remained inaccessible to people without financial means.

Though InGen under Masrani Global Corporation did attempt to maintain a human view of its employees, this was far from universally successful. During the 2015 incident that resulted in the park’s permanent closure, Dr. Henry Wu expressed no apparent remorse that his work on the Indominus rex had directly resulted in the deaths of his fellow employees. Claire Dearing‘s account of events in 2004 suggest that Dr. Wu did mourn his coworkers’ deaths in the 1993 incident, but he showed no such signs in 2015; while he described the deaths as “unfortunate,” he showed no sign of sadness and actually seemed fascinated with the methods the escaped animal had utilized to overcome and kill ACU personnel. It can be argued that Dr. Wu’s dedication to his work resulted in his becoming alienated from other human beings over time. A similar effect occurred in Claire Dearing, who was deeply interested in humanitarian issues in 2004 but had largely become focused on business during her time as Jurassic World’s Senior Assets Manager. She visited her family only infrequently, losing touch with her relatives. In this way, the high demand of upper management in such an advanced facility caused employees to become alienated.

Destruction of traditional cultures, societies, and family structure

The building of Jurassic Park itself had a detrimental effect on the inhabitants of Isla Nublar, such as the Tun-Si tribe. A prominent Tun-Si awa, who had left the island shortly before, was manipulated into getting InGen to lease Isla Nublar from the Costa Rican government for a higher price than originally offered. Over the next few years, the Tun-Si were forcibly evicted from Isla Nublar. InGen promised them medicine, housing, and education, but failed to provide adequate supplies and services: the medicine was contaminated, housing was located in slums, and the schools lacked staff. Historical traditions of the island were blatantly disrespected; an ancient goat path was demolished to make room for a roller coaster, and the interior of the sacred mountain Sibo was excavated for a geothermal power plant. The mountain itself was named “Mount Hammond” by Westerners, though the Tun-Si name had been restored by 2014. Simon Masrani attempted to make amends with the Tun-Si by creating a reserve on Isla Nublar where they could continue to live in their traditional ways, but the 2015 incident forced their permanent evacuation.

InGen’s ventures assuredly caused irreparable harm to the peoples of Isla Nublar, and also had a detrimental effect on the livelihood of paleontologists. While InGen funded paleontological research in order to prepare for de-extinction, the public saw no value in paleontology following the San Diego incident in 1997. Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant suspected as early as June 11, 1993 that de-extinction would mean the end of traditional paleontology, a practice that he felt was already under threat of drastic change due to advancing technology. With the development of new iron-analysis techniques by InGen in the twenty-first century, the only reason to excavate fossils at all was to provide material from which to extract DNA; according to Claire Dearing in 2015, new species were being discovered daily using this method, and they had learned more from paleo-DNA in the last decade than from traditional paleontology in the past century. This rendered Dr. Grant’s profession essentially obsolete, with traditional paleontology reduced to a resource used by the geneticists who now performed the real research.

Reduced need for person-to-person contact

While InGen itself did not directly work in telecommunications, Mascom Network (established February 16, 1973) became its sister company with the acquisition of InGen by Masrani Global in 1998. Mascom first went on the air in 1983, and by 1991 had become one of Asia’s biggest television providers. As of 1992, it provided forty-five channels. Simon Masrani inherited the company after his father’s passing that year and brought Mascom into cellular networking. It began to provide to the Middle East and the rest of Asia. As of 2015, Mascom operated 26 satellites for civilian use and three for internal company use. These provided service to radios, cell phones, internet, and other remote communication technology. As of 2015, Mascom provided 185 television channels, as well as cell service in 31 countries.

Smartphones compact many of these technologies into a single device, and thus are particularly frightening to a Neo-Luddite. Mascom produces the Tanius line of smartphones; the Tanius 6J, which released in 2012, was vastly popular but still overshadowed by 2015’s Tanius 7. The widespread use and global reach of the smartphone is frequently lamented by Neo-Luddites as a severe threat to civilization as we know it. Simon Masrani was a major proponent of advanced communication technologies, and made frequent use of social media trends to reach out to current and potential customers.

Telecommunication was a fundamental feature in Jurassic World, and presumably would have been utilized in Jurassic Park. Managing such an intricate facility from a single control room would necessitate the ability to communicate with employees who were not physically present. Jurassic World, unlike Jurassic Park, succeeded in opening to the public; as a part of the Masrani Global family of companies, it would have international reach and thus would need to communicate with people working around the world. The conditions of running such a park did more than reduce the need for speaking face-to-face; they made it necessary to do otherwise.

The existence of smartphones has not demonstrably eliminated the desire for people to be physically present, however. Zach Mitchell, who frequently uses a cell phone to contact friends and family, expressed regret that he would not be able to see his girlfriend in person while on Isla Nublar.

