Is "1984" Finally Here?
Copyright © March 1, 2018 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
"1984" is the name of a fictional novel that was originally published as "Nineteen Eighty-Four." It was written by an English author named George Orwell. He wrote the novel "1984" in the year 1949. In 1949 black and white television sets were technically feasible but unaffordable. By the mid-1950s some families could afford black and white television sets. Color television was not technically feasible until 1953 and the average family could not afford one until the late 1960s. In the year 1949 George Orwell wrote about "telescreens" being in widespread use and telescreens were owned and controlled by the government in his fictional novel "1984." I read the novel "1984" in the year 1972 and it was extremely thought provoking because in the year 1972 the year 1984 was still in the distant future. The novel "1984" is ranked number thirteen in the list of the 100 best novels written between the years of 1923 to 2005.
Let's begin with a very brief summary of the book.
The story takes place in the year 1984 in a country called Oceania (which was formerly Great Britain). The government is referred to as "Big Brother" and the government controls everything, including jobs, wages, housing, food prices, and history. Independent thought and unauthorized sex are both against the law. Independent thought includes any thought or belief that does not perfectly match what the government says is the truth. Independent thought is punished as treason against the government. To enforce its laws the government monitors the activities of everyone using "telescreens" that are everywhere, including on the streets, inside stores, inside peoples' places of work, and inside everyone's personal living spaces.
The two main characters of the book are Winston Smith and Julia. They both work for the government in an agency called the "Ministry of Truth." Winston's job in the "Ministry of Truth" is to rewrite history books based on what the government tells him really happened. Old history books are destroyed to prevent any possible contradiction to what the government now wants people to believe. Winston hates his job, his life, and "Big Brother" but he keeps his thoughts to himself (except for a very small diary that he writes in, even though he knows it is against the law to keep a diary).
One day Julia sends Winston a very brief love note. Events progress in a normal manner and it is not long before they rent a room above a secondhand store and they have unauthorized sex. They can't do this where they live because of the telescreens in their apartments. They try to keep their affair a secret because they both know that if they are caught then the penalties for having unauthorized sex are severe.
One day soldiers break into their small private room, arrest them, and separate them. Winston is taken to the "Ministry of Love" where he is severely tortured and brainwashed for several months. Eventually he is released. One day he and Julia accidentally see each other. Neither one of them have any feelings for the other person and they both now love "Big Brother." The End.
In the fictional book "1984" the government had access to very detailed records on every citizen. The government collected and maintained all types of information on every person, regardless of who they were or what they did to earn a living.
In the year 2018 all of the following information is now easily accessible by our government:
In Home Surveillance: At the current time whenever we connect a new electronic device to our home wi-fi connection we are asked if we want to share our location. If we answer "yes" then we are giving permission for the cameras on our electronic devices to observe us at any time and to send that information anywhere the device wants to. I suggest you stop and think about this for a moment. This is what Orwell predicted would happen when he wrote his book in 1949, except in 1949 he did not anticipate that people would willingly agree to this type of personal intrusion, and that they would voluntarily pay for the equipment and the software, and that they would voluntarily install the equipment themselves. (Note: It is up to you whether or not you wish to put a small piece of black electrical tape over the camera on your digital devices to prevent your devices from spying on you without your knowledge. You could remove the piece of tape when you want the camera to be active and then replace the tape when you want to stop the camera from recording. You can also "mute" the microphones on your devices and then turn them on when you want to transmit. This would be in addition to answering "no" when the device asks you if you want to share your location. It would also probably be a good idea to physically unplug your devices from the electrical outlet when they are not being used, and not just turn them off.)
- Medical: When we visit a doctor, or clinic, or hospital, or pharmacy, our medical data is transferred to a master data base. This is theoretical for our benefit to help assist in the diagnosis of a future medical problem and to help doctors and pharmacies not give us medications that we have had an allergic reaction to in the past. I do not know, nor do I wish to speculate on, whether or not this medical data is used for any other purposes.
- Financial: Almost every financial transaction we participate in is transmitted to a master data base.
- Legal: Traffic violations, accidents, lawsuits, and other legal information is available in digital form for easy search and retrieval.
- Personal: Today many people voluntarily put a tremendous amount of their personal information on the internet at various websites, such as Facebook.
Cloud Storage: New cameras, cell phones, and other devices automatically send our pictures and our data to a storage location in the clouds. (The "cloud" is actually a physical computer somewhere on the face of the earth and it is not some device floating around up in the clouds.) When our pictures and our data are collected and stored on a remote computer that belongs to someone else, then that computer could be accessed legally or illegally (hacked) and our pictures and our information could be used in a manner that we would loudly object to if we knew about it. It is up to you whether or not you want to continue to automatically send all your pictures and personal information to the "cloud" where you do not have any control over who gains access to your pictures or your information.
Big Brother: In Orwell's book the term "Big Brother" referred to the government body that controlled everything, including what people were allowed to believe. "Big Brother" had an agency called the "Ministry of Truth" that was constantly writing new history books and rewriting old history books so the information in those books would conform to what they now wanted people to believe. The old history books were destroyed to eliminate any evidence that the "truth" wasn't exactly what "Big Brother" said it was today. Anyone who challenged "Big Brother" was publicly discredited, and sometimes publicly punished, and sometimes the person simply disappeared with no trace that they ever existed. Even their own family members and friends would proclaim that person never existed (due to fear of Big Brother). In the USA today we have two major political parties. Does either one of our two major political parties resemble the hypothetical "Big Brother" of Orwell's book? Does that political party publicly condemn (with extreme prejudice) anyone who has a different opinion, and call them derogatory names, and insult their intelligence? Is that political party constantly trying to pass new laws that take away the rights of honest law-abiding citizens (in order to better protect us from ourselves)? Does that political party endorse and support policies that are not in the best interests of the majority of the legal citizens of the USA? A lot of people have migrated to the USA in recent years and if these people decide to support this political party then it will not be long before the USA will become exactly like the country they just escaped from and there will be no place they can flee to in the future for safety.
This was not intended to be an article on politics. Instead it was intended to be a "wake-up" call to honest law-abiding citizens all across the USA. We have not yet taken the final step into complete anarchy here in the USA. But if we are not careful about which political party we support, it may not be long before the hypothetical scenario in the book "1984" becomes a permanent reality in the USA. Is this the type of legacy you wish to leave to your children and grandchildren?
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