Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun was first published in 1957. In the second novel of his famous Robot series, Asimov crafts a rich and entertaining detective story set in a dystopian future in which humanity has colonized many worlds. Over the millennia this has resulted in planets whose cultures evolved in strange directions since breaking free of Earthly rule.
This story is set on the mysterious world of Solaria, a bizarre, isolationist, and technologically-driven society which bears a disturbing resemblance to our own.
One vision of the future
In Asimov’s vision of the future, humanoid robots play large role in daily life on all worlds, taking care of many of the mundane tasks humans once performed. Detective Elijah Baley of Earth has been sent on a secret diplomatic mission to investigate the murder of a robotics expert on Solaria. Initially Baley is confused by his mission—Solaria is rumored to be the most advanced of all human worlds, why couldn’t they solve a murder on their own? The reasons become clear once he arrives and gains a sense of Solarian culture.
Baley finds himself on a strange world completely dependent on robotic labor. Nearly every job in society is held by robots. In fact, Baley is amazed to discover that there are only 20,000 humans living on the entire planet. The Solarian people, through advances in medicine and genetics, have extended their lifespan to hundreds of years. Each citizen lives on a vast estate spanning hundreds of miles, with gardens, lakes and fertile fields tilled by an all-robotic workforce of roughly 10,000 to every 1 human.
The Solarians appear to have built a utopia. They want for nothing. They do not have to work. They have armies of robot servants who anticipate their every whim and up till now, their society has had no crime at all.
But for everything there is a price. The Solarian people placed far too much value on the high technologies and thought too little of its’ damaging affects of human socialization.
As the centuries passed and more forms of labor were assigned to robots, Solarians became increasingly distant from one another, delegating all tasks that might require human interaction. Eventually, Solarians became completely isolated from one another. By the time of Baley’s arrival, this societal evolution had reached an extreme. The Solarian people do not ever physically come into one another’s presence, but rather communicate through real-time holographic projection, which they refer to as “viewing” (as opposed to “seeing”- speaking to one another in person).
The idea of physical contact horrifies the Solarians. They avoid it all costs, the only exception being to engage in sex on scheduled occasions with their spouse, assigned to them by the government to ensure the population does not die out. So great is their phobia of germs and real-life social contact that even sex is regarded as a revolting but necessary civic duty, and one that is carried out with great reluctance.
The reason for Baley’s assignment suddenly becomes clear: if the Solarians live in complete isolation from one another, how could one of them have committed the murder?
The mystery that unfolds is gripping and thoroughly entertaining, but let us focus on relevant aspects of Solarian culture for the moment.
United States of Solaria
When reading the above description you probably noticed at least one or two aspects of Solarian culture comparable to our own. While America certainly has no aversion to sex, there are more similarities than differences.
Physical And Social Isolation
Take a look at the how the infrastructure of America is designed. In most parts of the world, living spaces, areas of commerce and public gathering areas are either incorporated or within walking distance of one another. The American suburb, by contrast, was designed to give each family dwelling within their own miniature estate—a separate house with its own yard, garden and driveway for a car.
Essentially an invention of the G.I. Bill for veterans of World War II, the suburbs exploded in the the late 1940s and have become the dominant method of residential development for the better part of 70 years. The majority of Americans today now live in suburbs.
Coupled with the midcentury “white flight” phenomenon, the dream of a “3 bedroom with a white picket fence” was sold as the ideal lifestyle, and the American people bought it hook, line, and sinker.
What has been the result of this? A complete breakdown of what people once took for granted: Community. Many Americans live in big McMansions with larger and larger yards, reminiscent of the grand estates of Solaria. To those living in the burbs, ask yourself: how many of your neighbors do you actually know? Probably those on either side of you, maybe the guy across the street. But it’s quite common for people to live within a hundred yards of each other for years, even decades, never knowing one another’s name.
Since the suburbs are designed in such a way that more often that not makes walking from point A to point B impractical, people are forced to own cars and to go about their day without passing one another on the street. While some suburban neighborhoods have parks, in general the infrastructure is simply not conducive to encouraging human contact.