Loss of personal privacy

While InGen and Masrani Global Corporation both present themselves as companies for the people, they have both engaged in the uniquely modern practice of technologically-aided government surveillance. Mascom Network provides surveillance capabilities for government interests, including real-time tracking and high-definition technology. Mascom operates five surveillance satellites.

InGen, while generally recognized as a research company, has a prominent Security division; as of 2015, InGen had $14.55 billion worth of security assets. Between 2005 and 2015, InGen Security was recognized as the world leader in peacekeeping and contingency services. While it was originally a fairly small organization, under Masrani Global it expanded into a multinational entity providing both surveillance technology and private military contracting services. CT-model InGen drones developed in partnership with Aerospace Dynamix were used in many G20 countries, as well as more innovative technologies such as cold-signature mapping. The InGen IntraNet website, last updated in 1997, includes documentation indicating that InGen Security had long since been supportive of intense surveillance even within itself, and was very open to the idea of selling security technology to governments.

Altering the definition of “human”

Genetic engineering performed by InGen has, thus far, been limited to non-human species. The ramifications of the technology, however, are far from ambiguous. The junior novels Prey and Flyers, which take place in 2001 and 2002, respectively, both include brief discussions of human-animal hybridization. While the idea that InGen has created any such organisms is dismissed as a baseless conspiracy theory in both cases, there is technically nothing stopping InGen from including human DNA in a de-extinct species, or vice versa, due to InGen patenting and owning the genes of organisms they recreate. It has been suggested that the hybrid genome of Indominus rex may contain human structural genes, as the source for its opposable thumbs is still classified for unknown reasons. This theory is unconfirmed, however.

Human cloning is also highly controversial. While reproductive cloning has only limited applications, creating human cells for medical and research purposes has the potential to revolutionize many fields of science. Moral quandaries abound here, however; what truly qualifies as human? Some philosophers argue that human cell lines should be protected, while others argue that an entity, despite having human cells, cannot be considered human unless it is actually intended to grow into a fully-functioning, otherwise normal human. Then, there are others who believe even a living reproductive human clone should not be considered equal to a naturally-born human. This kind of controversy drove John Hammond and Benjamin Lockwood apart in the late 1980s or early 1990s; Hammond opposed human cloning, whereas Lockwood endorsed it.

The cloning of close relatives of humans such as Neanderthals has not been discussed in the films, but is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. The choose-your-own-adventure book released with The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the video game Jurassic Park Dinosaur Battles both briefly explore the concept of cloning prehistoric humans, the former being an unidentified “caveman” and the latter being an unidentified human-like species or human subspecies. Neither of these media are film-canon.

In a broader sense, the recreation of species that humans never coexisted with has implications for the future of the human species and its place in the global ecosystem. Many of the prehistoric species recreated by InGen are predators, and as they have never been routinely hunted, have no natural fear of humans. Some are larger than any modern-day predator, and some, like the Velociraptor, are exceptionally intelligent. The idea of dinosaurs and other ancient species becoming a part of the global ecosystem has been a concept since their creation, and has gradually become a reality with animal escapes on the mainland occurring since at least 1997. More prominent animal-escape incidents occurred in 2015, with the release of around a hundred Pteranodon and Dimorphodon, and in 2018, with the release of most of the surviving dinosaurs into Northern California. Humans that stray into territory controlled by dinosaurs may not be able to rely on their presumed apex-predator status to remain safe, as dinosaurs, by and large, do not know that humans are meant to be apex predators at all. The idea that dinosaurs might attack cities en masse is an absurd dramatization, but humans living in rural areas or traveling through the wild could potentially be unsafe if de-extinct animals perceive them as threats or as prey.

Ecological degradation and human extinction

The idea that humans might become extinct due to the existence of de-extinct life is, certainly, an alarmist position. As of 2018, there were several dozen dinosaurs, one mosasaur, and perhaps a hundred pterosaurs known to be roaming freely; contrast this with the nearly eight billion humans in existence, many of which are heavily armed, and the competition does not appear quite fair. Nonetheless, the Neo-Luddite fear of human extinction has taken hold in many, namely the people behind Extinction Now! and their sympathizers. The possibility of prehistoric diseases against which humans have no immunity was discussed by Extinction Now! on social media in response to a supporter’s comment, but has not been discussed otherwise.

Genetic engineering of novel species has also emerged as a threat to human life and limb, with more believable evidence behind it. While the Indominus rex was conceptualized as a theme park attraction, its creation was corrupted by special interest groups seeking to engineer an intelligent biological weapon. Its descendant, the Indoraptor, was a more highly refined version of this same concept; in 2018, it came worryingly close to being acquired by a Russian arms dealer. While neither hybrid organism has been successfully delivered to the interest groups that funded their creation, the possibility certainly still exists.

