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2084: Technology Trumps Orwell's Vision
The future looks a bit different from the one depicted in the seminal '1984'
Bernard Moon (bernard)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2005-11-11 12:01 (KST)   
©2005 Umbrella
In the aftermath of the July London bombings, the first photos to come out of that tragedy were from camera phones, and the first commentary to appear came from blogs. Like many in the blogosphere, I expected this. Then I had an epiphany.

In imagining our society years from now -- when technology is ubiquitous worldwide, mobile devices have proliferated, cameras are posted everywhere, online identities are commonplace, and information inundation is complete -- I realized that George Orwell's vision of 1984 will never truly come to be.

Decades from now, even the idea of a totalitarian state will appear utterly ridiculous. Why? Because the innovations and technological advances that will emerge over the next decade will not only improve our quality of life but actually change human behavior and alter the fundamental structures of our societies.

Innovation born a decade past and a decade forward is changing our basic wiring and creating a more transparent world. Now, I'm not saying that technology will cure all of society's ills, but I do believe it will produce tools that can improve communications and living standards across the globe. Today's technological advances are bringing us all closer as physical boundaries are eliminated and people who in other times would never have crossed paths are forging significant bonds.

On a global scale, this technology-spawned collective consciousness will make it impossible for controlling, paranoid governments like the one portrayed in Orwell's "1984" to exist over the long term. Equal access to information and power means that the oppression of the many by the few will no longer be possible. It also means that the general population will likely have a much larger hand in determining the public policy issues that affect us all.

What it doesn't portend is a future like that presented in "Gattaca," a stale advanced civilization dictated by the strict laws and rules of science. On the contrary, as information continues to flood our lives and knowledge builds, we'll create the technology to sort through the chaos, and we'll adapt to a world of terabytes rather than kilobytes.

With respect to George Orwell, here's my Sunday afternoon vision of 2084 ...

Herbert Walker stood in the pouring black rain of Los Angeles tapping his latex shoes while waiting for the AeroBus to arrive. With traffic no longer an issue (since the National Public Air Road Bill was signed into law a decade ago), Herbert didn't mind the rain. The air roads -- designated solely for public transportation vehicles -- have greatly reduced traffic, air pollution, and the number of ground-vehicle users. Jimmy Jun, Herbert's colleague, walks briskly up the AeroBus platform.

"Love this rush-hour 20-minute Irvine-to-Westwood commute. What d'ya say, Jimmy?"

"Love it almost as much as I-pools ..."

I-pools, or "intelligence pools," are vast electronic repositories of shared knowledge that act as a virtual marketplace. Their predecessors were the archaic, Internet-based wiki-pools, which were rendered almost instantly useless (for all but simple information gathering) by the trolls, egomaniacs, and unskilled contributors who quickly ran rampant on them.

Decades later, smartbots were finally developed to comb through these knowledge pools and correct false information, poor structures, and unintelligible contributions. That led to today's I-pools, which inspire almost complete trust in their accuracy and depth. More than repositories of knowledge, I-pools are collaborative marketplaces, where articles are developed, movie scripts are created, and businesses are launched.

"Yeah, remember 20 years ago when we were just starting out? Journalists were almost as underpaid and underappreciated as teachers. Now, the pie is bigger for everyone, and the top talent is finally getting paid well."

"Ha-ha-ha. Are you calling yourself a 'top talent?' "

"Well, six of my articles did get picked by News Corp., Pajamas Media, and the New York Times last month. And one was read by 2 million people in 87 countries."

"OK, OK. There you go again with your numbers. The worst thing about journalism today is that it's so numbers-driven."

"Jealous?"

"Hell, no. I write for my niche of military defense analysts; I have a following. I'd rather be deeply loved by a few than glanced over by many." Jimmy smirked.

"True. [Laughs.] Hey, did you check out Google's new relevancy crosscheck program?"

"Yeah, pretty cool. I actually tested it out last night when I was posting my thoughts up on my cloudpad. After I completed my first few paragraphs, I ran it through 'crosscheck,' and it came up with six articles or references I could use. A couple made great sources to quote, and one was excellent to integrate. What was really coolio was that with a click, I was connected to the author of the piece I wanted to integrate, got his permission, transferred his fee, and it was done."

Herbert and Jimmy step into the AeroBus and settle into its deep seats. Immediately, Herbert inserts a square device into the arm of the bus seat, activating a retinal scan from the seat in front of them.

"Yeah, I forgot to charge my MobileLife last night, so I need a quick boost," Herbert tells Jimmy.

"But you're headed to the office?"

"No. I have a couple interviews on Virtu-Call. One is with some guy in France, and I have to take a picture of him for this article on the outcast lifestyle of people there."

"Really? A Frenchman with Virtu-Call? That's like a Neanderthal with a laser gun."

"Well, he works for a government agency that's trying to develop its manufacturing workforce into information workers."

"Hmmm ... that effort seems about 40 years late. The majority of French workers have become cheap, unskilled labor since that country missed out on the growth years of the Information Age. Only Vivendi is a relevant player in the world economy."

"Yeah, but it's interesting because it's also become a haven for the small segment of Luddites that still exist from the "anti-search movements" of the 2030s."

"Coolio. Just don't send me a copy. I already have 10 books and about 100 articles I want to read this week in my sleep, so I don't need irrelevant junk in my bin."'

"Don't worry, Jimmy, I've known you for more than 40 years?since we met on FaceBook in the second grade. I wasn't going to send it to you."


And so it goes in the world of the future ...
This article previously appeared at AlwaysOn here.

Bernard Moon is an entrepreneur responsible for a handful of startups related to video-on-demand, voice recognition, and computer software. He is also a freelance writer and blogger at his personal, politically leaning blog.
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Bernard Moon

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