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Sorry but your soul just diedI was born in 1952 right in the middle of the American baby boom For any person growing up as I did in the middle decades of the 20th century the future and its terrifying possibilities were defined by two books George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four first published in 1949 and Aldous Huxleys Brave New World published in 1932 The two books were far more prescient than anyone realised at the time because they were centred on two different technologies that would in fact emerge and shape the world over the next two generations Nineteen Eighty-Four was about what we now call information technology central to the success of the vast totalitarian empire that had been set up over Oceania was a device called the telescreen a wall-sized flat-panel display that could simultaneously send and receive images from each individual household to a hovering Big Brother The telescreen was what permitted the vast centralisation of social life under the Ministry of Truth and the Ministry of Love for it allowed the government to banish privacy by monitoring every word and deed over a massive network of wires Brave New World by contrast was about the other big technological revolution about to take place that of biotechnology Bokanovskification the hatching of people not in wombs but as we now say in vitro the drug soma which gave people instant happiness the Feelies in which sensation was simulated by implanted electrodes and the modification of behavior through constant subliminal repetition and when that didnt work through the administration of various artificial hormones were what gave this book its particularly creepy ambience With at least a half century separating us from the publication of these books we can see that while the technological predictions they made were startlingly accurate the political predictions of Nineteen Eighty-Four were entirely wrong The year 1984 came and went with the US still locked in a cold war struggle
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