While some genetically-engineered animals can view humans as potential prey, the possibility that less than two hundred animals might kill every human alive (or at least cause irreversible damage to human civilization) is incredibly unlikely. More believable is the idea that, at least on a local scale, the introduction of prehistoric life might displace or kill off some of the more vulnerable organisms alive today. Humpback whales, for example, are potential prey of the mosasaurs Tylosaurus and Mosasaurus. InGen’s Dr. Gerry Harding fought to contain the Tylosaurus during the 1993 incident out of fear that it might predate humpback whales to extinction. In spite of his success during the first incident, a Mosasaurus would be released into the wild in 2016, and likely views humpbacks as food. The humpback whale is not currently endangered or threatened, but there are other more vulnerable marine species that it could put at risk on the local scale. On land, the presence of carnivorous animals that are physically superior to modern predators could threaten local animal populations. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that the comparatively few de-extinct animals that currently exist would be able to threaten the entire planet’s biosphere in a meaningful way, and much more likely that their effects would be limited to the local environment.

Consumerism

This is the socioeconomic behavior pattern of being driven to acquire material goods, often at continuously increasing costs. While much of the focus on Jurassic Park and Jurassic World is on the parks’ scientific innovation and achievement, their primary purpose was not for research but for entertainment. As of such, they were both fundamentally capitalist institutions, and therefore a part of the consumerist way.

While Jurassic Park was incomplete, its Visitors’ Centre already featured a fully-stocked gift shop which would have served to spread the Jurassic Park brand name. Jurassic World, on the other hand, came under construction years after the public had already learned about de-extinction; it had no reason to keep its existence a secret, and as of 2004, corporations had already begun seeking sponsorship deals in the park. Samsung, for example, sponsored the Innovation Center, and Starbucks Corporation was among the first companies to establish a store on the island. Corporate sponsorship continued as one of Jurassic World’s defining features; eventually, corporations began sponsoring actual species. This continued until the day the park closed, with Verizon Wireless agreeing to sponsor the Indominus rex on December 18, 2015. This was encouraged by Claire Dearing, but strongly opposed by some employees such as Lowery Cruthers. While Cruthers believed that the original Park would have succeeded without corporate sponsorship, it is unlikely that it would have persisted forever without any outside companies getting involved.

Authoritarianism

There are two forms of authoritarianism that result from InGen: that which applies to humans, and that which applies to nature. InGen Security, if the InGen IntraNet website is a trustworthy source, has had a problem with authoritarianism since its early days; former Vice President of Security Jim Boutcher is characterized as a highly authoritarian leader who controls his employees through fear and encourages them to be suspicious of one another to prove their loyalty to him. His successor as of 2001, Vic Hoskins, presented a more reasonable public front; however, Hoskins was manipulative behind the scenes. He jumped at the chance to take control of Jurassic World mere minutes after the death of Simon Masrani, making a show of force to intimidate the current employees into yielding to his Security personnel. Even before this, Masrani Global Corporation’s subsidiaries and InGen Security in particular were both guilty of providing surveillance and security technology to governments around the world. Masrani Global Corporation is known to have done business in countries where abuse of governmental power has been documented, so even if Simon Masrani himself had purely humanitarian intentions, his companies likely were inadvertently supporting governments with authoritarian tendencies.

The practice of using living things as tourist attractions tends toward the use of authoritarian measures to control said living things. Even in the original Park, animals were placed in unfamiliar and unnatural environments for the convenience of their caretakers. They were expected to keep to a schedule, and were denied the ability to make choices for themselves. This approach to the welfare of de-extinct species continued into Jurassic World; by 2014, upper management frequently referred to the animals as “assets” in the same manner that they might refer to equipment or funds. The lives of the animals were controlled down to the smallest detail, from their ability to breed to the places they were allowed to go and the behaviors they were permitted to exhibit.

Cruelty to animals

Animal abuse, while generally covered up or dismissed, occurred both in Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. At the end of the twentieth century, de-extinction was relatively new and the organisms involved were poorly understood by InGen scientists. The field of paleoveterinary science had not yet developed, so Jurassic Park veterinarians were ill-prepared for providing care to the animals. Many species suffered from health issues, and the animals’ habitats were often less than suitable; some even had toxic plants deliberately introduced with the assumption that the animals simply would not eat them. The intelligent carnivores, especially the famous Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, were often misunderstood and regularly exploited. The tyrannosaur was left perpetually understimulated, and the raptors were forcibly separated from their offspring. Park warden Robert Muldoon had even suggested euthanizing all of the raptors. This poor understanding of dinosaurian biology, in addition to the genetic manipulation performed to create these organisms in the first place, led to much suffering on the part of both humans and non-human animals throughout the Park’s development and the 1993 incident.

