Brave New World

Christmas could become a dying ember if we are not careful
Durell Godfrey

Christmas comes but once a year. It’s the only day of the year when politicians take a back seat to everyday living and friends and families can rejoice in their absence. On all other days we are bombarded with them and their attitudes and orientations. They show up on all of the other national holidays. They march with the marchers, engage in public oratory, imbue the ceremonies with words and gestures, make sure that one way or another they are noticed. 

I guess the country couldn’t carry on without them. They are as necessary as firemen, policemen, butchers, carpenters, teachers, undertakers, and those from the rest of the thousands of trades and services that make up our culture. But it is nice to be free of them one day a year. It is comforting to know that at least for one day of 365 we get on and have a good time without them.

We humans may be the only species that has national holidays. Other mammals, birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and even insects don’t have a day when they are completely free of the constraints of making a living. And if any of them do, our scientists have yet to show that. For them, every day is both a holiday and a working day.

Christmas is one of the few days that is celebrated in one form or another on every continent.

Some of its trappings derive directly from nature. Reindeer are caribou; Christmas trees are firs, spruce, and other evergreens. Mistletoe is a parasitic flowering plant that lives high up in deciduous trees. Wreaths are woven from evergreen branches. Nuts of several kinds are generally part of the festivities. 

Christmas is one of the only days of the year when you can be rich or poor, happy or unhappy, young or old, feminine or masculine, and not be judged by your thoughts or actions. Santa Claus may have to prove himself on Christmas, but the rest of us don’t have to. And it’s been so for many, many centuries. We are all equal in the eyes of God.

But, Christmas could become a dying ember if we are not careful. We are about to segue into an entirely new way of existing. We are about to enter a world run by robots and intelligent machines, if we haven’t already. Robots will replace working people in most trades; machine intelligence will make the decisions, the politicians will merely mouth them or make them legal with their signatures. Bureaucrats, who already are machinelike, will continue to occupy the required number of office seats and will earn their pay by making official the decisions turned out by the machines and signed by the politicians, lawyers, and consultants. Machines will write the codes by which we live day to day and humans will enforce them, in the rare situation when someone does something wrong.

As is already done in some quarters, machines will produce the machines that produce the machines. The beauty of such a system will be that it will be completely free of human error. And it will be completely unbiased as long as politicians and religious leaders don’t write the codes by which they are encoded. There may be a typo here and there, but never a double negative, spoonerism, arithmetical error, or dangling participle.

We humans will have become 100 percent consumers. Consume, consume, consume. That will become our mission. We may live forever, but only as lifelong consumers. We will live a life of ease (machines, like Watson, rarely make mistakes), but will Christmas be Christmas as in the past centuries or become Christmas with a small “c”? i.e., just another holiday? Come to think of it, we may be closer to a Brave New World than we think. Will somebody pass the christmas soma?

 I need a drink. 


Larry Penny can be reached via email at