In 1949 George Orwell’s troubling portrayal of a dystopian future for society was published. From the moment 1984 landed on bookstore shelves in the mid-20th century, his vivid depiction of a strange and unusual time perplexed and enthralled millions of avid readers.
As our society evolved, many of Orwell’s fantastic prognostications began to raise eyebrows. Here are five rather intriguing Orwellian predictions that we have seen come to pass. It’s as if a book, interpreted as nothing but unrealistic science fiction, has gradually turn into our reality.
Big Brother is Watching You
Maybe the most unsettling notion after World War II was the idea that government could spy on normal citizens. The world witnessed firsthand how oppressive totalitarian rule could devastate society. No one wanted to contemplate the idea that we could secretly be tracked; besides openly monitored, using government surveillance. Before Edward Snowden’s infamous document leak, the idea that our own government was illegally spying on its own citizens was considered a conspiracy theory. Today it seems people have become resigned to the fact that we are monitored by cameras, tracked with technology and our privacy is repeatedly violated.
Civil Forfeiture is a practice where private property that is suspected to be involved in a crime can be “forfeit” and turned over to the police without compensation or the legal process of imminent domain. According to Vancouver Civil Forfeiture Lawyer. Originally a tool for cracking down on mob money laundering and drug money, it has largely become a means for local police departments and federal law enforcement agencies to pad their budgets. In many cases, property can be seized without the property owner even being accused of a crime. The scene of government agents arbitrarily robbing people of private property without recourse is nothing if not reminiscent of Orwell or Bradbury.
Freedom of Speech and Action
Orwell warned of an unchecked level of censorship on speech, writing and action. If permitted to fester unabated, Orwell predicted it would gradually erode the actual rights of citizens. With each generation, a new method of censorship has emerged, many in the name of political correctness. Speaking one’s mind is growing increasingly unacceptable with many of our civil rights eroding.
The Anvil Breaks the Hammer
Orwell appears to be alluding to the unsightly underbelly of the “spoils of war” with this subtle reference. Military history around the world is bursting with suggestions where a country boasted of winning battles, but in reality lost the war. Abandoned causes in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East ring true Orwell’s words.
Missile Detection Technology
Orwell called them Proles. Long before military geniuses developed a ballistic missile defense system, characters in 1984 had the ability to detect missile launches before they ever hit their target. An odd technological ability gifted to humans, but still a vision into our future world.
On a less depressing note, Orwell talks about a “mic with a mouthpiece”, transforming words to text. Speech recognition software is now deemed an essential extravagance for users of technology. How compelling are voice responsive systems like Cortona, Siri, or OK now, in light of Orwell’s fictional fantasies?
From the obsessively observant eye of big government, the forfeiture of our freedoms, futile military struggles, to a computerized understanding of human speech, Orwell seems more like a foreteller of the future than an author of speculative dystopian fiction.