InGen’s Peter Ludlow (CEO from May 23, 1997 to May 25, 1997) expressed the belief that de-extinct animals were exempt from animal rights policies, being the patented property of InGen. During his control of InGen, numerous cases of animal cruelty were perpetrated, including the unsuccessful attempted trophy killing of a Tyrannosaurus rex. The resulting San Diego incident during the early morning of May 25 resulted in the public discovering the existence of de-extinction in a violent way, with many calling it a nightmare situation. While many people were fascinated by the dinosaurs, rather than being fearful, this also led to further exploitation.

A lack of care for the animals’ welfare caused innumerable animal deaths on Isla Sorna, as InGen illegally bred a large number of animals in 1998 and 1999. These new animals integrated into the island’s already-burgeoning ecosystem, slowly tipping the balance toward collapse. Furthermore, illegal tourism to the island resulted in an incident in 2001 which disturbed multiple animal territories and led to chaos and ecological damage. There were also many incidences of poaching in the archipelago. The island continued to suffer until late 2004, when Masrani Global Corporation decided to simply move all of the surviving animals to Isla Nublar for safekeeping. However, poaching vessels were still sighted around the archipelago, including an abnormally large number in 2014.

Jurassic World had the benefit of nearly thirty years of de-extinction to base its research on, plus the ever-increasing advancement of technology. However, there were still many oversights and cases of negligence on the part of its staff. Paleoveterinary science had become advanced enough by that time to ensure the animals were medically cared for, but the habitats the animals were placed in were often insufficient. The Tyrannosaurus enclosure was barely a fraction of the size of its original paddock, the Triceratops were forcibly discouraged from participating in their normal rutting behaviors, and the Pachycephalosaurus were trained to perform in head-butting shows for the entertainment of tourists. Of particular note was the Jurassic World Aviary, which was packed with around a hundred pterosaurs in an area measuring 430,000 square feet; while this sounds large, it was overcrowded, and lacked a large enough body of water or sufficient stimulation for the animals. This directly resulted in abnormally aggressive behavior during the 2015 incident, in which the flock attacked a large crowd of tourists. The incident massively impacted the public’s view of de-extinct life, with imagery of the pterosaurs frequently being used in pro-extinction propaganda.

The artificial Indominus rex suffered under many of the same poor conditions that afflicted the carnivores of the original Park, and for many of the same reasons; as it was not a natural species, there was little to no way for park staff to assess its needs and provide them. The animal was kept in a relatively small paddock with only its sibling for companionship, which it killed and consumed for unknown reasons. According to animal behaviorist and IBRIS trainer Owen Grady, the hybrid’s only positive relationship was with its feeding crane. Furthermore, the secrecy and corporate corruption surrounding the hybrid’s creation made it virtually impossible to provide for the animal to any adequate degree.

Summary

Ever since the first paleo-DNA was successfully extracted at the Lockwood estate in 1985, science and technology have leapt forward at an astounding rate. Within a year, the first de-extinct Mesozoic life was walking again; within five years, a dinosaur-centered safari park was well under construction on a small Costa Rican island. This kind of rapid technological progress is what fuels the technophobia and anti-science sentiment of Neo-Luddist philosophy, and it can easily manifest even in individuals who themselves are not anti-intellectual. Prominent scientists such as Dr. Ian Malcolm openly advocate for increased precaution as technology advances at an increasing rate. In many cases, the law lags behind as older institutions and people struggle to regulate new scientific breakthroughs which may not have precedent. Many of InGen’s new technologies and procedures would have been the stuff of science fantasy mere years before, and as they were historically developed in remote locations, regulatory oversight would have been extremely difficult even if laws did exist. Even when laws are put into place by entities such as the U.S. House Committee of Science, InGen’s secretive research and development practices often mean that its employees, most notably Dr. Henry Wu, violate these laws without being immediately noticed.

The idea of a Neo-Luddite dystopia becoming reality is easily dismissed as alarmist propagandizing, but the fear of new technological development is a powerful sociopolitical force that shapes many aspects of our world. Science, society, and legislation are all held under the sway of this mindset, even if the people spreading it do not identify themselves as Neo-Luddites or espouse all aspects of Neo-Luddism. The precautionary principle in and of itself is not anti-science, and is a healthy practice in the development of new technologies. Particularly in cases where the science is not fully understood, or is difficult to understand for many people, a proper understanding and accessible education is vital in ensuring that fear does not overpower reason. The public eye has been on genetic engineering for some time now, and the role that de-extinction plays in this field of technology cannot be understated. The works of InGen, and Henry Wu in particular, have had and will continue to have a complex and powerful relationship with Neo-Luddite philosophy and all the aspects of our society that it impacts.

(Original version written by Diane N. Tran, 4/10/2007)