In George Orwell’s 1984, the author looks at a dystopian future with human societies, mass surveillance, governments, a lack of need for a sex life, and new intelligent products. The book is regarded as the original documentation of mass surveillance and government as a State tool to control its citizens. Today, we are seeing many of the things that Orwell predicted come true. It may have taken more time than he anticipated but the year 1984 was perhaps the right starting point for the technology-led society we live in today.In 1984, Steve Jobs introduced Apple Macintosh PC to the world via a Ridley Scott-designed television commercial. The ad portrayed a dystopian future where efforts existed to prevent IBM from dominating the computer industry and this saving banking from conformity. Oh, the irony!These computers made possible an increasing number of personal technology innovations while, at the same time, catalysing competition. This also allowed for a proliferation of technology to homes as opposed to merely offices and military organisations. The same technology that began with PCs gave us smartphones years later in a bid to innovate fast and sell fast. Now our lives revolve around technology products in numerous forms: smartphones, the cloud, social networks, watches we can speak into, and on and on. Here, we look at some of Orwell’s predictions about “the future” that exist today.
1. Printed postcards
Orwell didn’t mention email, but he did talk about “printed postcards” with a list of pre-written messages. The sender simply needs to choose the one he wants. If we look at pre-written emails, documents, or SMS, the signature that we can include at the end is one example of that. Many of us also use such messages for when we are offline in the form of an autoresponder.
2. Missile detection system
Orwell mentioned a “Proles” with knowledge of a rocket arriving seconds before it lands. After 9/11, we began hearing about this kind of system capable of detecting such an item heading towards the U.S.’s air space, with the ability to destroy the object with a faster missile.
Orwell talked about a speakwrite that is both a mic and a mouthpiece. Whatever someone says, the mic transforms it into written text. Today, we live in an age of virtual assistants and software that enable speech-to-text. Almost all phones feature a speech-recognising virtual assistant e.g. Apple (Siri), Android (OK, Google), and Windows (Cortona).
There’s also speech recognition software, such as Dragon Dictate, that allows you to dictate documents, email, search the Internet, and more, as well as Speakwrite that listens to your voice and converts it into written form.
The book featured a song composer that didn’t require any human involvement. The versifactor was a mechanical instrument capable of making songs. While Garage Band still requires a human being to operate it, it’s capable of producing music without other instruments. We are presented with a list of “music composers” that give us pre-fed voices and new music