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Technology in 1984, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1065

Essay

Introduction

The target audience for the presentation/project is the average college or university student. The college student of today who is from age 18-22 has grown up with the Internet. For generations who are even a decade older, they can likely recall a time when the Internet did not exist, or at least remember what life was like before the Internet was a common and familiar part of everyday life. For college age students of today, and younger generations, life is not divided into Before Internet/After Internet. It has just been a part of life since childhood or even for all their lives. In 1984, Winston Smith lives in a world where the telescreen that provides information and monitors the citizens has always been a part of life. The purpose of this presentation is to explain to the audience how the technology in 1984 is similar in many ways to the technology we use today. The presentation will be provided in a Power Point format with embedded video and audio. The presentation will be structured to introduce the technology of 1984, and then show an example of how the Internet is similar. By alternating back and forth between examples from the book and examples from the real world, the “dark side” of the Internet will be revealed. The following sections discuss some of the core concepts that will be covered in the presentation.

Themes and Ideas for the Presentation

In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell presents a dark, terrifying vision of the future. In Orwell’s book the future world is controlled by an all-powerful government ruled over by Big Brother.  The main character, Winston Smith, never sees Big Brother in real life, but he and everyone else who live in this world are constantly reminded that they are being watched every moment of their lives. All around the city there are signs and posters that say “Big Brother is Watching You.” The population is fed a constant diet of propaganda telling them that Big Brother is a kind, loving man who watches over them to keep them safe and protect them from the threat of war and the evil Goldberg. One of the main ways that this propaganda is repeated to the people is through the technology of the telescreens. These are giant television screens that can never be turned off, and that can also be used to watch the public and private lives of the citizens. In many ways, Orwell’s book predicted the way that technology like this would become part of daily life, but even Orwell could not have predicted how much technology would intrude into the lives of so many ordinary people.

One of the most significant aspects of the telescreen is that it can never be turned off. Because it can also be used to watch people, this means that Winston Smith and all the other citizens of Oceania never know if and when the government is spying on them. As Winston Smith says in the book:

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live–did live, from habit that became instinct–in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.(Orwell, 1949)

The telescreen in Nineteen Eight-Four is in many ways very similar to the Internet. The news stories of the past few years have revealed to the public that the U.S. government is capable of spying on the activities of people, and can find out personal information easily and secretly. Just like Winston Smith, ordinary citizens in the real world have no way of knowing whether or not the government is spying on them.  There is one very significant difference between the telescreen and the Internet, however.  In Orwell’s book the people are watched over by the telescreen because they cannot turn it off. In the real world, people willingly use the Internet even though they know they could be spied on. The Internet has become a central part of how people do business and also provided entertainment and distractions that make billions of people go online every day (Naugton, 2012).

In a way, the technology of the real world is like an inside-out version of the technology in Nineteen Eight-Four. In the book, Winston Smith uses the memory hole to make information disappear. According to the book, “he who controls the past controls the future.” In the real world, the Internet does not make information disappear. Instead, it makes all information available, which can make it difficult or impossible to tell the difference between what is fact and what is fiction (Johnson, 2008). In the novel, history can be rewritten by flushing the truth down the memory hole. In real life history can be rewritten just by posting something on the Internet. If there is no difference between fact and fiction then whoever controls the Internet controls the future.

Conclusion

The technology of the 21st century that allows us to have instant access to information and to communicate with people around the world has obviously given us many benefits. Unfortunately it has also come at a price, because we have given up much of our privacy in exchange for the benefits. In 1984 Winston Smith is well aware of the way that the government of Big Brother uses technology to control the citizens of Oceania. In the real world, even when people learn that the NSA has been spying on millions of people, they continue to use the Internet, cell phones, and other technology that steals our privacy. Winston Smith did not have the choice of turning off the telescreen, but most of us who give up our privacy online do have a choice. This presentation is not intended to convince people not to use the Internet or their cell phones. It is simply intended to get people to think about the dark side of this technology and how it can be used against them.

Works cited

Gutenberg.net.au,. N. p., 2014. Web. 25 Jul. 2014.

Johnson, Nicholas. Are We There Yet?. 1st ed. Morrisville, N.C.: Lulu Press, 2008. Print.

Naughton, John. From Gutenberg To Zuckerberg. 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: Quercus, 2012.Print.

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