By the time the average American arrives home from work (which again, he probably had a long commute from) he is likely to be dead tired and just wants to collapse on the couch and watch Netflix. Get up, drive to work, drive home, consume entertainment, go to sleep. Rinse, repeat. The atomization of human interaction brought on by the rise of the suburbs has destroyed the sense of community the once bonded neighborhoods and towns together.
Decline In Social Skills
Many people have noticed a precipitous decline in the last decade of basic social skills among people. This is particularly evident in the younger members of the Millennial generation, who have never experienced life as an adult in a world without smartphones and social media.
What has this done to in-person socializing? People are unable to sit through lunch with a friend, a date, or just engage a one another in friendly banter without constantly checking their phone for status updates and “likes.”
In the book, Detective Baley questions a murder suspect via hologram who is dismissive and arrogant towards him. When Baley confronts the man in person, this suspect, a powerful and respected scientist on Solaria, is frighted into an infantile state, cowering in the corner and sucking his thumb.
An enormous percentage of young Americans seem to be afflicted with a mild form of autism, going about their days in a sort of sleepwalk, physically in the real world but psychologically in a digital one. Observe a typical 18-25 year-old American woman in a Starbucks or riding or the subway. Her eyes are fixed upon her screen, hunched over her phone in almost defensive curl.
In the event that a man asks her for directions, to share a table or, heaven forbid, spit some game at her, there’s a fairly good chance she’ll react with a mix of fright and socially-inept confusion.
After all, that “rando” just walked up to her in person and inserted himself into her reality. He had the audacity to enter the Solarian estate of her life without passing her smartphone screening test first.
That’s, like, “weird.” She prefers to “view” her men via Tinder first.
Spiritual Emptiness And Fetishization Of Technology
The Solarians’ society and worldview is entirely fueled by their own neuroticism and worship of technology. There is no religion or philosophy on their world. They have no real belief system to speak of at all, except in their own scientific greatness. At no point in the course of their evolution did they ask themselves, “yes, we’ve gained much with the choices we made, but what have we lost?”
Solaria stands as a worst-case scenario of what America could become. American culture has in so many ways rejected the belief systems and traditions of its past, focusing only on the rationalist, reductionist view of the world and blindly embraces every new scientific or technological advance without first considering the long-term implications.
The decline of religion in the United States has left a spiritual void which has been filled by the decidedly poor substitutes of cultural Marxism, materialism and obsession with technology.
Streaming porn on demand has contributed to the development of a generation of sexless neckbeards who “view” a hundred different females before getting out of bed in the morning, but cower at the thought of speaking to one in real life. Teenagers and preteens now have 4G smartphones and have never known a world where they couldn’t access such content at will. The deleterious affects of this will become apparent in the coming years.
Various Silicon Valley titans involved in the so-called “transhumanist” movement are attempting to extend human life by curing the “disease” of aging. Rather than making peace with death and accepting it as part of the natural order of things, they seek to extend their lifespans by centuries, if not cheating death all together.
To be sure, if such a thing is even possible it is many years away, but it is just one more similarity between our nation and a fictional world that would have seemed ludicrous only a few years ago.
In Foundation and Earth, set many thousands of years after the Robot series, Asimov revisits the isolated world of Solaria, forgotten by the rest of humanity as the colonization of space continued. By the time the protagonists arrive, the evolution of Solarian culture has reached new levels of decadence.
The population has dropped to barely a thousand, who by this point can no longer be considered human. The Solarian people have genetically modified themselves into a new, hermaphroditic race that gives birth on their own. Their estates now span thousands of miles, their brains completely integrated with their technology and all need for physical meeting has been eliminated.
While such a scenario is still a far cry from present life in the US, one can’t help but reflect on how a mere decade ago it would have seemed unthinkable that a former Olympian would lop his jewels off and receive awards and a reality TV show for doing so, but here we are.
Only by consciously rejecting the messages, belief systems and “values” fed to us by media and power elites, as well as embracing the principles of Neo-Masculinity, can free-thinking men reclaim this country and steer it not backward, but forward in a new and healthier direction.
Until such time, we have no choice but to conclude there are far more similarities than differences between our culture and the technocratic dystopia envisioned by Asimov.