When George Orwell wrote his seminal book ‘1984’ in 1949, it was meant to be a dystopian satire on the totalitarian government that had risen up after the Second World War. The plot contained a global despotic power that controlled the people of a fictional continent called Oceania through suppressive tools of propaganda and surveillance. Considered to be quite a visionary work of the future, there are several predictions from Orwell’s 1984 that have come true in the current century. Multiple technological innovations that were considered fanciful imagination in the 1950s have been already ingratiated as part of the mainstream- which governments are using to control the population.
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Here Are 6 Predictions From Orwell’s ‘1984’ That Have Come True Today
1. The Telescreen
Telescreens were basically large, flat TVs that were not only used to pass messages between party members but were also used to monitor civilians. The telescreen would closely keep track of an individual’s motion, monitoring if their heartbeat changed, or if they were looking at something they shouldn’t have. In recent times, the variant of the Telescreen is the CCTV camera, which has given rise to facial recognition software. In China, the Uighur Muslim community is already tracked by such cameras, after which they are subjected to persecution.
The protagonist of 1984, Winston Smith, is a copywriter for the Record section of the Ministry of Truth- which is a major part of the ruling party INGSOC. His task involves using Speakwrite- which is a recording device that converts speech into text on the telescreen. As of today, there are several apps and services which offer the same service. While this technology isn’t technically evil, Orwell did predict that this technology will blow up over the millennium- and it did.
3. Big Brother Is Watching You
The main idea of 1984 was total and utter surveillance at all points during the day. Posters of ‘Big Brother’ adorned billboards in cities, and acted as a deterrent towards those who could potentially break rules. This tactic has been used by political leaders all over the world, with Kim Jong Un, the de facto leader of North Korea launching a new set of posters in 2018 that spurred his people to work and make him proud.
4. Perpetual War
In Orwell’s book, the main Party had switched to a policy of continual war that would eat up any and all surplus that the population had produced. This would not only ensure that the population remained poor and in control, but would also ensure their complete loyalty to the clause. The US does seem to be moving from finishing one war to a potential next one pretty swiftly- which isn’t necessarily doing any favors to its population.
In 1984, Orwell talked about how language is often used to control and deceive the masses. This was linked from Confucious, who himself linked the misuse of vocabulary to social breakdown and warfare. In the world today, we are surrounded by a cocoon of euphemism and political correctness- which are both pervasive and derided pervasively. Several stand-up comics have mocked this variant of the language, where the government develops normal-sounding terms for events that are anything but. When the government takes less money from its population, it is termed as a tax expenditure, but wealthy people, on the other hand, are called job-creators.
6. Mass Entertainment
One of the predictions from Orwell’s 1984 which has turned prophetic is that the proletariat doesn’t need to be under surveillance- as long as they are kept well-fed, well-intoxicated, and well-pleasured. This was Orwell’s way of explaining that as long as the superficialities of life were fulfilled for the extremely downtrodden, they wouldn’t focus on the truly important. If we search Google Trends today, we would probably come up with thousands of Page Six articles, a couple of Vogue recipes, and a few Cosmopolitan suggestions- but nothing really of note. Maybe it was Orwell talking about how we were losing touch with reality- as we were consumed by the facade of luxury.
Quite a few predictions from Orwell’s 1984 have been true for our generation. Although some of them are positive, like Speakwrite, every other technological innovation is simply a tool for surveillance, control, or propaganda.